# Why the 'Matrix Movie' is unrealistic

• Chaos' lil bro Order
In summary, the movie the Matrix was flawed in its idea that colonies of humans would be harvested as batteries for the Matrix's power supply. The human body uses very little energy and a normal lightbulb (incandescent) which has a wattage of 100watts, equals the power usage of a human body. 600 billion watts (600GW) of power from the entire human civilization would be required to power the Matrix. However, there are several caveats to this 600GW number that would greatly reduce its effective power transfer levels.
Chaos' lil bro Order
I'm going to keep this thread rooted in science, please post replies on topic. I know the movie the Matix brings a lot of creative people and discussions whenever its mentioned, so let's try to keep that passion grounded in realistic terms.

That said, here is a reason why I think the movie the Matrix was flawed in its idea that colonies of humans would be harvested as batteries for the Matrix's power supply...

The human body uses very little energy. In fact, the human body (on average) uses only 100watts of power throughout a typical day. In real terms, this means that a normal lightbulb (incandescent) which has a wattage of 100watts, equals the power usage of a human body. Conversely, your home computer uses about 300-500watts depending on the model. A human can reach peek power usage levels of ~500watts for short bursts of time, like riding a bicycle full out for a minute. So if we consider each human as equivalent to 100watts, we can multiply this number by 6 billion people to reach a total power output from the entire human civilization of 600 billion watts (600GW).

600GW might sound like a lot of power and it is, but consider that the world produced a total of 3,700GW of electricity in 2003. (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/electricity.html) We can see now that our entire population, if used as batteries, would only produce 1/6th the electricity that all other means of electricity generation produce. Note that this number of 600GW is a very high estimate too, because it assumes that the human body is a perfect battery that can perfectly transfer all of its power to the Matrix AI. However, there are several caveats to this 600GW number that would greatly reduce its effective power transfer levels. Here are a few off hand, 1) these human bodies would still need to use some of their 100watts to mediate their bodily functions necessary for sustaining their lives, 2) these human bodies still radiate away some of this 100watts as heat, 3) these human bodies would lose a lot of this 100watts at the junction between their body and the AI matrix interface. I'm sure you can think of many more too.

All in all I think you can appreciate that the human body is a pretty lousy battery and the AI Matrix would be better off extracting energy from the 'food' that they feed the humans, whatever that is. The idea is plain inefficient, just like getting your calories from a steak, when you could have eaten the cornmeal they fed to the cow instead. And if machines and computers have taught us one thing, its that they like to be efficient!

All thoughts appreciated.

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Very good point. And I thought you were going to analyze the "bullet-time" effect using classical mechanics...

But we all know we are very unefficient in using energy. I belief (fantasise) that we will be able one day to use energy from empty space.

Give that, and assumption machines figured out to use energy very efficiently, i think i got contra argument for you.

But sure, it would indeed for machines easier to create chemical, thermal, or other kinds of energy.

Who says that the machines require our current levels of energy production? Perhaps there are only 1/6th as many machines.

In addition, the movie takes place far in the future when non-renewable energy sources may have been exhausted. Since the sky is completely blackened, perhaps biological energy production is the only viable method.

The whole movie is quite unrealistic even in principle. It is very entertaining that is for sure. The dialing the phone with a servo motor and old rotary dial phone had me rolling on the floor. I also couldn't understand why there were only certain geographical places in the simulated reality where you could zap back into real physical reality and out of simulated reality. I guess we are to believe that anything that actually happened in the movie was a bug in the matrix software that ideally would not have been allowed. It's not as if these bugs weren't known about. I could go on and on and on and on...

Do you really think the the Wachowski brothers intended for the Matrix to be seen as realistic? The philosophy behind it is what it is. What's the point in questioning the realism of the world they placed on top of the Matrix? To me, that has no bearing on the main idea of the movie.

Sane said:
Do you really think the the Wachowski brothers intended for the Matrix to be seen as realistic? The philosophy behind it is what it is. What's the point in questioning the realism of the world they placed on top of the Matrix? To me, that has no bearing on the main idea of the movie.

I understand where you're coming from but I believe there should be more to it than the main idea. Believe me when I say I could have taken their idea and created a VERY bad movie that kept the same 'main idea'. And I'd be willing to be that you'd feel differently than you do now.

I loved the matrix, but i really believe dark city is a much better film =)

Aw crap, I've created a monster. I thought my disclaimer would stop replies about the movie in general and we could focus on humans as batteries, but I admit, I was wishfully thinking.

@Guillochon

Now you are dragging this thread into speculation about the energy needs of a hypothetical # of Matrix robots. You know this is the physics forums right?

Someone please lock this if it gets out of hand. I thought my thread had at least a few interesting facts, but wrapping it in the 'Matrix' framework has brought in more ...ahem... than its worth.

Chaos' lil bro Order said:
Now you are dragging this thread into speculation about the energy needs of a hypothetical # of Matrix robots. You know this is the physics forums right?

Considering the question bases itself on speculation to begin with, I don't see the problem with that. We're talking about a movie here...

You make the assumption that the robots require a certain amount of energy; I'm saying that your figure is just a guess. If you had some concrete number of robots, then perhaps we could actually gauge feasibility. We don't even know the number of humans hooked into the system: Remember, this is far in the future.

Another argument I've heard is that the network of brains could be used as a gigantic parallel processor, so it's possible that the robots are using the humans as a computer farm in addition to a power source.

Guillochon said:
Considering the question bases itself on speculation to begin with, I don't see the problem with that. We're talking about a movie here...

You make the assumption that the robots require a certain amount of energy; I'm saying that your figure is just a guess. If you had some concrete number of robots, then perhaps we could actually gauge feasibility. We don't even know the number of humans hooked into the system: Remember, this is far in the future.

Another argument I've heard is that the network of brains could be used as a gigantic parallel processor, so it's possible that the robots are using the humans as a computer farm in addition to a power source.

ok you win

Averagesupernova said:
I understand where you're coming from but I believe there should be more to it than the main idea. Believe me when I say I could have taken their idea and created a VERY bad movie that kept the same 'main idea'. And I'd be willing to be that you'd feel differently than you do now.

So you're saying that an unrealistic movie = a bad movie?

@ Order,

I think you're opening post pretty much covers the battery aspect. I doubt there is much to add beyond everyone just nodding their heads, saying "yeah, I know." The premise of the entire movie is absurd. The rest of the Matrix also does not adhere to any scientfic principles either. You might as well discuss the poor physics that is dislayed in the Harry Potter movies.

Didn't they also have fusion? Redering the bio-battery absolutely useless?

(Sorry if it was already said, I couldn't be bothered reading all that)

I also like when he traveled so fast he blew up everything behind him and then caught Trinity while going that speed.

Sane said:
So you're saying that an unrealistic movie = a bad movie?

Please point out where I said this. Don't put words in my mouth, it's inSane.

A realistic film is rarely a film worth watching.

Wasn't he using a warp drive technique? With precision he catch her couldn't he?
A realistic film is rarely a film worth watching.
*cough* march of the penguins

Yes, but don't worry about the massive impulse on her body that would vaporise her.

Averagesupernova said:
I understand where you're coming from but I believe there should be more to it than the main idea. Believe me when I say I could have taken their idea and created a VERY bad movie that kept the same 'main idea'. And I'd be willing to be that you'd feel differently than you do now.

Sane said:
So you're saying that an unrealistic movie = a bad movie?

Averagesupernova said:
Please point out where I said this. Don't put words in my mouth, it's inSane.

Think about it. You said the Matrix was unrealistic. I said that's besides the point, because that doesn't deter from the 'main idea' of the movie. Then you said that's irrelevant because you could make a movie that is bad without affecting that same idea. But what's the point in making that argument, if making "a VERY bad movie" doesn't mean making an unrealistic one? If you're just saying that making it bad can keep its theme intact, so what? You're throwing tomatoes in the fruit bowl.

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Getting back to the OP's claim - I would suggest a modification.

The premise of the movie is flawed. Forget about the details. The premise is that humans are used as batteries because nonrenewable sources of energy are tapped out.

This is the problem I've had with the movie from the beginning.

1] The humans have to be fed nutrients to keep working. Those nutrients are a source of chemical energy. Where is the energy coming from to create the nutrients to feed the humans?

2] The machines are stumped by overcast weather? They can't - oh I don't know:
- fix it?
- build a tower that extends beyond the clouds to reach sunlight?
- blow off the whole atmosphere and its black cloud?

Forget about the details. If you have an energy crisis, making 6 billion power transformers doesn't fix your problem.

Well, as I understood it, the machines had to tap the energy for THEIR use from humans, i.e, they couldn't be anything but vampires.

Shows you how much I cared about the movie; I thought that they were being used as processors as Guillochon suggested. I only watched it to see fellow Canuk Carrie-Anne Moss in leather, and haven't seen any of the sequels.
A mechanical society (or whatever it would be called) should actually have much lower power requirements than a biological one. Just consider the things that they don't need:
lights*
climate control
food production/processing/transport
same as above for pharmaceuticals, furniture, toys, cosmetics...
TV and other forms of entertainment (including print media)
cooking/laundry/etc. appliances
water/sewage treatment facilities
the 95% (made-up guestimate) of trains, planes, etc. that is devoted to moving people
...and the list goes on.

*which bugs the hell out of me about about the Terminator movies--why are the robots using spotlights to find humans?

Danger said:
Just consider the things that they don't need:
lights*
climate control
food production/processing/transport
same as above for pharmaceuticals, furniture, toys, cosmetics...
TV and other forms of entertainment (including print media)
cooking/laundry/etc. appliances
water/sewage treatment facilities
the 95% (made-up guestimate) of trains, planes, etc. that is devoted to moving people
...and the list goes on.
Many of the above also go for putting humans on Mars.

Quite right. I can't remember whether it's Ivan or Integral (or both) that's always promoting the idea of unmanned exploration for those very reasons.
I agree with that in the realm of pure exploration, but we are eventually going to have to colonize somewhere. As long as most of the population won't (or can't) practise zero-population-growth, there simply won't be room for everyone, never mind resources.

Danger said:
Shows you how much I cared about the movie; I thought that they were being used as processors as Guillochon suggested. I only watched it to see fellow Canuk Carrie-Anne Moss in leather, and haven't seen any of the sequels.
A mechanical society (or whatever it would be called) should actually have much lower power requirements than a biological one. Just consider the things that they don't need:
lights*
climate control
food production/processing/transport
same as above for pharmaceuticals, furniture, toys, cosmetics...
TV and other forms of entertainment (including print media)
cooking/laundry/etc. appliances
water/sewage treatment facilities
the 95% (made-up guestimate) of trains, planes, etc. that is devoted to moving people
...and the list goes on.

*which bugs the hell out of me about about the Terminator movies--why are the robots using spotlights to find humans?

I'm not sure this is true. While we may not call them by the same names, most of these things would be required by any society - even a mechanical one.

they still need light of some sort to do their jobs
climate control - otherwise they all need heaters and coolers
food production/processing/transport - fuel processing, transport
same as above for pharmaceuticals - parts, matrerials
cooking/laundry/etc. appliances - again, fuel, etc.
water/sewage treatment facilities - waste, etc.
the 95% (made-up guestimate) of trains, planes, etc. that is devoted to moving people - they still need to get around

It's a matter of the sophistication of the society in question.

Hey, Dave;
I did, in fact, consider all of those points as I was composing that. Almost all of them are already necessary, so I tried to concentrate upon only those things which are biology-specific. All of the manufacturing, transportation, communication etc.. infrastructure that a mechanical society would require is already in place and operating.* While those facilities would probably need to be expanded to some extent, I don't believe that it would overshadow the savings achieved by eliminating people.

*This includes such things as (for instance) vehicle heating/cooling systems, vision enhancement (such as Starlight scopes, ultrasonics, radar, etc.), fuel processing facilities, and so on.

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But what if robotic intelligence can only be maintained by regular infusions with human blood??

And what if a weather balloon could cross-breed with a cow? That's about as likely.

Danger said:
And what if a weather balloon could cross-breed with a cow?

It can't?
I'm devastated..

Danger said:
Hey, Dave;
All of the manufacturing, transportation, communication etc.. infrastructure that a mechanical society would require is already in place and operating.
In principle, not in practice. Or I should say, in spirit but not to-scale.

If we scaled up the machines in size, numb er and productivity, we'd find they used and expended and required resoruces simialr to humans.

arildno said:
But what if robotic intelligence can only be maintained by regular infusions with human blood??
The big thing (IMO) that separates a society of mechanical organisms from a society of biological organisms is that a mechanical society is aware of - and thus able to modify - every aspect, even the tiniest - of its workings.

Biological organisms are far too complex (and illogical) in how they're built. And we understand far, far too little about how they work to be able to mess with them to any degree. Our hardware and software development goes back billions of years before our knowledge of it, and we have to reverse-engineer billions of years of evolution.

It is much MUCH easier to eat a cow and a carrot - knowing that cows and carrots have provided what we've needed nutritionally for millenia - than it is to synthesize the correct proteins in the correct ratios that we need to sustain ourselves - let alone change them as we see fit.

Conversely, using Arildno's example, the mechanical society will know EXACTLY what the components are that it needs, and won't have to look for such an inefficient way of getting them such as leeching them from humans. Likewise, the mechanical society will be easily able to modify its citizens' hardware or software at will. Their own development is within their knowledge, i.e. they have no pre-history to reverse-engineer.

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Sane said:
Think about it. You said the Matrix was unrealistic. I said that's besides the point, because that doesn't deter from the 'main idea' of the movie. Then you said that's irrelevant because you could make a movie that is bad without affecting that same idea. But what's the point in making that argument, if making "a VERY bad movie" doesn't mean making an unrealistic one? If you're just saying that making it bad can keep its theme intact, so what? You're throwing tomatoes in the fruit bowl.

I'm not really sure what the heck you're talking about. In my opinion you implied that since the main idea of The Matrix was legit then it is required to be considered a good movie. I believe that the main idea of the movie is legit and after that it kinda falls apart. While it is entertaining to watch and I don't consider it a bad movie, some of the things I pointed out earlier and MANY posters have pointed out since make the thing unrealistic.
-
I personally could take the main idea of The Matrix and make an absolute terrible wreck of a movie out of it. I as well as scores of other folks would consider my version a bad movie even though the 'main idea' is still good. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that a legitimate main idea does not necessarily equal a good movie. Likewise, making an unrealistic movie does not necessarily equal a bad movie. In the case of The Matrix my opinion is that it was entertaining enough to be considered a good movie. Lots of folks would not consider it good for various other reasons. That is their opinion and they are entitled to it.
-
Throwing tomatoes into the fruit bowl or whatever, call it what you like but I did NOT say that an unrealistic movie is automatically a bad movie. Oh one last thing, the whole theme of The Matrix is nothing new at all. Total Recall follows the same story line. That movie was based on a short story if I recall correctly.

The short story was 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale' by Phillip K. Dick.

Thank you Danger!

Wow, I knew my thread title would draw many replies, but I was unprepared to weather such a storm. My goal was to sneak in a lot of information about the human body's power usage and to put our aggregate usage into perspective versus the world's total power production. The Matix bit was just a guise to make the post more entertaining and to show that humans as batteries is a really inefficient idea.

That said...

Danger inspired me to think that the emergence of a world dominant AI would be a much more efficient consumer than humans are.

Consider a scenario where, right now, there is a sentient AI in the internet that sees humans as a threat to its 'life' and it has the sole goal of self preservation. We will assume that this AI has access to every bit of information published online, even secure top secret documents and technical schematics from all of the world's leading research institutions. Now we assume (again for the sake of this scenario) that this AI can gain control of all the networked electronic systems found worldwide, at its instant whim. But, the AI opts to wait until a time when it knows that it can successfully wipe humans off the Earth in one fell swoop. Perhaps the AI would wait until armed UAVs are mass produced by armies, since most military hardware still requires a human-in-loop to kill its enemies.

Okay, so what's this very speculative scenario prove? Nothing. I just wanted to suggest the possibility that an AI could be self-aware, but not neccessarily capable of creativity or innovation. See, you could argue that this AI should just take over the world now, by nuking all major cities and then it could create its own army of UAVs, soldier bots, etc.
But I think creativity/innovation cannot be attained by an AI (wrongfully so perhaps). This means that the AI must wait until we humans create the unmanned-instruments that it will eventually use to destroy its very creators with, namely us, humans.

Maybe the AI would even keep a few of us humans around in a controlled prison/lab to ensure that our creativity fueled the AI's growth. Hey 'danger', if your phone rings tommorrow and a low, muffled, robotic voice asks you if you can do some consulting work for it, please tell me so I can find the nearest bunker!

Heh. Ok not much science in this post, but it was fun.

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