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I just ran across this on TVTropes's page "Human Resources":

  • In The Matrix the robots use humans as batteries! (And recycle the dead into nutrient solution to help feed the living).

    • This would have been Did Not Do the Research if it wasn't that it is all Executive Meddling. The original story had the brains of the humans being used as part of a neural network for additional computing power. But the suits thought that was too hard for people to understand. So instead we get them as batteries, which is Artistic License - Physics.

So:

  • Is it true that the original script used humans as part of a neural net?
  • And if so, was it changed for the reason given above?
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A pity, because it would have closed that particularly awful plot hole. I don't think "humans as processing power" is more difficult to understand than "humans as electrical power". My grandma wouldn't understand either, of course. –  Andres F. Jul 1 '12 at 2:25
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As so often tvtropes gets it wrong. At no point, any program nor machine confirms the theory of electricity in the films. It is important to note that this is what Morpheus tells us. From how he sums up "history" it is safe to assume they really only know scraps, half of which is probably wrong. –  bitmask Jul 1 '12 at 2:44
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@AndresF. Hmm.. I wonder if we could explain it away as "Most of the humans in Zion are too dumb to understand, so the techies just told them 'batteries'.". I mean, we do dumb stuff down in reallife as well... –  Izkata Jul 1 '12 at 2:44
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@AndresF. the plot hole exist only in the viewers mind. Only humans tell us this is the reason for the fields, not machines. Even Architect says it's ok to kill them. ah, just as bitmask said! –  naxa Jul 1 '12 at 2:47
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1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes, this is true, though its not clear how hard the Wachowski's fought to keep their original idea.

The only "official statement" I know of is an off-hand comment from one of the brothers on the DVD commentary for one of the director's cuts (I forget which but I think its on the Ultimate Matrix Collection.) He is discussing the whole setup for the Matrix and mentions that they "originally had a different idea" before dismissing the question as irrelevant to the story. (e.g. it doesn't matter to him why the machines did what they did, as its just a plot device to get the story started.)

More details about what that original plan was come from some written material based on early pre-release information from the movie. Specifically, Neil Gaiman's short story "Goliath" is set in the Matrix universe and includes this alternate view. I have also heard that the "novelization" of the Matrix included this idea but there's no such novel that I know of; its possible that a novelized version of an early script exists (there's a published version of the shooting script for sale but that includes the story as filmed.)

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96 draft is like the movie already scifiscripts.com/scripts/matrix_96_draft.txt –  naxa Jul 1 '12 at 2:50
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If "humans as processors" is just a plot device to Mr. Wachowsky, then, seriously, shame on him. –  flq Feb 10 '13 at 9:59
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Why? He's a writer. Every word he writes is "just a plot device". That's the point of writing fiction - to produce a plot. –  Michael Edenfield Feb 10 '13 at 14:24
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Yes, and bonus points to those writers who create credible plot devices and explore their proper value to the story. –  flq Mar 26 '13 at 10:03

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