At Large: Abdicate responsibility

At Large: Abdicate responsibility

Rather than getting annoyed at poor customer service, Matthew JC Powell suggests a reboot . . .

The Matrix is a very optimistic film in many ways. Its premise is that this is not (as we foolishly believe) the year 1999. Rather, this is the year 2199. Also contrary to our naive world view, we humans don't run the planet, computers do. Humans merely provide a biological power source to keep the computers running (since we wiped out the environment in order to blacken the skies and thereby rob the computers of solar power - it's quite complicated really). In return, the computers feed us an idealised world view in which the sun sometimes shines and we're in charge.

Why is this optimistic? Well, for a start, the computers survived the year 2000 thing. Great news, no? Don't worry yourselves too much about it, because not only do the computers survive the IT apocalypse, they become all the stronger for it.

It's ironic humour on their part, I suppose, that the delusion they have us believing in place of reality is that it is still the year before the supposed meltdown. Computers are funny that way. Next year they'll probably reset the loop and make it 1987 or so, and watch as we fail yet again to see the end of the century before it's too late.

It's also optimistic in that the idealised city of the future (in which the film is set) is in fact beautiful sunny Sydney (although it's worth noting that it rains every night). And in that utopian future Sydney, the Centrepoint Tower doesn't have ugly AMP signage all over it, nor a clock that (inaccurately) counts down the minutes to the beginning of the Olympics. Non-Sydney readers should just gloss over that bit - it's best if you don't know about some things.

Explains a lot

Personally, I'm OK with the idea that computers run the show and have done for years. It would explain quite a few things for me, while rendering many other perplexing questions moot.

Want to know who killed JFK? The same computers that invented him - he was an awkward subroutine that would have created difficulties further down the track, so he didn't make it through the next code revision. Of course, this in itself had some fairly buggy side effects, which is why the computers created Oliver Stone.

Want to know if aliens have really landed on Earth? Who do you think programs the computers? You have to hand it to our silicon-based overlords for making us think Microsoft is run by the son of a banker, while Linux was invented by someone in a country called Finland. I challenge any of you to prove to me that there is such a place as Finland.

Then there's wire coat-hangers. Placing my left hand on my heart and my right on a copy of Business @ the Speed of Thought, I swear to you faithfully that I have never purchased a wire coat-hanger, nor voluntarily taken one into my home. Yet I have a closet full of them.

Wire coat-hangers are clearly the user interface - the means by which the computers monitor and control our actions and thoughts. Think about it. Do you know anyone who works in a factory where they make wire coat-hangers? Do you know of any suppliers of wire coat-hangers? Ever heard of anyone desiring to make their fortune with wire coat-hangers? Nor have I. But the hangers are out there, in numbers too big to ignore. And they don't rust. They're metal, but they don't rust. Try to go to sleep at night thinking about that.

But seriously, if the computers are really in charge, it restores my faith in humanity. I shall explain.

I recently tried to access Foxtel's Web site to find out what was on, since my program guide hadn't arrived yet. I was unable to access the information online, so I dug around until I found a form where I could report the fault. The form, incidentally, was entitled "interactive feedback". What other sort of feedback there could possibly be I don't know, but I was amused. I jotted a note into the form and sent it off.

A mere week or so later (welcome to the fast-paced information age) I received an interactive reply, which began "Great News!! FOXTEL's Cable pay TV service is now available in your area."

I have to believe that a computer sent me that. It is too painful for me to believe that a human being could ignore what I'd written and send me an ad for a service to which I already subscribe.

It's not just that I'll accept that computers are running things. I'm counting on it.

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