Okay, I wasn’t gonna post this because it’s basically fanboyish overanalyzing of an entertainment medium, trying to make sense out of something which could not possibly exist in any conventional physical sense. But Josh seduced me with his feminine wiles and I had no choice.
For a long time I had real problems with the Matrix, because in dealing with database application development every day, I didn’t see how it made any sense. I mean, you wanna kill Neo, you just go into the database and throw the “Alive” field boolean value to FALSE. Done. Why mess around with the kung fu and the shooting and the sunglasses and stuff?
But after playing through .hack, it occured to me — the key is in the WAY the Agents have to access the Matrix. They aren’t floating around in the database as pure code, no; they can only do things inside the matrix THROUGH a living human being. Once that human’s dead they need to find a new host or they won’t be able to continue their actions.
The interface’s limits are essential; without adhering to the human connection’s standard, they aren’t able to take action, presumably because in order to maintain data integrity (which is a serious concern in database design) you can’t just run willy nilly in the data throwing booleans and modifying things to your heart’s content. Even a tiny change could set up a cascading failure which wrecks the whole thing, and the machines don’t want that; it’d mean thousands of people waking up at worst, and dozens witnessing visual artifacts in the matrix at best (which is equally nasty on The Jig Is Up front).
Notice that even when they seal the building with bricks, it produces artifacts (deja vu) and that’s a fairly minor thing, adding in realistic elements to an already realistic simulation. They can’t have giant poorly designed CG monsters stomp in and tear Neo apart in a flashy, Mortal Kombat level VFX sequence — it’d be too alien a change for the matrix to withstand, since the database is trying to enforce data integrity.
So, they go in through humans. And while they can ‘bend’ some rules, just like the humans do (and are faster and more capable at bending them, at least until Neo knocked ’em off the #1 spot on the leader board) they still have to stick to the standards which keep the Matrix consistent and stable. That means that while they have enhanced speed and strength, if their human hosts die, they lose their access because the living interface died on them.
To push an analogy even farther, and on a semiunrelated note, one explanation for Neo’s wild abilities might be that he has some Agent code lying dormant inside his mind. Clearly the agents can run their code inside the human brain — what if at one point, Neo was used as a vessel for an agent and then either something went wrong, or there were simply echoes left behind when the agent departed? (Matrix comics prove that agents can vacate a body voluntarily; in the movie they’re always forced out by being shot, but hey.) That code, that level of extra access, plus Neo’s human instincts and capabilities, allow him to exceed his potential.
…okay, I don’t think any of that made sense. But at least I’m not 200 pounds overweight and wearing an “I Grok Spock” t-shirt, right?
PS – I was serious about the UE lemons. I’ll get right to work on UE10 if I find one in my inbox. ^_^
PPS – a GOOD one.