The Matrix is a great movie – a lot of action and great cinematography, ground breaking special digital effects, packed with symbolism, good guys, bad guys and a battle for existence itself – good versus evil. (I’ve outlined a summary of the movie below if you haven’t seen it or saw it a long time ago).
Now here is something to make you think – Those “oh so Evil machines”, well – maybe the machines we not actually so evil. If Neo and his crew didn’t provoke the machine overlords, it appears they would have let every one alone to ‘live’ their lives in the massive simulated world of the Matrix. Let me take you further in this scenario – if the machines let you ‘live’ a full and complete life in the simulation, and you were of good character – would you, could you go to heaven?
Before we dive in, here is the overview.
[TLDR; This is a longish article – If you don’t have time, here it is in a nutshell – In the Matrix every one is dreaming in a virtual world created by Machines. In the dream-like simulated world, if you lived a good and moral life I argue that you should be able to enter heaven even if you died for real and never woke up. So being good and moral transcends real life and any simulation. The real historical figure Jesus died showing us what being good means and to secure our entry in the after-life. Don’t waste your life – even though it may be brutal and hard. Aim to do something good, something hard and start now. Do something every day and it will get better and it all counts.]
In 1999, ‘The Matrix’ debuted and took the world by storm. Amazing cinematography, ground breaking special effects, a compelling story line and awesome fight sequences with guns, martial arts and ‘bullet time’ guaranteed its success and subsequent cult following. This is an outline of key parts of the story.
The protagonist Thomas Anderson aka ‘Neo’ starts in a city that is New York like (but interestingly was actually filmed in Sydney, Australia). Neo is a hacker by night but with a 9 to 5 office job in a software firm during the day. A mysterious woman ‘Trinity’ makes contact, a hacker of some renown. Trinity insists Neo follow her – using an Alice-in-Wonder-land white rabbit reference tattooed on an intermediate girl. Neo must follow the white rabbit. Trinity tells Neo that he is in danger and offers to answer the question ‘what is “The Matrix”?’.
Trinity’s leader Morpheus, the legendary hacker, contacts Neo soon after at his day job. The agents of the ‘Matrix’ are after him and are only moments away. Morpheus tells Neo and that he must follow his instructions precisely if he is to escape what is implied to be a highly undesirable outcome. Neo obeys, avoiding capture by following the unbelievably detailed instructions that are dictated over the mobile phone – Morpheus appears almost prescient, like he is watching Neo with x-ray from outside.
Neo eludes the antagonists for a little while. Eventually, the Matrix agents capture Neo – at least temporarily. Morpheus’ team, headed by Trinity extract Neo. The pivotal meeting with the legendary Morpheus can now finally take place – The offer to Neo is simple – Take the Red pill, or Blue pill? Blue pill and Neo stays asleep, never learning the truth. Take the Red pill, however and he will go down the rabbit hole ‘and see how far it goes’. The red pill will open his eyes, and it will reveal the truth, the answer to ‘what is the Matrix?’. The answer for Neo is tantalisingly close.
Like Eve in the garden of Eden taking a bite of the forbidden fruit and waking up to shocking new reality and realisation, Neo consumes the Red pill and his eye are truly and literally opened for the first time.
Neo has the answer now – The Matrix is an advanced world simulation created by Sentient human-created machines that have taken over the post-apocalyptic world. Humans are now grown by the machines and ‘plugged’ into the simulation, ignorant and unaware that they live in a virtual world running on the machines ‘computer hardware’. The human bodies existing in womb like pods, keeping the bodies trapped, but alive, while the minds are free to roam and live in the ‘virtual reality’ that is the matrix.
Why do the machines do this? Perhaps one of the weaker plot points, the machines apparently need the energy output of the humans and their minds. Solar power was blocked by the humans early in the fight with the Artificial Intelligent (AI) machines. The energy required to produce nutrients for the human bodies to then produce heat and I would assume then converted back from heat to electricity would be largely wasted. If the machines really had to rely on a biological approach, surely specialised bacteria would probably do the job better and need far less infrastructure than a human body. Even better avoid biological organism entirely – tap into the geo thermal energy or even tidal or wind energy. Pretty dumb machines.
I have digressed – back to the story as written in the movie. The ‘matrix simulation’, the machines found, was needed to keep the human minds ‘busy’ – or enslaved. Unaware of their servitude to the machines the humans are content ‘sheep’, producing the energy for the machines.
Morpheus explains that they are a small colony of escaped humans living in an underground city ‘Zion’. The original humans were set free from the matrix by a human, the ‘One’ that was smart enough to escape the control of the matrix. Eventually this ‘One’ dies, but the Oracle character in the matrix prophesized that there would be another human that could repeat this – become the ‘One’ and escape control of the matrix. They believe Neo was the ‘One’. (Note that Neo is an anagram of One. Neo also also means ‘new’ – so Neo is the ‘new one’.)
In a scene where Neo meets the Oracle – looking for guidance in his new understanding of the matrix and possibly what to do – there is a ‘future’ anomaly in the story that suggests the Oracle can ‘see’ into the future, perhaps another dimensions. In her kitchen, while preparing a tea, she tells Neo “Don’t worry about that” – which makes no sense until a few seconds later when Neo accidentally bumps a vase and it smashes on the floor.
How did she know Neo was going to bump the vase before he bumped it? Did she see the future? Does she control the future? The mystical capabilities of the Oracle are deliciously hinted at but not defined. (GC Comment: Interestingly the CPU architectures of today use techniques like pipelining where the processor is potentially executing different execution paths in parallel – like alternative outcomes of a condition – some of these paths can be discarded – so perhaps in the Matrix core parallel execution of various entities could sometimes cause the time anomaly like Neo experienced with the Oracle. It could also be just a nice story element to enhance our appreciation of the Oracle.)
If Neo is indeed the ‘one’, then he can take over the matrix, fight it and its agents and free the enslaved humans that are trapped in the matrix.
The story progresses with Neo re-entering the matrix in a controlled way via jack in into the brain stem. After some battles, Neo does actually die – for a short period anyway. Neo comes back to life in the climax, is able to take control of the matrix and defeat the antagonist agents. The movie ends with Neo having won the battle against the agents of the matrix, but the war with the matrix has just begun.
The Matrix, is a fun movie but is also crammed with symbolism. For example, there is the hero journey like Luke Skywalker – Neo starts a reluctantly, dragged into the story by actors and outside forces he does not yet understand. Later Neo dies, at least for a short time, and is then resurrected much like Jesus. Trinity in some ways is both like Eve and the snake in the garden of Eden – offering to open Neo’s eyes with the promise of knowledge. The evil controlling machines were always there – but until Neo took the red pill/apple and opened his eyes, he was not aware of this Evil.
Jonathan Pageau is fantastic at seeing and explaining much religious symbolism. He has a video that focuses on the symbolism of the Matrix. Watch it and his other videos when you can. I highly recommend them.
The vast majority of the humans in the matrix appear to be unaware of the situation – i.e. they were happily ‘living’ In the matrix.
We immerse ourselves willingly into Virtual Reality today. Games and simulations are available of many platforms now – from PC’s to Playstations and even the smart phones. Each iteration of these platforms is always aiming for more ever more real interactions.
If the machines in the Matrix provided a world simulation so realistic that millions were fooled for their entire lives and lived in that simulated world, why is that bad?
Human batteries – so what? It wasn’t hurting them. The simulations were benign – real life like.
In “Altered Carbon” (both the original book by Richard K. Morgan and the new Netflix TV series) the simulated environment almost always were for a purpose – To torture and interrogate for example. Sometimes the victims were not immediately aware they were in a simulation. In the Matrix, the simulated environment is actually to help the humans adapt, albeit to their machine created jail.
If the Matrix machines were bad or wanted to be cause pain, why didn’t they make the humans in the Matrix suffer needlessly? Make them ‘work’ harder? Perhaps put the humans under duress to get more energy from them?
Assume the Matrix machines are actually running a simulation which for the most part is no worse or better than what we call real life today.
People work, grow, run, play. They get sick, they partner, marry and have children. There are movies, plays, church, bad people, good people, needless wars and needful wars. The machines don’t interfere in any negative or positive way. They simply keep the simulation going – and enjoy the by-product – heat. (Which for us dreaming humans has no penalty.)
Let’s now take a meta leap – the machines are running the matrix on a physical world using tech and our biology that our creator made.
So God created the universe, which formed stars, solar systems, planets, life, human life, which created machines that eventually created the Matrix, which then hosted the humans in a new simulated world.
In computer tech today, we easily do something very similar. We create virtual machines that run other operating systems. These operating systems, also can run their own virtualization software.
You could run, say, on your Dell computer Windows 10. On Windows 10, you install VM (Virtual Machine) Workstation software. In VM Workstation you can now install another operating system – like say Mac OS. (You could go further and install another VM layer and yet another operating system).
To discuss this more easily, let me call the Real World “Level 1”. The Dell computer is running a Windows 10 environment. Inside this, the MacOS is running say “Level 2”. For completeness, lets assume there is a world outside of ours – our creators after life, simulator, universal engine – what-ever. This will be Heaven aka “Level 0”.
In the movie, the machines created ‘The Matrix’ computer hardware. On that hardware they ran a simulation which looked like the real world to the humans connected to it.
So “Level 1” is real world with the machines and Matrix hardware. “Level 2” is the matrix world in which the humans are trapped.
This looks a lot like what we do today with computers (albeit at a much simpler granularity).
To take you further down the rabbit hole, Neo worked for a software company. Thus software companies, computer hardware and programs exist inside the matrix. What happens if Neo (or some similarly talented programmer) wrote a Virtual Machine program – and they figured out how to simulate a world within that? That could be “Level 3”.
If you think about it, you could keep going down. This also means you could keep going up. Who is to say the world in which the machines are operating and in which they built the Matrix hardware is ‘real’? What if that is a simulation on some other platform?
In other terms, who is to say you are living now NOT at “Level 2” or “Level 3” instead of Real world “Level 1”. It is actually not possible to prove – many great minds have spent their lifetimes pondering this. Stephen Hawking argues for a multi-verse view, but equally concluded there was absolutely no way to prove it. Stated simply, you cannot know if you are at “Level 1”, “Level 2”, or any particular level.
Don’t worry – I’ll explain in a while why it doesn’t matter if you are in a simulation – i.e. what “Level” you are on.
It turns out simple rules from the Bible and ancient wisdom will help anchor us.
Let me explain.
The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”.
Confucius lived about 500 years before Christ. He is credited with giving us what is often called the Silver Rule: “Do not do to another what you would not wish to have done to you.”
Nassim Taleb calls the Golden Rule as via Positiva and explains the Silver Rule is the opposite. The Silver Rule –is don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Like don’t hurt someone, because you don’t want someone to hurt you. Don’t steal from someone because you don’t want anyone, in general to steal from you. Nassim calls this via Negativa. The Golden rule, as written in the bible and taught by Jesus, is a positive rule – treat others how you want to be treated. The silver rule is its logical counterpart – but sometimes it is easier to understand. If “it” bugs, hurts or annoys you, don’t do that to anyone else since it will probably do the same to them.
The Golden rule appears to be followed and work across many cultures, races, religions and indeed timeframes. This highlights it is thus a ‘moral truth’ – something so fundamental that we have lived it across hundreds of generations and millennia.
It is so fundamental, that even if someone has not heard of the rule, understood law, or read the sacred text with this rule, the rule still resonates at a deep level. It sounds true, feels true, feels right and our culture has shown that it works well. (Read more about the universal moral truths here)
Moral Truth Transcends the Matrix machines
Now we come to a most pertinent moral question in our Matrix world nested in physical world created by God.
If the humans ‘living’ in the matrix dream world follow a good moral life obeying universal moral principles according to his/her religion under God, will he/she benefit from God the same if they were living a similar life in the real world?
I think the answer is yes. I can’t see a moral reason why the beings living in the matrix dream world should not get the fair treatment and entry to ‘heaven’ if they have been good in the dream world.
If you agree – then this has a profound implication. It means that if you live a ‘moral life’ at Level N, you also have lived a ‘moral life’ at Level N-1. This axiom will hold for all the levels N-1, N-2 etc. In fact, another way of saying it is that living a ‘moral life’ at any level means you have lived it at the highest level and earned access to “heaven”.
The New Testament was the story of Jesus in real life, running in Level 1 and dying in Level 1. In the Matrix simulated world at Level 2 – The same the morals and wisdoms still apply.
If you are in the Matrix now, or real world, or some other simulation, it doesn’t matter. What you should do is:
Jesus gave us some simple moral truths that work at all levels – real world, the Matrix, all simulated worlds – and he died following those moral principles.
Think about it.
#BeGrateful #Gratitude #Gravitas