Well, it’s… uh…

Remember “The Matrix”? Jam-packed with action that blew your mind, philosophy that made you question reality and an appropriately-cast line of characters that topped off the experience, the line of “Matrix” movies sparked one of the biggest (and yet so short-lived) crazes of the early century.

In one particular scene in the second movie, Neo stands on a balcony inside of Zion (the real world) and is joined by Councillor Hamann. They engage in small talk and eventually decide to take a walk to the engineering room, where Hamann says he likes to walk at night. Upon entering the room, Hamann says, “Almost no one comes down here, unless, of course, there’s a problem. That’s how it is with people – nobody cares how it works as long as it works.”

Well doesn’t that just about sum it up? Although the movie is based in a fictional realm set up to pull its audience away from reality, this quote from the movie is one of those overlapping statements that force an audience to question its real-life principles. The fact of the matter is in real life, as in the movie, people don’t care about how something works as long as it does what it’s supposed to do.

And we’re not talking about useless bits of knowledge like how the amount of news that happens in a day always exactly fits the size of a newspaper or trivial things like how those newspapers magically end up on the news stands every Monday and Thursday – you would only care if they weren’t there when they were supposed to be.

But we’re talking about systems and technology that have become pillars of society through mass use and integration. We all know that cell phones allow us to connect to other cell phones through a series of satellites and cellular towers, but what process allows our voices to be carried miles upon miles across the world in an instant? We all know how to print off our research papers before class, but what process does a computer go through to transcribe exactly what appears on your computer screen onto an organized bundle of papers? For that matter, how does a computer do most of the things it does? It’s one thing to explain to your parents that pages of text don’t have to be deleted one letter at a time in Word (true story), but there are much bigger questions that elude even the most tech-savvy among us.

The biggest mystery by far is how the Internet works. Everyone uses the Internet, especially on college campuses, but if someone woke up after 20 years in a coma and, in the process of trying to reintegrate into society, said to you, “Excuse me, could you tell me what the Internet is?,” would you be able to say, “It’s a series of interconnected networks linked together on a giant server that relay information back and forth”?

Probably not. And that’s just the simple answer.

Even a basic understanding of the technology that holds our increasingly interconnected world together can not only help us solve problems when they arise, but also help us prevent those problems from occurring. No one person can be expected to know everything about everything, but maybe it’s time that we take the time to learn some of the ins and outs of things that we use every day.