...And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it... -- Bob Dylan

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gandhi Meets the Matrix

So I recently re-watched The Matrix (movie) and was reminded again that the idea that humans are cancer is not new nor mine.  The idea was articulated in that movie by one of the (apparently) evil "agents" of the computer that dominates and enslaves the human race.  It was one of those instances in which a scriptwriter attempts to momentarily confuse the viewer, when this agent of evil is torturing one of the good guys.  But wait a minute, he says something we know to be true, so, even for a moment, are we to think that maybe this bad guy isn't so bad after all?  Maybe fighting against this evil computer is not only pointless, but also misguided?  Then after that brief moment, we return to the vivid and chair-gripping action we paid good money to see, and all ambiguity is gone once again.  Whew! close one.

There's no need for ambiguity, you see, because the "evil" that the computer (or "Artificial Intelligence") perpetuates is enslaving the human race, even though almost nobody is aware of it.  So while the computer provides for everyone an illusory and yet seemingly real existence, it is evil because it deprives us of the one thing that we seem to think is worth fighting for -- our freedom.  (It would probably be more correct to call it "freewill" in this context.)  The implication of this scene, and really the whole struggle on which the film is based, is that it matters not whether there is truth in the statement that humans are cancer, it only matters that we fight to maintain our freewill, even if that freewill is only an illusion.  (Just as the computer provides an illusory life, part of that illusion is a certain amount of freedom.  It is not altogether clear from the film [at least the first one] if freewill exists outside the illusion created by the AI.)

Is freedom more valuable than truth?  If it turns out that our conception of freedom exists only to gratify our egos, is it good to kill and destroy whatever gets in the way of our maintaining that freedom?  I wonder about these things.

It occurs to me that I'd like to do a re-make of this movie, one that takes the basic precept of the script but takes out all the violence and with it all the violence-glorifying implications.  In Keaneau Reeve's role, I'd cast a Gandhi-like character whose enlightenment is not "the one" that can fight the machine, but the one who learns how to non-violently non-cooperate with it, and teaches others to do the same.  Come to think of it, maybe that's what really happened in India nearly a century ago, and we've all been living in an illusion since then.

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