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Material for T3 – The Matrix

January 6, 2013

For T3, please (re)watch The Matrix.


Then read John Pollock‘s “Brain in a Vat” and David Chalmers‘ “The Matrix as Metaphysics,” both of which are in Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence, edited by Susan Schneider. Once you’ve done all of that, please complete your weekly assignment by responding to the following prompt: How does Neo know he’s not still in the Matrix after he experiences his (apparent) rescue by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar? As always:

  • Please limit yourself to 300-500 words;
  • Please post your assignment as a comment to this blog entry;
  • Please do all of this no later than 24 hours before class begins on T3.

From → Assignments

  1. Taylor Warren permalink

    Neo’s main tip-offs that he is (apparently) not in the Matrix any longer are mostly physical. For example, when he “wakes up” after supposedly being born from his life-fluid sac he is bald and naked, not at all his normal physical appearance. In the Matrix Neo has thick black hair and after he is rescued it is suddenly gone and replaced with a black beanie instead, as well as other tattered clothing. At first he has trouble walking and his eyes are sensitive to the light. He complains about them not working and Morpheus explains that his eyes don’t work because he’s never used them before; a physical and metaphorical line that tie directly to the theme of The Matrix. Other physical distortions include the hole in the back of Neo’s neck, which is used by the Nebuchadnezzar crew to “link” into the Matrix, a computer program that projects reality. These physical clues are hard for Neo to ignore—they must be real because they are sensations that he is feeling and changes that he can see. But then again, isn’t that what the Matrix is best at doing? The deciding scene in The Matrix that confirms (at the time) that Neo is no longer in the Matrix when onboard the Nebuchadnezzar is when they put him back into the Matrix for training with Morpheus. At this point I (at least for me as an audience) decided to buy into the scheme that Neo really was physically “born” out of the Matrix and into the real world. Whether or not the same conclusion descends upon Neo at this time is unanswerable, for we all know he does not truly believe in “the Matrix” until he decides he is the One and can truly bend the rules of the computer program to his will.

  2. Simeon permalink

    When attempting to find some evidence that Neo could use to prove to himself that he is no longer a part of any other matrices, every deeper solution I might have considered was met with multiple inadequacies. It seems almost impossible, the strongest reason perhaps being that in the original “real world”, the world before Neo’s rescue; he could have pointed at any instance in that “reality” and not been able to disprove its existence. From inside his reality, he was like a fish in an infinite fishbowl, and though he had never run into any of the glass walls or had any reason to suspect the existence of any confining glass walls, the fact remains unchanged that he still was within a fishbowl.
    Later when he is rescued, he is brought outside of this original reality, now able to see the fishbowl from the outside. With this perspective change he can now see his previous entrapment. However, in existing in another world, even with the knowledge of the artificial nature of the previous world, is it not possible that he is trapped in yet another fishbowl which he has not realized is confining as well? Because he could not prove the reality of any occurrence in the previous reality, how could he prove the reality in any other realities? I believe it is impossible.
    I do believe that firstly, the fact that the objective of the original Matrix was to keep all people naive and controllable speaks to the nature of the overlord computer programming. To allow Neo all the additional knowledge that came with the rescue would serve no purpose and arguably spark a reversal of the progress the machines had made in keeping humanity controllable. It makes no sense to arm any of the entrapped humans with the knowledge that they are in a false reality, thus I believe the alternate post-rescue reality Neo finds himself in is not a projection of the computers. Secondly, in accordance with Chalmer in his article “The Matrix as Metaphysics”, it does not matter if certain occurrences in Neo’s reality were real or not. In his perception of his own reality, the things that seemed real to him are real.

  3. Micah Patten permalink

    The question of how Neo knows that he is out of the matrix when he is awoken in a vat is interesting indeed and quite double sided. As the author of , “A Brain in a Vat” realized, there is no way of knowing whether the reality that he sees is in fact reality or only the results of a computer program. In Neo’s case, he has a previous reality in the Matrix that is shaken when the rescuers notify him of “reality,” and once he awakens in the sac and he sees all the different things, such as the nodes on his head and spine as well as the multitude of other beings housed in sacs around him. All of these sensory inputs convince him that he is outside of the matrix, but there is no true way of proving that he is not only within the next level of the matrix, since his reality is only as real as he can perceive it to be.
    This brings up the question of what reality is. Some would argue that perception is reality, which is one of the theories brought up by Chalmers. If such was true, then reality is relative and no one reality is superior to the other. Neo, then would have a real grasp on reality that simply changed from one to another. The question then of how he knows for sure that the new reality is the final reality is not nearly as important, since reality is defined by he perception of it.
    Another, contradicting theory that Chalmers describes is the idea of a mind and body being separately created by a being outside of time and space. In this case, the reality that we perceive as humans is as real as it gets for us where we are, because that is how we and our universe have been created, but truly there is another reality outside of our grasp.
    He also describes several others; however, in the case of Neo, from all points of view, he must accept to some degree his reality based on faith in his senses and perception. These are very fallible, which the matrix itself proves; however, until he could possibly find another, deeper or truer reality, he is forced to accept the one that he is “reborn” into.

  4. kim cory permalink

    In the movie, The Matrix, Neo does not believe the Matrix at first; however, the combination of what he saw when he woke up in the tube, Morpheus’ explanations, the kid’s description on how to do extraordinary things, and more of his experiences during fighting the robots and trainings, he slowly starts believing the existence of the Matrix.
    After Neo gets rescued by the crew of Nebuchadnezzar, he realizes that he is not still in the Matrix through his appearance, Morpheus and one kid’s explanation, especially the one by Morpheus. When he gets rescued, he does not wake up fully for few days. He wakes up from the deep sleep inside of the tube and witnesses hundreds and thousands of the tube with people inside of them. After he wakes up, Morpheus takes him inside of the fake world built by the computer. When he goes in there he asks Neo how to define the reality. He tells Neo that his appearance is different than how he was before he came into the fake world is because that is how Neo sees himself – no holes around his body and behind of his head, long hair, and his normal clothes. Then Morpheus says, “What you can feel, smell, and taste are the reality then reality is electrical signal interpreted by your brain.” At first Neo does not believe what Morpheus says, especially when he explains how the world that Neo believed in was the Matrix and that is created by human brains. The first time when Morpheus explains Neo the reality outside of the Matrix, he does not succeed on convincing Neo. He runs out of the system and goes into a denial stage.
    Later on, Neo goes to see the woman to receive his message. When he goes to the Matrix, everything looks like where he used to live in. However, when he arrives at the place to meet the woman, he sees people with extraordinary power. He gets to talk to one kid who can bend spoons. When Neo asks him how he does what he does, he responds “There is no spoon… you will see it’s not the spoon that bends, it’s only yourself.” With Morpheus’ saying – your mind makes it real, the kid’s description on how to bend a spoon assists Neo to believe that the world he used to live in is the matrix, not the reality. Because now he can see distinguish differences between the reality and the electrical signal that his brain used to interpret, he can do extraordinary activities that seemed impossible before.

  5. As Taylor and the others who have responded to the prompt have duly noted, most of Neo’s changes are apparent physically. The most interesting dynamic between his life in The Matrix and out of it, especially at the beginning of the film is the sensation of sleep. It serves as a barrier between a perception of reality and dream, in the same way films like Inception have treated it. An interesting way to see this change is to analyze how the difference between sleep and dreams are portrayed in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life. In the film the main character is on a philosophical journey where the lines between dream and reality are skewed. It’s hard to tell which way is up as the character keeps waking up to what he thinks is his reality, only to find he’s still dreaming. Similarly, in the beginning of the The Matrix, Neo finds himself waking up but the idea of reality and dream intertwine when Trinity removes the bug from Neo’s body. This is probably the most telling transformation in Neo’s perception of reality that alludes to the fact he is no longer in The Matrix after Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar rescue him. After his rescue the only time we see him sleep is to enter The Matrix again. The irony of this ability to enter the ulterior universe of The Matrix through sleep is that when Neo was in The Matrix, the only way he felt he was able to escape was to fall asleep. That’s why when he takes the red pill he ends up back in his bed, asleep. Perhaps there’s a paradigm that was overlooked in the creation of the film because Neo’s ability to end up back in The Matrix solely through sleep gives the viewer the perception that maybe Neo wasn’t in The Matrix to begin with. He exists in it within the same confines the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar does: in sleep.
    I feel I may be missing an obvious piece to this puzzle, but I thought it was an interesting point to pursue. Additionally this viewing of the film was my first, I’m sure there were many things I overlooked.

  6. It was a close call, but Neo’s return from the Matrix was apparent through both the interaction with Trinity and Neo’s physical appearance. When the Nebuchadnezzar makes a final attempt to save Neo from the Matrix, Neo can know that it worked because Trinity confessed her love for Neo. For Neo, his believed world to be true is the world in which Trinity and the Nebuchadnezzar exists. Therefore, even if this world is not real concerning time and space, it is the world in which Neo’s heart and mind thrive. In this world, the Oracle expressed to Trinity that the mad she would fall in love with would be the one to save the world.
    Trinity knows that she loves Neo, and that there is no possibility that he could be dead because of the fact that he is the one. Although, I had doubts about the Oracle when she told Neo that he was not the one and that he was just a regular person, as the movie continued, I realized that the Oracle was trying to motivate Neo to believe in himself and to create his own destiny. Once my trust of the Oracle was re-established, I was then able to trust what Trinity said about Neo being the one, because she loved him, to be true. With this said, Neo can trust that he made it back to the Nebuchadnezzar because of what the Oracle told Trinity.
    Also, when Neo is in the Matrix his appearance is different that when he is in the world he presumes as the real world, his world. In the Matrix, Neo’s physical appearance is the one that his mind projects into the program, but in the world he believes to be real, Neo is physically different from the Matrix. In Neo’s world he is bald and wears a futuristic shirt, along with a hole in the back of his head. His physical change from world to world is also what helps Neo, and the audience, understand which world he is in at any given moment.
    Although Neo could perceive that there is a real world, he could be making all of it up in his mind, in a dream. It is his sense of trust and drive that the world in which the crew of Nebuchadnezzar exists that gives him a purpose in life, a re-established lifestyle that he is willing to fight for. With these reasons highlighted, Neo can understand that he is not still stuck in the Matrix.

  7. Amy Vander Wyst permalink

    It is quite obvious to Neo and the audience that he is no longer in the Matrix after his rescue. Upon re-entry into the Matrix he is able to manipulate his environment in ways that he was never before capable. His body is completely different outside of the Matrix, frail and in need of care and attention. Once reintegrated with the Matrix he is able to create his body as he wishes. He can learn in different ways by basically downloading skills and knowledge into his brain. He is most definitely free of “the Matrix”.

    What he may not be free of, however, is a matrix. While he has assuredly left the Matrix, with a capital M, how is he to know if he has simply entered another matrix? The answer: he cannot know. For all we know, we could be in a matrix right now. Our minds could be the only real things about us, but they could simply be a brain in a jar somewhere and this whole universe could be fictitious. Neo has definitely left one matrix, but as far as knowing whether or not he has entered another, there really is no way to convincingly tell.

    In Neo’s new environment he can use all of his senses in just the same ways: see all the same sorts of stimuli, breathe the air, smell the scents, etc.. This is capable of happening in any matrix, anytime, anywhere. It is simply stimulating the senses correctly and giving corresponding visuals. There does not have to be anything true or tangible about it, as long as the tangibility is perceived by the brain.

    Neo most definitely left the Matrix, but if one such matrix existed, the probability that he has landed in another one becomes much more likely. We could all be in Neo’s original Matrix right now and not know any better.

  8. Neo does not, and cannot know. He is and always will be held captive by his reliance on sensory inputs describing the external world. In Descartes’ Meditations Descartes considers the possibility that he is being relentlessly deluded by an evil demon. In Neo’s case, that demon is represented by the machines and their matrix. Descartes determines that it is impossible to determine if is he is being deceived persistently because there is no method to check reality beyond what is reported by his senses. He concludes that only the existence of one’s own self is a reliable fact, as even if there is an immeasurable amount of trickery, there still must be something to trick. The machines may have constructed all of the events of this movie for some unknown end. They control everything and may have created Morpheus, the Nebuchadnezzar and Neo’s powers all for their own hidden motives. The only thing Neo can be rightly sure of is his own existence, nothing more.

    According to Chalmers (who really wants us to know he is on a Tuscan vacation) in “The Matrix as Metaphysics” though, the fact that we are unable to ascertain the true nature of reality is irrelevant to our own present reality. He proposes that the skeptical hypothesis with which we view The Matrix should be replaced with a metaphysical hypothesis. Even if Neo is within a matrix, that world is still perfectly real. As we frequently say in military life “Appearance is reality.” If it appears that an officer is sleeping around with airman, then they have already lost the respect of the unit—regardless of what actually occurred. Similarly, Neo’s life in the world of the matrix is the entirety of his understanding until he takes the red pill.

    This existence is not so different from things many people believe about life on early today, in this shared plane of existence. Combing a creation, computational and mind-body hypothesis results creates Chalmers’s metaphysical hypothesis. If one believes that reality was created by beings (God?) outside physical space-time, that underlying particle physics are computational processes and that mind is outside physical space-time (dualism) then they agree wholeheartedly with Chalmers’s Metaphysical Hypothesis. This hypothesis seems to be nearly identical to his Matrix Hypothesis.

    So, even if Neo is in an endless tree of computer simulations, he is merely somewhere else down the same rabbit hole of reality. Every simulation is as real as the rest and should not be viewed with a skeptical hypothesis declaring them as “fake.”

    Major Growden once asked his Philosophy 310 class whether we would trade our present lives for simulations of the same life which are better in every way. Few present would make the swap, but I wanted to, and I stand by that decision. Sensation and perception are everything for us featherless bipeds—“real,” or not.

  9. Neo does not know if he is still in the Matrix. It could just as easily be a second layer of the Matrix that he escaped from and the first layer that he has escaped into is only there to trick humans who were not fooled by the simulation. Neo cannot know for sure whether or not he is still in the Matrix, or even if is “outside” of one layer of the Rabbit Hole Morpheus mentions. He is only aware that there is multiple layers. Being aware of one layer of the Matrix allows him to question his current reality and to continue to search for the true reality.

    In Brain in a Vat the idea is presented that once we think we are in a fake reality then there isn’t a good way to question it. Perhaps we can never know and Neo’s only real sense of comfort is that he just hasn’t questioned his new reality yet. That comfort is all that he is actually searching for.

    Neo, nor anyone else, can be sure of what is real. He is only able to identify what is fake. Neo’s only options are to accept that he does not know if his reality is real or to question it without ever being able to prove it is real. As Chalmer’s suggests, what difference does it really make? Almost all of the same problems exist even if Neo isn’t in that new layer of the matrix that I mentioned. How does he know everyone else exists? He doesn’t. How does he know that his new world isn’t actually part of a bigger non-matrix world (such as a smaller universe inside a bigger universe)? The reality that Neo accepts is real until someone from outside of it enlightens him that it is fake, just as Morpheus did in the beginning of the movie.

    It is important to separate Neo’s brain from the consciousness of Neo. While Neo’s “real” brain could be anywhere, Neo’s consciousness is now outside of the Matrix. Everything this consciousness knows about is real to Neo. If instead of leaving the Matrix he was actually hit in the head, put into a coma, and his “escape” was actually into his own reality nothing else would really change. All of the problems he faces (Agent Smith for example) would still be there. Everything then is just a matter of personal perception, so if Neo finds comfort in this new reality, it is as real as it will ever be.

  10. Caroline Martin permalink

    Upon being freed from the “bondage” that is the Matrix, Neo’s mind is subjected to a training program similar to the program of the Matrix. Witnessing physical impossibilities and listening to Morpheus’s explanation of the Matrix lead Neo to question what he perceives.
    Therefore, the first possible way that Neo knows he is no longer in the Matrix is by his empirical knowledge. However, by accepting that the Matrix and its purposes exist, Neo also accepts the possibility of still being in a Matrix. After all, everything that he perceives in Morpheus’s reality, he perceives in the same way that he perceived the Matrix. This thought is paralleled when Morpheus creates the analogy of the Matrix as a dream and says, “How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” By realizing that what he perceived in the Matrix was not real, Neo must inevitably accept that his perception does not fully imply reality.
    A second possibility is that Morpheus offers Neo “truth.” However, we must then consider how Neo would perceive this “truth.” Unavoidably, Neo perceives what Morpheus tells and shows him in the same way that he perceived the Matrix. And since truth is reality, Neo cannot know that he is no longer in the Matrix solely based on the fact that Morpheus offers “truth” for the same reason that he cannot know based on his perception. This theory, for the sake of argument, cedes that reality is a state of being or existence, not dependent on perception. Neo explores a similar line of thinking when Morpheus says, “How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste…” By accepting that reality is not implied by perception of the brain, we conclude that Neo cannot truly know whether or not he is still in the Matrix based on this perception.
    This conclusion leads us to question whether it is possible, as humans, to truly know anything. As stated by David Chalmers, “We are not omniscient creatures.” If this is true, then what do we, as humans, really mean when we say “to know” something? We mean “to believe.” When Neo is rescued by Morpheus, the Matrix and its existence have not changed. Instead, Neo’s beliefs have changed. This fact is exemplified when the child with the spoon says to Neo, “It is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
    Now, we consider Neo’s beliefs as the third possibility. Depicting the brain and the mind as two separate entities, Neo’s beliefs stem from his mind. Neo states that he does not believe in fate. Therefore, by the definition of fate, Neo believes in the ability to control his own life. He believes that reality is what we make it, accept it to be. Neo accepts Morpheus’s reality. Therefore, through his belief, the fact that his “mind makes it real,” he knows that he is not still in the Matrix.

  11. Uddit Patel permalink

    According to the to David Chalmers‘ “The Matrix as Metaphysics” before the rescue by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar Neo thinks that “he lives in a city, he thinks that he has hair, he thinks it is 1999, and he thinks that it is sunny outside. In reality, he is floating in space, he has no hair, the year is around 2199, and the world has been darkened by war.” Before Neo takes the red pill, Neo believed that the world around him, the matrix, is reality. However, Neo can use some physical evidence he is in the matrix, but mentally will always be confused. The large socket behind their necks confuses Neo mentally but can provide physical evidence that Neo is no longer in the Matrix. Neo being born from something resemblance to an egg and Neo having no hair provides evidence that Neo is being born like babies are born in today’s age. Another physical evidence that can be seen that Neo was rescued from the matrix is the programs being able to be loaded up to the person for the matrix and being connected to the matrix by the hold in the back.

    Physical evidence does not automatically prove that Neo know he’s not still in the Matrix. Many on the members on the Nebuchadnezzar believed that Neo was the one to bring peace and that Neo was the one human that can fully manipulate the laws of the matrix. However, throughout the movie Neo did not believe in this idea until the end, and mentally Neo thought he was confused. The “The Matrix as Metaphysics” reading shows the reason why it took Neo a little time for Neo to finally believe that the place he came from was the matrix. The reason it took Neo to realize he’s not still in the Matrix was because he lived in the matrix for a long time and believed the things around him. Whatever Neo thinks is reality will be reality for him, and in the beginning of “The Matrix”, the idea of the matrix is nor reality to Neo. Neo having to make final decision to save Morpheus and fight the agents in the Matrix made Neo know the matrix was reality. Also, Trinity confessing her love to “the one” made Neo believe, and the world of the matrix actually exists.

    Neo believing can be seen when he gets back up after being shot multiple times by the agents taking full advantage of the matrix. Neo know he is in the matrix when he stops the bullets and goes into the agents and ultimately kills the one agent. The end of the movie finally represented how Neo thought the world he lived in was the matrix, and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar really saved him from that world he lived. Since the world he lived in was the matrix, the world that Morpheus brings him out of the matrix and to real life and Neo finally believes this at the end. The question that can be asked is that does crew of the Nebuchadnezzar not believe like Neo does? Does the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar not believe in the idea of the matrix fully like Neo? After Neo believed, he was able to do remarkable things and fight the agents to full capacity and manipulate the matrix.

  12. ricardochavez permalink

    Ultimately I feel that Neo eventually sees that he is not in the matrix through his own belief system. Observing him through the movie, it is reasonable to say that humans like Neo when stuck in a reality for so long, need time to contemplate the things that are real in their lives. Eventually he realizes that there are two possible realms of life, but eventually his belief system evolves after Morpheus tell him of his future as The One.
    Events like where the Oracle tell Neo that he in fact is not the prophet they’ve been waiting for to me is a symbol of obstacles that keep humans from accepting reality or making their own path. Neo’s story is pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy and an acceptance of a reality he chose. This relates to Chalmers idea of reality by speaking to Neo’s acceptance of his own reality. He can choose two realms to live out his life, but he chooses one that he wants, whether it is a dream or not, it shouldn’t matter because to Neo, it will always be his own reality.
    If in fact a human felt their dream world was their reality, then so be it. I almost feel the same about Neo’s reality, his reality is only dependent on his conscious acceptance of whatever reality that is. Over time we see Neo becoming more confident and almost cocky in everything he does, and I feel it’s because he sees that his reality is confirmed and he sees a purpose in everything he does. Speaking to our own lives I see a relation to predestination and free will, and for this I’m always curious to how Neo would have acted if he never went to the Oracle. If he took a couple days to believe the fact that he is the prophet, would his attitude toward his new world be changed? Again, I like to see the Oracle and Neo’s life actions in response to her as a choice we are all allowed to take advantage of.

  13. Ben Vowell permalink

    Neo “realizes” he is no longer in the Matrix as soon as he awakens in a vat of life-essential fluid, located in a modified version of the world he is familiar with. I say modified because the fundamental physics and his own sensations when interacting with this new reality are intact. This “realization” is not absolute though, it is reinforced by his experiences shortly thereafter and it is only when he is able to return to his former reality that he is completely sure of his new one.

    Who is to claim which one of these is reality though? I believe Mr. Chalmers thoughts on reality can be summarized with: as long as the fundamental beliefs you have about a level of consciousness are accurate for that particular level, you are experiencing one level of true reality, and there may be multiple, equally accurate levels of reality and truth. I agree with his sentiment and find it intriguing, though almost mind-numbingly perplexing. I believe it is impossible to know if one reaches the level of a true reality or if one can exist; thus, I believe there exists multiple realities. Neo seems to take one step up from a sort of dream like reality to a more consciousness one. This could go on forever though, perpetuating itself in his own mind or from a larger computer simulation such as the matrix he escapes from. It seems as though for Neo, only the level of authority is changing between his realities.

    I find a parallel when I reflect on what it might be like to be completely blind. It is simple to partially simulate this reality, just as the Matrix is a simulation. The “reality” of a blind person is devoid of color and the perception of depth with sight. If one were to suddenly gain sight, their perception of reality would certainly change. Objects, animate and inanimate would be assigned different levels of meaning based on this new perception. It would be a “step up” from the former reality they had experienced.

  14. K.Rengan permalink

    The term, the matrix, should be defined before any other inquiry, because the way we assume that the matrix as the virtual realm of programs generated for the mind may not be what we originally thought; as a foil of what the movie depicts as reality. The two can be the same, as depicted by the character Cypher in the movie. When he talks to Agent Smith, he represents the idea that both the matrix and the food we eat are just electrical signals generated by the world around us. Morpheus explains this conundrum to Neo when he firsts introduces Neo to the matrix, and poses the question in our minds: what is the difference between the virtual and the real? In essence, there is no difference. The only difference is when, as Agent Smith explains to the prisoner Morpheus, the machine begins to think for you –the machines bring the cage down around you. Initially, Neo knows that he is not in the matrix when his physical attributes are altered –vis-à-vis, his “holes” are gone, his hair has grown back, and his clothe are different. However, the philosophical idea is that Neo knows he is no longer in the matrix when he is physically no longer limited to the laws of the world around him, ergo, his mind is able to think past the limits of the world, bending the mind so that the spoon is bent, and the ability to fly. To the viewer, we know that Neo is free of the matrix when he is fully aware of the world around him highlighted in the last scene, when he hangs up the phone and seems to be the only person conscious as the world travels around him. The problem we have in telling what the matrix is, is telling what freedom is. Going back to the definition of the matrix as being the limitations on our mind, even in the supposed reality we are limited –Cypher explains this to Trinity when he has betrayed the crew saying “we are still not given choices if Morpheus is calling the shots.” This reveals that the matrix and reality is the same thing. Both have societal limitations that cage the mind in ignorance, the only way we know we are free is when we realize the cage –or the cave we live in- and enter a state of full awareness.

  15. The issue at stake is: when does Neo realize he is out of the Matrix, and when does he realize he is The One? For some, these issues are intimately tied; if this is the case, then he is not truly aware until after he is shot and comes back, and is then able to stop the bullets in midair and otherwise bend the Matrix to his will. For me, I do not believe this is when he realized the Matrix was real, merely when he believed he was The One. The moment he believed that the Matrix was real, and that he now existed outside of it, was when Morpheus showed him what the world looked like inside of the computer program, and then brought him out of it. His violent reaction to the truth, vomiting, proved that while he still openly rejected the idea, he realized that it was the truth. How else would he be able to move in and out of realities? If he was still in a computer program, why would it be on a ship that looked like it should never be operated, why would he be bald, and why would every movement cause him pain as he got used to using his actual muscles? This is when he realizes the truth; it does not begin to sink in for him until later, when he fights Morpheus in the dojo program. Even when he is in the jump program and fails to jump from building to building, he believes, but he cannot yet get his mind around the idea that he can do it. He has lived with strict laws of physics his entire life, and cannot adjust to them no longer counting at a moment’s notice. It’s like right after you rearrange your furniture, the first few times you walk in, you are confused.

  16. J. Lucky permalink

    It appears that Neo is confident that he is no longer in the Matrix due to the physical signs he experiences. Many things are new to him even the lights are bright. Additionally he now has a computer input on the back of his head that allows him to enter programs and train much in same way that a computer is able to download new software. He is certainly not in the same environment that he was before his apparent awakening outside of the Matrix.
    Now he finds himself in a situation where the only limitations he is faced with are the restrictions of his imagination. He feels liberated by this. But also, in the beginning of the movie we are introduced to Neo as someone searching for something. In his new world outside of the Matrix he is hailed as “The One”. He is an individual that is claimed to liberate mankind from the machine and destroy the Matrix. This gives him purpose and meaning if he is willing to accept the burden. This new found meaning which we see him accept fully at the end of the movie appears to be Neo’s true liberation. He is liberated from the tedium of his past life and given the opportunity to decide his own future. He could not find this freedom while his mind was slave to the Matrix. He knows that he is outside of the Matrix because of this purpose which requires him free.
    If he is still in the Matrix then it would have to have multiple levels, like the dreams in Inception. The other option is that the whole concept is a product of his own insanity, possibly brought on by the ingestion of drugs given to him by a strange cult-ish group in an abandoned building.

  17. Matthew Drake permalink

    I didn’t find the answer to this question quite so easy. I believe it takes Neo a series of events for him to realize that he is no longer in the Matrix. Neo comes to the realization that he’s no longer in the Matrix when he can control his life rather than follow the same routine he’s endured during his life in the Matrix. It begins when he is put into the Construct. He starts to contemplate what reality really is. Throughout his experience after his rescue, Neo starts to challenge his older self. Morpheus helps him to open his eyes, but it is through his constant analysis of his surroundings where he finds the difference between the Matrix and the real world.
    At first, Neo doesn’t believe his experiences. He was unsure about the truth and what could be real. Both worlds were similar but yet very different. After he undergoes his training, Neo starts to learn how to bend the Matrix world. Morpheus instructs him how to bend the rules of the Matrix, something that would be impossible in the real world. He slowly starts to believe that the Matrix is fake. One of the beginnings is the woman in the red dress. Then, it is his meeting with the Oracle. The spoon-bending child helps Neo to believe that the Matrix doesn’t exist, hence his ability to bend the spoon. The more the real world makes sense, the less the Matrix does.
    Cypher has a lot to do with Neo’s mind change. As he pulls two others from the Matrix in the real world, they die in both. Neo starts to believe. Once he stares reality in the face, he tries to prove the Oracle wrong. He is able to do anything in the Matrix. Although, the viewer starts to believe once they capture Morpheus and hack into his mind. The Agent explains everything.

  18. Seth Rodgers permalink

    If Neo’s perception of reality, as dictated by the Matrix, were completely separate from reality outside of the Matrix, than there would be no way to comprehend at once that both realities were equal in truth. Imagine a Venn diagram made up of only two circles: the first represents Neo’s experience before being rescued, and the second after. If neither one were a sub-reality within the other (i.e. the circles are completely separate), then Neo could very well be bouncing back and forth between equally valid perceptions of reality—in essence, travelling between two different independent worlds. Perhaps in each he thinks the other is a dream, so there is at least some continuity through a tainted memory, as if the circles were tangential at a single point. Nevertheless, this continuity is the same in both directions since there is an equally strong sensation of verisimilitude in each reality, while the memory of the other always seems to be less compelling.
    However, this is not the situation laid out in The Matrix where, instead of separate but equal realities, there is a hierarchy of realities. In this case, the world before Neo’s rescue lies within the world after Neo’s rescue, like one smaller circle nestled within a larger one. This second reality is therefore more expansive and hence closer to the full truth. It follows that the continuity between the two worlds is unidirectional: While submitted to the Matrix, Neo still had a nagging sensation that there was more, just as a particularly strange dream might spark a feeling that something is wrong before you’ve even woken up. However, once he is recued, that curiosity is fulfilled. This process of enlightenment does not occur in the other direction: After being infused with the bug, Neo wakes up to reality as he perceived it within the Matrix, but instead of it making more sense and fulfilling some suspicion of a greater truth, he was simply confused and bewildered. In short, before Neo was rescued, he felt there was more to reality, while after his rescue it is inferred that he experienced an unparalleled sensation of clarity.
    While in a dream, there is no other reality to compare to your current state; you are completely immersed in the inner circle of the overlapping Venn diagram. Yet once you awake and move to the outer circle of reality, it becomes clear that the inner reality was incomplete compared to the current one. It is possible that there is yet another circle enveloping the previous two, or rather a greater hierarchy of control governing the Matrix itself. However, even if this is the case, Neo is still on the right path to discovering greater truth since he now has more than one reality to compare and contrast and might be able to deduce that there is an even more encompassing realm. He may never know if he has reached the greatest level of reality, but he at least knows that he is no longer in his previous state of delusion. Furthermore, if this third level of reality is governed by an agency referred to as the Real Matrix, Neo is still correct to believe that he is no longer within the Matrix as he knew it. In other words, what he referred to as the Matrix all along would only be considered a pseudo-Matrix to someone who had reached this third level of reality and is simply using the same word to refer to something different.

  19. John Yang permalink

    Neo’s awakening in his vat, and thus his first emergence in the real world following his first encounter with Morpheus is, obviously, his first true realization that the world he previously knew was in reality nonexistent. All the whisperings and conjecture that he heard whilst still held captive by the Matrix, that he was living in a dream world, is just that—conjecture. Doubts, on their own, do not form a full belief of anything. But when Neo is taken aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, he realizes that all of his preconceived notions have flown out the window in his journey down the proverbial rabbit hole. The new world he has stepped into has confirmed the things that Morpheus has told him, however difficult it is for him to grasp at first. Further interactions and trips back into the Matrix only further confirm the things he has learned since his rescue. As Neo gains power within the Matrix to alter its faux-rules, power that he does not have aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, in Zion, or anywhere else in the real world, he sees the difference between the two settings. The Matrix is only what his brain interprets, making it real to his brain but ultimately nonexistent—when his perception changes, the way his brain interprets information changes, and this alteration enables and empowers him to do the remarkable things he does in the Matrix. In the real world, how his brain interprets information does not affect anything around it. The rocks in the “desert of the real,” the ladders and hatches in the Nebuchadnezzar, the metal gates of Zion, none of these things can be altered or changed or manipulated the way their corresponding equivalents within the Matrix can be when Neo is plugged in. The change Neo undergoes with his joining Morpheus’s crew also betrays a certain complacency to accept what he wants to accept as reality—bone-jarring as the transition was, Neo would not be able to handle the possibility that the massive personal revolution he underwent meant nothing, and so clings to the new reality he is forced to accept: that his new world is indeed real and not still within the Matrix.

  20. John Decker permalink

    I think that the biggest question that I have regarding the Matrix is that of why the machine race would choose to continue to use humans as a source of power. I understand that the main argument presented in the film is that the sun was destroyed and that the machines had used it as their original source of power, but have converted to using humans as a power source. However, it seems to me that a race as intelligent as the machines, able to come up with the extremely complex system of the matrix and converting human energy into usable resources for them, would be able to design an alternate power source. Something along the lines of nuclear power or exploring into the universe for this power could be a possible solution. Yet, if one takes the stand that the machines can only know what the human race programmed in to them then my whole argument falls apart. Therefore, let’s assume that the machine race can learn. If they can they should, most likely, be using a different energy source. Also, if the machines can control what they learn then one may be able to make an argument that there is a higher power that is controlling the machines and making them use the humans as a resource.

  21. Heather Ireland permalink

    Prompt 4)
    I do not believe that a super-intelligence system such as Skynet must be hostile to human life. I believe that while it CAN be hostile, it does not need to be hostile. I believe that the super intelligence film genre is so focused on the collapse of human civilization due to super intelligence because we focus on the negatives that super- intelligence would bring instead of focusing on the positives. For what reason would a super-intelligence system be hostile to human life? I believe that a hostility and an overarching goal of being superior and controlling are very humanistic ideals, and a super-intelligence system would not be programed to have those kinds of human features.
    To assume that super-intelligence can only be extinction is a far reach. People like Miles are working to provide humanity with a better quality of life. And this brings into play one of the presuppositions of Kurzweil’s singularity is that it is not a certain. We cannot be certain that this super-intelligence will come into reality, much in the same way that we cannot predict when hovercraft or underwater cities will come to be…Furthermore, simply because we have the technological ability to create a program with the processing power that could surpass human intelligence does not mean we will or have the means by which to do so.

  22. Heather Ireland permalink

    Neo’s reality cannot be truly defined based upon the “Brain in a Vat” argument. The “brain in a vat” case states that since the brain in a vat receives the same impulses as it would if it were in a skull and since these impulses would be its only way of interacting with its environment the brain would be unable to distinguish whether it is in a skull or vat. In the case of Neo, he cannot know for sure that the reality aboard the Nebuchadnezzar is the reality in a “skull or vat”. However, Neo waking up in an ulterior reality aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, he chooses to believe that to be his reality. This decision is solidified in his brain based upon faith in his own judgment of taking the red pill and the faith he has in Morpheus’s explanation of the world outside the matrix, particularly agreeing when Morpheus stated, “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.” This reality is strengthened by his physical state when he wakes up in the “real world”: his body is badly atrophied, he is naked, and hairless. He is weak and frail, as opposed to his previously vivacious and athletic build.
    This choosing of reality begs the question of what reality is. The reality is what actually exists, what is observable or understandable. How do we know what exists? How can we tell that what is apparent or comprehensible is the reality and not just a simulation. How is Neo’s new situation any more reality than his previous one? Can we know? I submit that while Neo’s situation aboard the Nebuchadnezzar is more comprehensible than his previous situation, it does not mean that there is not a second alternative reality that awaits Neo should he take another “pill” or go down another rabbit hole.

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