Thursday, August 9, 2012

Choosing The Matrix

In the book The Matrix and Philosophy (2002), Professor David Weberman wrote a chapter in which he concluded that given the choice between living in the the inauthentic Matrix world and the authentic real world, the more rational choice is to live in the Matrix. He arrived at this conclusion for a few different reasons, but his most weighty argument is: given that the  Machine’s goal is to insure that humans remain plugged into the Matrix and that they remain alive, it would be in the Machine’s best interest to make the world void of as much suffering and death as they realistically could. Therefore, quality of life for everyone would be greater in the ignorant bliss that is the dream world of the Matrix.

“...The virtual world gives us the opportunity to visit museums and concerts, read Shakespeare and Stephen King, fall in love, make love, and raise children, form deep friendships, and so on. The whole world lies at our feet except that it’s probably better than our world since the machines have every motivation to create and sustain a world without human misery, accidents, disease, and war so as to increase the available energy supply. The real world, on the other hand, is a wasteland. The libraries and the theaters have been destroyed and the skies are always gray.”

Weberman considers the criticism of free will and truth. He responds that the Machines likely would not care what we do while in the Matrix. We would be free to paint, make music, support, or fight against, the government, etc. The only things we could not do would be unplug ourselves or others. So we are almost every bit as autonomously free as if we are in the real world.
Even if choosing the Matrix is more rational, though, there seems to be something at least partly counterintuitive about this choice. Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Tank, Mouse and Dozer certainly agree. They believe there is something more important to life. Authenticity is intrinsically valuable to them. But can they make this choice for everyone else? If Cypher disagreed with them then others likely will as well. Morpheus even admitted that they do not unplug adults because they have grown attached the fake world and reject the real.
Weberman’s argument can be taken further, though. If his argument above can be taken as a reason to choose the Matrix over the real world as it exists in the film, the same argument can be used to say that it would be more rational to choose the Matrix over the real world as it exists today as well. Given the lessened amount of suffering and death, war and so on. After all, who would not like to live in a world with less of these things? Is this not the goal of most doctors, scientists, politicians and the like?
So if we were presented with an opportunity to live in a virtual world designed to contain no “human misery” of any sort, a world in which we are still free to choose any profession or activity, and we could be ensured that our physical bodies were being preserved in the real world, I would expect to see this virtual world heavily populated. The question is, for how long?


  1. I can talk about The Matrix for longer than most probably should, that being said, I will likely write another post later outlining the problems with what I just said. Doesn't mean it's not fun to talk about though.

  2. i think i like being in my body too much to leave it behind.

  3. Presuming that the program is as holistic as the Matrix is, you would still have your body. It would feel exactly the same as it would in real life.