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Reviews | “Matrix Resurrections” and the grim timeline of humanity is on

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But the internet today tells you who you are, and it is hardly a place free from prejudice. The dominant ethic of Silicon Valley has moved away from the idea that the Internet can be a space to live outside the demands and expectations of society. At Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg, for example, argued that having a second identity is “an example of a lack of integrity,” and the company’s social media policy explains that “Facebook is a community where everyone uses his name in everyday life … so you always know who you are connecting with. Such restrictions are reminiscent of “The Matrix” main villain, Agent Smith, a corporate apparatchik working for the Machines, who insists on calling Neo by his original name. “It looks like you’ve lived two lives,” Smith chides in the first film, after arresting Neo. “One of these lives has a future. One of them doesn’t.

Despite pseudonyms, trolls and alter egos who still live in certain corners of the Internet, its main detours now favor consistency and transparency at the risk of anonymity and reinvention. The idea of ​​the internet as a place to cultivate an identity outside of the niches other people put you in has been eclipsed by the emphasis on social media to build an ambitious personal brand. Self-realization is now measured in the number of likes, shares and followers.

“Our digital presentations are more fluid, influenced by influencers,” Ms. Turkle, professor of social studies of science and technology at MIT told me. “Everyone wants to look their best, but now we have a corporate filter of what ‘pleases’. “

The cultural shift towards a narrowly defined identity – online and offline, across all platforms – aligns perfectly with Silicon Valley interests. The goal of many tech companies is to know us more intimately than we know ourselves, to predict our desires and anxieties – the better to sell us stuff. The presumption that we each have a single “genuine” identity simplifies the task, suggesting to advertisers that we are consistent and predictable consumers.

Technology theorist Mark Andrejic, author of “Automating Media”, used a provocative term for this mode of capitalism: “umbilicular trade”. Just as an umbilical cord meets the needs of a fetus before it can communicate them, so too, technology platforms strive to satisfy our desires before they are expressed. Mr Zuckerberg said he wanted to find “a fundamental mathematical law” that “governs the balance between who and what matters to us all.” And Amazon’s predictive algorithm for what it calls “advance shipping” uses artificial intelligence to predict what you’re going to order and store it in a warehouse near you, for same-day delivery. This is a vision where the Internet is little more than a large “vending machine” that reads minds, delivering products when you think about it, or sooner.

Mr. Andrejic’s term has an odd resonance with “The Matrix,” where humans are grown in uterine-like pods and then connected to the sim by umbilical cords. (The title comes from both an ancient Internet term and a Latin word for “womb.”) The facts of our digital existence – alternate interests at its center – are hidden from us. It’s a future very similar to ours.

As the “The Matrix” franchise returns, the optimism around the Internet in 1999 seems very far away. In our age of climate degradation and extreme inequality, the hours we spend online are increasingly overshadowed by the realization that, like humans plugged into the Matrix, we are perpetuating a system that has no at the heart of mankind’s best interests, a system that may in fact work actively against us.

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