Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Reverse Matrix

The movie "The Matrix" had the right idea, only backwards.

Science-Fiction movies are really unrelated to Science Fiction and more related to comic books.  The movie, "The Matrix" was a fun thrill ride with a nonsensical plot that was best not scrutinized too closely.  Then they had to make two sequels to it, and try to "explain" everything, and that sort of ruined the buzz.   Sadly, Star Wars "prequels" did the same - getting bogged down in plot, when what people wanted was mindless entertainment.

In The Matrix, a common plot used in many Science Fiction (and regular Fiction) stories is employed - what if everything we experience in life is just an illusion?   What if there was really someone behind the scenes pulling the levers and creating this fantasy world we live in?   It is the same plot line used in The Truman Show, if you think about it.

But the iteration in The Matrix is a little silly.   We are told that an army of machines is keeping us in a state of suspended animation and feeding us a dream version of reality, which we think of as "real".   The reason why the machines do this?   Well, they threw in a MacGuffin here - that we are being used as "batteries" by these advanced machines.  Of course, all the Engineers and Biologists in the audience hooted with laughter at that point, but we understood the reason for the premise - there really isn't any valid reason machines would keep us in suspended animation.  So you swallow the premise and enjoy the ride.

And it was a fun movie, if you looked at it from that perspective.   But I got to thinking, on a walk yesterday, that the movie may have had the right idea - only reversed.   Reality today isn't something that is faked-up by a bunch of machines.    What is fake is the virtual reality that people willingly submit themselves to in this parallel electronic universe we have created.

There are a lot of folks today, who thanks to the smart phone, are plugged into the "Matrix" twenty-four hours a day - by choice.   They view everything in their lives in terms of Facebook postings, tweets, texts, and apps.   They often cannot even communicate with someone in the same room, without resorting to a texting device.   You've seen it yourself - a young couple out on a date at a "casual dining" restaurant, each texting into their own cell phone, each ignoring the other, each lost in their own virtual world and ignoring reality.

In the movie The Matrix, we are born into this alternate reality, and unless you are kidnapped by Morpheus  and offered the Blue Pill or the Red Pill, you are stuck in the Matrix for life.   In our version of the Matrix, however, we are born into reality and then willingly choose the alternate reality of the virtual world.  The movie was spot-on, they just had it backwards.  But of course, as the movie was made in 1999, they had no idea how smart phones and social media would change the world in the next decade.

And in our version of the Matrix, we don't need some lame MacGuffin to explain everything.  The machines are not after our electrical output (which is nil) but our money which is far more valuable.   The entire point of the parallel universe we are creating online (and via smart phone) is to keep people "plugged in" twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, so they keep consuming, consuming, consuming, and we can monitor their consumption, feed them ideas about what to consume, and generally steer, control, and profit from new fads, styles, trends, products, and services.

In other words, it is a giant selling machine the likes the world has never seen before.

And maybe I am wrong about people being "born into reality" in our version of The Matrix.   There are kids growing up today who have never known a world without the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Smart Phones.   Today, children are fitted for Smart Phones as soon as they are old enough to go off to school.   I still recall the early days, when schools objected to children having "cell phones" and banned them from school property.   That was a decade ago.  How times have changed.

For children today, perhaps their world is like The Matrix.   They grow up in a virtual reality world, plugged into social media from the moment they are born.   They text and tweet and communicate electronically as naturally as we learned to walk and speak.   "Oh, honey!  Our little baby made his first text today!"   "Gee, dear, that's great!  Our little boy is growing up!"  - is this how modern parents will measure the milestones of their children's lives?

It is an interesting thought.  Wait, someone's at the door.....

This nice man just knocked on my door....