Wired: What is your first memory of the original matrix?
Yahya Abdul-Martin II: I may be 14 years old. I remember trying to lean back, trying to do the bullet avoidance movement—trying to grow a hundred arms, moving so fast and so slowly, that I became multiple people.
Bullet time. It is easily one of the coolest moments in the movie.
For me, it’s about what is possible in my own imagination, the different ways I can go out and fight now, and I can imagine the different superpowers I have.
Neo can only do this, because of course he is in a virtual world-as Morpheus said, this is a “neural interaction simulation”. Does reality feel unreal to you?
[Laughs.] Yes, buddy. We just came out of a damn pandemic. One of the things that makes reality seem a little strange—like the universe has changed—is change.
What is an example?
One is the way we connect with technology, the way we communicate with others, and the feeling that we can be in multiple places at the same time. It opens up another conversation that people are having about what is real, what is unreal, and what is necessary to experience reality. The more conversations we have, the easier it is for us to realize that all of these may be dreams, simulations or alternative realities.
If the world is not so real, do you think it is possible to make things meaningful and live a meaningful life?
Absolutely. Finding meaning in everything is not only possible, but also important. You know, many times it takes something, a dream world or a different type of experience, to push you into your own citation-the unquoted “real world”. As long as the mind and heart are open, then you will find meaning in any world your mind allows you to enter.
It sounds like your view of technology is complicated.
I am a hypocrite. I like it when it helps me, and hate it when it doesn’t help. Social media is an ultimate reality in itself. This is a real universe. People spend as much time there as they do in the real world-I say “there” is fun because it turns it into a real place.
Is this healthy?
You must respect this reality. One does not want to be left behind, but also does not want to be consumed by another world, the technological world, so that you are stagnant in this world. In this world, many things are still important-touch and interpersonal relationships as well as real dialogue and discomfort. Technology is designed for convenience. It aims to make things easier and make life more comfortable. But we need discomfort. We need discomfort to grow.
In some ways, this is the message of the original matrix trilogy. The Wachowskis showed us a world mainly made up of non-whites. Although they are oppressed, they are still fighting for a better tomorrow. People who don’t want to be defined by the status quo. What is your explanation for the future they are trying to envision?