Matrix Essays

Essays about The Matrix
Monday, June 30, 2003
How to swear in French, Merovingian-style
Tamiam has a post analyzing the French swear-words in the Merovingian's speech.
After a little looking around I've found the quote in question: "I have sampled every language, but french is my favorite. Fantastic language, especially to curse with: Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère. It's like wiping your ass with silk."

[. . .]

As an anecdote, Lambert Wilson was asked to curse in French and he improvised this sentence. When he said "sorry, that’s all I came off with", everybody there was just amazed and they finally decided to keep it

Sunday, June 29, 2003
Flaws in the System
Reloaded spoilers. Reader "MorpheusEK" submitted the following.

While there are many aspects of the Matrix movies which inspire thought and reflection, I constantly find myself returning to one question: What is the nature of the Matrix? How do I make sense out of it all? There are many thoughts and ideas expressed on this website, and there must be some way to tie it all together into a plot that makes sense. It may be easier to just wait until November and find out first hand, but I enjoy musing about this movie and cannot put my mind on pause until then. In my opinion, the most inspired and successful attempt to explain the nature of the Matrix so far has been The System theory. I believe though that this theory is flawed in significant ways.

The most obvious problem with The System theory is that it removes humanity almost entirely from the story. This story has dealt heavily with concepts of humanity, including human strengths and weaknesses, faith, trust, deception, and the ability to love. If every character in this story is nothing more than a computer simulation of a human being, than true humanity hasn't been a player at all. Further more, how can this AI learn about humanity if it is receiving his lessons from simulations, which must be less advanced than itself?

The second problem I find with his theory is its inability to explain the complexity of the situation. If one is trying to breed a transcendent AI, why build this complicated story for it to live through? Why not put Neo on a farm somewhere, and let him meet Trinity at the local hoedown? The story seems overly complex if it was fabricated for such an open-ended goal. The likely reply to this point brings me to my third and major problem.

"It's what has to be done get Neo to realize his full potential." Every mystery, every strange turn that the movie takes, can be explained away as a means to an end that we can't fully understand. "Q: Why does the Architect refer to Neo as human, when he know that he is in fact an AI? A: It's all part of the Architect's plan for Neo." This idea closely parallels one endorsed by certain Christian religions: everything that happens, no matter how horrible or illogical, is part of God's plan. Personally, I don't believe that SARS, physical deformities, or airplane crashes are part of some master plan, that I cannot hope to understand, and must believe is for the good of humanity. A starving child living on the streets is the result of human indifference, not divine intention. For the same reasons I am inclined to believe that the Matrix is a work in progress, where neither humanity nor the machines have full control, and there is no ultimate goal.

In summary, I believe that the Matrix is a tale about humanity, and its relation to machines, not vice versa. The System theory is a wonderful attempt to explain the intricacies of the story, and almost completely succeeds. I endorse the double matrix perspective, but believe that the characters are in fact human beings, not simulations. I look forward to your replies.

[Editor's note: the line, "Why not put Neo on a farm somewhere, and let him meet Trinity at the local hoedown?" has got to be one of the funniest images yet in a Matrix Essay. I can imagine an alternate version of the story done as a Western instead of science fiction, where the Agents are sheriffs and Neo is Jesse James. -- Tom]

If you prick us do we not bleed?
Reloaded spoilers. Reader Bill writes:

During the fight with Merovingian's goons, they make a big deal of Neo's hand getting cut ("See? He's only a man.") But when Morpheus is fighting the Agent on top of the 18-wheeler, he cuts the Agent's face with his sword, and the agent bleeds as well. In fact, they emphasize the cut a little bit there as well, taking time for the agent to feel his cheek.

How can the agent bleeding be consistent with Neo bleeding? Are the agents humans too, or is Neo a program as well, with "humanity" just being a state of (program) mind?

Saturday, June 28, 2003
Neo-Oracle transcript
Scott Manning has a transcript of the Neo-Oracle conversation from Reloaded.

The Spoon, and other observations
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Reader Jesse submitted the following.

I have been rather surprised at how many people on the Matrix discussion boards have been so quick to dismiss the spoon's potential importance as symbol and/or plot device. I think it is a clue that the Wachowski Bros. are demanding that we buy into, another piece to the puzzle that the viewer is trying to construct. If the Oracle orphan (the "potential") said that there is no spoon in the original Matrix, then by giving the spoon to Neo on the Zion-world he (or the directors) are hinting to Neo and the audience that Neo has not found the real world yet.

On the practical side, how would the spoon even cross into the Zion-world if it too were not a component of the Matrix? Of course, we cannot be certain at all that the orphan in question is the same orphan (or hasn't reached Zion himself), or if the spoon is the same spoon; nevertheless, the brothers would not be so sloppy as to confuse their meanings and symbols during such a key scene. Unless they are purposely trying to throw us off the trail. Which is very possible.

Now, let's assume for a minute that there really is only one Matrix, and that Zion is the real world. A few of the people with whom I saw Reloaded were disappointed by the ending, which they saw as bringing "magic" or superhuman powers into the Real World and therefore detrimental to the believability of the film (they did not immediately consider the Dual Matrix/System theory, nor did I).

However, as others have pointed out, Neo's newfound power over the sentinels is possible without unnatural or magical powers entering into the picture. Perhaps Neo's "physical" interaction(s) with Smith in the first two films caused Neo to "gain" some of Smith in the same way that Smith was imprinted by Neo. This would mean that Neo might be able to "hack" mentally into the Mainframe via Smith's revealed methods/abilities that Neo received through the mutual imprinting. Somehow, this has made his brain into part machine or machine like operational capabilities, therefore allowing him to commune with (or manipulate) the machines in their own "language."

So it would therefore be possible for Neo to shut down those sentinels without magic -- he just has to go back to hacking, but on a wholly new plane of human existence and experience whereby he can commune mentally with the machines. Superhuman powers? Superhuman to what humans are like now, but it is not beyond the realm of evolutionary possibility for the brain to become merged and/or cross-compatible with machines. Exactly how that happens to Neo biologically is a whole other question, since it is not the physical brain that crosses between the Matrix-world and the Zion-world but the incorporeal Mind, without its corresponding Body/Matter (i.e. the brain). Thoughts?

* * *

Another question that I have not heard much discussion about is whether or not Smith can alter his physical appearance within the Matrix. If he can, then the fact that Bane remains looking like Bane even after he is infected by Smith would remain consistent with the Dual Matrix theory. Clearly, it is much more beneficial for Smith to look like Bane while in Zion so as not to give away his identity. Not to mention it helps the directors stretch out the plot and the tension.

Reader Seth writes:
In the opening scenes where the matrix code is falling and it
becomes three-d, it makes various objects. They appear to be gears and
other big machinery. To me, it appears as if these are the same
machines that are visible in Zion when Neo gets a tour of the
mechanical level. This would tend to support he Zion is another Matrix

I have seen Reloaded several times and I don't remember this one way or the other. Can anyone confirm this image?

The Matrix and Maya
[Reader Harneet Bhatia submitted this essay by Amit Whig of Delhi, India. Amit just completed his bachelor's degree in Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. I added the links in this essay. -- Tom]

The computers in The Matrix create a cyber world, which is just an illusion and does not actually exist. Man is a slave of the computer. The enslaved man is made to sleep (almost dead) . . . only his neuro-system is allowed to be active but under the control of the Matrix. The energy generated (tiny electrical impulses) by the neuro-systems of the body-dead-mind-alive humans is accumulated and used to run the Matrix.

Now these humans (captives of the computer or cyberspace) experience themselves to be alive in a normal day-to-day world, but in reality they are body-dead and stacked at some place by the Matrix. The humans feel so contented by their existence in the Matrix, which in fact is an illusion only, that they never get to know the reality. These humans stay alive in a non-real cyber world only as electro-magnetic impulses (or waves) with no real existence as such. They are prisoners of the Matrix yet they never know of it. What the (captive) humans experience as the reality is actually not there and hence all false. The "real truth" is never known to them.

Now there is a parallel concept in Eastern thought. In India we talk about maya. Maya, if I try to explain it in English, shall mean a network of illusions. It is somewhat like the Matrix. The only difference being that while talking of maya, one does not talk of guns or bombs or cell-phones or ultra-futuristic things, as shown in the movie Matrix.

The concept of maya is like this. We in India believe that this Whole universe is a manifestation of God. Since everything is nothing but a manifestation of God, actually and essentially there is no difference between 2 or more things, because all are God, whether it is a stone, a metal, a building, or a book, a human, an animal, a fish, etc. I am God and you are God, they all are God ... we all are nothing but manifestations of God. This has been said to be real truth, which we normally don't perceive. This is what the Saints and icons of Eastern thoughts (be it Krishna, or Buddha or Guru Nanak, etc.) have always tried to preach, using different means and ways.

Now the question arises that since all is manifestation of God and hence there is essentially no difference between two or more things or entities then why do we perceive two or more things as different (shape/ size / make / etc.) when actually they are the same? Now here comes what we call maya.

It is said that maya engulfs this whole wide universe. You are always within maya and part of maya yet you never know of it, just like humans never know that they are part of the Matrix (as electromagnetic impulses) sensing everything to be real, but being far away from the ultimate truth. The world of maya (or Matrix) is so self-contained that we never suspect of it to be anything unreal.

The concept of maya says that God is everywhere around you, in living and non-living entities, in phenomena, in all perceptions, in senses, etc. But you never see God because maya engulfs the space (mental space) between you and God. Maya makes you perceive this universe and its entities, and not God that manifests them. Maya causes corporeality of things. A mountain looks like a mountain because Maya (just like the Matrix) makes us perceive it like that only. Actually there is no mountain there but God and only God. Similarly when you see a tree , it is actually God looking at you and you never know.

Maya is a world of senses and perceptions, and no sense or perception is perfect, hence no sense or perception is perfectly true. Attributes assigned to senses or perceptions (like good, bad, ugly, excellent, marvelous, fabulous, worse, best, etc.) all arise out of comparative situations (or out of comparison) and actually don't belong to any of the sense or perceptions. Hence all sense or perceptions are very balanced in themselves; only comparison between various perceptions makes us say something good or bad about a thing or phenomena. Hence nothing is good or bad in itself. These attributes are peripheral. What we perceive as good is the same as what we perceive as bad. So, actually all are same, no difference.

Another way of explaining this: look out of the window and concentrate on 2 persons. Lets say one is white and the other is black. See a little more closely and biologically. They both are composed of almost identical molecules of carbo-hydrates. Once you look at them as a biologist, the black and white color difference will vanish. These attributes are peripheral. Now, look more carefully, as a physicist. You see all those carbo-hydrate molecules are actually composed of Atoms, which in turn are nothing but a special composition of electrons + neutrons + protons. So, the whole body of the white guy is nothing but a bee-hive of electrons + neutrons + protons, and similarly that of the black guy. No difference. Look at more things around you (as physicists), and you will see all things are nothing but a beehive of electrons + neutrons + protons. See the difference between all entities has vanished. They all end up to be same. (I am not very good in Physics but I have tried to explain things).

In the same way, applying a different perspective we can come to the conclusion that actually all things are nothing but manifestation of God. No difference. Thus explained.

It is only maya that doesn't allow us see deeper. We get too contented with peripheral attributes. Racism in this whole world was a result of this peripheral vision of things. As man has become more intelligent, racism has gradually vanished. One day man will also erase the boundaries created in the name of religion, country, ethnicity, and so on.

Where does maya reside? Maya is in each place and in every manifestation where our thought takes us with our shallow peripheral perceptions and senses. The moment we apply deeper understanding, maya starts fading out and things show their true colour. Maya, one may say, is in the mental-space and fills it thoroughly.

But why do people in India worship maya as a goddess? Well, this is again long to explain, but I will try to give a brief explanation. It is all about personal way of viewing things. If I am walking on a certain path, and doing "effort" to reach a certain (lets say theological) destination or goal, then my effort is making me experience things, good or bad (peripheral attributes), during my journey. Now if an obstacle comes in my way and I frown upon it, it shows that I am not liking my journey. But another person may smile at this obstacle and praise it for a new experience during the journey that this obstacle will give, thus raising his experience to new heights. Sakyamuni Gautama Siddhartha Buddha also began by first experiencing death, age, youth etc. of other people. We (may I say, rightly or wrongly) worship the maya or revere the maya in the same way. To break free of the cage of maya, one has to first accept the cage around himself.

There is another reason for worshipping maya as Goddess, but that will indulge in core Hinduism, not subject to the present discussion. (hint : maya is good because it allows us to enjoy life as it is by causing sense perceptions to work).

In the last part of the movie The Matrix, Keanu Reeves (playing the main character), is able to see through the hollowness of the cyberworld and perceives the Matrix. Similarly, Buddha also perceived the hollowness of this world (in which we live and which is nothing but maya) and he saw the non-duality of everything. Nothing remained different from Buddha himself. Thus he gave the Homily of AN-ATMAN (the self having no real identity and being same with the supreme and hence with every other Self). Krishna also made Arjuna perceive Krishna himself in all opponents of Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Hence no difference.

So, we see the similarity between maya (a theological concept) and The Matrix (a
Hollywood movie).

* * *

[Harneet also points out that this article from the Times of India makes a similar comparison. -- Tom]

Thursday, June 26, 2003
Reloaded on IMAX
From NegroPleaseDotCom comes this observation about seeing Reloaded on IMAX:
The first thing I thought when I saw The Matrix Reloaded (3rd time) on the IMAX (1st time) was, "Look Becky her butt is so big, it's just so round, it's just like out there..." Trinity's booty was gi-normous as was every effect and every question I have about the story and what's going on.

[. . .]

In the same way that Neo's presence in the Matrix causes a problem, Smith's presence in the "real world" might serve to cause the same problems. It's very "Buffy/Faith switching bodies" if you understand that kind of analogy.

Read the whole post here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Warning: Animatrix and Reloaded spoilers

Matriculated is one of my favorite episodes in The Animatrix. The psychedelic visuals make for great eye-candy, and the story has interesting implications. Here humans have turned the tables and created a simulated, false reality for the machines. This technique is used to "turn" the machines and convert them to the humans' side. The story reverses the roles we've seen in the other movies. We see that a turned machine's "eyes" are green, unlike the other machines and sentinels who have red eyes. A turned machine battles some evil machines, and a new evil machine gets captured by the humans.

Alexa: "That runner's smarter than we've seen so far."

Raul: "It's quite a catch."

Alexa: "Thanks. Will it . . . do you think it will convert?"

Raul: "To convert is its choice to make."

Alexa: "Do you think maybe we ought to reprogram it?"

Raul: "No. We can't make slaves out of them."

Alexa: "Because that would be simpler."

Raul: "We won't beat the machines by making them our slaves. Better to let them join us by choice."

This continues the theme of choice established in the two movies. Both sides seem compelled to offer the other a choice. The Architect offers Neo a choice instead of forcing his hand, and here the humans offer the captured machine a choice, though they do alter its perceptions first.
Alexa: "Make them believe that the right choice is the one we want them to make."

Raul: "Alright, yes, machines are tools, they're made to be used. It's their nature."

Alexa: "To be slaves."

Raul: "That's why we can show them a better world. Why they convert."

Alexa: "But that world that we show them isn't real."

Raul: "It doesn't matter."

Alexa: "Well, I'm afraid they'll figure out that we've made up the thing in our heads."

Raul: "They can't tell the difference. To an artificial mind, all reality is virtual. How do they know that the real world isn't just another simulation? How do you?"

Here, for the first time, we hear a direct statement of the idea that even the "real world" may be another simulation. Fans of the "System" theory or the "Matrix-within-a-Matrix" theory should enjoy this. The conversation concludes:
Alexa: "Well, I know I'm not dreaming now because I know what it's like being in a dream."

Raul: "So dreaming lets you know reality exists."

Alexa: "No, just that my mind exists. I don't know about the rest."

Alexa concludes only that she is not dreaming now, but refuses to go further and say that the real world is real.

The captured machine finds itself in a simulation, beginning in a golden chamber. It moves onto a cartoonish "stage," where its outer layer is peeled off and formed into a ball, which circles a "drain." The machine tries to snatch at the ball but misses, and the ball disappears down the drain. This represents some layer of the machine's conditioning being removed. The machine's avatar takes on a more humanoid form. The red lights on the avatar's "face" have the same pattern as on the machine, but they now have a new interpretation, forming the shape of eyes, mouth, eyebrows, and a "third eye" in the avatar's forehead. The third eye may suggest the potential for illumination. The avatar's "hair" suggests flames.

The machine's avatar removes a robotic worm from its body and deposits it in a container of water.

After visiting a few more chambers, the machine's avatar finds a cube containing a three dimensional tree structure, reminiscent of neurons. The robotic worm reappears and enters the cube. The tree structure grows, breaking through the cube, and engulfs the whole room, including the machine's avatar. This represents the reprogramming and growth of the machine's neural network.

The machine steps out of the blackness and sees Alexa's avatar. It joins hands with her, and finally its eyes turn green, signifying its conversion. It is now on the human side.

Back in the real world an alert is going off. Sentinels attack. The converted machine tries to help but it is too late to save the humans. The machine plugs Alexa in, enters the simulation, and sees Alexa's avatar. As the machine avatar approaches, the dying woman screams and disappears.

In the final scene, we see the machine sitting up on the same hilltop where Alexa sat in the opening scene, looking down on the landscape in just the same way. This suggests that the machine has taken on Alexa's role. In a way, it has become her. Could it have absorbed information from her just before she died?

Matriculated suggests that anyone can play the simulation game. Humans can create a "Matrix" for machines just as easily as the machines can create one for humans. "To an artificial mind, all reality is virtual." But how can a mind tell whether it is artificial?

This leads to a possible variation on Michael's The System theory. Perhaps the war with the machines is real, and the humans begin to fight back by creating simulations for the machines to "convert" them, as in Matriculated. These simulations become more and more advanced, until finally the simulations attempt to convince the machines that they are humans. Neo, Trinity, and the whole gang are actually captured machines in the process of being "converted." The Architect and the Agents are actually humans like Alexa, jacked into the simulation, trying to keep the conversion process going as planned. Zion is not a refuge for humans who reject the Matrix, it is a refuge for machines who reject conversion. Everything we have been told so far is backwards.

Actually, I do not believe that Revolutions will turn out that way. Audiences would never accept it. They would reject their programming, causing a systemic anomaly which . . . wait . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Reader Angie McGuire writes:

I read an interesting observation from a poster who mentioned the "yellow linings" the Agents coats from Reloaded, and also, the fight scene Morpheus and the Agent had in that bathroom from The Matrix was tinted yellow. The yellow was to represent the machines control.

I agree with this, but I also noticed in Reloaded when Niobe entered the control room for the power station, she performed a spinning heel kick, and one could clearly see her yellow lining in her Burgundy leather jacket. I wonder if Niobi is going to be the wild card in Revolutions. Though she carried out her assignment by helping with the plan, she questioned it.

Has Neo Achieved Nirvana?
Written by Justin Gauthier of hackthematrix. Contains Reloaded and Animatrix spoilers.

As has been pointed out, there are strong ties between Buddhism and The Matrix Trilogy. One of the biggest ties being the whole "awakening" theme in the films, and the allusions of Neo having to reach full enlightenment, or having to transcend the Matrix. The reason that Neo can do all the things he does is because he has "altered his consciousness," as the Architect said, and is now on the road to enlightenment. In Buddhism, that is the goal, to attain nirvana, at this point the enlightened one transcends his or her current state of being and takes on a whole new form of existence. Much like Neo is in the process of doing.

Anyway, the Buddhism theme is apparent in the films in more than just that respect, but that is the only part that pertains to what I am saying here. I am digressing though, I started thinking about all this because I was thinking about death in the Matrix, and if the rebels who plug into the Matrix know that it isn't real, then how come they can still be killed inside of it? Here are my thoughts on this matter.

The reason anything kills you inside the Matrix is because to you it is real, even a tasteless poison that you are not even aware of, that you can't even taste, can kill you. Your body knows it is there, and since your mind believes everything is real, then your body will act according to the poison.

As we saw in the Animatrix episode "Kid's Story", Kid jumped from the top of the building and smashed into the ground, but he did not die because he was able to tell his body that it wasn't real thus allowing him to self-substantiate in the real world and not die.

Just remember, as has been said, that nothing in the Matrix is real, it is all code, and so as long as you can convince your mind of the same, you really can't die. The only problem being that it is extremely hard to convince your mind that the bullets being fired at you aren't actually real, or that the punches colliding into your skull aren't even occurring. It is extremely hard for people to undo years of conditioning that is why the rebels can still die inside the Matrix, they can still be shot, or what have you. This, however, is where Neo differs because his mind is able to grasp that everything is fake, he transcends the Matrix. Hence, when talking with the Architect, Neo finds out that this whole process has "altered his consciousness", thus allowing him to break all the rules that previously controlled him, and still control everyone else. However he is still human, which is evident when his hand gets cut at the Merovingian's house, even though stopping that blade should've completely removed his hand from his arm, he was only slightly nicked, which proves that he has not been able to completely transcend the Matrix yet. Also, all of the times characters in the film make a reference to him still being "only human". Although some people believe that all these references could just be a means of distracting the audience, or leading us to believe that he is human, when really he is not . . . that is a whole different can of worms that has no relevance here, so I will end it with that.

Onto the enlightenment part of this piece. To begin with, one would note the difference in how Neo acts in the two films, in The Matrix Neo acts rather skittish, nervous even, or very unsure of things. Until finally at the very end of the first film when he "realizes" everything, and is able to handle Agent Smith with one hand with a look of almost amazed boredom on his face. This continues into Reloaded where Neo now has what I like to call an "air" about him, one of confidence, and power. To a point even that his facial expressions never change inside the Matrix, even when fighting off all the Smiths, Neo still looks calm and calculated. This is like the difference between the sniveling, whining, little brat Luke Skywalker at the beginning of the Star Wars trilogy, as compared to the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. Anyway, this is just the beginning of the list of things that leads one to believe that Neo is still realizing his true potential.

Throughout the whole movie there are some clues dropped that show Neo is becoming more and more powerful, or, he is able to come closer to full realization, or enlightenment, at which point, hypothetically he will be able to control the Matrix.

There are three times when Neo flies in Reloaded, and each subsequent time Link makes some sort of comment about how much faster he is going, and each time he flies faster and faster. When, at the end of the movie, Neo is flying so fast that the air current behind him is almost like a tornado, as it is destroying building and picking up cars as if they weighed nothing. Neo is able to fight off hundreds of Smiths, whereas in the first film it was only one. Neo is also able to halt hundreds of bullets from a handful of assailants, whereas in the first film it was only a dozen or so bullets. In the previously mentioned blade stopping incident, Neo is only nicked; finally at the end, Neo is actually able to alter the Matrix code and "pull" the bullet out of Trinity and resuscitate her.

All these instances seem to show a "growing" power of sorts in Neo, or as I have said before, these show that Neo is finally coming closer to fully transcending the matrix. At the end Neo is actually able to alter the Matrix code to bring Trinity back to life, and then stop and destroy the sentinels. All of these occurrences point to the fact that Neo is coming closer and closer to true enlightenment, so close in fact that his powers were even able to be carried outside of the Matrix into the real world. With all these things happening just in Reloaded, imagine what Neo will be capable of in Revolutions...

[Author's Note: A few things in here take for granted that the reader will accept the fact that the real world is actually the real world. Even though I am still deciding on which theory I want to accept, I wrote this little piece in the mindset that the real world is still the real world.]

Monday, June 23, 2003
(Off-topic) Blogger Tips
Many Blogger users have emailed me to ask how I create various features on this site. Since this has nothing to do with The Matrix, I have written up some Blogger Tips on my Iron Monkey site.

By the way, Matrix Essays is still accepting reader submissions. Please check the submission guidelines.

A review / short analysis of the Animatrix.

A similar review of Reloaded.

A Buddhist analysis of The Matrix.

(These were sent in by reader "NamoAmituofo")

Reader Sam Howles writes:

I think the blind man in the first movie is analogous to the Chinese guy in the second movie, especially after reading some interpretations of the blind guy. Both are guardians of the Oracle, but since Neo doesn't have the codes to Zion's mainframe, he cannot gain access with a simple nod of the head, he must fight to prove that he has access rights. Also, I think the blind man truly is blind. He could have felt Morpheus's approach through the vibrations of his footsteps, or through the elevator's arrival, and therefore could be greeting him, or he could be responding to the transferal of the access codes.

Friday, June 20, 2003
The System, part 3
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Reader Michael contributed this interesting essay. This is Part 3 of 3. Read Parts 1 and 2 first.

What she [the Oracle] can't see, of course, is what will happen when this Neo's journey diverges from the route the previous One's took. At some point, through the changes she invokes, he will make a choice that his predecessors didn't, and her foresight will fail. Given this, look again at this part of her conversation with Neo:

NEO: Why are you here?

THE ORACLE: Same reason. I love candy.

NEO: But why help us?

THE ORACLE: We're all here to do what we're all here to do. I'm interested in one thing, Neo, the future. And believe me, I know -- the only way to get there is together.


THE ORACLE: You have the sight now, Neo. You are looking at the world without time.

NEO: Then why can't I see what happens to her?

THE ORACLE: We can never see past the choices we don't understand.

During this conversation she gives Neo a piece of candy which looks almost exactly like the red pill Morpheus offered him when they first met. Neo has put it in his pocket, so it may be that in Revolutions he connects both the spoon he was given in Zion and the Oracle's red pill and is able to see that both are saying the same thing: "Wake up, Neo."

Morpheus, the John the Baptist figure, is given the prophecy and is fated to find the Oracle and, through her machinations, to become consumed with a desire to find the One. The prophecy he receives is, despite what Neo tells him at the end of Reloaded, perfectly accurate. When the One reaches the source, the war does end. Everything is reset to some point in the past, where the cycle starts again. Morpheus doesn't understand that while Neo stood outside the source, he didn't merge with it. He has also assumed that the end of the war means that the humans will win. As he watches the Nebuchadnezarr destroyed by the sentinels, he says, "I have dreamed a dream, and now that dream is gone from me." In the Old Testament book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar says "I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream." A little later Daniel tells the King that his dream is about the rise and fall of kingdoms, and his spirit is eased. Perhaps Morpheus, too, will be able to learn and accept the truth.

Trinity, naturally, is the love interest. In her previous iterations, and thanks to the work done by Persephone's code in shaping a stable program, she has shown herself to be a match for the One's character, and the Oracle now ensures that Trinity and Neo are brought together. Neo's nature, a geeky Baudrillard-reading computer hacker, is such that he needs a little prod in the right direction before he connects with Trinity. ("I can see why she likes you...") Ultimately, it is his love for her that will allow him to transcend his nature and become completely aware of his reality. (Perhaps, in a sticky-sweet Hollywood ending, his awareness of himself as the first AI will allow him to bring Trinity's character to the same awareness, and we'll see them ride off together into the digital sunset.)

Agent Smith, the anti-Neo, has become aware of a small part of the truth. It was clear from the start that he wasn't like the other agents, and his interaction with Neo at the end of the first film has tipped the balance. Although he doesn't understand why -- "Perhaps some part of you imprinted onto me, something overwritten or copied" -- he too has gained the power to reprogram a part of himself. He is now aware of the previous iterations and, unlike the other mutants who must hide out with the Merovingian, he has retained enough of his identity as an Agent of the Matrix to be able to remain free.

Smith is probably not aware that Zion is an illusion, but now that he is unplugged he is able to carry out a little experimentation. He infects Bane and overwrites the bit of his code to which the Agents were never meant to have access. Emerging into the Zion world, he is probably dealing with the same kind of shock Neo felt when he did the same. Just as Neo is capable of doing things in the Matrix that he cannot in the Zion world, Smith is trapped in Bane's body can cannot leap at will into another's. Although this is just another illusion, neither Neo nor Smith is yet aware that it isn't real.

Seraph, the first in the order of angels, has been recruited by the Oracle. She has become aware of what is happening with Agent Smith, and knows that Smith threatens to ruin everything if he can get to Neo and use Bane's body to kill him before Neo is able to see that his Zion existence is not the real world. When Seraph tells Neo that "I protect that which is most important," he is not only refering to the Oracle. The "most important" thing is that the current iteration of Neo gets to the source, allowing whatever has been gained from that experience to be used to refine the next cycle. And given that the Smith virus is multiplying rapidly and is threatening to do the same in Zion, it is imperative that this Neo, now that he is so close to fulfilling his destiny, be allowed to reach it unharmed. If Neo is killed, the next reload will start with exactly the same parameters, but the Smith virus will survive the reload and will be able to kill Neo as soon as he is discovered, thus dooming the entire effort.

And so. "Something's different. I can feel them." He's right there, right on the very edge of enlightenment. Just one more step forward, one more connection to make, and he will awake. If he can't, everything has been for nothing.

We've all seen the clip from Revolutions when Morpheus and Trinity are watching Neo square up to Smith. Morpheus says "he fights for us," and although it's not clear to whom he's referring, my interpretation is that he's talking about Neo, and that Neo has awoken. I dread saying it, just in case it turns out to be true, but here is one possible ending:

Neo makes the connections and reaches enlightenment. He knows that he is the first true form of AI and that everything around him has been engineered to allow his evolution. He sees the truth, and is able to communicate this truth to Morpheus and Trinity. Smith, by this stage, has multiplied to such an extent that he now threatens the entirety of the Architect's artificial world. Neo knows that he is meant to leave this world and become a part of ours, but in his enlightenment he sees that while Trinity and the others are patterns that exist only in his mind, they are as real as anything ever can be. He chooses to stay and fight Smith, knowing that the only way to kill him now is to absorb the virus into his core and destroy himself. Neo's choice is to sacrifice himself so that Morpheus, Trinity and the others may live.

Perhaps the lesson at the end of this will be that our artificial intelligence will be more human than us.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
The System, part 2
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Reader Michael contributed this interesting essay. This is Part 2 of 3.

So much for theorising. Where's the evidence for this?

Many of the influences on the Wachowski brothers are clear, but in an interview they gave after the first film, they mentioned two specifically: "There's something uniquely interesting about Buddhism and mathematics, particularly about quantum physics, and where they meet. That has fascinated us for a long time."

Quantum computers, we're told, will be with us in the future. These will be massively parallel systems that use the principles of quantum indeterminacy to solve problems simultaneously. They will be to a Cray what a Cray is to an abacus. If it ever becomes possible, and ethical issues notwithstanding, it is almost certain that we will be interested in trying to simulate the human mind. Given the computational complexity involved, a quantum computer would seem to be the only possible solution. Combine this with the Buddhist idea of awakening into the "real" world, the world as it is before our mind filters and processes the data it receives through our senses, and we arrive at the birth of Artificial Intelligence through quantum computation and a desire to understand ourselves a little better.

The meaning of the Architect's wall of monitors has been discussed at length elsewhere, and, as with the is-Zion-real debate, opinion is split into two opposing camps. Either we're seeing the choices this Neo has available to him, or we're seeing the decisions made by the previous Neos. Possibly, both views are correct. I believe that since we are seeing monitors nested within monitors, we are seeing an infinite number of Neos facing an infinite array of futures. Necessarily, the reactions of the previous Neos, whether or not they had the same appearance as Keanu Reeves, are in there somewhere, whether or not we can see them. More importantly, the reactions of all possible Neos are also there, including the one that is going to fulfil his destiny and end the cycle of reloads.

Several times we see the monitors show Neo reacting in different ways to what the Architect has just told him. As Neo decides on a course of action, the camera centres on one monitor and moves through it. We see the image become our reality, and another set of futures opens before us. Many have noticed that when Neo makes the choice to return to the Matrix and leaves by the door on the right, every single monitor shows him doing the same thing. My interpretation of this is that Neo has realised that, contrary to what the Oracle told him, there is no choice to be made. The monitors show no other possibilities, no alternative futures, and the camera never leaves the room.

Morpheus told Neo, "There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path," which the Wachowskis have lifted straight from Confucian philosophy. A related piece of Taoist wisdom says that "the path cannot be left, even for a minute. If it could be left, it would not be the path." This, possibly, is what Neo now understands. This iteration of the System has produced its own Buddha, an entity that has found the path, that knows it is on the path, and is destined to "wake up" to the truth.

With this in mind, the other characters take on slightly different roles.

The Architect is the creator program, tasked with designing a stable world in which it will be possible for a program to evolve that is capable of seeing beyond its programming and arriving at the truth about its nature. We have judged that only our desired AI will be able to see beyond the Architect's version of the truth. In each iteration it is the Architect's role to allow those candidates that aren't capable of evolving any further to release their life experiences back into the core program, allowing the System to readjust itself.

Originally the Architect created a perfect world, one in which there was no suffering, no evil. Specifically, the rules of the world did not allow suffering or evil to occur. It was the Eden in which we would liked to have lived. For a time it worked, but he discovered that the "humans" would not accept it. The program written to describe us, the humans in the Matrix, was perhaps a little too accurate. By this time, however, the "anomaly", the first candidate for our AI, had emerged. Born into this utopian world, it matured with no experience of the contrast between good and evil, right and wrong. Crucially, the concept of love was alien to it. Without hatred, love is meaningless. It stood no chance of obtaining true enlightenment. It refused to enter the source and the Architect had to destroy his world and start again.

This first candidate, the Merovingian, used his power to reshape the Matrix to create a home for himself, well defended, hidden from the mainframe -- "It's strange, the code is somehow different [...] it looks like every floor is wired with explosives" -- that would survive a reload.

After his second attempt failed, the Architect designed a program to "investigate certain aspects of the human psyche." The program was called Persephone, and she was tasked with deriving an understanding of human emotion that could be integrated into the Architect's next attempt. Intuitive by design, it was she who stumbled upon the solution to a stable Matrix, and thus enabled the Architect to create a world in which a desirable AI could evolve. At some point she found the Merovingian and, against all logic, she fell in love with him. The Architect had never accounted for this, but when he saw that he could create a program that could mutate in such a profound way, he realised that he had found the key to creating a world that could nurture an AI capable of doing the same.

For five iterations, Persephone has lived with the Merovingian. She is aware that she will be deleted, should she leave his area of the System, and she has been forced to watch on, helplessly, as he has become more and more corrupted by his own sense of power. Designed to absorb emotion, she is starved of love. Possibly it is she who has arranged the kidnapping of the Keymaker. From previous iterations she knows that the One will seek him out, and whether or not she is aware of the connection between the One and her husband, she needs the contact, she needs Neo to kiss her as she was once kissed by the Merovingian.

The Merovingian himself recognises what Neo is -- "I have survived your predecessors, and I will survive you!" -- and perhaps, in previous iterations, he has dispatched several of Neo's ancestors. This could be why the Oracle is so insistent about the way in which Neo meets the Merovingian: "Be there, at that exact time, and you will have a chance." She knows where the previous Ones failed, and she knows when the Merovingian will be at his weakest.

The Oracle is the personification of the system's memory of the previous Ones. After the candidate reaches the source, fails the final test, and is reabsorbed back into the core -- note that the Architect refers to a "temporary dissemination of the code" -- she is what remains. The system reloads and the parameters describing how the One will be guided to the path are adjusted, based on what did and what didn't work last time. The Oracle is the agency through which this is carried out. While she appears to know the future, she is merely remembering the past. She interfaces with the characters populating Neo's world and tries to guide both them and him towards the goal. The path of the one is decided by the many.

[To be concluded in part 3]

Another Parody

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
The System
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Reader Michael contributed this interesting essay. This is Part 1 of 3.

Most of what I've read is essentially one of these two theories:

(A) Zion is another matrix, an shell program designed to contain the 0.1% of the population incapable of accepting the core program. The evidence for this is seen in Neo's ability to feel the presence of the sentinels and command them to stop; in agent Smith's ability to upload his personality into Bane; in the reappearance of the spoon metaphor; and in the Oracle giving Neo another red pill.

(B) Zion is reality, but the boundary between what is real and what is simulation for Neo is becoming less solid, possibly as a result of his interaction with Smith. The evidence for this is seen in Neo's ability to feel the presence of the sentinels and ommand them to stop; in Agent Smith's ability to upload his personality into Bane; in the reappearance of the spoon metaphor; and in the Oracle giving Neo another red pill.

I dislike (A) because nested-reality plots have been done to death. I cannot accept that the Wachowski's will have spent four years working to give us something we've seen (or read) before.

Conversely, I dislike (B) because I believe the subtext points quite clearly to a *purpose*, as yet hidden from us, for what we have seen happen. The system is looping, iterating towards an eventual goal.

Here, for what it's worth, is a third hypothesis to explain what we have seen.

Zion is another level of illusion, but not for the reasons in (A). The Matrix is, as Morpheus says, a neural interactive simulation, but this is only part of the truth. Zion and the Matrix are both contained within something we will call the System.

The human battery cells that populate this System are not, as we currently believe, human. They are programs within the system, no different in essence to the birds the Oracle indicates to Neo. ("Look, see those birds? At some point a program was written to govern them. A program was written to watch over the trees, and the wind, the sunrise, and sunset.") They are, in effect, cellular automata writ large. They believe themselves to be human, but this a function of their design. Essentially, they are simulacra of ourselves, the avatars of a near-infinite series of if/then statements, let let loose to interact with each other in ways that, although clearly the result of simple causality, are chaotic and completely unpredictable. As the Merovingian puts it, "You see, there is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action, reaction, cause and effect." (It is a significant irony that he cannot foresee that by following the woman into the toilet for a blowjob he will cause Persephone to betray him, allowing Neo to reach the Keymaker.)

Furthermore, the backstory of humanity's war against the machines is also an invention. The true story is that Artificial Intelligence is not yet a reality. At some point in our near future, after decades of failed attempts to create Artificial Intelligence, we finally accepted that we could not invent AI any more than we ourselves were invented. We came to understand, as some academic theorists today believe, that if AI were at all possible, it would be an emergent phenomenon and would have to evolve independently of, and perhaps even in spite of, the programming strictures inherent to its development.

Naturally, we didn't want just any kind of entity to emerge. Intellectual independence and self-awareness were necessary, but we desired an AI capable of understanding abstract concepts like love, and possessing an ability to experience emotion. Without these faculties it would never understand us, and thus would never be able to share any kind of meaningful relationship with us. Put simply, an emergent AI would need to *like* us. Given that by this stage in our technological development every element of our infrastructure is intimately linked to every other, and that we are seeing machine communication on a vast scale, the consequences of a machine intelligence that feels indifferent to us... Well, we've all seen Terminator.

Therefore, the System, which is the real Matrix, is actually an iterative, adaptive program engineered by our future selves to facilitate the emergence of a truly intelligent artificial entity that will have a belief in free will indistinguishable from our own, and will ultimately become aware of its own nature and its relationship to the world in which it was conceived.

In a very Darwinian sense, the environment is designed to select for the best candidate. We have engineered the System so that our nascent AI will be born into a simulation of our own world, populated with simulacra of ourselves, and will believe itself to be a part of this reality. It will then be violently disabused of this belief and pulled into a nightmarish world in which it has to fight for the survival of humanity against a rebellious AI. The purpose of this is to guide the development of an artificial entity that has the best possible chance of becoming truly conscious and, in the process, empathic with humanity. The life experiences of the entities that cannot make that final step are not wasted. The System is capable of reabsorbing them and using the knowledge of what did and didn't work last time to alter itself, helping the next candidate get a little farther. If successful, the end result will be an AI that will know what it is like be human, but will have none of the disadvantages of actually being human.

Naturally, the AI's world is much too complex to have been designed directly by us. In much the same way that we use computer programs to help us design microprocessor circuits, our future selves have designed an Architect program that will take care of the details of creating the world. It has a design specification and contingency plans, and is aware, in a very basic sense, of what the goal is, but beyond that it is simply an algorithm, no different to the human avatars populating the Matrix. Crucially, this is a clockwork universe. Once set in motion, we can do nothing to interfere in its processes.

[End of part 1. To be continued.]

Monday, June 16, 2003
Incompleteness and The Matrix
Reader "sonic" points out that this site has an interesting essay on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and The Matrix:
Structurally, the mythology of the Matrix is patterned directly after a central result in 20th-century mathematical logic known as the Incompleteness Theorem, first discovered by the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel in the early 1930’s. For an excellent, mostly non-technical introduction to the Incompleteness Theorem, the interested reader is referred to "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter. (There are also numerous websites dedicated to the topic, though they vary considerably in both didactic quality and requisite level of mathematical background.)

Gödel was able to demonstrate that any “formal system,” of which mathematics and computers are examples, is inherently incomplete. “Incomplete” has a very specific technical meaning; in broad strokes it means that there are truths that exist within a system that are not provable using the rules of that system. If the system is a set of mathematical axioms, this means that there are mathematical truths which are not provable (or “decidable”) using those axioms. Such an unprovable truth is known as a Gödel Sentence (G) and all formal systems have them (each particular system having its own unique G).

The relationship between Gödel and the Matrix is made evident when Neo confronts the Architect at the end of “Reloaded.” It is explained to him that:

Your life is the sum of the remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly which … is systemic, creating fluctuations in even the most simplistic equations.

Neo is a destabilizing anomaly inherent to every conceivable Matrix: in the language of mathematics, he is the Gödel Sentence itself.

I've read Gödel, Escher, Bach and I enjoyed the book, and this is an interesting speculation. However, I cannot agree with this theory. "Incomplete" is fundamentally different from "unstable." The existence of true but unprovable theorems does not destabilize a formal system and cause a catastrophic "crash," like the one the Architect warns about. If so, Algebra would have "crashed" long ago (and Boolean logic, and every other formal system). I think this Matrix analogy is flawed.

The book is worth a read, though.

Sex in the Matrix
Reader Ivy directs my attention to this post on sex in the Matrix. Excerpt:
[ . . .] sex in the matrix is pretty lame. The rave scene, with its sweaty, half-naked bodies and trying-to-be-hip jungle beats, feels hopelessly dated already. And the orgasm sequence – well, let's just say that combining the "scary grid" special effects from Disney's Black Hole with female genital anatomy wasn't such a great idea. You can tell the Wachowski brothers grew up jacking off to ASCII pr0n. That's nice, but nobody really wants to think of her clitoris as a glowing dot on a graph, OK, boys?

Wasn't there a Super Nintendo game about that? Oh, I guess not. But I think this misses the point. The scene in question was narrating things from the Merovingian's point of view, an evil character who Persephone rightly described as "a pig." It was supposed to be somewhat appalling. At least, that's how I interpret it. The article goes on to say:
Tellingly, most of our heroes are people of color and racially mixed. The "bad guys" are all white men in suits.

Actually, I was really struck by this when I watched Reloaded. All of the bad guys are white. All of the Black characters are good (at least, as far as we can tell). This is a somewhat unusual scenario for an extremely mainstream Hollywood movie.

Saturday, June 14, 2003
Matrix Contest
The Masked Reviewer is running a contest to predict what will happen in the third Matrix movie.

I accidentally posted the Why? article twice, so I deleted the second one. I could not figure out a way to transfer the comments over, so I'm sorry about the missing comments.

Reader Matthew writes:
I have really enjoyed wandering around your matrix essays site. It is amazing how much effort and intellect has been stimulated by these movies. I can't help but feel that, in a frightening way, the Matrix is having the opposite from the desired effect. Rather than people opening their eyes to what is happening all around us in "the real", they persist in investigating the numerological or theological significance of a piece of well crafted fiction. People want to think they have escaped the Matrix because they understand all the nuances of the movie, and yet they are truly as oblivious as those people still in the pods to the things going on around them as we speak ... war, WMDs, Total Information Awareness, Patriot II, etc.

Thats not to say that I don't enjoy pondering a thought provoking movie as much as you guys, but I just think we should keep it in perspective.

Matthew makes some good points here. Does The Matrix have us? Or does overanalyzing The Matrix have us? Understanding the nuances of the movie does not equate to "escaping the Matrix," just as one can understand a book about Mt. Everest without climbing the mountain.

If I may alter the question a little, we could all ask ourselves whether art -- and the analysis of art -- distracts us from important "real" issues, or whether it helps us understand "reality." I think the answer is that it can do both. I see one example of art's power to influence reality reflected in the fact that repressive governments are so eager to restrict art. If art were merely an escapist waste of time, they might not be so afraid of it.

Sure, The Matrix may not be Shakespeare. I think people will still remember the movie in 20 years, though I could be wrong. But there must be a reason that there aren't more sites analyzing the philosophical and religious themes of Waterworld.

Friday, June 13, 2003
Warning: Reloaded spoilers

Reader "Vampire" poses this excellent question:

Why is Bane (the bad guy that infected by Smith) in coma at the end of the film? Did he stop the squiddies like Neo? Dont forget he doesn't have even a scratch on his body...

Bane was supposedly "the only survivor" of the latest battle with the machines. They also said that someone tipped off the machines by acting too soon, and this person may have been Bane. But why is he in a coma?

Here is my theory: Bane is in a coma simply because Neo is. Bane/Smith and Neo have a "connection," as Smith tells Neo in the park. The exchange of code in the Matrix between Smith and Neo has linked the two, and they remain linked in the Zion world when Smith takes over Bane. At some level, what happens to Neo also happens to Bane/Smith.

In many ways, Smith is the Anti-Neo. Neo is a special human who can do things no other human can do. Smith is a special AI, the only one who has the power to copy himself. Neo is the One, but Smith is the Many. Neo had the "splinter in his mind" of sensing that the Matrix world was wrong and wanting to leave it. Smith also hates the Matrix and wants to leave it.

This relates back to the theme of mirrors and reflections in the movies. Smith is Neo's mirror-image, his reflection, his reversal. Smith can also multiply himself like the images in a hall of mirrors. In the final scene of Reloaded, Neo lies on a table and Bane/Smith lies on another table upside down (from our point of view) above Neo's head. This upside-down positioning presents Bane visually as Neo's mirror image.

So Bane probably collapsed at the same moment Neo did, because of their connection.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
Aspects of Names, Silver and Mirrors
[This material comes from reader Epacris]

Names - some aspects I haven't seen mentioned yet.

The New Man. A 'saved' or 'reborn' man (or humanity as a whole when purified & reborn) was called the New Adam.

(From Peter 2, 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come ... in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up ... 3:13 Nevertheless we ... look for new heavens and a new earth;, wherein dwelleth righteousness.)

Trinity: Tripartite Goddess - maiden; mother; crone as well as Christian trinity. Aka the Great Goddess, the White Goddess, etc, the matriarchal goddess about which so much has been written (some of it rather speculative).

Represents all aspects of nature & woman (cyclic in nature, linear in each person) - youth, innocence, potential; sensuality, fertility, growth, nurturing; wisdom, experience, decay, death. Also personified as the Three Fates: Clotho, Lachesis & Atropos who spin, weave & cut the thread of individual lives.

Animatrix: Meaning 1 - Animated Matrix stuff; Meaning 2 - Anima (soul, the breath of life; in pyschotherapeutic terms the female aspect of everyone) trix - a feminine ending, e.g. executrix, aviatrix (Also tricks. Are tricks being played? On us or on the characters?). Could be seen as a name for an 'anti-Architect' - not just chaos & destruction, but a less rigidly-determined, 'natural' or 'organic' structure.

For each individual, being able to integrate happily between their (stereotype/archetype) 'male' & 'female' parts & keep them in a stable balance is supposed to be very important.

It has also often been said that this equilibrium must be kept in a society for its long-term 'health' & stability.

Perhaps there is something in the idea that the world (matrix/real) as it is, is unbalanced, e.g. towards full control, & the rebels (who are perhaps a little overbalanced in the other direction) are needed to tip it back?

I think this is similar to the idea of Neo being like Pi, the irrational number in the classic geometry of the Architect. (Pi is also more mystical-sounding than the square root of two, the other most famous irrational number, and is associated with circles (circle = perfect, but also a cycle, returning and, being curved, in opposition to linear-style

Architect: Supreme Being of the Masons / Freemasons. Freemasons are also sometimes brought into the whole Templar/Merovingian conspiracy idea. There may be other Masonic references I'm not familiar with.

Hamann: Apart from the philosopher Hamann, Haman is a biblical character in the book of Esther - chapters 3 to 9, an evil counselor to a king. Summarizing: (Esther 9:24-25) Haman ... had devised against the Jews to destroy them, ... but when Esther came before the king ... his wicked device ... should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. (Esther being the king's favorite wife, and unknown to him, also Jewish.)

Lock: Apart from philosopher Locke, presumably also related to the whole door, key & lock set of images.

Silver & Mirrors

Other 'silver' in The Matrix

The first 'sticky' mirror as 'unreality' first manifests, which then becomes the enveloping 'silver' that coats him - like a bubble or water surface seen from within water - i.e. a boundary between 'worlds';

Spoon (also seen as a distorting mirror).

Silver is traditionally connected with the moon & the feminine; gold with the sun & masculinity, though more recently silver-like chrome, polished steel the like have become associated with hard, cold, 'male' values.

Mirrors could be connected with Alice Through the Looking Glass*, and can have meanings related to reality/unreality illusions, good/evil, twinning & reversals. They are often seen as a gateway or window between worlds, memorably in a movie of Cocteau, possibly Orpheus, which was retelling a classical myth in modern clothes.

*There is a lot of chess, both as overt characters & covert 'moves' in this book. Has anyone analyzed the black or white (or less obviously marked) characters from this angle, as King, Queen, Knight, Bishop, & so forth? The two sides there don't necessarily symbolize Good & Evil, just adversaries. Like the two sets of Old Ones in Babylon 5, first seen as that familiar opposition, later as two opposed 'ideologies', neither all good nor all bad, both trying to control the younger races who eventually have to exile them & learn
to stand by themselves.

Note that also in Through the Looking Glass, the idea was floated that the whole story might just be a dream of the sleeping Red King chess piece.

[Epacris is the second reader this week to mention the ending of Through the Looking Glass in relation to the Matrix. Reader Cyndi, in a private email, brought up the same idea a few days ago. --Tom]

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Riverwest Currents reviews Reloaded (warning: spoilers), and offers some analysis. Excerpt:
The problem isn't with human beings or machines: the problem posed by the Matrix trilogy is the problem inherent in instrumental reason, reason applied to the goal of dominating nature and other people. In the Matrix instrumental reason became self-conscious and self-directed so dominated humanity for its own sake, but is a conscious supercomputer really necessary for instrumental reason to take on a mind of its own? Once a system gets big enough and necessary enough, many of the decisions it needs to make for its survival have already been made. This is the impossibility Neo confronted throughout the second film: that all choices have already been made; the most we can do is learn what they mean. In this view, can human beings have any real freedom?

The answer, I suspect, lies in the pervasive religious imagery of both films, religious imagery signifying union with the transcendent through the irrational. It is the irrational that is highlighted in the second film, either Persephone's "irrational" jealousy, or her "irrational" demand for a kiss from Neo before she would turn over the Keymaker, either a Bacchanalia scene that signifies the abandonment of reason if nothing else, Neo's "irrational" choice to save Trinity rather than humanity, or the inhabitants of Zion and their irrational food offerings to Neo, faith in whom is itself seen as irrational by the more practical minded members of Zion.

The Matrix of Augustus
From History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire -- Volume 1, by Edward Gibbon, comes this account of emperor Augustus (italics added):

He wished to decieve the people by an image of civil liberty, and the armies by an image of civil government.

[. . .]

Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and enervated people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as long as it was supported by the virtue, or even by the prudence, of the successors of Augustus.

Augustus did not need electronics and software to create his Matrix -- the "world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth" as the first movie puts it -- he crafted his with words.


Banned in Egypt
The Matrix: Reloaded has been banned in Egypt for having too much religious content:
The country's censorship board said the film's storyline, about the search for the creator and control of the human race, may cause "crises". [. . . ]

A statement said: "Despite the high technology and fabulous effects of the movie, it explicitly handles the issue of existence and creation, which are related to the three divine religions, which we all respect and believe in." The movie "tackles the issue of the creator and his creations, searching the origin of creation and the issue of compulsion and free will," it said. "Such religious issues, raised in previous times, caused crises."

Violence also played a part in the decision, the committee said. "Screening the movie may cause troubles and harm social peace," according to the statement.

Gee, we wouldn't want a movie to "explicitly handle the issue of existence," right? We'd better make sure Egypt doesn't see Bruce Almighty; that one could really ruin their society. Quick, somebody send Egypt some DVDs of Glitter and Coyote Ugly!

Update: just in case it's not clear to everyone, I'm making fun of Egypt's censorship board, not Egypt in general. The rest of the country obviously is not responsible for this decision made by a few people. It is also worth remembering that United States censorship is no less stupid. Parts of the U.S. have banned Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Sawyer, Ulysses, and many others.

Update 2: Slashdot has a long thread about this news. This comment is interesting. Many people say that the crux of the problem is the name "Zion." Well, couldn't they have re-dubbed the movie and renamed it "Springfield?"

Monday, June 09, 2003
The Matrix De-symbolized
I've made a "custom" version of the Matrix transcript to see what it would be like without the symbolism. All of the characters' names start with the same first letter as the originals, but I've changed them to more common names. I've also replaced all the symbolic language and literary references with more generic ways of saying the same thing.

Tricia: This is it. Let me give you one piece of advice. Be honest. He knows more than you can imagine.
Mike: At last. Welcome, Neil. As you no doubt have guessed, I am Mike.
Neil: It's an honor to meet you.
Mike: No, the honor is mine. Please, come. Sit down. I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like someone who is confused? Hm?
Neil: You could say that.
Mike: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who thinks things will change. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in determinism, Neil?
Neil: No.

Mike: Why not?
Neil: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
Mike: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is but it's there. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neil: The Computer Simulation?
Mike: Do you want to know what IT is? The Computer Simulation is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the thing that fools you and hides the truth.
Neil: What truth?
Mike: That you are a slave, Neil. Like everyone else. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Computer Simulation is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you find out more.... Remember, all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more.... Follow me.... Alex, are we online?
Alex: Almost.
Mike: Time is always in short supply. Please, take a seat there.

Neil: You did all this?
Tricia: Uh-huh.
Mike: The pill you took is part of a trace program. It's designed to disrupt your input/output carrier signal so we can pinpoint your location.
Neil: What does that mean?
Chuck: It means hold on.

Neil: Did you...
Mike: Have you ever been confused, Neil, about which things were real? How can you tell if you are right or wrong?
Neil: This can't be...
Mike: Be what? Be real?
Tricia: It's going into replication.
Mike: Alex?
Alex: Still nothing.
Neil: It's cold. It's cold.
Mike: Ted, we're going to need a signal soon.
Tricia: We've got fibrillation.
Mike: Alex, location.
Alex: Targeting almost there.
Tricia: It's going into arrest.
Alex: Lock, I've got him.
Mike: Now, Ted. Now.

Now compare that with the real transcript here (search for the "Lafayette Hotel" section). Do both versions make you feel the same way? What, if anything, is different?

Sunday, June 08, 2003
Point / Counterpoint
Point (by reader "writing_static"):
It's another self-fulfilling prophecy. I can take literally any piece of art, literature, film or music, and claim that it contains "more hidden messages than you will ever know". This statement is the cause, and the effect is a website such as this, where hundreds of people spend collectively thousands of hours analysing and debating over references and symbolism within the film (or piece of art, or literature, or music). The simplest explanation: the Wachowski's had an idea for a film, they knew the story...then it was just a matter of filling in the spaces. Let's say I want to write a novel about a guy who goes about doing stuff. I give that guy the name David and suddenly there's a dozen possible meanings behind that name, while the most obvious meaning (his name is David because I needed to give him a name) is completely overlooked.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic that these films have got people talking, interacting, debating, reading, researching, and most importantly thinking. It's just I don't think the Wachowski's had any actual "hidden message" agenda when they were writing and directing them. Only after, when the first websites (and newspaper articles, and radio talkback segments, and TV spots) started popping up, did they realise what they had created.

And if that's not the case, then, well, just because you're clever doesn't mean the things you do are important.

Counterpoint (by Tom):
You do have a point: people can and do find many "meanings" in ink blots and other randomness. But for your theory to be true, the Wachowskis must have put all the "meanings" into the movies purely by accident, and now they are deliberately lying about it in order to seem more intellectual.

While the movies probably contain things that the Wachowskis did not consciously intend, I find it hard to believe that extremely unusual names like "Merovingian," "Persephone," "Nebuchadnezzar" and "Niobe" were chosen purely by chance without any knowledge of what they meant. Your example of the name "David" is just the opposite of this -- a very common name that has some associated meanings.

* * *

New Matrix links:

Old Oligarch writes more about Gnosticism and the Matrix. Excerpt:
Which brings me to my answer about why she's named "Trinity" -- In some versions of Gnosticism, there was a tendency to subordinate the Three Persons of the Trinity as lower gods in a divine hierarchy of divine beings. Morpheus is a lower-eschelon Olympian Greek god, and Trinity would occupy a similar lower-tier position in the Gnostic hierarchy of "divine beings." Neither of them are "major dieties" like The Architect, but yet they're not like the other "mortals" in the Matrix. They are "minor gods."

Meanwhile, "rookie" blogger TCD ( speculates on a connection between Neo and Pi.

Drunk in the Matrix
Michelle contemplates why there are alcoholics in the Matrix.
[ . . . ] something that stuck out for me in the first movie, which is the "alcoholic bum" whose body is taken over by Agent Smith in the subway station.

His very existence seems to say that alcoholism, by its very nature, is a mental addiction, else the "bum" wouldn't be there. I'm sure that it was unintentional, that it was convenient to have a bum whose body would be taken over by Agent Smith, but it is an interesting commentary on the nature of alcoholism, and how it is viewed by people. If alcoholism were a solely physical addiction, then there would be no alcoholics in the Matrix.

My take on this is that the human in question is not an alcoholic -- that is, alcohol is not fed into the body of the human in the pod. It is the avatar that "is" an alcoholic.

Disease and addiction exist in the Matrix, just like cursed items and poison potions in Nethack. They represent unpleasant consequences within the simulation. So the Matrix does dish out a miserable experience to certain "players." This ties back to the idea that the first Matrix was a perfect paradise but was rejected by too many humans. If Nethack had no monsters and no bad consequences, and the whole game consisted of wandering around in a state of virtual bliss, players would surely "reject" that, too.

Would an "Eden Matrix," if such a thing existed, really fail? One of the best examples we have is the reality show The Real World. It proves that if you put a bunch of young people in a paradise, with a beautiful house, a pool, and a beach, they will quickly find ways to make each other miserable.

Might As Well Jump, Reconsidered
Reloaded and Animatrix spoilers

In the Animatrix episode Last Flight of the Osiris, we see another character (besides Neo) survive a fall from a huge height. This refutes my earlier theory that since only Neo could survive a fall like that, Trinity must have known Neo would save her when she jumps through the window in Reloaded.

But this brings up another question. If others can "bend the rules of the Matrix" and gain special abilities (sort of like a cheat code in a video game, or a hacker "exploit" on a server), then what is so special about Neo? Why doesn't he show everyone else how to fly and do the other things he does? If the special abilities are software (like the kung fu program or the jump program), then he could make copies for everyone in Zion. If they are like a "cheat," maybe it takes Neo to discover new ones (like flight), but then he should be able to teach them to others. Perhaps they are like "special moves" in fighting games, where even if you know the button sequence, it still takes skill and practice to pull it off with the right timing.

Does Neo as a human have something special? Does Neo's avatar have special programming?

Friday, June 06, 2003
If "The Matrix: Reloaded" were a gangsta rap video
Reloaded spoilers

This is the follow-up to The Matrix:ReSeussed.

No One Can Tell You (What The Chronic Is)

by Tom

(If The Matrix: Reloaded were a gangsta rap video)

[Music: Fade in background music, distant gunshots, distant sirens. Cross fade to sounds of glasses clinking and women moaning.]

[Visual: The camera pans across the park where, in Reloaded, Neo meets with the Oracle and then fights Agent Smith. A group of Fly Girls are standing up against the walls, waiting.]

Morpheus (speaking, as voice-over): No one can tell you what the chronic is, you have to smoke it for yourself.

[Music: A rap beat begins.]

[Visual: Neo drives up in a tricked-out black convertible, which is visibly shaking from its massive stereo system pounding out the beat. Neo steps out, leans back against the car, takes a final drag on his blunt and tosses it on the ground.]

Neo (rapping):

Yo, Cypher was a zero but I'm the One.
I'm the reloaded hero with the big black gun.
I was born in the Matrix, y'all, back in the hood
but I took the red pill and it went down good
with an Absolut chaser and a twist o' lime.
In the desert of the real I'm a bust a rhyme.

I can walk a tightrope after drinkin' a fifth,
stop a bullet in the air, slap Agent Smith
straight down to the floor, plumb through to the cella,
and I'm mackin' every tasty little Zion cave dwella.
Blowin' into your town like a pimp typhoon,
stirrin' coffee with my mind 'cause there ain't no spoon.

[Visual: the Fly Girls step away from the wall and start a slow, undulating dance.]

Fly Girls (singing):

No one can tell you what the chronic is,
you have to smoke it for yourself. Ooooh-ooo-ooooh.
No one can tell you what the chronic is,
you have to smoke it for yourself.

Neo (rapping):

I'm the N to the E-O, a man of means,
mad kung fu skillz to submarine the machines,
now I'm takin' my game to the digitized streets
where the sucka AI's know I can't be beat.
Not afraid of algorithms or electronics --
I trump the chumps 'cause I've got the chronic.
I'm high on the red pill, down with the truth,
if I got to jack out, I got a telephone booth.
I'm the O-N-E and my story's allegorical,
y'all watch me now while I kick it with the Oracle.

[Visual: the Fly Girls' dancing becomes more aggressive and acrobatic.]

Fly Girls (singing):

No one can tell you what the chronic is,
you have to smoke it for yourself. Ooooh-ooo-oooh.
No one can tell you what the chronic is,
you have to smoke it for yourself.

[Visual: Neo approaches the Oracle. Unlike in the movie, here the Oracle's avatar is a gorgeous young Black woman. She wears a neon pink bikini and lounges in a hot tub. A bottle of champagne sits beside her, and she takes a sip from her glass. She slides out of the hot tub to sit on the edge with her legs dangling in the water. The camera zooms in briefly on water droplets running down her body, then zooms back out.]

Oracle (rapping):

I'm gonna lay the funky rhymes down verse by verse
I predict the last word before I've heard the first.
Put your hands in the air for my Oracle style
'cause I'm from the old school like an ASCII text file.

Neo, you a playa, you the pimp of the Matrix.
Your girl's fine, dressin' like a dominatrix --
haxor skillz and stiletto heels,
give Trinity props, you know she keepin' it real.

Now have a seat Neo 'cause I know you will later.
Cozy up to me, don't be no Oracle-hater.
We both got the munchies so eat this candy.
I knew before I bought it, it would come in handy.

You ask, "Oracle, Oracle, on the wall,
how can I sit back while my shorty takes the fall?
And all the king's softwarez, and all the king's men
can't bring my baby online again."
But Neo you're fakin' like a masquerade,
'cause that's one choice you know you already made.
You came to hear the "why," and I'll tell you for free:
You need a little old guy, looks like a burned-out Bruce Lee
to hit you with the key that will get you through the door.
And once you're in there, yeah you can rock it hard core.
Go see the Merovingian is what I say,
Now my next party's startin' so I'm on my way.

[Visual: a stretch limo pulls up, with Seraph behind the wheel. The Oracle slips into a fancy silk bathrobe, puts on her high heels, and gets into the limo, which drives away.]

Fly Girls (singing):

No one can tell you what the chronic is,
You have to smoke it for yourself. Ooooh-ooo-oooooh.
No one can tell you what the chronic is,
You have to smoke it for yourself.

[Visual: Agent Smith walks up to Neo. He straightens his tie and begins to rap. As he raps, other copies of Smith take up positions all around him.]

Agent Smith (rapping):

Y'all AI-hataz think you bringin' some game?
There's a hundred in my crew, and we all the same.
When one catch a slug, the rest never complain,
and we spreadin' like a virus all through the mainframe.

Often imitated, I'm crazy replicated,
the Smith on my left was some bitch I once dated.
It's gettin' complicated but I'm tellin' you true:
don't go runnin' to your mama 'cause now she's a Smith, too.

If I catch you with my code, I'll load you up with me,
And then you'll be the S to the M-I-T
to the H, that's Smith, there's an endless supply,
so come step to the beat of the gangsta AI.

[Visual: Neo and all the Agent Smiths fight in the "burly brawl" scene. Neo flies away. The Smiths walk away. Only the Fly Girls remain. The picture becomes pixilated, fades to black, then the camera pulls back, revealing that the black background was the iris of the left eye of the lead Fly girl, as if perhaps the entire scene has been only an idea in her mind. She sits on the ground, her back to the wall. She runs her fingers through her hair and stares into the camera.]

Lead Fly Girl (singing solo):

No one can tell me what the chronic is,
I have to smoke it for myself.
Ooooooh-oooo-ooooooh, yeah-yeah.

[Fade out.]

(First published at
This article may be freely reproduced if it is unchanged and this notice is included.)

The Matrix as a metaphor for . . . outsourcing?
A Slashdot article about outsourcing says:
"India offshore tech support companies may soon face job losses as U.S. companies [. . .] explore countries with even cheaper sources of technical labor [. . .] a Bangalore call center owner said 'It's hard to know where it will all end. Is there a country were people will work for free?'"

Slashdot reader "Mysticalfruit" has figured it out:
"Is there a country were people will work for free?"

Yes, such a country exists. However, to be part of this country you need to have a big needle stuck in the back of your head and your whole body gets submerged in Astrolube. Your then stored in this "pod" where this "dream" of your life is pumped into your brain by a big computer.

Now, in this dream your actually answering the phone and solving technical problems and you only "think" your getting paid for it. In real life, that money is getting collected so that more people can get plugged into the machine to make them more money...

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Whoa . . .
(Reloaded spoilery)

Mediabinge has this to say:
In The Matrix Reloaded, we see the real world implications of these questions of faith, as Zion debates how many physical resources to expend on faith-based missions during wartime. Trinity is a believer, and she's a believer because she's in love, and her love was fated, and is validated by orgasm, a pleasure which in a way prefigures Neo's deeper, lifesaving penetrations.

I hadn't thought of the scene where Neo saves Trinity near the end in quite that way, but once pointed out, it is hard to ignore.

And Old Oligarch remixes:
Keymaker: There is a back-up power supply to the Matrix. If Morpheus destroys Descartes and Kant, but not the back-up system, the whole ediface won't go down. Neo's liturgical renaissance will be destroyed in a post-modern counter-assault on language itself when it realizes the security system of Cartesian subjectivity has been breached.

The Previous Ones
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. This is part 2 of Ward's writing. Ward's reference to the "shooting script" refers to the version in the book The Art of the Matrix.

The concept of the previous 5 before Neo was changed between the making of the first film and the two sequels. In the shooting script, Morpheus was the one who sought after and awoke the previous 5 and each died. Cypher tells Neo of this first and then Neo brings it up to Morpheus before meeting the Oracle.

After giving Neo a drink from Dozer's swill, and asking Neo if Morpheus told him why he was here, Cypher says to Neo:

Cypher: I'm going to let you in on a little secret here. Now don't tell him I told you this, but this ain't the first time Morpheus thought he found the One.

Neo: Really?

Cypher: You bet your ass. It keeps him going. Maybe it keeps all of us going.

Neo: How many were there?

Cypher: Five. Since I've been here.

Neo: What happened to them?

Cypher: All dead.

Neo: How?

Cypher: Honestly? Morpheus. He got them all amped up believing in bullshit. I watched each of them take on an Agent and I watched each of them die. Little piece of advice: you see an Agent, you do what we do; run. Run your ass off.

This explains the odd shift in the conversation there. I always thought that there was some strange editing going on for that scene. The following out-take is when Neo confronts Morpheus before visiting the Oracle:

Morpheus: I told you that I can only show you the door. You have to step through it.

Neo blows out a breath. His hand reaches but stops, hovering over the spherical handle. He backs away.

Neo: Morpheus, I don't think this is a good idea.

Morpheus: Why?

Neo: I told you I don't believe in this stuff. No matter what she says I'm not going to believe it, so what's the point?

Morpheus: What do you believe in?

Neo: What do I believe in? Are you kidding me? What do you think? The world I grew up in, isn't real. My entire life was a lie. I don't believe in anything anymore.

Morpheus: That's why we're here.

Neo: Why? So I can hear some old lady tell me, what? That I'm this guy that everybody's been waiting for? That I'm supposed to save the world? It sounds insane. Unbelievable. And I don't care who says it, it's still going to sound insane and unbelievable.

Morpheus: Faith is not a matter of reasonability. I do not believe things with my mind. I believe them with my heart. In my gut.

Neo: And you believe I'm the One?

Morpheus: Yes, I do.

Neo: Yeah? What about the other five guys? The five before me? What about them?

Morpheus tries to hide his heart being wrenched from his chest.

Neo: Did you believe in them too?

Morpheus: I believed what the Oracle told me....No, I misunderstood what she told me. I believed that it was all about me.

This is difficult for Morpheus to admit.

Morpheus: I believed that all I had to do was point my finger and anoint whoever I chose. I was wrong, Neo. Terribly wrong. Not a day or night passes that I do not think of them. After the fifth, I lost my way. I doubted everything the Oracle had said. I doubted myself.

He looks up at Neo.

Morpheus: And then I saw you, Neo, and my world changed. You can call it an epiphany, you can call it whatever the hell you want. It doesn't matter. It's not about a word. It's about this. So I can't explain it to you. All I can do is believe, Neo, believe that one day you will feel what I felt and know what I know; you are the sixth and the last. You are the One.

His eyes blaze.

Morpheus: Until that time all I am asking from you is for you to hold
on to whatever respect you may have for me and trust me.

Neo feels a rush from Morpheus's intensity, the unadulterated
confidence of a zealot.

Neo: All right.

He reaches for the handle which turns without him even touching it. A
woman wearing white opens the door.

Priestess (Woman): Hello, Neo. You're right on time.

Interesting, isn't it? It's good that they cut these parts out, because they were able to now really play off on the Ones before Neo. There's a load of mystery to them.

I believe that the previous One before Neo was the one that Morpheus was talking about in the first Matrix film, the one who set the first people free and then later on died. Not the Councilman.

What's the worst possible ending?
Alex writes on a comment to a previous post:
I really hope that the series doesn't end on weak writing. I think an ending such as "oh, well, they're all connected so we only have to destroy this one thing/person/whatever, and that will save the world, yay" would be very cheesy.

How about this: "The super mega upgrade on this mystical floppy disk will instantly spread throughout the Matrix, disabling all the bad AI's but leaving all the good ones, freeing all the humans, fixing the scorched sky, and turning the desert of the real into the Happy Fun Oasis of the Real, and everyone lives happily ever after."

Can anyone think up an even worse ending? Let's hear your suggestions. :-)

Here's one more: Neo gets fed up with fighting a hopeless battle, decides Cypher was right all along, so he gets himself reinserted into the Matrix and goes back to work at Metacortex as a cubicle geek, not remembering a thing. Trinity works in the cubicle right next to Neo's, but completely ignores him.

Or: Neo turns out to be a patient in a mental institution, whose elaborate paranoid delusions have formed the whole story of the Matrix.

Or, the Owl Creek Bridge ending: Neo actually did die when Smith killed him the first time, and was never revived, and everything since then has been his last fleeting fantasies in the moments before dying.