In The Matrix, Morpheus was quite clear about why machines had enslaved humanity. In combination with “a form of fusion,” they’d figured out a way to turn us into a power source, with the Matrix as a way to keep us docile as our energy is slowly sucked away and we spend our lives in a gooey pod.
Theories to the contrary began to form soon after, with many pointing out that Morpheus’ explanation just doesn’t make sense. This system is ridiculously inefficient, if the machines just need energy why not use cows, just simulate a vast grassy field at much less processing cost, and call it the ‘Mootrix’?
Now there’s a fun discussion on r/fantheories that says the Matrix was created to allow the machines to safely store the surviving remnants of humanity in a kind of digital wildlife reserve. It’s a theory somewhat backed up by the Animatrix shorts The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2, which show machines repeatedly trying to peacefully coexist with humans. This didn’t work out, with mankind blocking out the sun, rendering Earth uninhabitable to humans but not machines.
The theory compares the machines’ desire to preserve humanity as a parallel to conservationists’ push to keep wolves around. Sure, wolves are never going to truly get back their dominant place in the ecosystem, but all the same, it’s nice to know they’re out there.
A reply further down has a similar take, but instead says that machines keep humans around in the same way we’d care for an elderly relative. This makes the virtual Matrix a vast retirement home for our species; a place where we can be cared for securely, all our needs met, and where they can visit us occasionally. And if a few elderly patients escape? Well, the orderlies can just bring them back in.
It’s a fun take and honestly, a glance at the headlines is a great argument for why humanity really could use a benevolent machine caretaker to make some big calls right now.