To me, The Matrix is a metaphor for marketing, or at least for the idealized world marketing wants to make for us in the digital age, where they “deliver experiences” mostly meant to “acquire”, “control” and “manage” us. This was already marketing’s clear intention when we posted The Cluetrain Manifesto on the web that very same month.
But, popular as Cluetrain was (especially with marketers, for some reason), it didn’t stop marketing from building a matrix for us.
We live there now. Unless you have your hardware and software rigged for absolute privacy while roaming about the online world (and can you really be sure?), you’re in that matrix.
In the first Matrix movie, Morpheus asks the still-captive Neo if he believes in fate. “No”, Neo says, “because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.”
We can’t be in control of our lives as long as those lives are contained by platforms and we lack the tools for mastery over our virtual bodies and minds online.
It doesn’t matter if Facebook, Google and the rest have no malicious intent, or if they really do want to “bring the world closer together”, or to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” or to “develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible”. We need to be free and independent agents of our selves.
That can’t happen inside the client-server systems we’ve had online since 1995 and earlier—systems that might as well be called slave-master. It can’t happen as long as we always have to click “accept” to the terms and conditions of the online world’s incumbent systems. It can’t happen as long as everything useful in the online world requires a login and a password. Each of those norms are walls in what Morpheus called “a prison for your mind”.
We have to think and work outside all the walls in that prison.
We have to make everyone a Neo, able to operate both within and outside the controlling matrices of the world.
The matrix is a system, and that system is our enemy.