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Occasional Writing for T23 – The Matrix Revolutions

March 14, 2013

It’s that time again. Here are a few prompts for you.

  1. What are the “revolutions” mentioned in the title of the film? What is their philosophical importance (if any)?
  2. Near the end of the film, Deus ex Machina and Neo have a rather austere conversation. Deus Ex Machina asks Neo, “And if you fail?” And Neo replies simply, “I won’t.” But didn’t he? Spoiler alert: Neo doesn’t win the fight. So did he fail? What the hell is going on here?  Try to answer this question with a close eye on the philosophical issues raised by the film.
  3. Neo and Rama-Kandra have a exchange about the nature of love that connects nicely with questions we discussed about machines and minds earlier in the semester. While other films portray machines (roughly speaking) as either incapable of emotion (the T-800 in the first Terminator film), or capable only of seeing emotions from a limited perspective (the T-800 in the second Terminator film), or at best capable of stunted and farcical versions of emotions (Roy and Pris in Blade Runner or HAL-9000 in 2001), the Matrix Revolutions portrays a machine lecturing the film’s hero about what love is.

Neo: I just have never…
Rama-Kandra: …heard a program speak of love?
Neo: It’s a… human emotion.
Rama-Kandra: No, it is a word. What matters is the connection the word implies. I see that you are in love. Can you tell me what you would give to hold on to that connection?
Neo: Anything.
Rama-Kandra: Then perhaps the reason you’re here is not so different from the reason I’m here.

Rama-Kandra thinks he loves his daughter so much that he’s willing to do anything for her. Is her right? And if so, what does that tell us (if anything) about machines and minds?

  1. This is the big one: Make (good philosophical) sense of the conversation between Neo and Smith:

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to.

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 T23.
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From → Assignments

12 Comments
  1. kim cory permalink

    The dictionary definition of “revolution” is an attempt, by a large number of people, to change the government of a country, especially by violent action. I think “revolutions” in the title of the film refers to Agent Smith’s fight for control of the world. He duplicated himself with the living organism – human beings. Although he was not a human, in order to raise the number of his troops, he turned human beings into himself. A question I raise about this revolution is ‘does he count as a human?’ The definition of revolution specifically spells out the act of people. However, Agent Smith was not a human being. He did not understand emotions or thoughts going through human beings mind, or impulsive choices people make despite of expected high percentage of failure with the choice. Agent Smith’s purpose was to take control of the Matrix, the world he lived in. Except the fact that he was not actually a human being, his action of violence met the definition of revolutions. Because of Agent Smith’s revolutionary activities, human beings started feel threatened by the machines. They started having internal conflicts on how to protect the city and citizens. At the end, human beings split up into few different groups and decided to fight against the machines on their own way. However, the ultimate goal or purpose of them was the same thing – protect their families and the city. Although Agent Smith is not a human being and his action could not be considered as revolution, because of his actions, human beings had internal conflicts and a small revolution of their own. In my opinion, the philosophical importance of this Agent Smith’s revolution is determining whether his action can be considered as a revolution. It could be also considered as just a malfunction of the system. Another philosophical importance is how the Agent Smith’s violence affected the actual human beings. Because of the machines, human beings started being threatened and they did not know for sure what to do in the beginning. There were a large number of human beings who were killed because of the revolution. Then would Agent Smith’s action be the only revolution in the movie? Or human beings’ actions can be also revolution?

  2. Uddit Patel permalink

    1) There seems to be one obvious revolution that needs to occur and that’s between the machines and humans. However, throughout the film many revolutions occur. A revolution can be defined as a sudden or complete change in something. Some of these revolutions are between the human themselves, and among the machines themselves. There was a change on how the machines and human thought and their perspective for one another.

    The first revolution was between the machines and humans. The humans wanted peace with the machines. In order to accomplish this task, Neo had to get into a territory that no man had stepped on. He had to accomplish something that only “the one” can complete. Neo had to make a convincing agreement to the central machine Deus Ex Machina. Neo had to help resolve the machines conflict within. Neo was able to see the big picture of peace and there was more than one person being more powerful than the other. Smith was getting out of hand he had to be taken down so the matrix could be restored. The machines were having a conflict between themselves. With this, the revolution was made that a computer program like Smith can get out. The machines were able to learn that they cannot sometimes trust themselves. The precautions can sometimes not work and someone like Smith would exist. Another revolution portrayed among the machines was between the Oracle and the Architect. The Architect states “just how long do you think this peace is going to last?” The Architect had to accept that peace exists and he believed that peace would never exist between the human and machines. But, Oracle proved him wrong with Neo. Neo’s actions revolutionized the way the Architect thought. He changed what the Architects perception of what “the one” was capable of doing since the previous five “ones” were not able to do such a successful thing. Another revolution was between the humans among themselves. Only a few people believed in Neo, and that the idea of Neo doing such thing was a miracle. The humans had a revolution that sometimes things that seem would never work, could ultimately work. Neo success brought hope and joy for the people. The humans were able to see that they did not machines to hold the machines back but rather another human was able to get peace for them.

    There may have been more revolutions in the film that are not mentioned above, but what is their importance in a philosophical stance. They all brought change in thinking, and these revolutions brought change in the way daily business was done by both sides. The humans will no longer need to be scared of the machines, and the machines will no longer need to track the lines for people going in and out of the matrix. The agents will no longer be needed and people will freely be able to travel out of the matrix, and go to the matrix. There was peace between two set different groups of people where no peace was seen in the near future. These revolutions helped people see the unthinkable occur and get people behind their illusions.

  3. Cory Johnson permalink

    Neo did not win the fight, but he won the war. He achieved his objective and ended hostilities between man and the machines. To this end though, Neo should not be the exalted hero of the Matrix trilogy, for someone, or something, else pushed it all into action.

    By allowing Agent Smith to assimilate himself, Neo manages to destroy him. Why is this? The answer must come from some part of Neo’s role as “the remainder in an unbalanced equations.” Before Neo is assimilated, Agent Smith has taken over everything else in the Matrix so that Neo is the only other surviving autonomous entity. Since Neo is the remainder of the unbalanced equation adding him to Agent Smith’s system unbalances Agent Smith himself, causing his program to crash. This crashed the entire Matrix, allowing it to be rebooted by the Architect. Neo’s choice to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity is a predictable consequence of accepting his role as the messiah.

    All of this was instigated by the Oracle to end the war. She has seen the rise and fall of many other “ones” and has also developed a complex understanding of the human emotional imperative. She manipulates every other character to achieve her desired ends. In the first film all of the central characters were sufficiently nudged to ensure her plan would work. The Oracles’ strength is not some sort of omniscient foresight, instead it comes from her ability to understand humans. When asked at the end of the film if she knew her plan would work she answers truthfully that she did not know. She believed, showing that she herself has started to incorporate human characteristics into her actions.

    Question: What is the significance of Agent Smith calling him Neo vs. Mr. Anderson?

  4. Taylor Warren permalink

    In response to question #3:

    As pointed out by Rama-Kandra, love is not tangible, it is merely a word that attempts to describe an emotion. According to Neo, love is a human emotion, hinting that machines would be/should be incapable of such a feat. Any conversation/argument about love is tricky because there are so many different kinds of love. You can love with your brain and with your heart. For example, in Terminator II, I do not believe that Schwarzenegger’s character actually felt love in his heart, or what would be his heart if he had one, but rather was starting to understand what it meant to the humans and thus empathized on the subject. The Terminator’s mind was able to adapt to his surroundings. The Matrix is obviously a highly advanced and intelligent system that has programs just as smart. Rama-Kandra says that his daughter is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and I think that he really believes that. Machines can act as minds in that they can process situations and draw conclusions, but it does not guarantee that they can feel emotions like humans can. It is entirely possible that the program Rama-Kandra understands that that little girl is his daughter, and his program recognizes her as beautiful, and thus that same machine can learn to draw the conclusion that he should protect her at all costs. In this way, yes it would seem apparent that he is willing to do anything for her, even if it is not an emotion-based response as I suspect it is not. Humans are irreplaceable and impossible to recreate—in essence, humans are one of a kind and no machine can fully encompass the diversity and basic outliers that are the definition of the human condition. It is an interesting concept though, this idea of separation (or not) between minds and machines. Even more interesting, Rama-Kandra was able to throw off a human, Neo, with his developed ideas and understanding of the concept of love, and his actions support those conclusions. I am not entirely sure where my argument ends, but the whole scene was a great one in the realm of philosophical commentary.

  5. Micah Patten permalink

    Agent Smith and Neo discuss something very interesting and even controversial from a real-world perspective. The concepts of faith hope and love. Neo has the faith that there is something other than defeat, he has the hope that he can win and somehow make the universe better and he has the love to drive him to give his life to do that. Agent Smith sees a world of a linear reality; the same cause and effect relationship that we saw earlier with the Merovingian. The only cause was to fight or not to fight. In either case, he saw the same effect of losing and so asked why he would fight when the end is inevitable. Agent Smith expects fate to be determined while Neo; even though there have been a million reasons why he should expect the same, resists fate and fights against it in many ways, such as when he attempts to save Trinity. There seems to be an allusion to choice here when Neo says he fights because he choses to, but there is more than just an idea of free will here. The human definition of choice as Neo defines it is the will to defy what seems apparent as fate. Agent Smith accepts fate, while Neo chooses to continue to fight even when it seems hopeless. That is the difference between man and machine; all of the previous examples of what appeared to be choice by programs were simply assessments between different causes and effects. Humans were the only beings that chose a path based on hope, such as the last stand of Zion, or the fight between Neo and Agent Smith.

  6. John Decker permalink

    The conversation between Agent Smith and Neo certainly is interesting and brings to light many questions of human existence. Agent Smith assaults Neo with questions of why it is that he chooses to fight. What is the point? What is his motivation? Agent Smith seems to think that Neo chooses to fight for love, but in his understanding as a program that is something that the feeble human mind made up as a replacement for true purpose. Neo responds that he fights because he chooses to. However, this scene brings up a good question about the human race as a whole. Why do we exist? Do we even have a purpose? We’d like to think we do and since the beginning of our race we have struggled to maintain a purpose, whether it is expanding an empire, serving others, religion or the multitude of other “purposes” that we have come up, does any of it actually matter? This is a scary thought for most individuals. What if the human race does not have any purpose? It certainly is possible. On the most basic level it seems that we exist to reproduce, but why? What good does reproducing do? It only continues our race. The universe does not seemingly need us. Perhaps this is why we as a race are drawn to religion. It gives us guidance as how to be a “good” person and it gives us someone to serve. I cannot help but move towards this as my response to this prompt. Taking a scientific approach to this question yields, in my opinion, a result that we are meaningless creatures caught up in something that we have almost no knowledge of; the universe. However, if religion is correct and there is a God, then that may give us a purpose to exist and to do well by each other. Books could be easily written on this; the meanings of human existence, whether or not love is a real thing, why are we here.

  7. Caroline Martin permalink

    Prompt #3: This prompt honestly makes my brain hurt so much. I know that we have dealt with it in other films this semester, but I feel like I still can’t fully make up my mind. If we go strictly based on Rama-Kandra’s explanation of “love,” then love is just a word, and a word and its implications could easily be programmed into something like the Matrix. However, can what Rama-Kandra calls “love” truly compare to the human experience of “love.” Even at the end of the film, the Architect says to the Oracle, when she asks for a promise, “What do you think I am? Human?” This statement implies that there is a distinct difference between the level of cognitive emotion that the Architect must feel and what a human feels. However, then we can return to the fact that the Architect is programmed quite differently from other programs within the Matrix. But didn’t the Architect basically build the Matrix and all of its programs? Yet, some of the programs appear to go rogue, such as the Oracle. Rama-Kandra states that “what matters is the connection” implied by the word “love.” Therefore, if a program can understand the connection, it can experience love. The emotion of love has certain given reactions that are easily expected, therefore, it would be easy for a machine (at the Matrix’s level of understanding) to replicate. The human mind works in similar fashion. This could even bring us to consider whether our actions in love are actually nature or nurture. Do we only act in certain ways based on the reactions that we see and hence replicate? Could this explain why certain people, with a less pleasant upbringing, experience difficulty with expressing emotions like love? Certainly such a line of thinking only helps support the theory that machines can experience (or at least replicate) emotions such as love. Honestly, I’m not sure if my “mind” will ever be made up on this issue because my thought process tells me one thing, while my morality and my “heart” tell me something else. That is…if a heart can tell you anything.

  8. I chose the topic of love in machines because it came up in the last class during the matrix reloaded discussion, but I did not want to spoil the third film for anyone who hadn’t seen it by bringing it up- The machines in the films we have watched such as blade runner and the matrix series. The more this question is posed, the more it seems to me that if a machine were advanced enough, it could be capable of developing its own consciousness, self-awareness, and emotions. Looking through an evolutionist lens, within humans, emotions seem to be a biological response, generated to help us better raise and nurture our young, and to care for one another as family units. I do not believe that love itself was inherently present, but rather developed from the emotional responses which facilitated the biological processes of mating and rearing young. This is what Rama-Kandra means when he says love is merely a word, and what matters is the connection which it implies. Love was obviously not programmed into Rama-Kandra or his wife, but arose as a sort of “ghost in the machine,” much like, I would argue, the true human emotion of love arose as we developed as a species. To this end, I think that Rama-Kandra is correct. Love is a response which can generate powerful responses in a human being; ones which may sometimes be seen as irrational, but ultimately work to help us ensure our survival as a whole. This obviously has very deep seeded implications for the relationship of the artifical and biological mind and how they work. If a human being’s mind is a neural network of electrical impulses which is shaped and influenced by its experiences and relationships with other human beings, I would argue that a machine’s (or program’s) mind is no different- an algorithmic series of electrical impulses which can be shaped and influenced by its experiences and relationships with other machines or programs. The means does not matter in this sense, be it artificial or biological; it is the end state which matters most; a thinking, loving, self-aware mind capable of interacting with other minds like it.

  9. K.Rengan permalink

    3. “Cookies need love, like everything else,” remarked Agent Smith, in a mockery of the Oracles concern for Sati. The word love, according to Rama, denotes a connection between two things (those “things” are not explained by Rama) and the things we would do to maintain those connections. The most plausible explanation for love “is that the trait facilitates bonding; the physiological adaptation [which] conferred a Darwinian advantage by more tightly joining the members” (Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.). This explanation for why we love makes sense in the framework of survival; so everything needs love so that it can survive. To both machines and the mind, the emotion of love makes sense so that we may continue the survival of our species. It gives us a better chance in a world of danger and death. However, to Rama and Sati, this explanation does not make sense. The connection between the two does not ensure greater survival to Rama. In fact, it puts him more at danger with those programs who wish to destroy Sati and other programs that are not supposed to be there. Rama can see that Neo is in love, and a parallel can be drawn with Rama’s willingness to do anything for Sati with Trinity at Merv’s night club, when Persephone remarks that Trinity will do anything for love, including dying for Neo if she has to. The Merovingian remarks that the behavior of love is most associated with insanity in this case. However, the idea of love as an action that would lead to death illustrates the warrior ethos of dying for another. This altruistic conception of love does save Zion and initially rescues Trinity when she first died. Either love is an anomaly in programing, or it is built within the core of a human/program so that it maintains the survival of a species. The illusion of choice will answer the question. If we have choice, or freedom, then we can assume that love is a connection built off an anomaly (insanity), and if we do not have choice, love is a programmed sense that keeps our species alive. Altruism presents a unique variable in the connection between others; i.e. love. It seems that we try to perpetuate others survival, which would validate the latter idea of our two conceptions of love. So Rama is correct when he says we would do anything for love.

  10. J. Lucky permalink

    The discussion between Smith and Neo is an interesting one but it also in important to note that within seconds of Smith’s comments Neo replies that Smith is right, and that he is always right. Every that is happening, and the “decisions” that are made are inevitable. It doesn’t seem to me that Neo fights for freedom, survival, peace, or even love. Rather he fights because he has no other choice and hence why it is a “choice” that cannot be understood. This is essentially the same as it was with the Architect saying that “we already know what you are going to do, don’t we.” The choice must exist for the Matrix to work but simply because there are different options available does not necessarily make Neo or anyone else capable of freely choosing between them. This is similar to Huemer’s statement about atoms; “even though the atom has two alternative possible futures, it cannot exercise control over which possibility it realizes.”

    While Smith is content realizing the purposelessness of it all and according to his original programming only desires (if the term may be permitted) to end all things that are without purpose which means that if he were permitted to go about his intent unchecked then he would not only destroy the matrix but all consciousness both human and machine because he realizes that both have no ultimate purpose. But this in itself present him with complicated alternatives, eventually he would have nothing left to destroy and then would have no purpose. Would he then destroy himself? Could he destroy himself? If not, then how could he justify his own existence? This presents Smith with a “choice” that he cannot understand.

    It appears to me that Smith would be incapable of justifying his existence and therefore would be forced to end himself. While for someone like me, my justification may not be that of a religious person, or even that of someone with deep feelings of love, it is however sufficient for my purposes. I continue my existence simply out of curiosity. A curiosity which I cannot link to a choice but which I also cannot dismiss. I might be able to see alternatives but I cannot exercise control over them.

  11. Seth Rodgers permalink

    Rama-Kandra describes love as more than an emotion, but rather a connection. Based on this definition, for Rama-Kandra’s love to be pure, he must exist not only in himself, but in his daughter as well. And perhaps that it why she is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen; because she represents Rama-Kandra’s ability to transcend the singularity of his own person and to be inexorably linked with someone outside of himself.

    Let me explain. If love is the connection between two people, it follows that the greatest form of love is a connection that does not depend on any form of proximity, but simply is. If Rama-Kandra’s love for his daughter demanded that she be in his presence, than his true connection to her would be weak; dependent on space and time and still revolving around his individuality. In other words, this type of conditional love depicts a connection that only exists through Rama-Kandra’s perception of Sati, which contradicts the ontological nature of love. However, if Sati is actually an extension of Rama-Kandra, than no distance could dilute their connection, even if that distance were permanent separation of two worlds.

    Since Rama-Kandra was willing to exile his daughter to a world separate from his own to insure her safety, he indeed demonstrated the willingness to do anything for his daughter. Hence, Rama-Kandra satisfied the conditions outlined above for true love, if we continue to assume that love is based on connection. The film therefore proposes that complex programs, such as those existing in the Matrix, are not only extraordinarily intelligent, but can be sentient as well. This further suggests that the basis of humanity is intelligence itself.

    However, an ongoing problem throughout The Matrix is the question of choice versus fate, which begs the question: if Rama-Kandra is a program, does he choose to love or is it inherent in his code? Is so, is that truly love? What separates Neo from his nemesis Mr. Smith seems to be the notion that he can choose to continue fighting—at least he thinks he can. In contrast, Morpheus alludes to providence, and to further complicate the distinction between man and program, the Oracle emphasizes the choices she has made on several occasions while simultaneously predicting Neo’s future actions when introduced in the first film. Last but not least, the Architect argues in the second film that all human decisions are as predictable as any other physical chain reaction, while never theorizing about the nature of his own will. Thus the circle of conflicting perspectives is complete: one man advocating for free will, another for predestination; one program arguing for free will while demonstrating the ability to predict the future; the other program defending determinism while seemingly exempting himself from its confines.

    How all these perspectives tie together in The Matrix Revolutions, I have to understand. However, it seems we are still left to believe, whether by choice or not, that love can exist outside of strictly human organisms and be inherent to a greater, overarching property in the universe.

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