The Matrix movies usually have a special place in hearths of most of us geeks. They are peculiar breed because they get so much stuff right, and so much stuff wrong about computers at the same time. Let me give you some examples here. In one of the movies there is a scene where trinity hacks into the mainframe controlling a power plant using npap and an old ssh exploit:
How awesome is that? Someone in Hollywood actually went out of their way, hired a technology consultant and got “hacking” right. This in itself is enough to overlook many flaws of the movie trilogy.
Then there is that whole “I’m so fucking 1337 I can read the scrolling matrix code” thing you see over and over and over again:
No you cannot. No one can. Even if the code was meaningful – for example hexadecimal memory dumps (which it’s not) you would not be able to read it because:
- It scrolls way to fast for even reading English text
- It scrolls vertically – how well can you read vertical scrolling text?
- The columns overlap each other
- It doesn’t seem to have any structure or organization to it
- No one reads debugger output in real time – you stop the execution and step through it one instruction at a time
So they get the hacking right, but fail at a simple thing like – I don’t know – reading code. Still, the matrix “code” is a cool effect, and I still use it as a screen saver.
Random anecdote time: one day I was sitting at my desk and hacking away on some laptop – probably removing spyware or something like that (ah the joys of IT work). Since I wasn’t using my own computer, it went to screen saver which is the scrolling matrix code. A coworker was passing by and was like “Woha! What is that?!”.
“Matrix screen saver” I explained. He looked disappointed.
“Oh… I thought you were programming or something like that” he mumbled, and left the stage before I was able to go all *facepalm* on him. I mean, it’s like a compound double fail. One fail for not recognizing matrix code. Second fail for thinking this is how programming looks like.
I actually had people argue with me that reading the matrix code thing is plausible to which I usually respond by challenging them to try reading it. “Oh, I can’t do it but if you were really good at it like the guys in the movie you could totally pull it off!” Sigh…
We were reflecting on this the other day, and started ripping the movies apart. There is actually more wrong in them than right stuff. For example, I never understood why you can’t just disconnect people from the Matrix feed while they are on the inside. After all, that’s exactly what they did to Neo in the first movie. They interrupted his signal, got him unplugged and then fished him out of the sewage. And yet, when the freed people go back into matrix they need to reach an exit point to get out.
I mean, I understand why the Wachowski brothers designed it that way. It was for dramatic effect! This way they were free to include many exciting chase scenes in the movie. Because of this weird rule Morpheus was able to be be trapped inside the matrix and the heroes could have mounted the memorable, daring rescue operation while their ship was being ripped apart by the squid robots. That’s some damn good, nail-biting, edge of your seat shit right there.
But, it’s a bit silly if you think about it. Why do you need to fine an old fashioned phone to exit the matrix? There is really no logical reason I can think of that would require this. You should be able to disconnect wherever and whenever you want. Matrix runners should be able to do this “Oh shit, agents! Disconnect me!” But, that would not make for a very exciting movie.
I don’t know – maybe there is some official lore that explains it. I’m not that much into the Matrix universe to know about it though. I watched the 3 movies, I finished that one video game and saw bits and pieces of Animatrix though I never sat down and watched the whole ting in one sitting.
Of course the biggest question here is, why does the matrix exist at all? If machines are using humans as chemical batteries, then what use do they have for our minds? Wouldn’t it just be easier to lobotomize humans at birth? Just severely damage the frontal lobes while leaving the more primitive areas of the brain responsible for maintaining basic bodily functions, intact. Now you have nice, comatose batteries that do not need an expensive virtual reality simulation to support them, and won’t attempt to escape and rebel against you.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the whole “reality is just an illusion” angle. It is a great trope, that dates back to gnosticism. It’s just that the explanation is a little weak, and can be taken apart. Unless of course you buy into that whole convoluted explanation about the symbiosis between humans and machines, and how they needed the “Chosen One” to defeat the rogue Agent Smith. Of course Smith went haywire after Neo discombobulated him in the first movie.
In the comments we tell Matrix related anecdotes, and try to rationalize the weaknesses in the Wachowski brother’s universe! Go!