As previously supported in the Matrix System: The One page, another consequence of building the Matrix on a foundation of choice is that machines must provide humans a real-world alternative to the Matrix in order for Matrix rejection to be mathematically legitimate. For those who still have a hard time swallowing the idea that Zion is really part of the Matrix system, try to answer these questions:
Why don't Agents morph into people who take the red pill so the Agent can try to kill all of the redpill hackers helping the redpill escape? At the very least, the Agent would get the new redpill killed.
Why don't Sentinels guard the human power plant so that broadcasting ships cannot go to pick up a redpill flushed from the system?
Why don't machines sterilize humans so that they cannot reproduce if they escape?
These questions are answered by realizing that the moral framework of machines requires that 1) redpills be allowed to escape, 2) people who escape need to stand a reasonable chance of surviving once flushed out of the system, and 3) people who escape need to be able to reproduce, to help Zion grow at a rate that will be optimal for nurturing the One. These three considerations all work as strong evidence to confirm that the Architect's requirement for the One to begin the next Zion is indeed what has been happening over and over again.
Zion initially seems like a strange necessity within the system of the Matrix: the machines allow a sworn enemy to exist just so humans have a legitimate choice to reject the Matrix. Wouldn't it at least be easier for the machines to just leave humans out in the middle of nowhere to fend for themselves, rather than having them group together in one city?
Actually, the task of keeping humans under control becomes much easier when all of the humans settle into the same location. Humans are unpredictable since they are irrational, so this is the best way to maintain control of humans in the real world, just as it would be easier for you to exterminate bugs if all the bugs are located in the same place.
It's now easy enough to see that Zion must exist. The problem is, before each Zion begins, no human would ever survive being "freed" into the real world unless another human in the outside world is already there to help. That is why the One has to free himself from the Matrix system first, and "seed" Zion in the beginning of each cycle with 23 new humans. Presumably, once the One dies (perhaps of old age), Zion would have had plenty of time to set up an adequate defense system.
How does the One explain his own escape from the Matrix to the first 23 Zionists? I speculate that it has a lot to do with the One's powers in the real world that come from his connection to the Source. The One could easily demonstrate those powers to the first Zionists by killing sentinels, or perhaps even controlling them. The One needs to be given an authoritative connection to the Source in the real world if the first 23 Zionists are to believe that the One was able to free himself from the Matrix.
Zion serves three purposes within the machines' system of control:
Provide humans with a legitimate choice to reject the Matrix (discussed above).
Locate and train the next One, enabling the next One to reach the Source.
Provide additional motivation for the One to choose the right door: since Zion is presumably always being destroyed when the One reaches the Source, the One would have little hope or reason to choose the left door.
This function is fairly obvious: if the One never escapes the Matrix, he will have no ability to develop the potential of his gifts. Human civilization taking place during the years 1998-1999 inside of the Matrix does not posess technology required to download jujitsu and weapons training programs into humans' brains. Granted, the One already has gifts that are far beyond any other human, but still, these gifts will go completely undeveloped without training in Zion. Presumably, the original 23 Zionists originally develop this necessary technology each time with help from the previous One's knowledge of machines.
The Architect describes the One as having "...a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One." This "profound attachment" can only be created if the One knows the truth about human slaves within the Matrix. Otherwise, if the One returns to the Source without even knowing what the Matrix is, he would probably think the Architect is lying and completely out of his mind. This is why Morpheus cannot tell people what the Matrix is - he can only show them. It's not that it's too difficult to explain. It's just that nobody would believe Morpheus is telling the truth. Even Neo - the One himself - didn't believe Morpheus at first, even after waking up in his human pod and spending days or weeks on the operation table in the real world.
By training with Zionists and by participating in the process of "freeing minds", the One becomes passionately devoted to saving humanity. Of course, the Oracle has different plans for channeling this "passionate devotion" when it comes to Neo, the sixth One (this will be discussed on later pages).
As I support in the Matrix System: Natural Redpills page, the one percent of people who reject the Matrix do not go free. They are still walking around in the Matrix with "splinters in their minds", as Morpheus would put it. What this implies is that the population growth of Zion is due only to a) people actually swallowing red pills, and b) Zionists reproducing with each other.
"Consider that in the past 6 months we have freed more minds than in 6 years. This attack is an act of desperation." - Morpheus
As Morpheus's statement clearly implies, Zion is in the middle of an exponential population explosion. And Morpheus is half right: Although the machines are by no means "desperate" (eradicating Zion has become routine for them), the Matrix is beginning to lose too many humans, and that is why Zion must be destroyed and started over. It is not Zion's people themselves that threaten the machines, it is the fact that they are hacking into the Matrix and freeing too many minds.
Remember that after the Architect finishes describing the “escalating probability of disaster,” Neo says, “This is about Zion.” It is about Zion's threat to the population loss in the Matrix, which threatens the machines' power supply. Zion does not actually pose any threat to machines in the real world, because the machines could wipe out 2.5 million people just as easily as they can wipe out 250,000, and the machines' city is clearly defended to the point of being impossible for anyone but the One to penetrate.
When I first saw machines dig a four-kilometer tunnel down to Zion, I couldn't help wondering if previous Zions were taken out the same way, and if so, how could Zion citizens not notice such tunnels and previous Zion locations? If Zion had been rebuilt several times as the Architect says, it seemed to me that it would be extremely difficult for the machines to prevent current Zionists from discovering clues about five previous Zions, whether it be tunnels, graffiti, wreckage, or someone's old diary device, not to mention the gigantic cavities in Earth's mantle that made up past Zions.
However, remember that the first 23 humans freed from each Matrix always believe that they are the first to be freed. We also know this selection process occurs very shortly after the previous Zion was destroyed, so there would probably be 250,000 dead human bodies for the first 23 humans to discover and joyfully clean up. This wreckage and human death would make it look very believable to current Zionists that humans built an underground location as their last refuge of resistance against the machines after the skies were scorched.
Even under this theory, machines would still have to re-fill and pack the dug tunnels with dirt and rock so that digging could still be used as a surprise tactic to destroy the next Zion. As far as the old Zion mainframe and other computers are concerned, the machines wouldn't necessarily have to erase all data pertaining to knowledge of the Matrix, because the last phase of human resistance could have discovered the fields of human pods and could have even learned how to hack the Matrix.
Remember, initially, it was hard enough for you and me (the "omniscient" audience watching the movies) to swallow the idea that the One and Zion are all part of one continuous cycle that the machines control. It would be even harder for the first 23 freedom fighters to believe that all the wreckage and human bodies are merely the end of a 100-year cycle that they are about to start all over again.
I can't help thinking about the implications of atmospheric pressure at 4 kilometers below the Earth's surface, where Zion is built. Atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 14.7 pounds per square inch. This means there are almost 15 pounds of pressure pushing against every square inch of our bodies at all times. Our bodies compensate by pushing out with the same force. This explains why humans "explode" if not pressurized in outer space, where there is no pressure at all.
When you dive 10 or 20 feet below the water, you will always notice an uncomfortable buildup of pressure on your ears. For every 33 feet down you travel in water, you experience the pressure of one more atmosphere (14.7psi). Humans can dive three or four atmospheres down and survive - any further, and humans need a submarine.
Assuming atmospheric pressure builds the same way through underground tunnels as it would in open space, the atmospheric pressure in Zion would be about 23 pounds per square inch instead of 14.7, which is over 1.5 atmospheres. Humans can certainly dive into water with this pressure for extended periods of time, but what if they took up permanent residence there? Would humans get more frequent headaches? More problems with high blood pressure?
Some less important results of this:
More patient cooks - Cooking adjustments would be necessary since the boiling point of water would be 241 degrees Farenheit instead of 212 (an increase from 100 to 116 degrees Celcius).
More crying children - Balloons full of helium would ascend with more force, causing more children to lose balloons.
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