In Terminator, a human can evade a hit from a machine, rolling onto the floor at the last second. But a machine (cyborg) from the future would be able to do millions of calculations in a second, and correct the trajectory of its arm to hit the target anyway.

So would that mean that you couldn't really evade a self-controlling machine hit?

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by hit? Like swinging an arm or pointy object? Or shooting a gun at you? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 28 '16 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ I'm already having great difficulty dodging a flying blackboard duster even with ample warnings let alone a torpedo duster... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 28 '16 at 7:19
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    $\begingroup$ Once a machine begins swinging the blow, changing it's trajectory is a matter of physics (inertia of the mass of the arm vs power of the servos), not just AI. $\endgroup$
    – Agent_L
    Nov 28 '16 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ Not entirely related, but I think you can never surprise a cyborg by rolling out of the way. Machines can know what you are trying to do in a matter of milliseconds, even now (and thereby cheat at rock-paper-scissors): youtube.com/watch?v=3nxjjztQKtY $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Nov 28 '16 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Jens Actually there's a lag between "I've decided to do X" and "My body started doing X" and "I got feedback that my body is doing X". Interestingly, "I've decided to do X" is not acknowledged until feedback comes - there's a deliberate delay. The delay can be removed and that is very uncomfortable - your body just does not feel yours anymore. Anyway, it looks like machine can react to your actions before you decide to do them. $\endgroup$ Nov 28 '16 at 14:45

Like every combat ever recorded in history: it depends.

If your cyborg is, simply put, better faster stronger and smarter than your human, it is going to win. It really wont matter whether a roll occurs or not. It'd be like asking whether you could dodge one of Mike Tyson's punches. The answer is "hell no." You are simply out classed, and face it. There is a point where the cyborg must win. The same goes for any machine such as a trash compactor or even an anvil. If you're dumber than an inanimate object, and it's stronger than you are, you'll lose! Take this to an extreme, and it doesn't really matter if the cyborg is fighting or not (Warning: link is to Deadpool. It's probably as benign as Deadpool gets, but still probably qualifies as NSFW).

If your cyborg is... well... not better faster and stronger, then it will lose. Take Atlas here, with my preferred swear-mod overdub. Atlas is an amazing machine, but it shows just how hard it is to do object recognition in a real world. The process is slow. Combat is fast. It is entirely reasonable that the processing time could be enough to let you dodge a strike.

So what does the fuzzy region between these extremes look like? One answer comes from another overdub of the same Atlas video, with the same quality of hardware but with a more insidious intelligence. It's not your punching swinging story your question asks about, but its worth pointing out that there are other ways to fight. (And Thucydides answer is utterly chock full of examples of that)

One major limit for a cyborg is its musculature. Typically, the cyborgs we see in movies have a very human musculature. This means they have similar weaknesses and strengths as a human body does. There are strong alignments of muscles, and weak ones. When going for a killing blow, which is typically what you're referring to when looking for these "roll on the floor" dodges, you have an already disoriented opponent, and you are willing to align all of your muscles to deliver maximum damage to an opponent that does not react. If you have done this, you have sacrificed the geometry you need to actually respond. You don't have muscles in the right places to correct the path. Maybe if you're a T-1000 cheating like a hobo with liquid metal you can do anything you want, but otherwise you have to obey physics.

Beyond the typical "roll out of the way" gimick, it's worth noting that there are literally entire fighting styles centered around a "melding" of the two fighters such that it's not really reasonable to try to analyze the combat in such a divided way. These styles focus around creating complicated interconnected balances which flow rapidly from one to the other, making it so that your opponent is eventually completely dependent on you for balance. Aikido, Stephen Segal's art of choice, is one great example of this. These styles would be a very interesting opponent for the cyborg. They are designed to reach regions where calculating your actual position and momentum is difficult. If the cyborg is willing to enter those regions, it may be disoriented by these sorts of attacks as a human is. If the cyborg is not willing to enter these regions, the theory would be that the Aikido practitioner then has enough of an advantage to dominate the fight.

Of course, the best way to win a fight is to not get in one... especially when the other guy is actually a cyborg from the future. I'm just sayin'

  • $\begingroup$ Note: if anyone has a link to the scene where a T-1000 takes a punch to the face, and then rearranges such that his hands were where his face was, I really want to add that link. I just couldn't find it. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 28 '16 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ The series Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles kind of explores this. There's a point in the series where a main character is faced with a Terminator, both were unaware of the other, both are holding a pistol, there are no obstructions between them, and the Terminator promptly kills the character, simply because it is so much faster and accurate. Appart from the emotional gut punch, the scene is great for showing a realistic result of such an encounter: Terminator sees you, you get headshot'ed $\endgroup$
    – Oskuro
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Oskuro Spoilers? I'm not familiar with the show but that sounds like an important plot point $\endgroup$
    – DasBeasto
    Nov 28 '16 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DasBeasto If it is the scene I'm thinking of, the execution of the scene is such that you can get away with the information revealed in his comment without calling it a spoiler. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 28 '16 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, some bots are really fast. Like this one. Depending on the design, it may very well be a death machine. $\endgroup$
    – phyrfox
    Nov 28 '16 at 21:31

The idea of fighting robots (Cyborgs, androids, terminators, Autobots) up close and personal is pretty much impossible.

The fighting platform will come after you with all kinds of advantages:

  1. Multispectral sensors. The device will have sensors operating at as many ranges and wavelengths as the builder finds feasible and economic to use. Even a very simple non robot sight unit on a Javelin ATGM had day/night and thermal imaging sensors built in. A fighting robot could add things like a laser rangefinder, radar, ultraviolet sensor (to determine if a target is a flare or decoy of some sort) and perhaps other devices to provide the ability to sense targets under a wide variety of conditions.

enter image description here

Javelin ATGM with sight unit

  1. Built in ballistic computer(s). Estimating range and setting up the rifle/machinegun for the shot are two of the most difficult skills to teach and train for. Military forces spend a great deal of time and resources to teach just basic shooting techniques, and even more to select and train marksmen and snipers. Being able to accurately aim the weapon every time gives the fighting platform a huge edge.

  2. Weapons control. Robots will have electric or hydraulic power operated weapons mounts which can accurately hold and maintain points of aim, and rapidly and accurately switch between targets. The robot's hands never get sweaty, the eye never blinks and there is no fatigue in the human sense to throw off holding and aiming the weapon. A robot sniper can remain in position on a point of aim for days or weeks if necessary.

  3. Complete focus on the task. The fighting platform is designed and built for its purpose. It isn't worried about going on leave, what's for chow or if the girlfriend back at home is waiting for it. It sin't distracted by heat, cold, insect bites or other environmental factors (until they are probably well beyond any human soldier's ability to tolerate).

  4. Increased strength and speed. Using electrical or even internal combustion engines or fuel cells would provide even a small robot with far more energy than a human being can produce on their own. Robots might also receive beamed power or even use on board nuclear power (like an RTG) depending on the role and what the owning nation sees as appropriate. This energy powers the platform's mobility, sensors, deception suite (ECM and so on) and could even power energy weapons like rail-guns and lasers.

So the usual movie scene where a squad of soldiers throw themselves to the ground or around a corner in time to evade a burst of fire from the robot is never going to happen in "real life". A hidden (and non threat) observer might see a robot suddenly appear from cover, fire what seems like an irregular burst of automatic weapons fire and then rapidly go to cover again. Examination of the dead soldiers would find a single gunshot wound to the head, heart or some part not protected by body armour. The irregular "burst" was single shots fired in extremely rapid sequence as the robot switched its aim point to the next soldier.

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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree with the prinicple, but even the idea that there might be 'a fighting platform with ballistic computers' seems unlikely to me. The real world Terminator would be a fleet of a hundred thousand million microscopic drones that cost Skynet 1gram of matter to build, timewarp them into John Connor's world, inject nasty things in his blood stream and then incinerate themselves. $\endgroup$ Nov 28 '16 at 3:10
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    $\begingroup$ Just another way to achiever the same goal. Since the OP is clearly asking about "Terminator" style robots, and real military robots are macroscopically sized, then yes, they will be platforms mounting weapons, sensors and computers. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Nov 28 '16 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ The Terminator of the first movie does sweat. It’s also said and shown to be distracted by environmental factors, like lots of noisy moving machines, apparently due to limited processing capabilities. So we have to care, whether we’re talking about a theoretical perfect machine or about the technology at a certain point of time, even if that point lies in the future. Maybe it’s correct to say that the Terminator doesn’t use its advantages best, but that’s something that has to be learned somehow. Maybe strategic thinking (or lack of) is the weakness of the machine. $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Nov 28 '16 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ Since it is a movie (and Arnold is a real person, regardless of acting like a machine), it is difficult to draw inferences. In its human guise, a Terminator may be programmed to behave "realistically" to avoid drawing attention to itself. A man standing perfectly still and gazing unblinkingly at a window would be quite noticeable, while a sweating, distracted person on the street corner would blend in with other people. Once it is in a "killing" mode i.e. the police station, things are quite different: youtube.com/watch?v=X3DU-7a8mP0 $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Nov 28 '16 at 19:13

Initially yes you could.

Pick up a heavy thing and swing it around. When you swing it hard with all your might - try and push it into a different direction very quickly and precisely. You can't, not even close.

Partly, you put yourself in a strong position to swing it, but once it's moving away from you that advantage is gone, partly you need to spend some strength countering the current movement, partly you need to spend some strength getting it up to speed in the new direction, and there's wasted energy in all the changes. And you need way more energy because you have a lot less time to adjust it mid-swing than you had to drive the original swing.

So I guess the cyborg would be built to similar human strength because most of the time it's doing human things (walking, picking up human scale items), so that's cheaper. And it's not in a hurry - it can try the punch again. So one swing of its arm as hard as it can is not going to be possible for it to change direction arbitrarily.

millions of calculations in a second

But only probabilities, on limited data and limited programming, not perfect knowledge of the future.

Dodge, if you're a skilled fighter, until it learns your behaviour patterns and predicts what you will do.

But by the time the cyborgs are sending Schwarzenegger muscled machines which can punch hard with 1% muscle power and have 99% spare to adjust, machines which have fought humans for years and share everything they learn about human fighting behaviour between them at machine speeds, then liquid metal machines, that opportunity to dodge might be gone forever.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think you appreciate the brutal efficiency of a custom-crafted killing machine. There is little punching or karate-like action going on. It is made of metal. You can't hurt it with your hands. If it can reach you, it will pull pieces off of you. If it can't, it will hit leap across the room and pull pieces of you off. If you are further still, it will shoot you. Or, run over to you like a cheetah, and pull pieces off of you. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @TonyEnnis I have some scepticism in what companies advertise vs. what they actually deliver. OK a perfect, far-future killing machine is unbeatable. But in the early days the cyborg warrior is built from products like youtube.com/watch?v=OlDMlYHl2tU and youtube.com/watch?v=NtU9p1VYtcQ and controlled by AI offshoots of theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/30/… . If the military can build a ~\$100M aircraft that can crash, future-it can build a \$100M cyborg that has gaping flaws in some areas. $\endgroup$ Nov 28 '16 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ The OP said a "cyborg from the future". Consider your aircraft example - that $100M aircraft can deal pin-point ultra-violence and do what it is supposed to do very very well. I would expect our cyborg to be just like that, but limited; perhaps it would be unable to bake a cake. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Nov 28 '16 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ And the OP implied the future cyborg is in our present. So expect technology to have advanced to the point time travel is possible. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Nov 28 '16 at 16:11

As another poster mentioned...it depends.

Of all the obvious considerations, including the robot's strength and speed, its state of upkeep and general mechanical functionality, the theater in which the fight was taking place, any weapons involved, and so on, good old physics would probably play the biggest role in determining whether a single hit could be avoided. Despite futuristic multi-sensors and ridiculous computational speed, the swinging arm of a T-800-style cyborg would still lag a bit in terms of the ability to recalculate and change trajectory mid-blow. This would give the fastest person — especially someone extraordinarily agile like Bruce Lee — a reasonable chance.

Admittedly, the machine probably utilizes some form of highly advanced anticipatory motion detection and analysis, so you’d probably be looking at it analyzing and predicting your every move and constantly adjusting to the most likely probabilities in terms of where you’d go next. So yes, you’d be pretty much screwed in a straight fight, but again, if you were one of the fastest martial artists on earth and the machine simultaneously chose the wrong probability, then you might be able to work its own mass against it and avoid at least one hit. Good luck, my friend.

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    $\begingroup$ I feel like a "Drunken Master" would have additional advantages in this scenario... $\endgroup$
    – Rozwel
    Nov 28 '16 at 22:00

Assuming near-future non-perfect robots, it's certainly possible, although not the safest strategy to bet your life on. There are bugs and weaknesses in every machine, and if you know them, then that's something you can work with.

With Terminator-style near-perfect cyborg frames driven by strong AIs, your chances are slim. Given the right amount of training, equipment, luck, and other advantages, it's certainly possible to dodge a hit. It's questionable what it gives though. If one doesn't have a weapon to efficiently destroy the Terminator, then it's going to mob the floor with a puny human sooner or later, by sheer attrition. And if not, just send two Terminators next time.


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