This blog post is not necessarily a response to anything; rather, its more of a story, a prediction, or an idea that I've had for a while now building in my mind but reinforced by a number of texts that we have read. The idea of the Matrix is obviously an extremely interesting idea; however, I always felt that conceptually it was weak. I guess because as I thought about the matrix more and more and found myself disappointed with the Wachowski brothers' portrayal of the relationship between humans and the matrix, I pondered our relationship with technology and postulated my own theories. Let me just say, this is partly for my enjoyment even though its a blog post for a class... Text inspired fiction, i guess. Read until you're bored or finished...
What will this new matrix uncover that makes this post worth writing? I hope to point out, what may be glaringly obvious to some, that the distinction between humans and machines, real and virtual, is irrelevant. Subconsiously, we are aware that technology is changing our society, transforming us; however, this is often a superficial awareness. We know that facebook changes the way people communicate, snoop, and advertise themselves, but that's just surface realizations. Every invention impacts the cognitive space in which we experience reality, what we can understand, what we can produce, even what truth is. The telescope changed our conception of space, instrumentation like pecision measurement enabled us to apply mathematics to that space, and that application of mathematics to space essentially changed our view of the world. As Galloway points out, there was a definite shift from meaning and sense to algorithm and pattern. There was a shift within our cognitive space that guided thought away from meaning and to the algorithm, but why? Why is it that an entire generation's thought pattern would change at the same time, in the same way? Essentially humans are driven by two things: technology and necessity. We grow up, we are taught, to think that tools are there for us to use; however, this doesn't seem to be true--the relationship is more symbiotic.
Just as we have demands for technology, technology has just as many, if not more, demands on us. For example, as I set up my room this year I wanted to put my desk by the window and my bed by the wall. I discovered that I could not do this because the internet port was on the wall along with all of the electrical sockets. Now, because of electrical sockets and internet ports I cannot look out the window rather I have to stare at the wall. This is a very simple example, but it can be extended much farther.
As humans, we seek a balance between our own demands and the demands of the technology that surrounds us within the cognitive space we are given. Essentially, we strive to meet our own demands and, at the same time, limit the demands of technology on our lives; however, we accomplish that goal through the simultaneous interaction of two phenomena. We produce more technology to further extend ourselves, to increase our ability and thus limit some technological demand, or conform to the demand of a technology integrating into our lives. As we do this we approach some kind of equilibrium point between human existence, reality, and technological existence, the virtual. Each time we adapt to some form of technology it is conditioning us to understand or accept the next step--the self is altered, but because the extension is technological and un-natural this does not impact our sense of self, we do not view ourselves as less human. This is the matrix as I understand it.
Would you take the red pill or the blue pill? In the Wachowski's matrix, the red pill represents freedom in all its ideological glory--something to strive for and die for. In my 'matrix', the red pill is the most terrifying substance you could imagine. Why? Because it does not represent freedom; instead, it represents isolation, limitation, and disempowerment. Imagine a system, one the would make space irrelevant--as text is to hypertext, reality would be to the hyper-reality generated by this 'matrix'.
It is similar to the Wachowski matrix in many ways: it is a simulation, you are still subject to rules and for some individuals the rules could be altered, but the main difference is that participation within the system is voluntary. Thus, these rules inherent to the system, which may generally reflect some rules of life outside the matrix whether physical or temporal, are the protocols of the control society within the matrix. Some individuals may be excluded from the benefits of the matrix, some individuals may only have certain enhanced abilities within the matrix, and some individuals may be able to bend the very space of this matrix to enhance productivity. It is hyper-reality because you will and can expose yourself to not only a variety of information in rapid succession, but different places, people, and objects. Ultimately, it is the our human features that set limitations to this matrix. You cannot simulaneously experience realities, you cannot generate people, and although you may rapidly change your position in space you still will not alter time in any real way because it is people that define time here. You could perhaps generate a medieval time period and try to find others to live in it with you, but that's not really time travel. Reality becomes a mish-mash of encounters and experience.
Much like a computer or a videogame, your identity and status are saved and you can log into the system or out of the system when necessary. Identity theft is the most severe of crimes here, along with piracy. This hyper-reality undoes the most pertinent demand that technology makes on us as producers, the demand for materials, and that is exactly why it is so probable. For example, if you were in this matrix right now then the computer that you're staring at is a line of code--copyable, rewritable. If you wanted your computer to be a monitor and a keyboard, then it is so; however, if you want your keyboard to become a monitor, then it is so. And, if at the end of the day you want to put your fullsize laptop into your back pocket, you don't have to; instead, it can disappear and be re-summoned later. Hardware becomes software, highly alterable. The more interesting thought is how such a change would occur: would all people have this ability? Would it be simple? Would it be industrialized; that is, would certain developers create the most intuitive templates of hardware that could be customized subject to predefined rules by customers? Would these inventors then be the ones who establish the protocol deciding what gets created, how it operates, and who gets that what?
Outside of the matrix, life is simple, if you can get back into the matrix that is... The basics of life are experienced outside this matrix, eating, exercise, reproduction, sleep. The things that must naturally occur do naturally occur. You live in small, self-sustaining communities, humans have become obsessed with minimizing their impact on the environment, as they no longer need to exploit it to survive. The negative aspects of material commercialism largely evaporated as the matrix grew into the place where people would go to produce and consume the unnatural, luxurious, and technological. For instance, if life was discovered elsewhere in the universe, the negative aspects of material commercialism would remain. This is because the knowledge of a civilization entirely outside our matrix would create fear that would drive competition between those inside and outside the matrix. The fact that humans exists physically drives that competition back outside the matrix.
This leads us to the criminals that abuse the matrix, for them the first punishment is exile from the matrix. In turn, the exiles lead to the distopian future cities of 1980's cinema, like that of Blade Runner. Exiles are forced to congregate because they require material commercialism to survive, production is key. Humans are the hands of technology, intermediaries fulfilling demands of a greater body. Our niche is the synthesis of technology, the talent to extend our own abilities through production. Thus, we will still do this physically if we cannot do this in hyper-reality. This is the ultimate argument against the matrix I have described, the user's of the matrix although empowered by the matrix are essentially weak. Their bodyies themselves become metaphors for their technology because as they sit motionless engaged in the matrix designing virtual objects they become weak, they produce nothing real; thus, those outside the matrix try to exploit them although they want back in. It may be cyclical.
How different is the internet from this really? I mean, obviously its very different, but it could just be a rudimentary matrix, a foundation.