"In the imagination of two late-twentieth-century filmmakers, an unseen force of artificial intelligence has overtaken the human species, has managed to control humans in an alternate reality in which everything one sees, feels, hears, tastes, smells, touches is in actuality a program. There are programs within programs, and humans become not just programmed but are in danger of and, in fact, well on their way to becoming nothing more than programs. What is reality and what is a program morph into one. The interlocking program passes for life itself.

"The great quest in the film series The Matrix involves those humans who awaken to this realization as they search for a way to escape their entrapment. Those who accept their programming get to lead deadened, surface lives enslaved to a semblance of reality. They are captives, safe on the surface, as long as they are unaware of their captivity. Perhaps it is the unthinking acquiescence, the blindness to one's imprisonment, that is the most effective way for human beings to remain captive. People who do not know that they are captive will not resist their bondage.

"But those who awaken to their captivity threaten the hum of the matrix. Any attempt to escape their imprisonment risks detection, signals a breach in the order, exposes the artifice of unreality that has been imposed upon human beings. The Matrix, the unseen master program fed by the survival instinct of an automated collective, does not react well to threats to its existence.

"In a crucial moment, a man who has only recently awakened to the program in which he and his species are ensnared consults a wise woman, the Oracle, who, it appears, could guide him. He is uncertain and wary, as he takes a seat next to her on a park bench that may or may not be real. She speaks in code and metaphor. A flock of birds alights on the pavement beyond them.

" 'See those birds,' the Oracle says to him. 'At some point a program was written to govern them.'

"She looks up and scans the horizon. 'A program was written to watch over the trees and the wind, the sunrise and sunset. There are programs running all over the place.'

"Some of these programs go without notice, so perfectly attuned they are to their task, so deeply embedded in the drone of existence. 'The ones doing their job,' she tells him, 'doing what they were meant to do are invisible. You'd never even know they were here.'

"So, too, with the caste system as it goes about its work in silence, the string of a puppet master unseen by those whose subconscious it directs, its instructions an intravenous drip to the mind, caste in the guise of normalcy, injustice looking just, atrocities looking unavoidable to keep the machinery humming, the matrix of caste as a facsimile for life itself and whose purpose is maintaining the primacy of those hoarding and holding tight to power."