My question about Neo stopping the Machine weapons got me to thinking, since both answers (so far) have brought up the point that "reality," in this case, is just another matrix.

I never really gave the sequels much thought, since they weren't as compelling to me as the first movie, but now this has me wondering.

Are there other clues or indications that the real world, the one with Zion, is another virtual reality? Is it possible that the whole concept of using humans as a power source is inefficient and won't work well a clue? (Or is it just an underthought justification for the machines keeping humans alive?)

(Note: I know this asks for something that may be a list of items, but this is a finite list. I've discussed that with moderators who feel there's a difference between an open ended list and one with a limited number of possible items. Please don't add "Me, too" answers with only one item.)

  • Here's a "me, too" as a comment (since I can't think of anything else at the moment): Conservation of energy. The nutrients used to keep the humans alive should contain more energy than their nervous system would contain.
    – Izkata
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 3:06
  • @Izkata: That's what I was thinking of when I mentioned if using humans as a power source was a clue (since it wouldn't work).
    – Tango
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 3:13
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    According to the movie, are we in the Matrix's past or are we ourselves in the Matrix? If it's the latter, then everything we think we know about the real world could be wrong. Real human beings may in fact have super powers capable of stopping weapons dead in the air. Mind-boggling.
    – HNL
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 15:52
  • You might find John Dalmas's novels interesting. The metaphysics underlying most of them is what you could call "video-game" reality, where we are all in a giant game simulation. It is most explicit in The Reality Matrix, The Playmasters, and The Scroll of Man, but underlies many of his books. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 7:02

5 Answers 5

  1. The Architect's claim that Zion is just another form of control.
  2. Councillor Hamann's comment about Zion being dependent on machines may have been a hint to Neo.
  3. The fact that the machines do not chase hoverships or drill more often or with more determination. They had a massive swarm of machines at their disposal (which they finally used on the assault on Zion), but they never send multiple waves after an EMP-armed rebel ship. All it would take is for the second wave to wait out of EMP range.
  4. Only three agents will engage rebels at any given time.
  5. The machines never allow the agents to load larger weapons (e.g. chain guns), vehicles (helicopters) or even more ammunition (Smith's empty after the subway shootout). Agents are probably not even privy to the possibility that Zion may be a simulation.
  6. Neo re-entering the Matrix without a cable. So there is a data flow between the "real world" and the Matrix that is not dependent on a jack.
  7. The "real world" is extremely unpleasant. It almost makes you want to stay in the Matrix. This could be a deliberate attempt by the machines to make it unattractive to all except the most malcontent.
  8. Smith's ability to download into Bane's brain. The interface accepts sensory data from the Matrix. How did an entire person's worth of data get downloaded? How was Bane's brain rewired? The interface as we understand it cannot do this.
  9. Injuries in the Matrix translating to injuries in the real world.
  10. And as mentioned in the linked question, Neo's ability to see the "real world" in another code-like view (except this one is yellow).
  11. The fact that the residual self image resembles the person's "real world" appearance. See this question.
  • 8
    I wonder if there should be an evidence-against list. The problem is canon, or what people will accept as canon. The Wachowskis have said everything they've done associated with The Matrix is part of the story, which brings to mind "The Miller's Tale" from the comics, featuring a young Morpheus. Harrumph. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 23:56
  • When does Neo re-enter the Matrix without a cable?
    – John
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 18:43
  • 3
    @John Right at the end of Matrix: Reloaded. The beginning of the third film is devoted to getting him out of there.
    – Malcolm
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 16:12
  • 2
    re #8. They can also download skills. I don't think it's ever shown whether they can use those skills in the real world, but if so, that's changing your brain.
    – Adeptus
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:48
  • With regard to points 1-5 and 7, I think those are equally easily explained by the existence of Zion and the rebels as being part of the One plan/cycle, and so aren't strong evidence toward Zion being another simulation.
    – Sarah
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 22:10

As a side note for further research, there are plenty of clues, but no incontrovertible proof. If you wish to research this deeper, the term used by aficionados is "Matrix Within a Matrix" (aka MWAM).

Some of the good resources are:


Both in-universe and out-of-universe, there are no good indications that the 'real world' is anything other than that.

In the 'Making the Matrix' featurette, Laurence Fishburn makes a direct reference to the world outside The Matrix being "the real world" (e.g. rather than simply another layer of The Matrix).

Fishburn: My character is called Morpheus and Morpheus is a person who lives in the real world and.... he is a leader of a band of people looking for The One.

In the Animatrix short Matriculated, Alexa and Nonaka discuss the nature of reality. The Matrix is only convincing to those who've never been outside it. Once you've seen reality, The Matrix seems flimsy and insubstantial, like a dream.

Alexa: I'm afraid they'll figure out that we've made up the thing in our heads.

Nonaka: They can't tell the difference. To an artificial mind, all reality is virtual. How do they know that the real world isn't just another simulation? How do you?

Alexa: I know I' m not dreaming now because I know what its like being in a dream.

It stands to reason that the machines simply aren't capable of making a truly convincing Matrix or else why would they need to have more than one layer?

  • The counter-point to "I know what it's like being in a dream" is "You only know what it's like to be in that dream". It may be much more resource intensive to make a good simulation, which would be a reason to keep everyone in the bad simulation and let the few who question reality "escape" to the good simulation (or possibly the much-more-gritty-but-equally-bad simulation). It would also probably provide a lot of insight into the process of people questioning reality, which could be useful to the machines. But claiming it's a simulation is still problematic because it's unfalsifiable.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:03
  • @NotThaGuy - If the machines could make a realistic simulation there would be no need for Zion, hence the real world can't be a simulation or why not just use that same simulation to house everyone? I'd you're inventing your own reasons why it might not be (due to numbers of people it can house or the resources required) then you're just indulging in fanfic.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:19
  • It's a pretty basic computing (and life) principle that you don't allocate more resources than necessary to something (except for the sake of redundancy). I'm not "indulging in fanfic", I'm simply pointing out the holes in your reasoning.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:40

The real world is another matrix for those who wont or cant accept the first matrix. The architect at the end of the second movie tells that many different batches of humans were lost and they kept having to redo the Matrix. Smith also mentions this in the first one where he talks about they made the 1st matrix a perfect world but everybody kept trying to wake up because their minf would not accept the perfect world and rntire crops were lost. So the machines created a matrix at the peak of human civilization so most people would believe they were in the real world. For the few that felt something was off about the first matrix were given a choice to go to the real world that was just a 2nd matrix to control the ones who didn't accept the first matrix.

  • 2
    The question is taking this as a given. The question is, what evidence is there that the apparent real world is actual a virtual reality?
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 6:57
  • 3
    This doesn't answer the question in any meaningful sense.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 7:12
  • @Adamant: No, the question does not take the "real world" as being a matrix as a given. It's asking for proof that it's another matrix.
    – Tango
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 17:49
  • I don't see or remember any proof for your last sentence, "For the few that felt something was off about the first matrix were given a choice to go to the real world that was just a 2nd matrix to control the ones who didn't accept the first matrix." That seems to be assumed.
    – Tango
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 17:50
  • @Tango - Isn't that what I said? "...what evidence is there that the apparent real world is actually a virtual reality?" I suppose saying that the question took it as "a given" was a bit misleading. What I meant was that the question mentions the possibility that the real world is another matrix, and so does this. It does not offer any proof.
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 20:21

I would like to point out that there is an obvious explanation for the anomalies listed indicating that Zion may be another Matrix. The humans seen in the Matrix, if they were part of a real control system and not part of another simulated control system, are obviously posthumans. There is no clear indication of exactly how much modification that humans were given beyond the jacks. This could explain all of the anomalies involving the humans interacting with their environment in ways that are unexpected.

As to the conservation of energy argument, the idea that because heat energy disperses and so all energy must is silly. People extrapolate the law of thermodynamics into meaning more than it does.


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