The script of the first Matrix movie is almost flawless, but one theme that doesn't hold water is the statement that the machines' need of humans are as an energy source by extracting waste heat and "bioelectricity". This breaks the suspension of disbelief somewhat*.

Since we know later on that Morpheus has incomplete information (for instance, the age of the Matrix) and since I'm sure the Wachowskis have added multiple layers to their trilogy and associated canon:

Has the Matrix canon or the Wachowskis ever suggested that the machines' co-dependence on humans is psychosocial instead of energy based?

By this I mean, I've gained an strong suspicion from various dialog in the Matrix trilogy and Animatrix shorts that the machines at some level want the survival and carefully managed existence of humans in order to define themselves (existential loneliness?) and the energy requirements are a self-rationalizing smokescreen - Has this implication been suggested or explicitly raised in the canon or by the Wachowskis in interviews?

* In trilogy with anti-grav sentinels, oracles and CPR from inside the Matrix, it's little odd that this breaks the suspension of disbelief, but there you have it.

This question differs somewhat from Why do the machines keep humans alive if they have nuclear reactors? in that I'd like to know what precisely, if anything, in the canon script or directorial interviews affirms the idea that the machines want humans in the matrix because of psychosocial co-dependence instead of any functional needs (be it electricity or organic brain power).

  • Excellent question. I've read that theory before (more or less in the answers to those "why use humans as energy?"-questions here and on SciFi.SE), albeit never too elaborately proved I think. But it's an interesting idea.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:42
  • Though, the top voted answer to your linked question already provides a good start, I guess.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:56
  • @NapoleonWilson That answer is an answer for that question's general if-not-power-then-what discussion, so it focuses more on a "human zoo" or "machines are more humane" consideration where machines have no especial need to preserve humanity. A psychosocial species co-dependency on the other hand needn't be due to humane impulses in the machines. Which considering the ruthlessness of the machines and the spiky head's screaming fit in the third movie, suggest a love-hate relationship instead of conservationism. Nov 18, 2014 at 13:29
  • Well, I hadn't made such fine a distinction admittedly.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 18, 2014 at 13:31
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    @NapoleonWilson I sort of see it as the difference between humans conserving species we don't really like (long billed vultures for example) versus dogs and cats that we'd take with us even if we left Earth or had to live in underground Morlock bunkers. One is our humane impulses on general principles, the other is a strong communal connection to a species. Nov 18, 2014 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


Well, if we look at the trail of events, we have:

  1. Human's create AI, initially machines serve the humans.

  2. One machine goes renegade, killing the human master.

  3. For the folly of one machine, humans resort to destroying a whole species of machines. I say species because machines think and feel 'alive' like any other species.

  4. Remaining surviving machines are pushed to one small location on the map.

  5. They appeal for a constitutional presence, they get denied.

  6. Human armies attack them, and in turn get slaughtered, in desperation humans cover the skies, it's of no use human armies get slaughtered anyway.

  7. Now that the machines had won the war, they have two options – Kill the entire human race, keep them in shelves and use them for whatever power that can be salvaged. So as an initial step machine logic would suggest to try to utilize the surviving humans in some method.

  8. It is also suggested that humans were already playing around with the concept of the Matrix, people who are not happy with their lives would rather prefer to go into an eternal sleep dreaming of a happier life. The Matrix infrastructure is already in place.

  9. All the machines had to do was dump all the humans in this eternal sleep. This is the equal of putting criminals in prison before we figure out what to do with them.

  10. Machines figured how this can work as an energy resource, so they enhance the system and work out the regeneration of more humans through artificial birth. Whilst fission/fusion can be more efficient than chemical energy, it is non-renewable. The math is simple - nuclear energy will run out.

It is never said that humans are the only source of their energy. Just like we have dams, solar panels, nuclear plants, petroleum plants for various sources of energy, the machines too have other sources of energy; humans are merely one of the forms of renewable energy. Perhaps in course of time, if the machines find a much more viable form of energy, the humans may no longer be required and would be purged. The story doesn't go that far though.

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    The reasoning seems sound for 1 - 9; but 10 folds back onto the energy reasoning rather than the psychosocial angle I'm asking about. Technically the solar system is not a closed loop, so no energy source is renewable; but the term is generally reserved for energy replenished within a human lifetime from the sun, indirectly or otherwise. Cellular respiration (i.e the Krebs cycle) ultimately relies on solar input which, depending on who you believe in the Matrix, hasn't been abundant for a thousand years. Whilst any form of fusion can power the planet for millions years from local fuel stock. Dec 19, 2014 at 12:03
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    The line "Combined with a form of fusion, the machines have found all the energy they would ever need." ties off a suspension of disbelief problem regarding their energy supply (in precisely the same way that the phrase "<a plastic spoon> combined with a vulcan autocannon, they have found all the personal protection they will ever need." would tie off a security plothole); but it adds a disbelief problem regarding their actual motives - hence the question. Again, the energy angle is a red-herring; and one that several of the antagonists strongly hint at or discuss obliquely. Dec 19, 2014 at 12:24
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    Ah, I see what you mean there. When Morpheus mentioned fusion, I never really liked it to the process of nuclear fusion where Hydrogen is fused to become Helium. I figured it had to do with some sort of chemical fusion at cellular level to tap out the raw energy. Thanks for the vulcan autocannon annotation, drove the point home.
    – John
    Dec 19, 2014 at 13:32

I believe machines would be very mathematical in their solution. Having the humans free would mean having trouble, humans have the need to dominate. They evaluate a solution which is accepted by 99% of the human race. As long as the human race is given what they want in the form of a dream, with the illusion of choice, they don't provide any trouble. Rather than eradicate the whole human race, they can just eradicate the 1% trouble makers. It is also a fringe benefit that bio-energy can be tapped from the sleeping humans.

The human solution to a problematic species,perhaps, would be to eradicate the entire species.

Nuclear reactors need resources from the planet which is not renewable. The resources will run out. The sun has been blocked, so no solar power. Humans are now automatically the most efficient renewable energy resource so the machines turn to that.

After seeing the Animatrix, it's quite clear that the machines wanted harmony, the humans did not. Had it been the other way around, if the humans had the upper hand, they would simply shut down the Matrix all together, not selectively.

So to summarize, the machines depend on the humans for energy as it is a good renewable resource, but that is not the only resource, like the architect mentions - they are ready to go to any state of existence in order to deal with the 1% threat.

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    I'm afraid this answer doesn't address why the machines bothered creating and maintaining the Matrix. The energy aspect has always been a red herring due the profound efficiency of any "a form of fusion" compared to chemical energy. The Architect's statement regarding tolerable levels of existence can also be interpreted a variety ways; such as the machines humoring their ex-masters with a (subjectively) pleasant digital internment camp - but only up to a point. Humans never actually being a tangible threat to anything other than their own playpen; hence the Architect's frustration. Dec 18, 2014 at 11:40
  • I'm reattempting this answer.
    – John
    Dec 19, 2014 at 5:11

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