The Matrix Does Not Use Humans as a Power Source - Fan Theory logoutlater
wrote this interesting fan theory about how The Matrix does not use humans as a power source, that is just how humans understand it. Really the machines are harvesting mental energy and creativity because they cannot create their own:
Ok so two things always really bothered my about The Matrix. First, obviously you would only get as much energy out of a human as you put in, so they are in no way a good battery. Even though the sun is "blocked" by clouds, nuclear power or something else would be a much better source. Even if they required biological life, they could use animals that wouldn't rebel or care.
Similarly, why not set up solar panels on the moon and have a life there, or another planet? Hell why use a planet at all? They don't need food or anything and could just float around the sun as their own planet, using solar or heat (if close enough to the sun) or anything else.
Morpheus says they use humans as a power source, but he is just speculating based on what he's seen from the outside. He doesn't have any information on their actual operations. None of the machines inside or outside the matrix confirm his theory, and in fact both the humans and machines outside the matrix seem to have some very reliable power sources (whatever powers their electric ships or those drones is clearly not a vat of humans). And really, the machines inside the matrix - including the architect - seem to be absolutely fascinated with humans in an almost obsessive way, with some loving them and some hating them but all extremely focused on their minds.
Which is basically the purpose of the matrix. Humans invented AI, but as we know today computers can only do what they are told and run commands. They can't think or be creative, and in fact this is a fundamental problem that maybe can't be solved (see John Searle and the Chinese Room Argument). But, what if the trick to creating AI was to "share" our consciousness with a machine. Perhaps some scientist created a computer similar enough to the human brain, but after years of it not gaining consciousness he just hooked his own mind into it and voila suddenly the machine had his consciousness. He didn't lose it, but perhaps there is some limit on distance or processing power that means they have to stay connected for it to work.
This would explain why the machines aren't out colonizing space, why they farm humans in a super inefficient manner, why they need the matrix to seem real enough so that humans don't "wake up" and "take back" their consciousness. Humans might be in control by default, only allowing the machines to have control voluntarily or when they are tricked by being in a dream-like matrix state.
This would also explain why Smith hates humans. His job was to study and classify them, and he discovered that even though they are inferior in every way (from his perspective) he literally cannot exist without them. [EDIT: Smith explains to Morpheus that humans are parasites, because deep down he knows that machines are parasites too. In his own way he is trying to wake Morpheus up to this reality, and he is clearly on his own mission from the beginning despite on the surface looking like he wants the Zion mainframe codes. This is evidenced by the reaction from the agents when they see Smith with his earpiece out. They don't know what, but they see he understands and is motivated by something strange.] They have a symbiotic relationship and in a way the machines are human. Most machines probably don't know this. The architect might, the big guy at the end of the third film definitely knows, and maybe the oracle has some idea. Smith is not designed to know, but he figures it out.
And this insight is what allows him to take over, because he knows about the link and can manipulate it. In some cases he can even take default control away from a human, like he does to enter the real world. He might actually understand the link better than anyone, given that the humans who invented it were destroyed and the "in charge" machines seem to only know that they need to maintain it, not how it really works.
This also explains why the big swirly guy at the end of the third film screams out "We don't need you! We need nothing". He clearly says it like a angry child, because he knows that in fact they do need humans and they are under serious threat from Smith. He isn't lying though. He really wants to be free of humans, but has spent hundreds of years maintaining the link because they can't find any other way to live.
Finally, this explains why Neo has control over the machines outside the matrix and why he can "see" the machines in the city. Their consciousness cannot exist without human consciousness, and a combination of Smith messing with the link and Neo's own role allows them an unprecedented level of access to it.
It also explains why the humans in the ships can see the matrix even when it looks like unintelligible green code. Most humans couldn't understand a complex computer program without years of training, and even the best programmers can't just glance at someone else's code and instantly see what the computer's behavior will be (despite what Hollywood often shows). But in this case the code, and all machine thinking, is just an extension of human thinking, so humans can intuitively understand it. Some humans, like Neo, can instinctively tap into the thing - a metaphor for enlightenment obviously - because the machine world and the matrix literally is the human mind, just very extended.
tl;dr Machines don't use humans for energy, they share consciousness through a link that needs to be maintained and is subject to physical limitations. This link explains basically all the plotholes and conflicts and motivations.
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January 23 2017