The Matrix: what if we lived in a simulated reality?

Matrix (The Matrix) is a 1999 science fiction film that had a very strong cultural impact and there are numerous works that refer to it.
The title derives from the Latin term matrix (“matrix”, “generatrix”), which in turn gave rise to the English word “matrix”, or “matrix of numbers”, a tabular type element deriving from mathematical structures, widely used in computer science to associate data, or data systems, with each other. In this case, the matrix represents a sort of cyberspace or simulated reality created by machines …

“ Matrix is ​​everywhere. It is around us. Even now, in the room we are in. It’s what you see when you look out the window, or when you turn on the television. You feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay taxes. It is the world that has been placed before your eyes to hide the truth from you. »
(Morpheus to Neo)

The film tells the story of a computer programmer who has a secret life as a hacker and who uses the pseudonym of Neo. One day, some rather mysterious sentences relating to a “Matrix” appear on his computer screen. Intrigued, Neo meets some agents and is then led by Morpheus, a mysterious individual who allows him to know everything about the Matrix.

Neo accepts and after having swallowed a red pill , he finds himself in a sort of cabin full of liquid: his body is filled with electric cables and small pipes that lead to a tower where there are other pods equal to the one in which he is positioned. . After being disconnected from the cables, Neo encounters Morpheus, who takes him around aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, a flying hovercarft. Meanwhile, Neo realizes that he has atrophied muscles, since he has never used them.

Morpheus can’t say which year they are in: it could be 2099 or 2199, but it could also be thousands of years later in the future. Regardless of the temporal location, humanity finds itself committed to fighting against all those intelligent machines that it built itself in the twentieth century …
The sky is obscured by black clouds created by men, intent on eliminating the amount of solar energy necessary to supply the machines, which, however, rebelled and decided to use humans themselves as a source of energy. All the people who are inside the pods that Neo saw before are therefore nothing more than human beings incubated by machines, which use the heat produced by the bodies and transform it into energy. In essence, the world Neo has lived in since he was born is nothing more than an illusory reality, called the Matrix, completely simulated and built on a model of the world as it was in 1999.

This reality is used by machines with the aim of constantly keeping humanity under control. Morpheus, together with his men, has the task of freeing the prisoners of the Matrix: he is a free human being committed to recruiting as many men as possible to carry out the resistance against the machines.

Aware that the Matrix is ​​simply a simulation, he and the group that accompanies him are able to equip themselves with extraordinary qualities for a man (for example, they can make their body fast in an incredible way, make very long jumps or walk on walls): this it is possible because, being a false reality, all the laws of physics can be changed. According to Morpheus, Neo is the Chosen One, that is the one who will carry out the war of man against the machines by modifying the Matrix to his liking.

Neo’s skull in the back features a link that was previously used by the Matrix to connect virtual reality with his brain, and which still allows any kind of notion to be loaded directly into his mind. Neo therefore quickly learns different types of martial arts and, fighting in a virtual reality not unlike the Matrix, shows against Morpheus all the skills he has learned and with another training, he becomes aware of the dangers of the Matrix.

It is necessary to know, in fact, that even if it is a virtual reality, the injuries sustained there are also reflected in the real world: in other words, if you die in the Matrix, you also die in reality. Neo is also warned of the existence of the Agents: they are rapid and powerful sentinels capable of suddenly appearing in any place, taking possession of the organism of a person connected to the Matrix in order to eliminate, by any means, any potential threat to the simulation.

Next, the group enters the Matrix and leads Neo to the Oracle: she is the woman who foretold the coming of a Chosen One. The Oracle reveals to Neo that he is endowed with the gift, but seems to be waiting for something, probably a new existence. The woman also explains to him that Morpheus trusts him blindly, to the point of sacrificing his own life to save him.

Preparing to leave the Matrix, the group, while returning to the telephone line used as an emergency exit from virtual reality, is blocked by police officers and agents: Morpheus, in order to save Neo with the help of the team, gets captured. It was a member of the group who betrayed the trust of his companions: he preferred to return to ignorance and unawareness, rather than face the difficulties proposed by real life (free from the matrix) and decided to return to the Matrix permanently. , not before delivering Morpheus to the Agents.

Neo has become familiar with the Matrix’s deceptions and is able to dodge the bullets that an Agent fires at him. As Trinity and Morpheus exit the Matrix using a booth phone, Neo is hunted down by Smith, one of the Agents. The two confront each other with martial arts: Neo seems about to prevail, but the opponent is saved by taking possession of another body. While several sentry ships are in correspondence with the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo, although hunted by the guards, finally manages to reach the phone that will allow him to get out of the Matrix: he does not have time, however, to escape, because he is killed by Smith.

Neo awakens in the Matrix, and his heart starts beating again. The Agents unload more shots at him, but he blocks the bullets simply with the palm of his hand. This is the definitive proof that he is the One. Neo, at this point, is able to see the Matrix in its actual consistency: a set of programming codes made up of green lines. The last attempt to physically assault him fails. Neo destroys the opponent and returns to the real world. Nebuchadnezzar’s weapon destroys the sentry ships, and Neo, back inside the Matrix, telephones the captive people, revealing to them that anything is possible.

What we are experiencing today is the clear demonstration of how the world can be represented to the masses. Than technology, the media and the speed of modern life leave no more room for the human being to “see” and distinguish what is real from what is illusion.
We are witnessing a total manipulation of information, and an attempt to enslave people’s minds in order to control them.

Blocking people’s critical ability is a frequent theme: as soon as you try to take a reasoning out of the box or to bring out news that has not been dealt with by the “mainstream”, you are immediately labeled as “conspiracy theorists” …

” There is a one-in-a-billion chance that this is a basic reality ,” Elon Musk said when asked about the possibility that we live in the Matrix at the 2016 Recode’s Code Conference. That means Musk thinks it’s likely, too. if not for a long time, that at this moment we are living in a simulation rather than in real life. And it is not alone. Noted astrophysicist and amusement destroyer Neil deGrasse Tyson puts the odds on a coin toss we live in the Matrix.

“ The strongest argument for us who are in a simulation is the following: forty years ago, we had Pong. For example, two rectangles and a point. That’s what games were, ” Musk explained at the conference …“ Forty years later we have photorealistic 3-D simulations, with millions of people playing simultaneously and things get better every year. If you assume any rate of improvement, the game will become indistinguishable from reality “.

In 2001, Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at the University of Oxford, circulated a draft of a paper suggesting that a highly advanced supercomputer with a mass the size of a planet would be able to run a simulation on a scale the size of the planet. ‘humanity. ( Bostrum said he hadn’t seen “The Matrix” before publishing the paper. )

Bostrom said this computer would be able to perform 1042 calculations per second and could simulate the entire history of humanity (including all of our thoughts, feelings and memories) using less than a millionth of its processing power for just one second. .

According to this logic, all of humanity and our entire physical universe are just fragments of data stored on the hard drive of a huge supercomputer.

He concluded: ” We are almost certainly characters living in a computer simulation “.

About 15 years later, Elon Musk echoed Bostrum’s ideas at the aforementioned conference …

The Matrix is ​​based on a philosophical question asked by the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes. One of Descartes’ most important theses was intellectual autonomy, or the ability to think for oneself. For Descartes, this means not only having a “good mind”, but also “applying it well”.
Descartes knew that his sensory experiences did not always correspond to reality and he used the Wax Argument to demonstrate how unreliable the senses are: the senses inform us that a piece of wax has a specific shape, texture, smell, but these characteristics they change soon as the wax approaches a flame.
Everything that I have accepted up to now as absolutely true and certain, I have learned through the senses. But at times I have found that these senses have played tricks on me, it is prudent so never completely trust those who once deceived us … So what I thought I saw with my own eyes, I actually only grasped with the faculty of judgment that’s in my mind. 
Descartes was therefore suspicious of his perceptions, of the knowledge he had obtained through his senses and of all his beliefs. He became convinced that one must use one’s mind, rather than one’s senses, to obtain information about the world. In the knowledge system built by Descartes, perception is unreliable as a means of gathering information and the mental process of deduction is the only way to gain true knowledge of the world.

In Meditations on First Philosophy , published in 1641, he takes this idea to its limits and comes to the conclusion that perhaps all of his experiences have been evoked by this evil demon:
“…firmly implanted in my mind is the long-held opinion that there is an almighty God who has made me the kind of creature I am. How do I know it hasn’t ensured that there is no earth, sky, no extended thing, no shape, no dimension, no place, while ensuring that all of these things seem to me to exist just as they do now? Also, just as I consider that others sometimes get lost in cases where they think they have the most perfect knowledge, how do I know that God didn’t provoke it that I too am wrong every time I add two plus three or count i sides of a square, or in some even simpler matter, if it is imaginable? [but] since he is said to be extremely good… I suppose… [that] some mischievous demon of the utmost power and cunning has used all his energy to deceive me. I will think that the sky, the air, the earth, the colors, the shapes, the sounds and all the external things are just the delusions of the dreams that he has devised to trap my judgment. “
Descartes then approached all knowledge, including his own, from a very skeptical perspective. Despite his skepticism, he was certain that he could not be deceived by his own existence, hence his famous dictum cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). By this, Descartes meant that the only thing he did not doubt was his very existence, because the act of thinking and doubting the reality of his perceptions was the affirmation of his existence: saying “I think therefore I am”, he defines the “truth In terms of doubt.

A modern version of Descartes’ riddle is a thought experiment called “brain in a tub”. This is Hilary Putnam’s version of the argument:
“Imagine that a human being… has been subjected to an operation by an evil scientist. The person’s brain … has been removed from the body and placed in a vat of nutrients that keeps the brain alive. The nerve endings have been connected to a… computer which makes the person… have the illusion that everything is perfectly normal. There seem to be people, objects, the sky, etc .; but in reality, everything the person… is experiencing is the result of electronic impulses traveling from the computer to the nerve endings. The computer is so intelligent that if the person tries to raise his hand, the feedback from the computer will make him “see” and “feel” the hand being raised. Furthermore, by varying the program, the evil scientist can make the victim “experience” (or hallucinations) any situation or environment the evil scientist desires. It can also erase the memory of the brain operation, so that the victim will seem to himself to have always been in this environment. The victim may even feel like they are sitting and reading these same words about the funny but quite absurd assumption that there is an evil scientist who removes people’s brains from their bodies and places them in a vat of nutrients that keep brains alive . “
The brain in a vat, although only a rehash of Descartes’s argument, is more directly related to The Matrix. In the film, the pods in which humans spend their lives represent the tub. The only difference is that, instead of only containing brains, the pods contain the entire body.


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