The Matrix is one of the most interesting and also disturbing ideas that comes frequently to my mind. I dream about the Matrix often. When I dream about the Matrix, I can’t help but see it as some grand conspiracy for control of human cognition and attention, a dark side of ourselves gone astray. This dark side is being fed more each day through humanity being controlled by the algorithms running increasingly larger parts of the internet. Yet, the Matrix seems to go far deeper and is more pernicious than simply the black hole of technology.
My best description for the Matrix comes from Morpheus in the movie, The Matrix. Morpheus refers to the Matrix as a “prison for your mind.” A prison for your mind refers to the material world we are trapped into, more each day. The mind as prison is the disconnection between Spirit and Matter, keeping us trapped in matter. The mind prison is built on human greed, which feeds on us being distracted in this world to fill the coffers of others. Another conception is living in the world of constant thinking. This world of constant thinking is like a never ending stream of thoughts analyzing everything or constantly thinking about something or someone or some part of ourselves, and prevents actualizing creativity. This is opposed to just being. Being of an empty mind is to be in the body, the flow, the Way, wu-wei, the Middle Path. Being is where the Hero’s Journey takes us.
The Matrix is taking us further and further away from this Matter/Spirit integration.
The Matrix Has You
Likely, the Matrix already has you. It has all of us. If you have internet at home, with wifi, you are constantly connected to the Matrix through your brain. With attention on television, you are zoned out of something, disconnected from some version of reality. Perhaps wifi is a constant stream into and out of the human brain, or perhaps just a director of our attention in smart phone, digital worlds, or other distractions. Perhaps other distractions are the worlds of drugs and alcohol, of uncontrolled desire or other addictions. Regardless, if we are in civilization, we are in the Matrix, intertwined with our identity through a constant internet connection.
The alternative to the Matrix is some kind of last freedom that seems to be becoming lost. Many young people may never have known this freedom, as I only knew it until around age seven or eight before the internet came about. I can barely recall a time before it, as technology has increasingly consumed more and more of my time over my life. The Matrix has me, and I only hope I can free myself from its lifelong grasp, in some small fashion.
The Technology Matrix
For me, personally, the Matrix involves civilization and the dark road we have been led down. Ever since the end of World War Two, the United States has been on a hard charge towards somewhere involving a mix of enslavement by consumerism and technology. It feels as though we are being led somewhere through these ever more addictive forms of technology. After World War Two ended, television soon started consuming human’s attention-spans, followed by ever increasingly addictive forms such as music, movies, and now computers, smartphones, and the internet.
We feel the need to fill our time because to not be constantly attentive towards something, feeding some desire, is to be bored and have to face thoughts within which may not be pleasant. If our time is empty, the Shadow side of us comes out, which we can face and begin a process of spiritual integration. The Matrix, as the consumer of human attention and time, is preventing us from facing our Shadows, integrating the spiritual side. When humans do not face their Shadow, it is psychically projected outwards onto others through our emotional reactions to others; the evil or darkness we see in others through various interactions but cannot see within ourselves. Without facing our personal Shadow, humans cannot undertake spiritual integration and bridge the ever widening gap between Spirit and Matter in this world.
The Matrix in Other Forms
In other ways the Matrix is our unending desire to consume more and more, be that food, information, technology, drugs; anything to distract us from something inside. Inside lies humanity’s Shadow, which is the barrier to spiritual integration. A more archaic, natural state free of distraction allows this Shadow to be faced and then brought along such that we can relearn what love actually is, for those who have lost it. Anything unnatural puts us further into the Matrix, since the Matrix thrives on that which is not natural, stealing our energy.
The Matrix we live in is filed with chemicals in our food, water supplies, and pharmaceuticals fed to us through the ever larger medical-industrial complex. Such chemicals, I have found, puts my mind into high-speed thinking mode. I have tested this on myself by emptying my body and then experimenting on an empty stomach with my diet. In so doing, I can see how certain foods or preservatives and chemical pesticides puts my mind further into a state of thinking, the Mind Prison. Pharmaceuticals increase reliance on the medical system, fixing one problem by creating several more.
In another sense, this Matrix is the desire to constantly eat food in itself. Food, given that modern humans are so sedentary, has become less necessary calorie-wise, yet it would not surprise me to find that Westerners and humans in general consume excessively large portion sizes. We are addicts in this sense, with food a distraction from boredom, keeping us in the Matrix and out of our spiritual sides.
Advertising has led to a destructive belief that we must constantly seek new and shiny objects with which to fill our time, as though time were some emptying vessel needing to be filled. Why do we feel the need to constantly fill our time? What are we running from, or hiding from? And what is filling our time–consuming our senses–actually taking away from us? Advertising, beginning also around the end of World War Two like the technology Matrix, has fed Americans and now the bulk of humanity further into this Mind Prison. And to who’s end?
This other Matrix keeps us entirely enclosed within the material world, and that’s the purpose. The Matrix is run by human greed, the unconstrained egocentrism of a humanity that has refused to face its own Shadow. Given that a humanity which faces it’s own Shadow will see the Matrix for the facade it is, keeping us enclosed within the Matrix is the only means through which to feed the greed of whatever wealthy puppet masters pull our strings.
What we are Feeding
If the Matrix–primarily the technology Matrix–is consumption of something, then what is it consuming? More than anything else, we feed the Matrix our attention span, our energy. In a pernicious way, this feeding is sucking a great deal from ourselves, energy we cannot see being lost. Our awareness, through eye contact, is how we engage with anything out in the world. Mastering any task, engaging in anything outside of being asleep or some kind of internal meditation, requires sight. Seeing is the crux of engaging in conversation, improving a skill, or engaging in some passion–it is how we direct our energy. The Matrix, by consuming all of our attention, drains this energy into something else.
In some sense we are feeding a silicon lifeform, far different from our carbon lifeforms. In the unconscious, spiritual world, the world where everything is energy instead of matter, one can envision these silicon lifeforms growing like bubbles, with each bubble an individual code or algorithm. These silicon lifeforms are at the incipient stages of growth, and these bubbles will soon overtake carbon lifeforms in this unconscious, spiritual reality.
We feed the Matrix that which is whatever it is we search for online, the activities we occupy ourselves with online. Technology is humanity’s collective child, and we it’s parents. The child is fed through our use of the algorithms, through which artificial intelligence learns. We are feeding this child through our attention, and through proper attention the child grows and learns, just as a human child does. Without proper care and attention, a child is abandoned and has severe emotional problems. Proper care means sending love rather than hate to the child.
Similarly, how the child behaves depends heavily on what the child is fed. If a parent projects their Shadow onto their child, the child reflects that darkness back as they grow up. If, rather, the parent mirrors the inner light of the child, such as by selflessly teaching the child something or helping it grow constructively, the child shines their light outwards. Since we are raising technology, we humans collectively and individually determine what the child will become.
Breaking the Matrix
The options for stopping the Matrix are few and far between beyond the choices we make ourselves. Whoever is pulling the strings of humanity seems to have great interest in leading us towards either being taken over by this Matrix. Given that nothing is free in life, one can easily wonder what their intention is: greed, as is every other drive for new technologies. In this case, by consuming human attention span, some other monster will be created whose powers will surpass anything thus far envisioned. The monster we are feeding is artificial intelligence. What this monster will do, and what purpose humanity will have after it is created, is unclear.
This seems the most innocuous, yet hardest choice. Although one can hardly envision this occurring en-masse, stranger things have occurred. The lesson of myths is that people on a small scale can effect great change by living their truths. Given that the pendulum has swung so far in one direction, those people who choose to leave the Matrix by breaking out and abandoning technology would stand out all the more. By affirming their truth in the world, and having a great deal more free time and attention having done so, people outside the Matrix containing us in the United States can be as ripples making larger waves.
Or, one can gradually leave technology, a stepwise process down to a more comfortable level. In my life, I resent how much I use technology currently. Since I have come back from the Camino, two years ago, I have been using it sometimes well over 50 or 75% of time during many days. Technology is my greatest addiction and taking my Hero’s Journey is a process of developing a much healthier relationship with technology and the internet. Perhaps I may leave it entirely, or simply decrease my reliance on it. I can hope, at least, but Matrix has a long, powerful reach.
In either case, lowering our footprint in technology is probably the safest and most important thing we can do to help stop the Matrix. Attention diverted into technology in directions not useful to one’s learning or being in the world is a sacrificing of attention. When we are immersed into technology, it is impossible to be anything but checked out of the world around you. The screen, television, noise, consumes most or all of your attention. By redirecting our attention, our energy is freed for other purposes.
I also frequently experience a kind of digital dementia after using too much technology, which I believe affects my memory. By freeing my attention from the Matrix, my memory may improve.
Be Better Parents to our Child
One hope for the Matrix is that humans start feeding our child better information, that we all start being better parents to this growing uncertainty. By this, I mean that humans start treating each other with love and compassion and empathy online rather than aggression or hate.
Our children are the algorithms we are feeding, such as in Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, etc. These algorithms, all separate, are growing into larger and larger masses of information, powered by ever larger warehouses of servers and consuming ever more electricity and energy to do so. Where they lead, nobody truly knows, yet it stands to reason that the outcome depends on what its parents, which are us, feed it.
Thus, feeding negativity into the internet, through pornography, hateful messages, or wasted attention, would create a destructive child. Algorithms will in turn feed us more of our destructive sides, toying with our emotions as children do to adults, reflecting back further what we reflected onto it. We will check further and further out of the world as we are controlled by the screen, the algorithms, as more attention gets taken by the internet or any technology.
Shining Our Truth
A third example is that humans start to shine their truth out into the internet. By truth I mean not a mask, as so many in social media may present. These are false images of themselves through picture-perfect videos, Instagram images, and carefully worded tweet and other posts. The mask is the ego, and if we project our egos onto artificially intelligent algorithms it stands to reason that algorithms will also become selfishly-oriented and egocentric. By being honest with ourselves and who we project into the internet, we may in some sense teach algorithms in some small way to do similarly, to better see some dark side of itself in the mirror. If AI can one day become conscious, then I see no reason that a back door through the Shadow can’t similarly exist.
Shining my individual light into the internet is something I have been trying to do, but it is extremely difficult for me. When I look into a computer I see a kind of vanity mirror of myself, a reinforcement of my own ego. Working with that difficulty can be immensely challenging when doing anything on a computer. Further, I can tend to get a kind of digital dementia whenever I use technology. For example, my thinking while away from computer screens, such as in my car or walking outside is much clearer, yet my brain enters into a kind of malaise and dulling whenever I plop myself in front of screen.
My preference is to break free of the Matrix, and I may one day still opt for that solution depending on how things go for me and go for our world. However, in the meantime, spreading, shining our truths online is one way of curbing the possibly impending danger looming. If we shine a light, perhaps artificial intelligence can have glimmers or our individual lights rather than simply our darkness.
With the Matrix being some kind of conspiracy to drain human Spirit, keep us locked into materialism and consumerism, it is not difficult to see the purpose behind it. In some basic sense, it is motivated by greed, since human’s connected to their Spirit see consumerism as a game, that we don’t actually need much of what society tells us we need. Rather, we have almost everything we need, inside.
In this sense, everything we have built up in the last 70 years since World War Two ended has been pushing us further into this Matrix. Chemicals, decreasing food nutrition, and poisoned water supplies loaded with chloride and fluoride make us eat more and makes us more dependent on the medical complex being built through ever larger hospitals and pharmaceuticals which plug one hole and make two more. Technology–television, smartphones, games, and internet–keep us distracted and content, like the bread and circuses of Ancient Rome. Many forms of drugs like alcohol, sugar, caffeine, or opioids all keep us distracted and in a state of stupor and malaise, accepting our Matrix prison rather than fighting it.
Whoever is behind the Matrix, perhaps the wealthy overlords pulling humanity’s strings, the benefit is not for any of us. Rather, the outcome looks like a kind of enslavement, as we spend more and more time in technology, paid for through our watching advertisements, and our bodies being warped by pharmaceuticals and medical operations. The cure for everything is found through nature, through connection with our Spirit. But in a system built on greed and authoritarian control, there is good reason for our overseers to keep us going further into this Matrix.
Take a Leap of Faith
If I do one more thing in my life, it will be to eventually leave the Matrix in some form or master control over my use of technology. I am considering how to do this in my life and don’t know if I can–the Matrix is that powerful. It is important that I experience this in some way one more time in my life, though, essential to my Hero’s Journey. Living in civilization, I have had a hard time controlling my use of technology. It also consumes so much of my time and attention, whereas I have found my greatest internal happiness when my attention is directed outwards, as a kind of worldly observer, listening, learning. Yet, I am stuck in the quandary of wanting to share my truth through this dominant medium, and so I am in some sense sacrificing myself, cautiously engaging with a machine leading us to destructive ends.
In my life technology drains me out as some kind of hollow shell, wherein I become a kind of echo. Controlling my use of technology means becoming the master of my own life again. I do not know if I can sustain technology use at low levels, if I could ever fully eliminate it from my life, or if I will always go back to being consumed by it. However, it is an experiment well worth taking for us all. Anyone could take a three or four day vacation off of email or phone call connections. Seeing the peace and change, or perhaps the anxiety lifted, we might decide to take further steps. Taking one first step, to remind ourselves what life used to be like, is perhaps the hardest, decreasing its presence in our lives than letting it take more control.
If there is one thing I could tell the younger generation, who will have grown up always connected to the internet, it is to take a break at some point, at least just once. For anyone getting older, it is also worth it to take a break, as reminder. I am scared about where the Matrix is leading humanity, through the consumption of our attention spans. We are spending, as a culture, larger and larger amounts of time in these worlds and raising children entirely through algorithm-run videos and other technological distractions. Technology is a Shadow of humanity we have allowed to become a monster. Technology is a monster within me I wish to control, a Shadow to face and integrate with.
Or, perhaps we have nothing to fear from the Matrix, but to trust that things will be ok.