The Matrix and the sci-fi stories that became a reality – BBC News

A flick through the cyberpunk literature from the past decade offers a similar sense of doom. Authors imagine worlds where people escape the hell of reality into a virtual realm (Ready Player One), entire towns are ravaged by electronic trash (Waste Tide), global democracy is powered by monopolistic search-engine corporations (Infomocracy), humans are addicted to cybernetic implants (The Body Scout) and developing countries are exploited for their sustainable energy (Noor). Familiar cyberpunk tropes – holograms, megacorps, rebellious subcultures – recur. Optimism remains largely absent.

However bleak it may be, cyberpunk’s popularity looks set to continue. The latest issue of CYBR, which imagines the world in 2070, gives readers the choice of two covers, a dystopian one, showing a murky, polluted world, and a sunny, colourful, utopian one. “It’s our climate-change issue,” says the editor. “The choice is ours, right? In 50 years time, what will the world look like? So the idea of doing two covers is you can choose what future you want.” Joseph says the dystopian cover is set in a cyberpunk future, while the utopian one is solarpunk – a recently coined term that imagines a world where technology has helped humans overcome issues like climate change. “Ironically, the dystopian cover is selling at twice the rate as the utopian cover. I think people find it cooler.”

The first Matrix film included a biting critique of our fascination with dystopia. Agent Smith tells us the original simulation that humans were placed in was a paradise, designed to keep everyone happy. But “it was a disaster,” he says, explaining that the humans couldn’t accept the program and kept trying to wake up from it. He goes on: “I believe that as a species human beings define their reality through misery and suffering.”

Considering their influence, it’s possible cyberpunk works like The Matrix not only predicted a dystopian future, but also enticed us towards one. If Resurrections is to succeed, to give us anything we haven’t already had from the past 40 years of cyberpunk, perhaps it can suggest a new direction for humanity, an image of a world where humans work alongside machines to escape our impending doom. Or maybe it will simply offer us an escape from reality. As Morpheus says in the original film: “Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.”

The Matrix Resurrections is released on 22 December in cinemas and on HBO Max in the US, and in cinemas in the UK

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