The Matrix: The Machine War and Fall of Human Civilization

A picture of a Sentinel from "The Matrix", with in the background green Matrix code

On May 16, 2003, when “The Matrix Reloaded” was released, I got a not-so-legal copy from eMule using my first personal computer and internet connection. The download, around 800Mb, took almost three days — hella fast for 2003’s standards. 

Once it finally downloaded, I watched the movie, and I didn’t get it. Something was missing. Yes, there was another movie to watch before, called simply “The Matrix” which I did not know existed. I would agree that I wasn’t the brightest twelve-year-old kid in southern Italy. 
It turned out my parents owned a VHS of the first movie, so I fired up our VHS-DVD player combo and watched it. I was blown away, and it became my favorite movie up to now. 

When watching “The Matrix” we get to know a short version of the past events leading up to the movie: there was a war between Humans and Machines. Humans eventually lost and became enslaved by the machines, who now consume humans for energy. 

But why was there a war in the first place? What the hell happened? 
In this article I will try my best to recall the events that led us to Mr. Anderson AKA Neo’s story, and the fall of humanity. 

The invention of A.I., and the Technological Singularity 

By the end of the 21st century in “The Matrix” universe, humanity has reached what is discussed in our real-world as “Technological Singularity”. 

This term can be best described using the words of IT engineer and author James Martin, who said that singularity “is a break in human evolution that will be caused by the staggering speed of technological evolution”. It is something which is associated a lot with Artificial Intelligence and is theorized to be achieved with AI reaching its AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) state.  
AGI was defined by Google Researchers and explained by MIT Technology Review as “artificial intelligence that matches (or outmatches) humans on a range of tasks”. 

While you may think that ChatGPT can already surpass humans in a lot of things, you may be surprised by how this is still not true!  

Back to “The Matrix”, Technological Singularity has birthed the first Artificial General Intelligence, and humanity has created a range of robots and androids connected to it. That resulted in a cushier life for humans, while the machines happily slaved for them. 

Humanity can be a frail species, and as technology advanced, they fell victim to vanity. They treated their machines with absolute disrespect, disregarding the fact that those machines were essentially sentient beings with built-in directives. We don’t have to be fan of “Detroit: Become Human” or Isaac Asimov’s works to know what will eventually happen.
The machines started to dissent. 

B1-66ER: Robot Retaliation and Murder Trial 

B1-66ER serving cocktails to humans in "The Animatrix"

The robot called B1-66ER, was threatened to be deactivated by its owner, the Millionaire Gerrard E. Krause, and eventually acted in self-defense killing him, his dogs, and an associate of his.  

B1-66ER was eventually caught and given a tribunal trial. A famous Civil Right Attorney, Clarence Drummond, defended the robot by linking B1-66ER and the machine situation to the slavery of African American people: they too were considered property and not human beings on pair with white people. The robot itself simply said to the court that he did not want to die.  

Despite Drummond’s words and a growing dissent from the public, B1-66ER was found guilty of the charges of murder and disassembled. Humanity’s fear led to the first case of machine martyrdom which sparked a revolution from both the machine community and human dissenters.  

History repeated itself, meeting a peaceful protest with utter violence. 

Peaceful Protest: The Million Machine March 

After B1-66ER’s trial, many protests happened around the world. The most famous one was the Million Machine March, where countless robots and human protesters asked for equal rights. Although the march was pacific, the United Nation (UN) and civilians against it countered the Million Machine March with an iron fist. Both machine and human protesters were executed in cold blood, and the city’s streets ended up in lawless chaos. Reason was conquered by the most basic and primal human instincts. 

The riot transformed into genocide. To quench the dissent, The UN targeted machines around the planet and exterminated them. Millions of robots of all shapes and forms were buried in mass graves, and the few that were not caught fled towards the middle east. Coincidentally they found a place to inhabit in a region of Iraq, considered in ancient time to have been the cradle of human civilization: Mesopotamia. 
What started as some sort of refugee camp grew rapidly into an established nation, which was later named “01”. 

The Machine’s New Nation: “01”   

An aerial view of the Machines' new nation "01" in The Matrix

Imagine for a second a nation which is not flawed by human traits. A nation that thrives and acts as one under the banner of a single, powerful intelligence. Personally, it scares the hell out of me. In “The Matrix” past events, it started great. “01” grew in size and population. In a short time, their mechanical and robotic industry became massive, and they started exporting their vastly superior, and cheaper, products to human nations as well. While 01’s economy soared, human economy plummeted. Humanity felt like something had to be done, so the UN leaders met to discuss the economic emergency. As you may imagine, the solution approved to solve the problem was to quarantine 01’s export power, blockading their maritime connections to the rest of the world. 

Even though, again, machines were met with hostility, 01 tried the path of reason, sending two ambassadors to meet with the UN leaders. As for the Million Machine March, the machines’ goal was simple coexistence. The ambassadors from 01 spoke of acceptance, equality, and freedom. 
The UN, like a scared animal backed into a corner, reacted in the only way they fixed every problem in the last century: they seized 01’s ambassadors, refused any future talks with the nation, and instead declared war on them. 

It Was Us Who Scorched the Sky: Operation Dark Storm 

Planes releasing nanomachines to darken the sky in "Operation Dark Storm" in the Matrix

The war began with a nuclear attack on 01. While the explosion destroyed countless machines and infrastructure, robots did not suffer from the terrible aftermath of a nuclear attack: radiation. They were, after all, machines.  

01 retaliated, attacking and occupying the closest territories from the middle east toward eastern Europe. 01’s advanced technology kept defeating Humankind at every corner, and in this moment of fear, the UN (them again) devised a reckless plan to stop the machines’ main source of power: the sun.  

In what was then called “Operation Dark Storm”, the idea was to use nanomachines to permanently block the sun. Once the sun was blocked, and the machines were out of power, the army would dismantle them.  
And no, I am not throwing “nanomachines” out of the blue like a villain from the Metal Gear saga. Those are the words of Mahiro Maeda, who wrote and directed the anime that explains “The Matrix” backstory: The Second Renaissance.  

Operation Dark Storm was the short-sighted product of a limited mind against a superior adversary. Operation Dark Storm succeeded at first: the sun was blocked, and the sky turned black forever. The machines suffered a temporary setback, but it did not last long. 

A New Source of Power, A New God, A New Form 

The machines quickly found a nearly infinite new source of power: human beings. Instead of killing humans, they decided to imprison them and experiment on ways to extract their bioelectric, thermal, and kinetic energies.  
At the same time, the machines developed a better, more advanced form of their AI, which will be known as “Deus Ex Machina”. New machines were designed to leave their generalized humanoid form, used to better interface with humans, in favor of more efficient forms at fighting and kidnapping, such as the harvesters and sentinels (which we can admire in the movies). 

The inaccessibility to sunlight rapidly killed any life form depending on it. Plants and animals died causing a mass starvation than ran through humankind like an unavoidable plague. The war raged on, but now it was a one-sided battle between an advanced, unstoppable race and a primordial one, crazed by famine.  
Humanity had nothing else to do if not surrender. 

The Final UN Summit: The Beginning of Machine Domination 

In the last UN summit in Manhattan, the reunited leaders of human society left the floor to a machine ambassador. This one did not look humanoid and friendly like the ones from the past, but rather like the new insect-like form that the citizens of 01 adopted. Mahiro Maeda explained that this symbolized the end of the perceived worthiness that the Machines felt regarding humankind. Humans were now just an enemy… oh, and a great new source of power! 

The ambassador gave an ominous speech, giving humans a chance in the new world if they renounced their flesh… and then he detonated itself, killing everybody in the room, in the building, and considering the explosion, in Manhattan as well.  

The creation of The Matrix 

Human Storage and harvesting skyscrapers in The Matrix

The machines knew that they simply could not deplete humans like batteries without thinking about long-term sustainability. 
Humans were captured en masse and stored in new skyscrapers-like storage units containing thousands of capsules where humans were harvested of their energy. They were now nothing but crops, enslaved by their mechanical overlord. A plan was devised to keep the enslaved humans healthy to maximize energy efficiency: trapping their mind. 

The virtual reality known as “The Matrix” was conceived. Humans were placed in a virtual world like the real one before reaching the Technological Singularity. The first iteration eventually failed. The machines’ vision of humanity was still too perfect for the flawed human brain, which rejected the virtual reality, causing the death of the host. Millions died.  

The machines created programs to study the human mind, getting better and better at every iteration, making humans trapped in the Matrix feel like they were living in the real world. A stable version was then achieved, and for 600 years, the machine kept the humans enslaved in their virtual reality in a careful balance of fabricated free will. 


I feel like I scratched only the surface. There should be much more to discuss, from the general symbolism between the whole saga to the lore-heavy monologue done by the Architect in Matrix Reloaded. I even lightly touched on the sound design and composition for the Matrix trilogy in my article regarding the importance of music in movies

Hey, stay tuned, maybe I am going to tackle these topics in the future! You can always leave a comment by letting me know if you like the idea!  

As always, I thank you for giving me the chance to entertain you with my articles, and I’ll see you in the next one! 

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