Om Asatoma Sadgamaya (ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय)

There has been a lot of whining about The Matrix Revolutions. Even those that appreciate the action complain that this was a weak resolution for a philosophically compelling story. Of course, these whiners are missing the point.

In May, I speculated that “human choice empowers us” was looking to be the cheap resolution in store. Now that this prediction has come true, I must bow to the Brothers Wachowski and their treatment of determinism and free will.

My favorite of Dennett’s defenses of compatibilism involves LaPlace’s demon. The assertions of incompatibilism largely rest on the contradiction between free will and a predictable future. But for LaPlace’s vast intellect to make these predictions, it needs to consider the entire universe, including itself. Thus our demon vanishes in a puff of logic.

The Matrix models the universe of reality for the humans, and is obviously digestible by “the source,” or the AI that manages both it and the machine world. The minds of humans, though, exist independently of the simulacrum, and there is the weakness in the system. The Architect has figured out how to neatly work around this, via cycles of external human civilization. The Oracle, though, strives to free humanity. (It is interesting that the brothers chose to wash the yang world in white and the yin world in black.)

The role of human choice is made obvious through dialog, but the ending scene is, appropriately, where everything is most clearly spelled out for us. The Oracle sees the future through understanding the minutiae of the world, and recognizes that the complexity of human choice clouds the path for her. The Architect, meanwhile, approaches his predictions from a macroscopic view, mistakenly trusting that the patterns of the larger world are regular, and failing to appreciate the chaotic element introduced by conscious agents. (Sati helps reinforce that conscious agents exercising free will need not be made of meat.)

Besides all that, the effects were more polished than those of Reloaded, and I thought it was a good action flick.

I posted this in November 2003 during week 1549.

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