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In the first part of The Matrix, Neo's brain is being "fed" with all the suddenly extremely important information about the Matrix shortly after he is freed from the virtual world. Why wouldn't all the characters in the Matrix just teach themselves all the possible knowledge in the world? This would definitely be useful in extreme situations. What do we generally know about this process, apart from the fact that it's tiring?

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We see several instances of computer learning in The Matrix, notably when Neo learns combat procedures. Tank seems astounded that Neo is able to continually receive learning without needing to take breaks. Morpheus also seems pretty surprised that Neo has been able to absorb that much info and still use it intelligently.

Morpheus: How is he?

Tank: Ten hours straight. He's a machine.

Neo: I know Kung Fu.

Morpheus: Show me.... Good. Adaptation, improvisation. But your weakness is not your technique.

I think we can reasonably assume that like all learning (instant or not), if it's not used then it will eventually fade away. Jamming yourself with irrelevant info seems like a disadvantage, not an advantage.

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    I don't see any support that information fades, except as a convenient way to explain away an obvious plot hole. The conclusion that I draw from that scene is the difference between "book learning" and "life learning": it's one thing to know Kung-Fu, it's another to know which move to use when and against what opponent. It also must be kept in mind that scene was both a test for Neo's raw capabilities and a lesson in mind-over-body rather than part of his martial arts training. – Schwern Oct 20 '14 at 18:12
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    @Schwern it is common knowledge that most people "use it or lose it" when it comes to information. Why would The Matrix be any different? They are still human. – Dave Johnson Oct 20 '14 at 18:33
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    @Schwern - You can't overlook that on a very real level, it was also a test of his martial arts abilities. It seems that this is something that the crew are especially interested in. Note the immediate interest in Morpheus (their finest and fastest warrior) fighting Neo (the one?) – Valorum Oct 20 '14 at 18:50
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    @DaveJohnson It's also common knowledge that people don't get information uploaded into their brains via a data jack, I am cautious about making real world assumptions about the brain in this movie. Additionally, skill retention isn't that simple in the real world, especially muscle memory; "use it or lose it" is more about retaining brain plasticity and keeping your skills up to date with a changing world. What might be applied is this article on Blocked Practice (ie. the data dump) vs Random Practice (ie. sparring with a human). – Schwern Oct 20 '14 at 19:19
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    @SethBattin, admiration/jealousy for your enemies' abilities (stamina, speed) is pretty normal. "How did you do that? Do what? You moved like they do. I've never seen anyone move that fast." – Paul Draper Oct 21 '14 at 2:57
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I wouldn't call it "automatic teaching of the brain". It's more of an information download into the brain. Think about it like learning a book over the course of one year versus learning the same book for an exam in less than a week, but at a larger scale.
Yes, it is tiring. Yes, that information is volatile. And yes, the more it is the more helpful it could be.

Now think about the brain and memory. If information is written to the memory and it will never be read again, that information will become lost throughout time. If you do a large amount of information download to the brain in a short period of time, the retention of this data is dependent on the energy consumed by this process, therefore tiring, and the usage of this data.

Let's assume that you'll be doing this process a few times (with the same information) in order to retain (remember) what you've downloaded (learned). The estimated memory capacity of a human brain is 2.5 petabytes. This is calculated based on the average number of neurons in the brain, the possible connections between them, and the type of memory they are used for. This is a considerably large capacity, approximately 300 years of continuously watching movies.
With this large storage capacity, yes, a human could memorize most (if not all) of the necessary knowledge to utilize in most of the situations.

Why wouldn't all the characters in the Matrix just teach themselves all the possible knowledge in the world?

  • Each person is different, even when it comes down to this way of assimilating information. Tank's remark shows us that Neo has a better that normal learning capability.
  • Maybe time constraints. They're always in some sort of a mission or under attack by the sentinels and the resources to perform this kind of learning are not enough. By resources I mean:
    • time
    • personnel involved
    • system utilization
    • energy utilized by the learning person
    • and energy consumed by the system.
  • Or maybe the Wachowski brothers didn't think or cared about this detail.
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    It seems a lot more than just book learning though. The idea that you could read any book (or books) and then fly a helicopter is laughable. There seems to be an element of actual learning involved as well. – Valorum Oct 20 '14 at 17:08
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    @Richard, book learning was just an analogy example to identify the difference between normal learning versus fast learning. Ultimately, knowing that 1+1=2 or how to throw a front kick or fly a helicopter can be converted to just information retained in the brain, as memory. – slybloty Oct 20 '14 at 20:40

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