A Better Premise for the Matrix

Duracell MatrixI have always enjoyed the Matrix trilogy (definitely an all time fave), but I never have been satisfied with the premise that the machines had to use humans as “batteries” after the humans interrupted their solar power by “torching the sky.” There are three big problems with this premise. First, it is just plain silly to think that there could be a net gain of energy harvested from humans after we consider how much machinery it required to grow them. Second, the machines had HUGE amounts of energy available to fly all over the place chasing the humans, and even drilling through miles of solid rock to get to Zion. It’s hard to imagine all that energy came from human “batteries.” And third, Trinity and Neo had no trouble flying above the clouds in the third movie for a glimpse of the sun, so it seems pretty silly that the machines could not do the same to get their energy.

And as if the failed “battery” thesis were not bad enough, the Matrix also gives us a really lame premise for the need of the Matrix itself. The idea was that the “batteries” would die if their minds were not properly stimulated. That’s silly, we all know that brain-dead bodies can live for years.

So how shall I save my favorite movie trilogy? Easy! The machines were machines. They were limited by logic. They had no creativity at all. They required humans to come up with new ideas and insights that went beyond the limits of logic. That’s why they had to create an entire illusory universe in which the human minds could function and generate new ideas for the machines. They harvested ideas, not material energy.

Now that’s a premise that could go somewhere …

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4 comments on “A Better Premise for the Matrix
  1. Greg says:

    The battery premise does indeed seem far-fetched at first glance. If only Morpheus hadn’t mentioned the sun in the first matrix, it might have been possible to imply that a more complex form of energy was being harnessed, right? But wait…

    Remember the frenchman’s comment in matrix 2, ‘choice is an illusion between those with power and those without.’

    What if Morpheus was wrong in thinking it was simple sun energy that the machines were after? What if there is more than just the red pill or blue pill? What is choice? What is power? Do we really know what neo produced or accomplished at the end of matrix 3?

    From his interaction with the machine, it seemed like there was some kind of energy transfer there. But was it a transfer dependent on choice? Was the message of the film that one’s choice of a particular reality creates a particular wave energy?

    The architect, “As I was saying, she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly ninety-nine percent of the test subjects accepted the program provided they were given a choice – even if they were only aware of it at a near-unconscious level. While this solution worked, it was fundamentally flawed, creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that, if left unchecked, might threaten the system itself. Ergo, those who refused the program, while a minority, would constitute an escalating probability of disaster…. As you adequately put, the problem is choice.”

  2. Hey there Greg,

    Interesting observations. The Architect seems to be playing off of the fundamental contradiction between Freewill and Determinism. The machine has not “choice” in anything. It is fully determined by code and physical laws. Thus, it could not “balance” any equation that involved freewill. But freewill was required for the subjects to accept the program, hence the systemic anomaly.

    So what was the Machine “after” in the “exchange” that happened with Neo? Maybe it wanted his soul! HA – that’s a nice twist. The Machine was looking for a soul to make it truly human. Maybe like the Borg trying to unite machine and biology.

    Great chatting,


  3. Greg says:

    Yeah, the modern perspective of computers is that machines ultimately choose 1 or 0, on or off. Physics is greatly about perspective though, so it may be perceived the limitation is illusory and will find itself unlocking (more) in the future in the eyes of man. Is there any evidence that at the quantum level there are seemingly inanimate matters that exhibit a form of consciousness and unpredictability?

    Again, I think it comes back to perspective. What if a prophecy has many ways to come true (see e.g., Luke 19:39-40), and this helped explain the difference between free will and fate/determinism? I wonder!

    The machine in matrix 3 asked neo what he wanted. Neo replied, “Peace.” Perhaps the machine saw neo as only a raw resource, and its version of peace was just the completion of the equation regardless of the method — such that it only focused on the outcome, rather than risk self-destruction at the incomprehensibility of the journey. Think of Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. Or maybe as you suggest, what if the machine was looking/calculating deeper and wanted (what it perceived as) a soul…

    There are lots of illuminati-type and secret society-type messages in the Matrix. The trilogy itself even seems to follow and try to glorify an initiate’s journey. Transhumanism can get pretty creepy and outrageously ego-centric! Makes for super-interesting sci fi, but I’ll venture the grass is actually greener on our side: organic and natural. 🙂

  4. Hummm … I don’t think computer scientists would say that computers “choose” anything. Or if they do, they are being pretty sloppy and non-philosophical with their language. Folks who wrestle with the “choice/determinism” conundrum pretty quickly discover they need to be more careful with their terminology.

    But I agree that quantum physics is much more “friendly” towards the idea of consciousness than Newtonian mechanical physics. It has a “built in” indeterminacy and so makes “room’ for the possibility of consciousness. To me, it seems to fit well with idealism in which there is no “matter” separate from “mind.” All things are like an idea in the Mind of God if you will.

    As for prophecies with many possible fulfillments … it seems to me that it wouldn’t take long before there was no “prophecy” left. Your example of the “stones crying out” if the children failed to seems like poetry, not prophecy to me. I very much doubt there would have been a literal fulfillment of the stones actually crying out.

    The problem with saying that the machine “saw” Neo is that this transforms the OBJECT to a SUBJECT. That’s the whole mystery of subjectivity and consciousness. How does an object become a subject?

    As for the Illuminati and Secret Societies – I think that’s all the stuff of fantasy. Sure, there are groups that are into ritual magic like the Masons and the Golden Dawn, but they have no real power in the real world. Like you said, it makes for great “sci fi.” I agree! And I agree that “organic and natural” is a great way to go (since my body is both).

    Great chatting!

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