In The Matrix, humans' body heat is used to power the machines, but it was hinted at in a comment on another question that the machines used human brains for processing power. Is this claim substantiated by anything?

  • Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/12227/3383
    – Naftali
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:28
  • @TheDoctor I've already quoted that in my question...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:34
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    Now now, boys, Ferret and @TheDoctor, don't make me come up there and separate you two!
    – Tango
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:44
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    This idea was the original intent of the writers; the studio made them substitute the batteries. They did, but left in all the references - so all 3 movies make much more sense that way. (I'm not making this an answer because I can't substantiate it; I know I heard it in DVD commentary or interview, but can't remember where.) Note that the Matrix short story Neil Gaiman wrote also works off this premise, not battery power.
    – Tynam
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 12:26
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    possible duplicate of Why Did the Machines Even Bother With a Matrix?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Nowhere in the films or the Animatrix is it even hinted that the computing power of humans is used in this fashion. The only side effect of protecting themselves from the humans is a bit of juice the machines get back from the humans.

Although human brains are capable of some interesting computations (that are hard to express in machine-lingo), it would be really hard to emulate a platform on top of thoughts that would support a generic operating system, let alone a sophisticated A.I. If the machines don't use humans to run themselves, any computation they would need (for industrial reasons, for instance) would be easier to be computed by a machine than this human-computer-abomination.

Unless, however, you subscribe to the Matrix in a Matrix theory, where "the humans" (Trinity, Morpheus, ...) are actually programs that are being controlled by humans outside the "real-world-matrix". Then you could argue that they use the processing power for computation (or train the A.I.).

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    If the Machine doesn't run through human brains, why do the Agents use humans to spawn? And why do some humans have Machine powers? Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 19:17
  • @CeesTimmerman: I honestly don't see how these circumstances would be related to each other. Could you clarify your question? (or possibly post a full question)
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 23:31
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    The agents like Smith are not human, yet the movie clearly shows humans turning into agents. If there was not a strong neural link between humans and the machine, then agents could just appear out of thin air. Hence the movie hints at humans being more than mere batteries (which seem to me like an inefficient power source). Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 9:43
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    "You have faster processing speeds and reaction times." - Machines proving they're using humans for processing. Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 11:40
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    @CeesTimmerman - Actually, in that instance they were talking about having genetically engineered him to have faster reflexes than a machine.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 22:13

Yes, this claim was made in the Webcomic "Goliath" by Neil Gaiman. It's pretty clear from the text that the agents view their human captors as not only a power supply but are also using them as CPUs and/or spare memory capacity.

Note that while the Webcomics are largely viewed as canonical (due to the extensive involvement of the Wachowskis in their writing and selection), Goliath is pretty far off the beaten path and probably contains non-canon elements.

"What's going on?" I asked. "Do you know?"

"Enemy missile took out a central processing unit," he said. "Two hundred thousand people, hooked up in parallel, blown to dead meat. We've got a mirror going of course, and we'll have it all up and running again in no time flat. You're just free-floating here for a couple of nanoseconds, while we get London processing again."


I made the mistake of telling Susan some of what I believed one night - about how none of this was real. About how we were really just hanging there, plugged and wired, central processing units or just cheap memory chips for some computer the size of the world, being fed a consensual hallucination to keep us happy, to allow us to communicate and dream using the tiny fraction of our brains that they weren't using to crunch numbers and store information.

"We're memory," I told her. "That's what we are. Memory."


In one of the DVD sets' extra material there is an interview with Lana Wachowski, in that interview we learn that in the original version of The Matrix script the humans were not used as a heat source, they were indeed used for computation.

She explained that one of the suits told them to change it, when asked why they didn't refuse she said "it wasn't that important to us, it was just a plot device".

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    Well I can't include it in my post or it will get deleted. I added pertinent information to my profile "about me". Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 2:37
  • So your answer is based on an outlandish (and palpably untrue) assertion that your friend actually wrote The Matrix and the Wachowskis ripped it off?
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 23:26
  • It's also worth pointing out that anyone passing that this supposed interview on "one of the DVDs" simply doesn't exist.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 23:27

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