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Occasional Writing for T21 – The Matrix Reloaded

March 7, 2013

As usual, I’ve got a few topics for writing in mind, though this week there’s an overarching theme: freedom.

  1. The most basic question we can ask about the topic is probably this: What is freedom? While it’s too much to ask you to answer that question in brief piece of writing like this one, it’s reasonable to ask what The Matrix Reloaded‘s answer is. In a little more detail, what does Neo come to believe about the nature of freedom by the time The Matrix Reloaded ends? Or, if you like, what does he learn?
  2. Agent Smith seems obsessed with freedom but also terrified (or at least nauseated)  by it. He says of Neo “he set me free,” and sarcastically describes himself as “A new man, so to speak. Like [Neo], apparently, free” before denying that in fact anyone really is. What’s Smith on about here, and what, as he sees it, is the relationship between freedom and what he calls “purpose”?
  3. The Merovingian and Persephone have a funny relationship. “Merv” excuses his dalliance by reference to cause and effect, and Persephone throws the excuse back in his face when explaining why she led Neo and co. to the Key Maker. But is there a deeper point here? Can one really see oneself as a mere plaything of cause and effect? What are the consequences of your answer to this question for responsibility?
  4. The scene between Neo and the Architect is fairly perverse and the subject of some funny, if obvious, satire here and here. But if you watch the scene 5 (or 10 or 20) times, it becomes clear that Architect is not just talking mumbo-jumbo. The problem, as the Architect praises Neo for realizing, is choice. What is the problem of choice within the context of the film? And what is it for us, assuming that we aren’t living like all the other Blue Pills in a simulated reality?

Please choose one – and only one  – of the prompts to write on. 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 T21.
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22 Comments
  1. kim cory permalink

    In my opinion, the film The Matrix Reloaded equalizes freedom with a capability to make choices. At the end of the movie when Neo talks to the Architech, the Architech points out that the problem is the choice. He says “she stumbled upon a solutions whereby nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program as long as they were given a choice.” This vividly describes that a choice is what defines freedom; the basis of freedom is being given a choice. Instead of being told what to do or how to do, human beings have choices. Every day is full of choices we make, and we can do that because we have the freedom to do so. This scene is linked to the scene where Neo has conversation with one of the counselors in a sense of describing freedom. When the counselor asks about what defines machines and humans, Neo answers as machines are things that we can be turned off when they need to be, and the humans are the ones that make those decisions. When I look at the word freedom, I feel as if humans beings are the ones who hold the most authority over freedom. We decide where other creatures other than human beings live; some we cannot control, but we definitely build the boundaries of our area where other creatures cannot intervene, while we intervene other creatures living areas. We build machines, systems, or programs that can benefit us and when we believe those are not fulfilling their purposes, we terminate them and rebuild other versions. I feel as if freedom is something that is given as fundamental of livings, but human beings decide and change the “range” of the freedom. If I summarize my understanding of freedom through this movie and Neo’s experience, I define freedom as capability of making choices, which us human beings’ privilege to have control of most of its [freedom] power.

    • pythagoras permalink

      Good, but I’m not yet entirely convinced that the film equates freedom with “a capability to make choices.” For one thing, we need to distinguish between capabilities and the exercise of capabilities. Seeing is not the same thing as the capability of sight, for instance. One might have the capability of sight but live one’s entire life in darkness and, as a result, never see anything. Seeing, then, must be the exercise of the capability. Likewise, freedom wouldn’t be the capability to make choices; it would be the exercise of this capability. But I’m not sure that’s quite right either, at least from the point of view of the film. Couldn’t I choose to do something (like the woman in the restaurant) even though I was unaware that my choice was determined by my circumstances (or by a program written by the Merovingian)? I choose, but my choice is not free, so choice and freedom aren’t the same thing.

  2. John Decker permalink

    The idea of true freedom, as said in the prompt, is nauseating. However, I propose that true freedom does not exist because there must always be a purpose of existence. In quickly thinking about the idea of true freedom, freedom from all obligations, influences, rules, etc.; I cannot say that I believe that it exists. Certainly in today’s world I would challenge anyone who can come up with a person that is truly free. This in itself is terrifying. The citizens of the freest country on earth still are obligated by laws and human interaction and are not purely free. On the contrary, though, is it possible to exist without a purpose. The most basic level of human existence is that of survival. Some may say that a man that only has to concern himself with this level of human existence is free; however, I will argue that he is only free from the constraints of human interaction and is not truly free because he is bound by the basic needs to stay alive. Freedom is also terrifying because it implies responsibility on those who have it. Perhaps Smith is afraid of his newly found freedom because he must justify his actions. Before he was only concerned with completing his mission and responsibility for his actions fell on this mission. Now, though, he must find a new purpose; without a purpose he seemingly has no reason to exist. There is an interesting parallel between this movie and what Arnold says in the second terminator movie. He is not concerned with death once the mission is over for he no longer has a purpose. It is interesting then to watch reloaded and see Smith fight to stay in existence even though he no longer has a purpose. How can these two programs have such radically different ideas on remaining in existence? Which one is correct, life without purpose is meaningless or life itself is enough of a reason to exist?

  3. Matthew Drake permalink

    Prompt #4: Choice
    When Neo meets the Architect he realizes that the problem is choice. This becomes apparent as you go back and watch the film again. The human race’s very existence lies on choice. You choose the actions you take, and how to live them. However, I found a fundamental theme within the film: pre-established harmony.
    In pre-established harmony, your life carries out the path laid out before you live it. “We are all here to do what we are all here to do.” Every program was designed for a specific purpose. The agents to rid the system of imperfections. The Key Maker to help The One to open the door that leads to the Architect. The Prophecy predicts the future of Neo and the survival of mankind. So, was Neo’s decision to risk the lives of every human being to rescue Trinity really a choice? He saw the future of Trinity as she fell towards the street after being shot. He believed that he was able to alter her course, but he did not. His choice, was in fact a choice, but it had no effect whatsoever on the predetermined notion that followed.
    This idea becomes more apparent when Neo fends off the robots when out the Matrix. He made the choice, but it followed the Prophecy. So, yes, the problem is choice, but the problem is irrelevant. Every character, besides the poor people in the Matrix that get forced into Agents, has the freedom to make a choice, however, that choice is nothing more than a preplanned play in the strategy of life. You cannot choose to do something that you are not meant to do. You cannot change what has been laid out. As in the ideas of Gottfried Liebniz, we are all monads here to carry out the will of God. Neo is no more than a monad. He can make a choice, but that choice was already determined. He cannot change the Prophecy, and he cannot change the outcome. The Architect wanted Neo to make a choice, but he already knew which choice he would make, even though it was the most selfish thing I have ever witnessed. I disagree that choice is a theme, but it is a small part of Liebniz’ largely underlying theme within all three films.

  4. Uddit Patel permalink

    Throughout The Matrix Reloaded, almost everyone spoke listened to the oracle and the prophecy set out for them. Everyone trusted the one to help Zion because the Oracle said he would help. Many did not respect the head of defense of Zion in regards to keeping as many ships there as possible. The choice was made to help protect the Nebuchadnezzar and keep the rest in Zion. However, this film has problem with choice. The choice for the people seems to be made for them and they go to the Oracle to see what will occur. If Morpheus or Neo wanted to make their own choice, they could have not gone to the Oracle. Instead, they could have played it out as faith and let things occur to them. Neo went to the Oracle to see what choices he has to make in order to help Zion remain in one peace. The Oracle states “because you didn’t come here to make the choice, you’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand *why* you made it.” Ultimately, his choices set out by the Oracle are what led him to the Architect to make a decision between the two doors. The choice was already made for Neo of which door he was going to take, and the choices to follow. As the Architect put it “but we already know what you are going to do, don’t we? Already I can see the chain reaction: the chemical precursors that signal the onset of an emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic and reason.” Everyone knew what was going to happen and a choice didn’t have to be made since it was already made. Instead of making the choice, people had to try to change the outcome of the decision made.

    However, like usual movies are meant to make money and make actors famous and wealthy. For us, there is not a problem of choice. Each choice will have a different outcome, and out choices are not set out in stone. People like hand readers may guess our future outcome but no one knows the choices we are going to make on a daily basis. People’s choices are different depending on their emotions and obstacles they face. We do not have the Oracle to tell us what choices we have to make to help in this world, or what choices are destined for us to make. Each individual can make a certain choice they want. This choice isn’t going to be played out for you like The Matrix. Hopefully, human life is not simulated reality and we are people to make choices based on our cognitive thinking. Our cognitive thinking, emotions, friends, and family help make out choices instead of being set out for us on a daily basis like Neo’s choices seem to be. The question had throughout the reading and the movie was whether we are living in something similar to the Matrix and we as a human race do not see it yet? Are there any clues we are living in the Matrix?

  5. K.Rengan permalink

    3. Cause and effect is interesting when viewed from the point of B.F. Skinner and his box. As I am not a psychologist, I cannot talk definitively on the matter, however, I know that he determined that we as humans have been conditioned by outside sources which control our behavior; this eradicates our freewill. However, we can see that cause and effect can control our lives, but only in a world of single variables. Multiplicity brings a different effect which confuses and creates a system of anarchy; a level of understanding which transcends human comprehension. At this level, we cannot know for certain what cause creates an effect and we live in uncertainty. To an entity that can understand the multiplicity of variables, and to the universe in general, there is no difference in what I am saying, we still are not free. To the individual we have a sense of freedom that may offer us the idea of freedom and thus create a feeling that we are free; never mind the rest of the world. I could end there, but a parallel assessment may satisfy the philosophical argument that we are free relative to the universe. If we try to recognize/limit the variables around us to control our own environment; or we could limit the changes in our environment, we can recognize what causes have what effects in a sense of grouping, never actually knowing what cause will give what effect. Thus, we could theoretically condition ourselves to create desired effects. It just takes knowledge and understanding. It can be seen much the same way a soccer player practices moves to a point where they no longer have to think to react to outside variables to create a desired effect from a cause. The Matrix highlights many of these points. One could say that the Oracle recognized this and as asked by Schick, would we get the same result if Neo knew of the vase; “The Oracle, has an end in view and says whatever she thinks is necessary to achieve that end” (Schick, 98). The Oracle knew that certain causes could yield certain effects and thus manipulated the causes. If we could see in ourselves the ability to manipulate causes this could be framed as freewill, conditioning ourselves to achieve what we want. I realize that the counterargument would claim the idea of what we “want” to condition ourselves to do is already determined by other variables. Like a soccer player, we can begin to create actions for future events that conforms to a sense of choice; at least at the starting point of our decision.

  6. By the time that The Matrix Reloaded ends, Neo comes to believe that the nature of freedom is uncontrollable. Towards the end of the movie, when Neo meets the architect, he is given an ultimatum. Neo has to choose whether to save his beloved Trinity or the survival of Zion. Neo is presented with the freedom of choice, but his choice is both limited and controlled, which is not equal to the sublime unlimited freedom. Choice is not the same as freedom because the choices made and presented in The Matrix Reloaded come with consequences; Neo is not free to make choices without consequences in one form or another. If Neo was genuinely free, he would be able to make the choices he wished to make, in turn, also leading to the consequences, or lack of, he intends for his choices to lead to. Neo, by the end of the movie, learns that predeterminations, even if they include room for choices to be made, are not freedom. Neo understands that, no matter what he does or fights for, there will always be a certain control over him because of predetermination. He learns that he will never truly be free, but can get close by making the best choices possible for the future of his family and Zion. He learns that he will never have the freedom with the absence of unintended consequences because that is just not how neither the real world nor the matrix is built to function.

  7. Taylor Warren permalink

    I choose prompt # 4….

    This was one of my favorite scenes from the movie. And I feel as if the theme or idea of “choice” is really the main one for the entire film, and possibly even the entire Matrix series. The idea of choice even encompasses the theme of freedom. Though the ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ are not explicitly related or dependent on one another, it seems you must have both to have either. You need freedom to make a choice, and to make a choice you need freedom. Maybe not; it made more sense in my head. Here is the issue: the Architect attempted to make a computer program that encapsulated all aspects of human life—a world that simulates real life, but only as an illusion to those that were powering the batteries of the machines. The Architect’s explanation was a very good one, I thought, and it makes so much sense that in every new copy of the Matrix, it has been statistically proven to produce one or more anomalies (Neo, the One) who don’t buy into the whole gig. No doubt it was shocking to learn that the Matrix has been created and re-created many times over, in an attempt to dissolve imperfections of human nature, but unless the programs figure out a way to create a new human being altogether that isn’t really human (i.e. feels love, craves freedom and choice, etc.) this anomaly is always going to exist. Within context of the film, it seems that choice is an unchangeable predestined event. Everyone seems to already know what choice Neo is going to make (the Architect and the Oracle). The problem is that it Neo’s choices don’t seem to change the future—rather, destiny/fate is already set in place, and no matter what anyone chooses, it only plays out what is already set in motion. This is a bit confusing as an audience member because the fundamental attraction to having choice is that you can freely change your life or your future. So the bigger question here is… does choice make a difference at all? Or is it simply a tool that humans use to feel like they give themselves some semblance of freedom…because without it we would constantly feel like slaves to the power of destiny?

  8. Micah Patten permalink

    The relationship between the Merovingian and Persephone is an interesting case study on behavior and it’s relationship to cause and effect. The description of actions seems to be very simple in explanation, as they both describe their actions as simple cause and effect, and yet there is so much more going on here. There is emotion involved which makes the effect much more complex than a simple reaction to the cause. Boredom from a seemingly eternal and repetitive existence is the cause for the Merovingian’s desire for something new and exciting, which drives him to do things less than fully rational, just to experience a new effect. However, the multilateral consequences effect not only him, but others, including Persephone in profound ways. She is betrayed and responds calmly, but violently and dramatically in an attempt to regain his attention. She also gets to the important part of the issue when she asks for a kiss. There is more to simple cause and effect, or “just a simple kiss,” than first appears. The request initiates a very strong emotional response from Trinity because of deeper workings of human emotion than the simple cause and effect pattern previously outlined. One can attempt to break down human interaction as simple structures; however, the reality is that there are so many complex and interrelated influences, that such an attempt is futile and destined to back-fire as it did on the Merovingian. This, coupled with irrational reactions due to emotions debunks the Merovingian’s argument for the simplicity of life and interaction. The consequences to this cause a much more difficult understanding of responsibility. If the relationship between action and reaction was as simple as the Merovingian dictates, then individuals could be directly held responsible for the effect caused by their actions. However, there are often actions that, with the best intentions, cause terrible effects. The individual must then be held accountable for the intent and heart of the action as much as they are the effect caused. Unfortunately, the world is not so forgiving, which places extra weight on the individual to pursue and understanding of the complete effect of their actions, even if full understanding is realistically impossible.

  9. tony.sullivan permalink

    The problem with choice is that any choice has consequences. For instance, if Neo goes and tries to save Trinity and fails, everyone dies, and the machines win. If he chooses to go along with the programming option, the resistance will live on, but he will lose the love of his life. The grass is always greener, and we always wonder “what if”. Freedom cannot come without choice, but choice leaves us chained and discontent. Choice is the issue because we can never know if we made the right one, or if we even considered all of our options. In the case of Neo and the Architect, Neo does not have a true choice; everything he does has been done before. He has lived this life, and made the choices that led him to the Architect in the first place. As far as the Architect is concerned, Neo does not truly have a choice, because he has already made it, and, as the Oracle would say, now he is just trying to understand it. There is no real choice, because the Architect knows, or thinks he knows, what Neo will decide. Neo, however, proves that he truly does have choice and free will when he makes a different choice and, for the first time in six cycles, succeeds in saving Trinity. At this point, because of Neo’s choice, we reach uncharted territory where the Architect no longer knows what will happen. Neo proves that for the machines, the problem really is choice. Had Neo not had a choice, everything would have gone according to plan, Neo would have been predictable, and the resistance would have been allowed to survive for another cycle.

  10. Heather Ireland permalink

    The Oracle tells Neo that there is a choice but it is a choice he has already made, essentially Neo must simply complete his destiny and understand why he has made the choice that he did. As the Architect states, “she (the oracle) stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level.” The Architect gives Neo a choice, but it is not really a choice, as he and all machines believe the world to be deterministic. For the machines, the world is all cause and effect, and in this case the Architect gives Neo the option of saving Trinity or saving Zion; the architect believes that Neo will choose Zion as all of his predecessors have done. The Architect allows Neo to make the choice of whether to save Trinity or Zion. He does this because he must; by forcing Neo to go to the system, it would have undermined one of the most basic premises of the Matrix. As the “One” Neo represents human’s natural tendency towards free will and as such is given the freedom of choice by the architect.
    With Neo’s choice to save Trinity, he has also, in the Architect’s mind chosen to allow for the destruction of Zion. Ultimately, there is a third option, an option that the Architect has not accounted for. Freedom is a inherently humanistic idea and it is something that the Matrix and the Machines can neither understand nor account for.
    While freedom and choice are not exclusive in the movie, freedom is certainly illustrated by choice. When Neo is speaking to the Chancellor, they have a conversation about the nature of freedom from the machines in which the Chancellor says to Neo, “I like to be reminded this city survives because of these machines. These machines keep us alive, while other machines are coming to kill us. Interesting, isn’t it? The power to give life, and the power to end it.” Even in Zion the humans are not truly free from the Machines. So, the humans living in Zion have made the choice to give up some freedom to the machines in order to survive.

  11. Amy Vander Wyst permalink

    2. Agent Smith has been set free in this film. He no longer wears an earpiece which one can assume to mean that he no longer takes orders. And yet his actions remain almost exactly the same; he still wishes to destroy Neo. How can this be so? Before, he was trapped by his “purpose” and his programming but is now free to choose his actions. When Neo set him free Agent Smith suddenly lost this “purpose” and he blames Neo for that. Now he attacks Neo out of pure revenge for taking away the only thing he knew, the only thing that was important to him.

    Agent Smith is taking the exact same actions, but for different reasons. The Oracle had just explained to Neo that Neo’s decision had already been made, but that now he had to understand the ‘why’ for his decision. It appears that for Agent Smith the explanation is the same. His actions had already been decided, but he had a different ‘why’ to comprehend and deal with now.

    Agent Smith’s actions remained the same because he was infuriated by his loss of purpose, thus seeking revenge against Neo where previously he had been ordered to hunt Neo. Despite the incredible changes to the character of Agent Smith, ultimately, his purpose remained the exact same, even though he developed the freedom to choose his actions and thereby his purpose.

    If one has a purpose, one cannot be free. Fulfilling a purpose necessitates certain decisions to be made and certain actions to be taken in order to see the purpose come to fruition. If one is fulfilling even a perceived purpose, the decisions have already been made. Having freedom would imply that you are free to choose not to fulfill your purpose, but then what the heck are you even doing? Your actions and decisions would be constrained by not choosing actions that would fulfill your original purpose because your new intent, or purpose, is to deliberately not follow your original purpose. We always have constraints no matter what we are doing or choosing. There are certain things we know that we cannot choose because we desire a certain outcome. Our desires therefore limit our freedom. Our desires must also align with our purpose or create our purpose because otherwise we would be living a truly miserable and pointless existence, which could also be true. But I highly doubt that The Matrix Reloaded is promoting nihilism.

    As long as we want something in life, are guided by our passions, we will never truly be free. Agent Smith was originally programmed for a purpose, and his purpose remained the same even after he was “set free” because he still desired to have a purpose, thereby making his new purpose the same as his original programmed purpose because of his desire. With and without “freedom”, the “choice” was the same for Agent Smith.

  12. Seth Rodgers permalink

    The problem of choice addressed by the film is essentially the problem of free will. While Neo would presumably like to believe he has control over his decisions, the Architect appears to already know how everything will turn out by viewing human behavior within the Matrix as a chain reaction governed by known parameters. Since the Architect designed the complex computer program which enables the Matrix to exist, it is intuitively reasonable that he would also be able to predict the actions of specific characters, even anomalies such as Neo.

    However, the same problem applied to reality is much messier. It may be comfortable and natural for us to think we’re in control of our actions, or at least our decision, but tracing any behavior back to its source is exceedingly confusing: when I type a key, my finger strikes it through a muscular contraction precipitated by some neural signal that originated in the brain to then jump across one synaptic gap after another. But where exactly did that signal come from? Is it purely dependent on sensory inputs, whether past or present, in conjunction with my genetic make-up and current physical state? Or is there some autonomous filter which takes all of these factors into account only to produce a final decision that is completely unpredictable?

    It seems reasonable to say that our decisions are the product of thoughts and emotions, but even those neatly packaged terms are extremely vague, obviously subjective, and truly expansive. What are they and what determines them? If we determine them, then how is that possible by using something besides thoughts and emotions? If something else determines them, can we honestly say we have freewill at all? Furthermore, how does our consciousness relate to free will? Does it simply allow us to be spectators or is it the essence of freewill itself?

    Habits further complicate the issue. Since a large number of our actions rely on automaticity due to habits without ever requiring conscious deliberation, where do we draw the line between trained reflexes and novel decisions? Clearly, habits are not set in stone thanks to neuroplasticity which allows them to be continually transformed. But what governs which habits we choose to discard and which ones we entrench further? Other habits?

    As habits are to behavior, so assumptions must be to thoughts. Do we have the ability to unpackage every single assumption that our brain operates on, or would that be like a computer redefining every single rule and string of logic which defines its programming?

    In the Matrix, cause and effect stops with the Architect, but it reality there is no apparent end in the physical world except for the beginning of the Universe, which was clearly out of our control.

    Admittedly, this commentary is primarily a string of questions, simply because I have nothing more to offer. But so long as I keep asking them, I think I’m okay with that.

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
    -Voltaire

  13. Theodore Kruczek permalink

    While reading the prompt, the second question really jumped out at me because of a recent speech by professor Renata Salecl on the paradox of choice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bqMY82xzWo). Salecl talks about the anxiety that comes with being able to choose anything you want. For example, when you go into a grocery store, especially as cadets who rarely go shopping, you feel a constant pressure to pick the most “ideal” thing available. As you scan the isles, you want to get the best bargain, the most healthy item, the freshest product, and you worry that if you don’t then you have wasted time and money.

    This type of anxiety is clearly present in Agent Smith. As humans, we are indoctrinated with the many things we are “supposed” to do. This list expands from cultural assimilation, family pressures, etc. What we are left with is a long list of parameters to determine what we should do, a near endless list of possibilities, and brains that are almost always incapable of calculating the correct answer.

    Where I think Agent Smith anxiety is unique is that he IS capable of calculating the ideal outcome. So while I assume he is either such an advanced computer that he simulates human like error, it is probably more likely that the Wachowski siblings wanted to give the viewer a glimpse of the human emotion felt by those who have never experienced large amounts of choice before.

    This would likely parallel the many citizens of former soviet countries that woke up in 1989 and found themselves in a world were people were encouraging a capitalist style of “freedom” of choice. They felt overwhelmed and in many cases preferred the old way of simply being told what they should do in many aspects of their life to allow them more time to focus on the important decisions in life.

    It is worth noting that this idea was shown in the non-sci-fi film, Yes Man, where the protagonist decides to always say yes when presented a yes or no decision. He seems genuinely happier with his new found inability to choose much of his life until it hits a wall at the climax of the movie. Maybe we would be happier in a semi-socialist society (like the military) where much of our life is scripted so that we can dedicate more time to the parts that aren’t?

  14. The architect scene is interesting in that it asserts anomaly is necessary to the progression of both human life and programs. Without imperfection there’s nothing that will work over time. This is discussed when Neo meets The Oracle again as well. She notes that, when offering the candy, that she knows whether he chooses it or not. As she tells Neo, “you didn’t come here to make the choice, you’ve already made it.” This is how he learns of the necessity of his choice between Trinity and saving Zion. The realization that programs can hack programs ties into this, as the matrix changes over time in order to adopt itself. As the architect notes, a more perfect version of the matrix was created but failed because it was precisely that: perfect. This, in my opinion, is what leads to the perception of choice.

    Assuming any choice was made once a program would tend to repeat that choice if other outside parameters are the same. Then again assuming we’re still in the same dimension and stretch of space time, the program will tend to choose the same answer (also read “choice”) and result in the same outcome. But, if the person choosing is allowed to be cognizant of the past outcomes in the future, when confronted with the same choice, they MAY be able to change it, make another choice. But making another choice would, in effect, change space time and create a new outcome, leaving the original choice on a parallel timeline. This is why choice tends to be repeated by program. And if, as multiple characters in The Matrix note (Morpheus, the Oracle, the Merovingian, and basically everyone that’s not Neo), there is no such thing as choice. But much like Milton’s perception of Satan in Paradise Lost it is not choice that is sought, but instead freedom, as an end and not a mean. Freedom implies that the free person is their own person, and perhaps can make their own choices. But it is impossible to be free within the confines of the matrix. Because of this dichotomy the closest that any of the people operating within the matrix can be to freedom is to make a choice which Neo gets the (perceived) option of doing when confronted by the architect. In reply to Neo’s comment “You better hope we never meet again” the architect replies “We won’t,” implying that Neo actually changed the future and, perhaps, selected the option the first five versions of him did not: at the architect’s desire. If the architect wanted him to make the same choice he wouldn’t have told Neo about the five previous versions of himself, nor would he have tried to persuade him to choose one way or another. We can assume that if Neo did not pick the “right” choice, the architect would bring him back yet again, and keep going until Neo chose the “correct” choice.

  15. J. Lucky permalink

    Following up on John Dewey he states in Human Nature and Conduct that in order “to change the working character or will of another we have to alter objective conditions which enter into his habits.” This sounds eerily similar to what the Merovingian is saying about causality. While I’m not sure yet if Dewey would agree that we are merely the playthings of cause and effect it appears to me that we are and his statement seems to support this conclusion. If we use the definition of freedom supplied by Micheal Huemer, “a person is only free if (a) there is more than one future open to him, more than one course of action that he can perform, and (b) he controls his own actions, so that which of the alternative possibilities is realized is up to him,” then it appears, as the Merovingian demonstrates with the women, that we have neither the option of futures nor the ability to control our outcomes. We are simply reacting to inputs in much the same way my computer currently reacts to my keystrokes. And in the same way that a human can be controlled by alter his “objective conditions”.

    Even if random events are taking place and allow for a variety of outcomes, we would still have to be in control of those outcomes in order to be free. But once again it seems that we are merely running a new input through an existing decision matrix at lightning speeds. The output of that process is nothing more than a reaction to an input and a product of that input. Not a product of choice.

  16. ricardochavez permalink

    The problem of choice in the Architect-Neo scene is that choice has a strong relation with hope. All choices are usually made with the hope of bringing success or happiness. The Architect tells Neo that all his predecessors felt a loyalty to the human race because they thought they were the One. However, because Neo loves Trinity, he makes the choice of hoping to save Trinity opposed to going through the door in hopes of saving the human race. However, the architect views this choice as a mere submission to hope calling it the human’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. Thus, he deems his choice as a wrong one when ultimately it ends up being a successful one. However what is confusing is realizing how much choice Neo really does have. Determinism is a big theme in the movie and it seems that Neo knows what the future holds, however it is always regarded as “choice.” But the architect does say that Neo is not some anomaly but rather an integral part of his Matrix design. Neo was meant to come into the system, defeat all of its program’s security measures and eventually reboot Zion. However, even in the scene with the architect, Trinity’s death is almost certain. However, this relates to humans because the architect mentions how quintessentially human Neo is. Neo, despite the assertion of failure given by the architect chooses to try and save trinity opposed to saving the system from crashing. However, I believe Neo’s choice defines how imperfect humans are and how much emotion overtakes logic in hopes for success. And although not a statistical guarantee like the architect made it obvious to be, the measly chance of success for our own personal goals drives us all. The choice of attempting to save trinity not only makes Neo human but also shows that he is not a computer program and has gone past his boundaries of accomplishing the most logical mission. He has truly exercised free will and I do think that the architect is somewhat joyous of Neo’s decision. This decision speaks to the human persistence of satisfying our own emotions over the goals that may be more reasonably justified.

  17. Cory Johnson permalink

    Within the film, choice is introduced to the Matrix upon the suggestion of the Oracle to make the program run more smoothly. According to the Architect, his first few attempts at producing the Matrix were failures and only when he gave people the illusion of choice would they happily accept the program. This seems to imply that his first models gave a more perfect reality for those wired into their human farm, yet they somehow sensed a lack of self-determination and their minds revolted. This makes me wonder why the humans could not use the energy produced by human vegetables. Although, this issue is easily resolved by referencing the original script in which they actually used people’s brains as squishy supercomputers.

    A similar problem could occur with individuals, and society as a whole, if we were all to embrace hard determinism. If we realized our lives were merely a series of causal reactions to our external conditions then life might lose its purpose. Our entire civilization is built upon the assumption of free choice. Institutions such as the church, justice and penal system would all be turned on their head if people were no longer morally responsible for their actions.
    At NCLS Dr. Martin Cook from the Naval War College presented some information on situational ethics that starts to delve into this problem and how it’s related to the USAFA honor code. Simply put, this school is heavily reliant on an Aristotelian model of ethics that is not consistent with much of today’s ethics research. A large part of people’s actions are determined by their environment, not some video game-esque “character level.” It’s reasons like these that I routinely petition people in authority to put more philosophy majors and minors on Wing’s honor staff, instead of the Wings of Blue mafia that currently runs the show.

    Anyway, people have difficulty dovetailing determinism with their moral systems. Even though I’m a hard determinist myself it does little to affect my day-to-day life. Maybe that’s why I’m not suicidal? If everyone really did accept and understand determinism maybe we would all kill ourselves, our at least collapse society.

  18. Monica Hottle permalink

    To start, the dictionary definition of freedom is: 1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint and/or 2. absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government. In the film “The Matrix Reloaded,” there are multiple scenarios where Neo is presented with a choice. I may be wrong in saying this, but I feel like an instance of one of these scenarios is when Neo encounters Agent Smith (after he takes over Bane’s avatar). Smith attempts to take over Neo but Neo is able to not succumb to Smith or his clones. Considering how easily Smith was able to take over Bane, I feel like Neo’s acceptance of having a choice and taking the choice that he desired contributed to him not being taken over by Smith. Another example is at the end of the film when the Architect tells Neo that he needs to essentially reboot the Matrix and find survivors to repopulate Zion, otherwise the Matrix will crash and in essence bring mankind to extinction. Although Neo is presented with this situation and there is an assumption that Neo would save the Matrix, Neo instead follows his heart and saves Trinity. Although there are many interpretations to the term “freedom,” I believe that the term freedom in “The Matrix Reloaded” refers to the ability to choose with the understanding that there could be a potentially good or bad outcome to the choice you make; you can decide what happens to your future (the concept of destiny).

  19. Caroline Martin permalink

    Prompt #4: Most of these prompts have innumerable connections, but I will choose to focus on the prompt dealing with the conversation between Neo and the Architect. As Neo states and the Architect affirms, “The problem is choice.” Based on the reasoning within Schick’s explanation, choice is a problem because free will essentially counteracts the possibility of omniscience. Schick states, “The price of omniscience is freedom.” As described by the Architect, the Oracle is omniscient, and she was a program created in order to test humanity’s idea of choice. According to the Architect, after the idea of choice was presented, 99% of the subjects (human beings) accepted the program. However, if the Oracle was created to give the illusion of choice, does choice truly exist in the Matrix? The best explanation to be offered is that choice exists in some form as long as belief exists. But I feel that even this explanation will be a difficult one to prove. It seems that the Oracle, although programmed to aid the machines in control of humanity, has developed a will of her own. The real question is whether the Oracle is even omniscient. She seems to be… However, can she only predict up to the point of choice? Is it possible that the Oracle is only omniscient in the sense that she can predict the choices that people will have to make? After all, she says to Neo, “We cannot see past the choices we do not understand.” The Oracle practices her will by presenting the predestined choice to someone before it has to be made. In this way, she guides them. As Morpheus puts it, “She is a guide, Neo. She can help you find the path.” I propose that the Oracle is omniscient of choices and the different outcomes that will be produced by them. However, until the choice is made, she does not know which outcome will happen. As Schick describes it, “Only if the Oracle’s foreknowledge is apparent rather than real can Neo be in control of his life and live in a world where anything, within the bounds of reason, is possible.” Just for fun, tying this problem of choice back into the other prompts, I propose that belief leads to choice, and choice leads to freedom.

  20. Ben Vowell permalink

    I think it is made fairly clear in the film that one of the precepts of freedom is choice. The series of movies starts with a difficult choice, if not a direct biblical allusion; Neo must decide to exit the Matrix or go on living in Eden. In Reloaded, we see Morpheus making hard choices between his beliefs and the desires/acclaim of others. Presumably, the people who exit the Matrix have made a choice and have free will. The people inside the Matrix have a choice, but cannot exercise that choice to its fullest extent because they are prisoners on a subconscious level.

    Neo realizes this is the answer when he speaks with the Oracle and then with the Architect. The Oracle reminds him that though some things are out of our control, we still have the ability to critically think about their consequences and adjust our future actions. The Architect makes Neo realize that even though he has exited the Matrix and become to some degree “enlightened,” he will not truly be free from a deterministic environment until he makes the human choice, to love and hope. The world outside the Architect’s plan is more difficult and not determined. Neo exercises his freedom to choose humanity, when he exits the cycle (Eden) for true freedom. I think it speaks to all of our own lives’ and our ability to choose different paths from the mean, and different from a safe and determined life style. It reminds me of a person in an anarchy, or even just a “free” society, versus someone in prison. People in prison or an oppressive society are often able to make choices in regards to their actions but they are not truly free unless they shed that overlying authority, or even security, and live without bounds.

  21. John Yang permalink

    Freedom, as defined most simply within the realm of The Matrix Reloaded, is the ability to make choices. All programs within the Matrix, to include the Agents, the Keymaker, Seraph, the Merovingian, Persephone, the Twins, and even the Architect and the Oracle, are originally created within a framework of function and purpose; at least at their outset they have defined boundaries and limits that govern their existence designed in order for them to achieve their purpose. In this sense, purpose becomes very much a cage, a prison of existence, and a form of control by the machines and a denial of true freedom to the programs, which then becomes the reason many programs become renegade programs, or choose exile over deletion, both to prolong their existence and to defy the system that deems them inadequate or unnecessary. The human founders and warriors of Zion, for the most part Red Pills that chose to discover the truth and fight the deceptively alluring control of the ignorant life provided by the Machines. Neo embodies this choice, the revelation of what freedom truly means, in his decision to take the Red Pill in the Matrix, and his decision to save Trinity despite the overwhelming likelihood that Zion will be overrun. The Architect attempts to destroy Zion through his perception of what he believes to be Neo’s human weakness in the emotion of love, but as every manifestation of Zion as an acceptable and necessary instability in the Matrix has existed because every reincarnation of the One has selected Zion’s reconstruction every time. No one knows what really will happen, odds and probabilities and calculations aside. Neo embraces his freedom to make this new decision and to still continue fighting, despite what the Machines view as insurmountable odds. Freedom comes down to choice, and Neo realizes this about the truth and nature of freedom by the end of the film.

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