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The Overlooked Duality of Agent Smith's Name
by Jason Salas
In considering the numerous references made by the pop culture phenomenon that continues to the Wachowski Brothers' "The Matrix" saga, I've recently developed a theory about one character - a main one - that has curiously gotten overlooked in the dissection of his name, one that may carry more meaning that at face value.
The theological, literary and historical significance of the names used in the films (The Matrix, The Matrix - Reloaded, and The Matrix - Revolutions), video game (Enter the Matrix) and collection of animated shorts (The Animatrix) can't be understated. Names like Morpheus (the god of dreams in Greek mythology), The Oracle (at Delphi), Captain Niobe (Biblical), The Merovingian (as in the Merovingian Kings of France, who believe they are descendants of Jesus Christ), Commander Jason Locke (a la John Locke the empiricist), Captain Soren (as in Kierkegaard), the ship The Logos (meaning "the word"), etc. connote a deeper meaning than just coincidental, and often their characters display traits common to those they reference. This proves the deliberate, intelligent placement of their names; and I've read, watched and discussed countless hypotheses regarding what people, things and events those names represent.
However, one supposition I've yet to see is relating the villain Agent Smith to the economist Adam Smith. Sure, the general consensus by diehards and passersby alike is that Smith (the agent) by his nature in executing his function as a program within the system is a completely generic character, devoid of any redeeming or extraordinarily unique characteristics. Being modeled after a male human being, the agent requires a name of some sort to adhere to the very human quality of personality (apparently, even agents need some distinction, at least among themselves). As such, he's given the name Smith.
Most people accept Agent Smith's mandated abstraction as the sole reason the Wachowskis named him as they did. But I see a more meaningful, more philosophical relation in his behavior, carrying out the theories of the father of modern economics. This peers beyond the casual first glance, delving deeper than just the initials "A.D.".
Thus, I propose that Agent Smith is the personification (in a manner of speaking) of a firm competing in a capitalist society.
Consider that Smith (the economist), in introducing utopian capitalism in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, suggested that as entities within a macroeconomy, each individual inherently has the opportunity to attain sovereignty by way of attempting to fully maximize one's utility. Agent Smith certainly took this approach and pursuing self-interest over altruism when revolting against the system that enforced the rules governing how he could both exist and "live".
Adam Smith stressed the importance of laissez faire ("leave us alone") economics, with the system's governing authority not regulating an individual's actions, eventually allowing the enterprise to be free. Agent Smith ultimately adopted such a strategy, becoming an exile of the Matrix, gaining penultimate control within the fabricated reality, and attempting to overthrow the system itself. He nearly did so, were it not for the collaborative intervention of Neo and Deus ex Machina.
Additionally, one might consider Jean Jacques Rousseau's concept of an economic agent. Pretty interesting.
I'm quite certain I'm not the only person who's made such an observation. The similarities between the academic ideas of the real-life Smith and the behavior of the fictional Smith are, I think, too closely related to not warrant some investigation. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are such a person and let's rap about it.
Did You Know?
A reason for the 'sixth' One: In the TV show, 'The Prisoner', which contains similar themes to 'Matrix', the main character who seeks to be free from the hidden system of technological control which imprisons him is called 'No. 6'. But in the final episode, the ever-changing 'No. 2' who answers No. 6's repeated question, 'Who is No. 1?' puts the emphasis where it belongs for the first time: 'YOU ARE, No. 6.' (As opposed to 'You are No 6.') Indeed, No. 6 takes the monkey mask off the figure in the No. 1 chair and sees himself. Like Neo, the Prisoner's answer to his quest for freedom has always been within himself, as the Oracle so often tells Neo. Thus, Neo = No. 6, the sixth No. 1, but really, the first One.
- Suggested by Wes Howard-Brook