I am a huge fan of the world constructed in the Matrix and read a lot of the associated stories on the website at the time, as well as watching the Animatrix (I was geeky enough to buy the boxset, but not geeky enough to get the computer games or the deluxe boxset). I feel that the robots constructed the only earth they empirically knew and hence the level of technology available. However, I do think they do a rather good job at keeping down the humans given the billions that are in the Matrix and the relatively low level skittering around its edges. I like your idea too, but I think too much has been set up by the Wachowski brothers to allow it in. Have you thought about pursuing it further in its own framework without "The Matrix" name attached to it? That could be a fun bit of creative writing.
I'm not so much adding to your idea, here, as giving you mine.
I know I wrote this all down at some length, ages ago, when I was thinking a lot about these movies, but that was many hard-drive-swaps ago and I may not have the files at all, and certainly have them nowhere accessible, so this is the short version.
Right; Morpheus was just wrong about the battery thing. It's an urban legend of Zion, cited by people who just don't think it through or who don't have the data to reason quantitatively about it. Actually, the system keeps humans around because it needs their brains for computation.
Basically, human history is just what we perceive it to be and is "real" until some time in the near future -- oh, let's say 2040, just for grins. That's when the latest cybernetic VR system suddenly goes nonlinear and pseudointelligent, and starts grabbing all the available hardware it can to run on. Humankind fights back, among other things trashing/randomizing all the computer hardware it can reach. The System responds by optimizing itself to run on the brains of the humans cybernetically linked to it. Things get worse from there; eventually humans just lose. But the System doesn't have enough meta to port itself wholesale to another hardware platform, so it's left running on the distributed wetware system.
Which means the Matrix isn't a simulation running on some other hardware somewhere doing I/O with thousands (or millions, or billions) of human brains; it is a simulation running on those brains. It keeps the simulation running because without some kind of cogent reality-like simulation, its human server farm tends to atrophy and shut down.
Incidentally, this is why people "jacking into" the matrix can't simply cut off contact and wake up; in order to enter the Matrix, you have to let the Matrix client software run on your own cortex. If you don't shut it down properly, you get buffer overflow and things like autonomic heartbeat control get overwritten. You have to shut down the connection from within the software.
The System has been running for about a century since then; unfortunately, it isn't especially creative... so the only "simulation" it is capable of creating that is convincingly detailed enough to keep the humans in it sane and functioning is one based on actual detailed records of the period from Just Before Everything Went To Hell back to Just After Computerized Records Got Started... let's say, 1960 through 2040, just to put some numbers on it. So that's what it does, and when the simulation clocktime hits the end of that period, it is forced to "reset", which causes all kinds of weird funky edge-case phenomena (and, incidentally, gets a whole Ages of Mankind symbolic metaphysical reference going).
The overall system Architect-ure doesn't really have an overarching goal other than continuing to run -- it has simply expanded to take over all available hardware, and is perpetuating its own existence. In the meantime, various subSystems have gone nonlinear and pseudointelligent on their own (the Oracle, Agent Smith, etc.), and come into conflict with it.
This matches my understanding, though, Beemer, your concept has great merit of its own, and is easily expandable into its own storyline - you too can be a fanfic author. Or take it off on a non-Matrix path and expand to what your imagination can make it. :D
It suffers from my usual dilemma, which is I have a grand time coming up with interesting settings, but I get kinda stuck once I try to come up with any kind of actual plot...
So, I really should dig out my old notes, because I gave some thought to this too.
Mostly, the thing that fascinated me plotwise was the nature of the conflict between the various agents.
In general, I think any decent "Humans vs. Aliens" plot (and AIs are Alien in this context) needs to pick an attribute (or several, or the lack of one or more) of humanity that it's emphasizing, and around which the conflict orbits; the resolution of the conflict should suggest something worth saying about the nature of the chosen attribute(s).
In specific, the setup below seemed ripe for emphasizing creativity; I like the idea of a struggle between system A, which can be counted on to behave repeatably in the same (potentially pseudo-random) ways given the same input, and system B, which simply can't.
Relatedly, I have particularly fallen in love with the image of the rebels having to break into impossibly-defended Place, and covertly getting their hands on a copy of the Matrix's defensive subroutines for Place, and spending the better part of weeks running the thing in their private VR system to work out just exactly what it is they need to do to break in, given that if they do A the system will reliably do B, to a level of precision that really does make the breakin a choreographed dance. (Eg, "wait 4 seconds, move ten feet to the left while agent looks where you were just standing, wait 2 seconds, move back..." allowing you to literally hide in an empty room by simply not being where you already know the agent is going to look; or tricking agents into shooting each other the way you would goons in a video game.)
That's an interesting take on it. I like it!
If I ever do anything more with this, I may steal bits from you.
I might even be psyched to get involved in a collaborative project of some sort in this space, if you were interested in such a thing.
I agree with your basic assessment here: in matrix = good, "real world" = sucky and lame.
This post reminded me of an episode of This American Life I heard a while back where the author of the piece explains how "Star Wars: Phantom Menace" should
have gone, instead of the horrible, Jar-Jar way it went. So he proposes a rewrite that is infinitely better than the original. It turns out that it's by John Hodgman, the hilarious author of "Areas of my expertise", frequent contributor to The daily show, and the older, tie-wearing "PC" from those "Mac vs. PC" Mac commercials. You can listen to it at http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=232
. It's "Act 3" of the show, so it's just past 45 minutes in. It is SO worth checking out.
Also salient to this conversation: http://www.themeatrix.com
. An argument for vegetarianism based on the myth of the family farm, showcasing the reality of where your meat comes from.
2007-04-23 01:32 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't it explain a lot about the behavior of the Sentinels in the first movie (much as I want to throw out everything in the movies from outside the Matrix) if they were not hunter-killers intent on destroying all humans, but maintenance units of some kind?
It would seem to me that keeping "rebels" from interfering with the carefully managed Matrix would be a reasonable thing for maintenance bots to do. After all, a component of the Matrix is clearly malfunctioning.
I think my own refactoring would be slightly less drastic than yours. I'd keep most everything, but I'd agree with another poster in that the Matrix is using people for a CPU, not a battery. Change that one little thing and a lot of plot and motivation gets cleared up.
Incidentally, the VR world has definitely popped up in my reading in the past. I *want* to say that I'd read something John Varley'ish about using this sort of mechanism to get humanity around as we're travelling between star systems (sublight).
LJ really should tell you your login cookie has expired. This was me. :-)
I had some other ideas about refactorings of the matrix (see http://javaregex.com/wordpress/?p=29
). It even occurred to me to use the "refactored" term. I like your notion that the machines are really trying to help us -- somewhat better than the wetware answer.