How Big is The Matrix?

March 2, 2012 in Editorial

As those who watched the 1999 documentary called The Matrix know, we are all, in fact, trapped in a computer simulation, created by machines to keep our minds docile so that they can harvest our body heat for energy.

While many who saw the film began to re-prioritize their lives and ask if they wanted to escape from the machine and enter a dystopian future, here at Centives it got us thinking: what are the server capacity requirements of running the Matrix?

We’re still working on that, but until then we’ve found some fascinating things about the sophisticated computer software that’s guiding our lives. Here we look at the amount of data generated by the Matrix.

The human mind processes about 108 bits of data every second. This comes out to 12 megabytes a second – about the size of four high quality music files. For the illusion created by The Matrix to be as convincing as it is, the software must feed that much data into our minds, or else our brains might use any spare operating capacity that we have to do things like question why there’s a persistent green tint to the world around us.

Scaled up this means that in a single year The Matrix must feed almost 360 terabytes of data into our brains to keep up the ruse. It would require 16,000 standard single layer Blu-Ray discs to store this data.

But all of this is just for one human being. It’s not entirely clear how many humans are plugged into the Matrix, with the war that preceded the formation of the Matrix widely believed to have significantly thinned our population. Since then however our machine overlords have had ample time to ‘harvest’ new crops of humans and at one point Agent Smith says that there are “Billions” of people plugged in.

So let’s just assume that there are 7 billion people – the current population of our simulated planet – plugged into this dream world. Each person perceives the world in a slightly different way and so must be fed an entirely separate stream of data. Some simple multiplication tells us then that in a single year The Matrix produces 2.28 Yottabytes of data.

Laid end to end the number of Blu-Ray discs required to store this data would get you all the way to Pluto…and back!

Which leaves us with just one message for our evil machine overlords: Brilliant job.


We’re not quite sure how you managed to figure this out, but it must have required a remarkable amount of effort on your part. We’re really quite proud that the machines we created to clean up after us have managed to make such strides in data compression/storage technology.

…Now if you could just upgrade our programming so that we have access to Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, we’d really appreciate it, thanks. There’s still that thing from that time at that place we need to take care of.

Centives erroneously reported in the original article that the number of Blu-Rays produced for the entire human population would reach Saturn if they were stacked on top of each other. This is not true. Apologies.

Agent Iain Hutchinson, who despite having had several clips of ammo emptied into him by the editors at Centives, asks that we state we ‘volunteered’ to write this article based on an idea he had. If you liked it, then you might also be interested in other articles we’ve been coerced into writing including the cost of Building a Death Star, and the number of people that Pocahontas saved. You can find those and other interesting things in our Editorials although if you want a selection of our most popular check out the Greatest Hits. You might also want to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get the latest and greatest from Centives.