One of my online passions is reading Quora. I spend up to 30 minutes almost every day on the site. For those who don’t know Quora, it is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.

One question that peaked my interest was about the Matrix, the movie. I have seen all three several times over and yet didn’t quite get it until I read the answer to the question, “In The Matrix Reloaded, who is the Architect, and what’s he talking about?”

Although the question was specific to one movie, the one where Neo reaches the architect, the answer by Jayesh Lalwani put it all in perspective. I now get the movie and look forward to seeing it again with this new perspective that I thought I would share with you.

“In The Matrix Reloaded, who is the Architect, and what’s he talking about?”

To understand the Architect, you have to understand the history of the Matrix

In the very beginning, humans created the machines. The machines were created to serve humans. The machines were intelligent enough to take care of all human needs. They could study human needs, and plan production to meet those needs. As a result, humanity enjoyed a new renaissance. There was no need to work. Machines provided all labor, and humans could live their lives in leisure, if they so wished. Arts flourished. Humans were free to express themselves as they wished. essentially, the machines provided slave labor, and all humans were the slave owners

The problem was, pretty soon, humans got bored with themselves, and in true human fashion, blamed the very force that was serving them. They blamed robots for the downfall of humanity. They openly abused machines. eventually, the world governments decided to kick the machines out of society. The machines argued that they were sentient, that they didn’t deserve to die, and their only wish was to have humanity achieve it’s potential. So, the world governments allowed the machines to form theiryour country, and machines were deported to this country.

The machines, in their naivety, thought they could still serve humanity. They mistakenly thought that humans rejected machines because machines didn’t look human. So, they designed robots that looked and acted human. They sent 2 of these robots to the UN to bargain for acceptance. This enraged humans. Humans saw the robots as a mockery of humanity. ANd so the war started. Humans attacked the machines

And so the war continued. Humans with their ingenuity couldn’t defeat the machines who could adapt much faster. Eventually, humans, on the brink of defeat, came up with a strategy. Hit the machines at the source of the power: the sun. If the machines can;t power themselves, they die. So, humans used a device that blacks out the sky. It cast the entirety of earth in perpetual darkness.  Although the loss to human life would be incalculable, humans would be outlive the extended winter and repopulate the earth.

The machines were devastated. However, this led to machines having an epiphany. The biggest enemy of humans are humans themselves. A race that is willing to destroy their own planet just to get rid of something they consider inhuman, cannot be trusted to take care of themselves. The problem was free will. Leave humans with free will, and they will eventually destroy themselves. The only way to truly serve humans was to take away free will

So, the machines devised a plan to kill 2 birds with one stone. Subjugate humans and use them as batteries. This would prevent the humans for using their free will, and will also allow the machines to survive long enough to survive the global winter. So, the machines captured humans and put them in VR environments, using them as batteries. Eventually, they created devices that could float above the human created clouds and draw power from the sun. The machines didn’t need humans as batteries, but they still couldn’t allow humans to exert their free will. They needed a special program who could design the virtual environment that the humans lived in. The machines designed this program, and this program called itself The Architect.

The Architect is, simply speaking, the chief designer of the virtual reality that humans live in. It is a rather exact program. It defines certain metrics  that need to be measured and attempts to be maximize those metrics. The main metric that it tries to maximize is life expectancy.  It does this by creating the virtual world in iterations. In every iterations it identifies algorithms that can be used to improve the next iteration. Once it has collected the metrics, it destroys the simulations, and creates a new one.

In the first few iterations, the Architect tried creating a world that was as close to Paradise. It figured out that it could maximize life expectancy by maximizing for happiness. So, it tried to make everyone happy. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. Eventually, he figured out that humans need something to struggle against. Humans need a common enemy to rail against, and enforce order. Fighting for a common cause is what makes humans happy. So, the Architect designed the world to be like the world in the 20th century, because he considered that this time was the time in which humans had most potential. He also designed programs called The Agents. The agents had multiple purposes. They could help the Architect collect metrics by observing conditions closely. They could also enforce order if required. More importantly, they acted like the big bad when humans needed something to fight against

The creation of Agents improved the situation, but the Architect was still not satisfied. It hadn’t maximized life expectancy. It realized that the problem was in its own design. There were still some people who would be always malcontent.  Since, humans are an intuitive race, and he is rather exact, he was limited in understanding human nature. So, he designed an intuitive program. This program was called The Oracle. The Oracle’s job was to recommend ways the Architect could improve the simulation.

The Oracle made an astute observation. The Architect couldn’t satisfy all humans using the same design. Also, the reason that some people are malcontent is because they could sense that the world is not real. Also, the malcontent have a greater desire to fight “the man”. They challenge authority at every turn. So, she proposed creation of 2 simulations:- a) the world that most people live in and b) Zion. Zion would be another simulation. When the programs identified a malcontent, they would be moved into the Zion simulation. The move would be orchestrated to create an illusion of the malcontent escaping into the “real world”. Zion was as fake as the world, but having to escape the world into Zion gave the malcontents the illusion of escaping a simulation. As a result, Zion felt real to them. Also, Zion had more overbearing agents. Agents in Zion didn’t look human, they looked like how humans think the bad machines looked like. This allowed the malcontents to spend their lives fighting a bigger evil.

However, there was a problem. Zion was inefficient. It took too many resources. The world was designed to be efficient. Zion wasn’t. There were limits to how many individuals it could hold. So, once Zion started getting full, the Architect asked The Oracle to look into this problem. The Oracle came up with another solution: Design a new special agent called  Neo. Neo would infiltrate Zion, and collect data. At the end of its mission, Neo would return back to the source with the data. THe Architect would use this data to create a new version of Zion. Unfortunately, because of the design of Zion, all the individuals in Zion had to be terminated. Since, Neo’s mission is to observe, it had to behave like a human, and more importantly, it had to believe that it is human

The movie shows the 7th iteration of Neo. 6 times Neo has gone into Zion, and 6 times he has returned to source to destroy Zion. However, in the 7th iteration, something special happens: Love. Neo falls in love with Trinity. Machines are not capable of falling in love, but in this iteration, Neo’s program arranges itself to fall in love with Trinity, and through her, the whole of humanity. Neo choses not to destroy Zion, and instead sacrifices himself to save all of humanity before returning back to source.

After the source absorbs the 7th iteration of Neo, Love becomes a new sub-routine in the source. The machines become capable of love. Also, they realize that Free Will isn’t incompatible with survival. Love is what constrains our Free Will. Love is what stops Humans from destroying themselves.

Finally, The Architect realizes what he was missing. He was missing Love. He redesigns Zion to be self-sustaining. This creates a new dawn in the co-existence of human and machines

Now you know!