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We humans often have debate if artificial intelligence, no matter how smart it get's can ever be called "alive". Similarly, we have debates about viruses being alive or not. One thing that no one questions is that we're alive.

This makes the scene in the matrix where Agent Smith compares humanity to a virus particularly ironic. He could have said something like "disease", but virus is even more derogatory since he's questioning if we're even alive.

Do you think this irony was inserted by the writers on purpose as a means to have us self-reflect? Or is it just a coincidence?

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Note that Smith actually did call humanity a disease as well.

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we... are the cure

It seems unlikely that Smith is refering to any specific attribute that applies to a virus, that doesn't also apply to a disease, cancer or plague.

It may be that this speech was foreshadowing for later movies, when Agent Smith starts to act like a computer virus, infecting the Matrix and multiplying. Virus carries connotations of 'computer virus', which may be why it gets listed first by Smith.

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    Smith is wrong, by the way. Mammals only achieve balance if there are predators involved. Ask Australians about invasive species (like cute, "harmless" bunnies.) – JRE Jun 22 '18 at 7:43
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    Well, his analogy might make more sense in that animals normally reach an equilibrium in their ecosystem because they can only change through evolution so fast. Humans are different in that they change so quickly, through the use of better and better technology, that most of the natural world cannot keep up. But there ARE things in nature that can change so fast year to year that technology can't entirely keep up with THEM. And that's viruses. – Kai Jun 22 '18 at 14:42

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