By now, over eighteen years since its release in movie theaters, everyone has either seen or heard of a film called The Matrix. The story of The Matrix follows a hacker named Thomas Anderson as he grapples with a meaningless 9 to 5 job, his own illegal activity, and his feeling that something is wrong with the world- a feeling that keeps him awake at night until he falls asleep in front of his computer. Neo finds out that he’s been living in a planet-sized simulation, the purpose of which is to keep human minds occupied for the duration of their life spans so that the machines who run the real world can siphon off body heat and latent electricity from each body, thereby powering the machine world.
He finds that individual human beings have been turned into batteries.
While many of the principles The Matrix develops are more theoretical than practical -such as the notion that a real world and a dream world might be indistinguishable from one another- the idea is that human beings serve as batteries in order to keep an oppressive, inhumane system powered up and operating. In the movie, this was literally a race of artificially intelligent beings. In real life, outside of the context of a movie, this is of enterprise that largely uses up people for its own sake without considering whether the people- batteries- like it or not.
After all, no one asks the opinion of a cell phone battery. It’s just there, sometimes being drained, sometimes being allowed to recharge, most of the time powering a device that operates without any benefit to the battery at all. If the battery was a living organism, it would have no incentive to provide any charge to the phone at all. It doesn’t get paid for its work, and when it has given everything it can, it is thrown out for a younger, newer model.
Sadly, this is how today’s economy works. A company is a system, or a part of system, that produces a result desired by its owner. The owner’s job is to find the best batteries- ie, people- that he can in order to make the system work. It make take a dozen or a thousand batteries for the desired result to be generated. If any battery stops doing what is expected of it, it is removed and replaced.
No one invests any amount of money in batteries except what is necessary. The cheapest ones available will do, as long as they work. If a battery becomes disobedient- doesn’t want to work- it is thrown out and replaced. A battery must always be silent and compliant. The system matters more than any one individual fuel cell.
After all, this is what the owners of the world’s largest companies and biggest governments desire: people who provide silent, steady work to keep the system running. They don’t want unique individuals with whom they have to interact and negotiate. They want organic lifeforms that look much the same as one another, and who act much the same as one another. There’s a certain feeling of safety in seeing that all AA batteries in use look alike.
Conformity produces better results than diversity. Every battery owner will tell you so.
If you can replace the words “battery” and “batteries” with “person” and “people,” you’ll have a good idea of how today’s economy actually works. It’s not an economy built for human beings with thoughts and opinions of their own; rather, it’s an economy based on numbers where figures matter more than anecdotal experiences, and where statistics hold greater value than genuine human interaction.
If a battery can’t provide nine volts of electricity, what’s the point of even having it?