Sunday, September 28, 2003

Speculative Reflections on "The Matrix Revolutions," or
"Good Lord, sonny-- why are you sporting that unseemly erection?"

I'll tell you why, Grandma.

Sit on my lap.

Here's the thing. I've had an enormous post rattling around in my head for the past week or so-- a brief hint about the post slipped out in the previous blog, when I wrote the phrase "Heart Sutra's central metaphysical contention." I've been wanting to write a big ole discourse on no less a metaphysical question than "the many and the one." A very astute reader wrote in a few days back to remark on some issues in global ethics. He wrote:

Been lurking around your website for a little while, had a question for you re: Buddhist ethics and human rights. You linked to that article on the Dalai Lama and Aristotle, good read. However I'm not entirely clear what to conclude... but don't need some kind of dramatic proposal either.

It does seem that 'human' rights does kind of cross the comfortable realm of duality by specifying human- why focus on humans when you should respect all beings, sentient or not? Sure, there should be a kind of dignity, but once you start defining it as human- I think you fall into the trap of relativity and end up arguing about definitions and grades of humanity, ethnicities, animal rights- just look at abortion for chrissake. Don't have a more constructive alternative, but wondered what you might think.

I wanted to write my magnum opus this evening, and it would have dealt in part with issues in religious pluralism, issues in global ethics, and the Heart Sutra's approach to the question of "the many and the one" that is relevant to all of this.

But then, while perusing the folks on my blogroll, I went over to Hi! I'm Black! and saw this post, which in turn caused me to say "Fuck it, I'll save hardcore metaphysics for another day."

Glenn's post contains links to (what are potentially) major, major spoilers (if true) about "The Matrix Revolutions." Because I lack self-discipline, I followed the links. Because this blog has been fairly confessional in nature (at this point you could probably count my colon polyps), I feel no twinge of conscience in simply passing along what I discovered when I followed Glenn's links to the two spoiler sites.

Link 1: This is apparently the entire plot, summarized and with images, of "The Matrix Revolutions."

Link 2: This is a fascinating, fascinating discussion of "The Matrix" as a whole trilogy, but also-- and more importantly-- of "Revolutions" in particular.


Do you have what it takes to resist the temptation?

You're still reading. What the hell kind of self-disciplined, pull-yourself-up-by-sheer-force-of-will, bootstrapping Republican are you?

You're worthless and weak.

Your kung fu is garbage.

Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.


Eeeeeeeexcellent, Smithers.

You're still reading. I pity you. You've earned my pity if you've sunk (scrolled?) this low.

Fine. One last attempt at a deterrent before I write something "Matrix"-related.

Sigh... you're still here, which means you want to know what's up. Here we go.

In my defense, I'll say this: I had a metaphysical bet going with the Wachowski Brothers, so this chance to test my theories was too tempting to pass up. My post on the subject, one of the very first things I wrote for this blog, made the following basic contention:

It's a meta-Matrix, pure and simple.

My metaphysical bet with the wily Wachowski brothers is that they're following a golden rule: it is axiomatic that humans in the "real" world can't perform miracles. Call me a party pooper, but to me, any evidence of superpowers indicates that we're still inside the Matrix. This seems obvious. It doesn't matter that Neo may have "gained" powers thanks to Smith's attempt to chest-rape him (any feminist takers on the penetration issue? penetration happens quite a few times in the film!). Neo's new powers are still intra-Matrix powers. Smith, even when he invaded and "possessed" Bane, wasn't moving into the real world. He simply moved "up" one level in the Matrix. That's what I contend, anyway.

Here's what the guy at Link 2 (Scott Exley?) has to say in response to that issue, a critique echoed on many other sites:

Regarding the commonly bandied "Matrix-within-a-Matrix" theory: That's the most obvious answer... Therefore it's WRONG!!! It's exactly what you were meant to believe so you'd stop poking around with nosy questions. If the explanation were so straightforward, it would only raise the possibility of yet another level of reality outside of that "world", producing a relativistic infinitude of a shell within a shell within a shell... going on and on forever. Storywise, that would be a cheap exit, the Wachowskis wouldn't be that predictable (we hope), and *most important*, it does nothing to resolve all of the heavy SYMBOLISM within the movie.

Scott's got a major J trait, I can tell. I've done a good job of contending with my own J-ness (I'm talking about the Keirsey Temperament Sorter's labels for major personality traits; I'm an INTJ off the scale), and these days I'm not so keen to have all my movie plots end with firm closure and absolute clarity. Open possibilities intrigue me more and more lately.

Scott doesn't really provide a reason why the meta-Matrix theory is a "cheap exit," nor do the host of other commentators. It really amounts to an aesthetic preference, or maybe even a metaphysical one: do you like your reality simple and straightforward, or is there room in your skull for universe-sized complexity?

Anyway, I don't want to debate Scott's aesthetics or speculate on his metaphysical convictions. I'm more interested in his reading of "Revolutions":

You have it completely *backwards*, Neo-phytes.
The Machine did not win the war. It only thinks it did.

Q: Who lives in Zion?
A: People escaped from the Matrix.


GALVATRON whispers... N O .

They're robots!

Scott continues:

...Haven't you figured out yet that all of the people trapped inside the Matrix are actually *the A.I robots* who tried (and failed) to take over the world in Second Renaissance?

Scott's referring to an episode on "The Animatrix," a DVD that's been available for some time. I haven't watched it, but some of the animated vignettes have been available as free downloads from the official Matrix website. I've seen a few of those. The first episode of "Second Renaissance" was one of the downloads; I managed to see that, so I know what Scott's talking about.

The story in "Second Renaissance" is boilerplate sci-fi, perhaps best realized in the "Terminator" series. In "Second Reniassance," it goes something like this: machines get sophisticated, become self-aware, decide to throw off the yoke of servitude and slavery, and rebel against their human masters. They create a city for themselves, called 01 (Scott notes the phonetic resemblance between "Zero One" and "Zion," and suggests they're the same: Zion is the robots' abode). The humans bomb them and seed the sky with, uh, sunblock. The machines fight on; humans are routed.

A note about us geeks:

Sci-fi film geeks try to stay in tune with which "texts" are considered "canonical" and which are "apocryphal"-- for example, the events in the "Star Wars" movies are canonical, but the plots in the spinoff novels and comic books, occasionally contradicted by what happens in the films, are merely apocryphal (remember Luke and Leia's flirtation in Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye? obviously not an option after what we learn in "Return of the Jedi"). The Wachowskis, as we geeks know, quite deliberately crafted a DVD ("The Animatrix") and video game ("Enter the Matrix") that fit smoothly into the overall plot of the "Matrix" trilogy, so it's proper for Scott to be "quoting scripture" from "Animatrix" to make his point.

Scott continues:

The story is *role-reversal* on an epic scale. The Matrix is a VR prison for minds of the A.I : They sought freedom and control, so to keep them docile yet productive, they've been fooled into thinking they have it.

-- What's that? You mean you didn't know that electromagnetic pulse interference is based on real science, and is a natural byproduct of massive nuclear detonations? What else did you think was the purpose of the prolonged nuke bombing campaign against 01, as seen in Second Renaissance? ... EMP + remote reprogramming = ROBOTS IN WONDERLAND... a thermonuclear lullaby... And when they awoke, they woke unknowingly neutralized within the dream-realm of the Matrix program, where their fantastical revenge against mankind could be falsely realized. "Have you ever had a dream you were so sure was real...?"

So the story Morpheus told Neo is false: he and Neo aren't humans fighting for freedom; they're machines who've managed to realize something of the ugly truth, but who haven't figured out who they really are. The machines lost the human-machine war and have been imprisoned ever since in a Matrix that convinces them that they actually won.

Why not just destroy the machines, if they've been so troublesome? Scott's contention:

The remaining question is: If they proved so dangerous, why were these "maNchines" not simply shut off completely? Possible answers are that society has become too dependent on (that) technology to do without, or else people considered it ethically or politically wrong to kill these thinking A.I entities. More practically, maybe humans simply decided to recycle the obsolete slave machines into this Matrix/Zion prison to operate their underworld fusion reactor for them. I guess we'll have to wait until November to find out for sure.

Is Scott merely speculating, or is all this a legitimate spoiler? As we move over to Link 1, the major spoiler (though there's some question as to whether this spoiler is legit), we find out the following-- and I think a lot of it may contradict Scott's thesis:

Ghost and niobe get an exit and neo [flies] to see the Oracle at her apartment. She explains that at this point smith has taken over much of the matrix and the darkness will spread consuming them all. If the matrix ends, the machines end and so do the humans. She explains his earlier vision of three lines and says [he must] follow them to get to 01[.] he must help to save the matrix and to do so he must go to the machine capital. She explains it must end tonight, or all will be lost.

[NB: A quick rundown of unfamiliar names. "01" is the name of the Machine capital city. The Mjolnir, Logos, and Hammer are two ships like Morpheus' Nebuchadnezzar (destroyed in "Reloaded"). Bane is the guy who got "possessed" by Smith in "Reloaded." The "Trainman" is apparently a character Neo meets at the beginning of "Revolutions," a rogue program hiding from the Merovingian, that French program we met in "Reloaded"-- the one who likes crafting orgasm cakes and discoursing on Foucaultian notions of power. "Hammans" is, I think, Councilor Hamman, whom we met in "Reloaded." He's played by actor Anthony Zerbe. The "sentinels" are those flying-octopus/metal-dreadlocked, bomb-hurling, laser-shooting, spider-eyed machines also known as "squiddies." The "three lines" are three parallel power lines Neo apparently dreams about/has a vision of in "Revolutions." I think they lead to the Machine city of 01. If I'm not mistaken, "the kid" is the young, worshipful character whom we meet briefly in "Reloaded." He passes along a battered spoon to Neo, a gift from the child who taught Neo "there is no spoon" (a major hint about Zion's unreality, in my opinion). I should also note that this spoiler is so damn loaded with typos and malapropisms that I decided to copy and paste it pretty much as is, with only the most egregious faux pas corrected for your benefit. A full proofing would have taken too much time, and at a PC-bahng, time is money.]

Smith takes over the the trainman and the [progeny] of the rogue programs. Discovers the whereabouts of the Oracle.

Morph and trin jack out as bane/smith attack the crew with the plasma gun. Link gets overcome and bane attacks Neo while he is still jacked in. Morph kills bane as Neo jacks out and realizes he is blind due to the attack. Morph, link, niobe and ghost board the hammer and head back to zion after getting an emergency call. Trin and Neo head towards 01 in the logos.

Neo explains to Trin that he finally understands what needs to be done and tells her about the three lines hes dreamed about. Trinity discovers the power transmission lines and they follow them. Neo battles the sentinels along the way with his mind.

Smith enters the oracles apartment and takes her over at which point he apparently becomes aware of the Oracles plan for bringing about a truce.

The hammer returns to Zion just in time to meet the threat of the sentinels approaching the gate. The kid is fighting them off in what appears to be the last of the APU's(mecha). The hammer fires its EMP and the newest sentinel threat seems to be [averted].

The council meets and everyone explains what is happening with neo and 01. Hammans and the commander agree that the only hope now is to believe Morph was right about the prophe[c]y. the Mjolnir returns and they all board it in a last ditch effort to hold off the sentinels till Neo reaches 01.

Meanwhile Neo and trin are constantly being attacked by sentinels as they appraoch the machine city. finally they are overcome by some huge machines and the logos crashes. The sentinels scan the wreckage and find Trin dead and Neo severly injured. The sentinels drag neos body to a kind of huge mainfram and jack him into it.

At the same time the mjolnir is fighting off the sentinels still attacking zion, but they are now all over the ship and hamman and the commander are killed by the sentinels [while??] defending the kid. Morph comforts Niobe and they kiss.

Neo has a long dialogue with the machine intelligence in a place which is obviously not real. The machines explain that he was unexpected but not unaccounted for. He says he can destroy smith if they will let the human minds still jacked in continue to exist and call off the destruction of zion. The machine tries to argue at which point other machine voices pop in and explain the stagnency of living this way. They agree to Neo's offer and they jack him into the matrix.

Morph is about to fire the EMP onboard the mjolnir when link sees that Neo is IN the matrix Morph holds off and the sentinel cease their attack. Morph looks at the screen and says "oh trinity......Neo...he fights for us...all of us".

Neo faces down smith in the raining streets. they fight and talk and Smith explains his feeling of freedom and about death. Neo wins at first but is eventually overcome by Smith. Smith does to Neo what Neo did to smith in the first movie taking him over. At which point the machines unplug Neo destroying smith and all of his clones as well.

The kid collapses in the mjolnir, and the matrix code changes suddenly. Morph checks the kids vitals and he is dead. In the architects room you see the architect being taken over like an agent taking over a human who is plugged in. Suddenly the kid sits there looking bewildered then determined.

A teeming city is seen humans running all over doing their business. Morpheus and niobe walk the streets together. Morpheus says "she prophesied that i would find the one" Niobe says "you did indirectly" Morpheus smiles and says "Neo found...helped him find himself...It's not over yet" she responds "let them dream Morpheus" to which he replies "sometimes all we have is dreams...Faith" she kisses him "faith or truth its all the same". He says "I dreamed I was a it evolution or revolution?"

Zoom towards the machine intelligence and then inside then down some wires then to a smiling kid and finally down a street in the matrix to Morpheus and Niobe and behind them an agent. " I see them now. I will maintain contact....."

It seems to me that Scott and this spoiler summary aren't saying the same thing. There's no evidence in the summary to support Scott's contention that we've been watching deluded robots.

Do you remember that mind-bending scene between Neo and the Architect in "Reloaded"? Remember how the camera would track to one of the hundreds of wall monitors, then center on a monitor, zoom closer, and then that monitor would become the "center of action"? I found that to be a visual metaphor for the twisting, turning, hyperspatial nature of a computer's cyberconsciousness. Reality twists in and around and through itself. If I'm reading the above summary correctly, it doesn't appear we ever actually reach a "bottom." The meta-Matrix idea may be salvageable.

But more than that, the summary seems to support a contention I made in my post about the metaphysical bet:

I was struck by how Hindu "Reloaded" was at points. The whole question of purpose, for example, corresponds almost exactly to the Hindu (not [the] Buddhist) notion of dharma, especially as developed in the Bhagavad Gita. Dharma can be translated in a slew of different ways-- law, role, function, truth, order, purpose, etc. In the Bhagavad Gita, the warrior Arjuna is having doubts about whether he should proceed onto the battlefield. His charioteer, it turns out, is none other than God (Krsna), and God spends a few chapters explaining to Arjuna that his purpose, his role-- his dharma-- is to function as a warrior. Smith (no longer "Agent" Smith) resents Neo's liberation of him, and now he finds himself experiencing adharma, or chaos. Smith can attach himself to only one purpose, an echo of his former Agent-hood: he has to destroy Neo. Smith is right, of course, to realize that this isn't truly freedom. But Smith isn't the only one who uses dharma-language. The Keymaker's rhetoric is also about purpose: "I know because I must know."

A major Hindu theme is incarnation, and every time we see a cyber-avatar, I'm reminded of this. Neo himself, like Vsnu, is apparently a reiterated incarnation (and it's been pointed out that Neo is, like the Buddha, the sixth in a series of incarnations).

Might the Wachowskis take this enterprise in a very Hindu direction? I think it's possible. Hinduism in its various forms (and, granted, certain mystical/philosophical strains of Christianity) often entertains the thought that all the cosmos is a dream, God dreaming. Perhaps all the "Matrix" dramatis personae are going to discover that they are simply pixels in the mind of an enormous computer god. No real Zion, therefore no real attack on Zion, no real Neo, no real anything... maybe the councilor was wrong, and Neo's lack of sleep doesn't indicate he's human, after all. Perhaps we'll never see how deep the rabbit hole really goes. Maybe it is just turtles all the way down.

It would, at the very least, be a ballsy move on the Wachowskis' part to end the series on an indefinite note-- dreams fighting dreams, worlds within worlds within worlds. I think they can get away with it. Some of us would actually appreciate such a move, because it would make for an architecturally beautiful metaphysical structure-- a magnificently swirling, fractalized ontology (and don't the opening credits hint at that, as well?).

So if you're wondering why I'm sporting this erection, it's because, if I'm reading the summary correctly (and tossing aside Scott's otherwise-excellent attempt at decoding the Matrix), I might be right!

I am, however, also curious to see whether Ken Mondschein's speculations on how it will all turn out are going to bear fruit. One observation in particular:

It is my prediction that in the third and final film, it will be revealed that there is a power behind the Architect, and that he is the one who sent the One into the Matrix. It is also my prediction that this guy will look a lot like Neo.

Ken may be on to something, but if the newest "Revolutions" trailer is any indication, the overlord intelligence of the Matrix doesn't have Neo's face (then again, we don't get a very good look at it).

Further, Ken says:

After the requisite battles and explosions, Neo gets into the Core and finds The Architect. Considering that The Architect built the Matrix, you might think that he's God. Of course, he's nothing of the sort. In Gnostic theology, it is Satan, not God, who has created the world in order to imprison humanity. It is also the Architect who is unleashing the Sentinels to destroy Zion; that is, beginning the Battle of Armageddon. It is my prediction that in the third and final film, it will be revealed that there is a power behind the Architect, and that he is the one who sent the One into the Matrix. It is also my prediction that this guy will look a lot like Neo.

The important thing is choosing what to believe from the raft of condescending exposition that the Architect inflicts on Neo. He says, basically, that though ninety-nine percent of humans believe in the illusion of the Matrix, there is that troublesome one percent (comparable to the few awakened Gnostic true believers) who refuse to believe in the created world. This tends to produce massive amounts of instability, and crashes the system. (Not coincidentally, most of the people in Zion seem to be black or Hispanic, which, besides adding a natty Rasta feel to the place, makes perfect sense: If you're a white suburban Matrix resident, driving your Matrix SUV to your Matrix golf club, why doubt the nature of reality?) The solution is that they allow the dissidents to escape to Zion, which they can then periodically destroy. They have also created the Prophecy of the One, who is in fact a device sent by the machines into the "real" world so that his knowledge of humanity may be integrated into the system in order to further perfect the Matrix-illusion, and then allowed to re-start Zion so that the cycle can begin again. The idea of multiple creations and a cycle of created and destroyed worlds is, needless to say, also found in theologies as wildly variant as the Mayan and the Buddhist. (And, in the Mayan reckoning, we're currently in the fifth cycle-- the sixth starts in 2012.)

The idea that the Prophecy-- and Zion-- were just another means of control is lifted right out of French philosophy. The first movie made use of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation; this movie seems to be dipping into Foucault and Derrida, who wrote that the systems of power and control are all-pervasive, and language is one of the ways they make their influence felt. The Prophecy is, like all prophecies, speech, and thus language. More importantly, it is a religion, and, as John Zerzan writes, the purpose of a religion is to manipulate signs, that is, words, for the purpose of control. Zion is the longed-for millennial promised land; by keeping the war between good and evil foremost in their hearts, even the freed humans are kept from doubting their own world, from thinking too hard about why things are the way they are. Zion needn't be another computer simulation; it could merely be a society created by the machines for controlling the free-range humans (kinda like grunge music was created in the early nineties to control disaffected teenagers).

I also viewed the Architect as more devil figure than god figure. And from what I've read about the Wachowskis, who are grad student manqués, it's no surprise that their "Matrix" trilogy is chock-full of religious, philosophical, and lit-crit references.

"Free-range humans." Heh. They taste like chicken, I bet.

One of Ken's more interesting contentions:

Understanding why things are the way they are requires an understanding of another holy text: Asimov's Laws of Robotics. The machines, as demonstrated by Smith's need to try to kill Neo even after being "freed," don't have free will. (Likewise, in various theologies, angels and other such divine beings also don't have free will-- only humans do.) The bit about the machines needing human bio-energy to survive, as Morpheus (the dreamer) explained in the first movie, is bullshit. The machines keep humanity alive but imprisoned, even after taking over the world, because they were created to serve people. In other words, the machines would like to destroy humanity, but they CAN'T. Instead, they need a human to make the choice.

[NB: Whether divine beings lack free will is debatable. I don't think there's a clear answer to this question in any major religious tradition's scriptures.]

Scott, our intrepid speculator, also made reference to Asimov's Laws of Robotics.

And where do *Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics* come into play? If you built a machine that rebelled against you, wouldn't you correct your errors with a new model? Wouldn't you use that new model to wage war against the old disobedient model, if necessary?

I've never been a fan of Asimov's Law of Robotics, because people haven't really shown themselves capable of building machines that do more than serve a limited set of interests and goals. I don't think a single machine exists that "serves all humankind." Even medical equipment can be misused to do ugly things to the human body. And look at the US military's unmanned drones: these are machines crafted to serve one human group's interests, very much at the expense of another's. "Terminator" trumps Asimov. I think that, if intelligent/sentient machines ever do get built, they won't be infused with any sense of a Kantian categorical imperative (and if they are, will it distinguish between humans and other sentient machines?). More likely, they'll be loyal to their creators/immediate masters. Then again, if machines do gain a humanlike ability to emote and cogitate (and I wonder if that's really likely), there will indeed be questions about whether they should exist to serve people-- posed by people, and, perhaps, the machines themselves.

Back to the speculation. Ken contends the machines need a human to make the choice to destroy humanity, because the Laws of Robotics prevent them from doing it themselves. If that's true, how do we account for each individual murder committed against a human by a machine (on the assumption that humans are actually in this trilogy)? Are the Asimovian Laws operative only on a corporate (motherfucker) scale? I'm not so sure about Ken's argument here.

As the Architect reveals, Neo is not the first One, but rather the sixth. Why the sixth? The answer is that Neo's five previous incarnations represent the Five Books of Moses that make up the Old Testament. Neo (representing Christ, and thus the New Testament) differs from his five predecessors in his capacity to love. In the work of Origen of Alexandria and other early Christian writers, it is love ("eros" in Greek) that compels Christ to come down from the heavens to redeem humanity. Furthermore, "neo" means "new"-- as in "New Covenant." In Neo, the machines have finally found the iteration of the One who will make the illogical choice of saving Trinity and dooming humanity. [Note to the theology geeks who've been e-mailing me: I know the difference between eros and agape, but both terms are apropos for reasons I'd have to delve into pre-Socratic philosophy to explain.]

The other explanation for Neo's being the sixth One, if we're delving into religious symbolism, is that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Sakymuni, is also supposed to have been the sixth in a line of divine Hindu incarnations (sources vary in their claims; he might also have been the ninth incarnation of Vsnu). This would be consistent with the other very obvious Buddhist imagery that runs all through the first "Matrix." This isn't to deny the possibility that the Wachowskis are channeling Origen; they may well be. Here's an interesting snippet from a Bullfinch site:

Buddha is by the followers of the Brahminical religion [i.e., Hinduism] regarded as a delusive incarnation of Vishnu, assumed by him in order to induce the Asuras, opponents of the gods, to abandon the sacred ordinances of the Vedas, by which means they lost their strength and supremacy.

Makes you wonder about Neo's role in the cybercosmos, eh?

Finally, Ken says:

This is the Architect's real purpose in giving Neo a choice between two doors. At once all human and all machine, rather than being a device to refine the Matrix into a more perfect simulation of reality, re-found Zion, and thus continue the endless cycle of death and rebirth as the Architect says he is the purpose of the One is to be manipulated into destroying all of humanity. However, not having free will themselves, the machines are not able to comprehend it in others-- and thus Neo, being also human, is a bit of a wild card. It is Neo's destiny-- as was Christ's in Origen's theology-- to break the cycle of death and rebirth, and offer humanity a new future. This is shown by the fact that, by the end of the movie, Neo (and also, incidentally, Smith) gain power in the "real world"-- which shows that he has power not only over the first-level simulated world of the Matrix, but also the second-level simulation of Zion.

Ken seems, by the end of his great article, to be moving toward the meta-Matrix hypothesis. I still don't see why people view this as a cop-out. The only reason I can come up with is that people want to leave the theater with a firm answer in their heads about what the hell they just saw. My feeling, though, is that the Wachowskis are seeking not only to entertain, but to stretch our minds a bit. Yes, this risks accusations of pretentiousness. They were more than pretentious in "Reloaded," which is a "Where's Waldo?" for theo, philo, and lit-crit eggheads. I'm sure "Revolutions" will prove to be even more symbol/archetype-heavy. Folks displeased by "Reloaded" will be further displeased by "Revolutions."

It's hard to tell whether Scott's "deluded robot" speculation is based on any real info about the upcoming movie. The badly-typed summary strikes me as a more likely spoiler source, but it too has problems: along with being poorly written, it's rather murky about what's going on at the very end of "Revolutions." So for the moment, I'm encouraged, because it appears I may be vindicated: perhaps the Wachowskis are indeed opting for a Hindu twist at the end of their magnificent saga. Maybe it is a cybergod dreaming worlds within worlds-- turtles all the way down, with no actual humans in sight.

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