I was reading up on the Russian/Armenian mystic "Gurdjieff" who was an influential spiritual thinker and guide in the early and mid-20th century. He said that the function of all living things is to "efficiently burn and transform energy" for a "higher cause" (I have not read sufficiently about him to go into detail about what the "higher cause" might be, but anyways). He states further that only human beings are evolved enough to be capable of controlling the rate at which they expend energy into the universe. The point is, his idea about the essential function of living things being to burn energies in a very specific way for the sake of the universe was naturally an instant throwback to The Matrix movie, where humans are depicted as being energy cells for the machines.
Further, that humans are able to and should attempt to free themselves from this unending cycle of illusory life is a total parallel to Neo and co. freeing themselves from the Matrix. Now I don't think for a moment that the Wachowski brothers "lifted" this from Gurdjieff or anything like that. I just think it's an interesting parallel. Further, G. did not present the universe as an evil entity that selfishly chained humans into being its energy cells at all costs. It's just that most humans are still living essentially animal-like existences, not thinking too much about what they are doing, and freeing oneself from the "chain of daily existence" is an entirely voluntarily thing. As said in the movie, some people are too deep into the illusion to be safely woken up. Naturally I could go into a lot more detail about this, but I shall stop here.
A quote about Gurdjieff is given below. "One of the chief principles of Gurdjieff's system is the place of man in the universe. He saw the cosmos as a living thing, kept and fed by the law of reciprocal maintenance – whereby every class of existing things produces energies or substances that are required for maintaining the existence of other classes. "Man, like every other living or non-living thing, is an 'apparatus for the transformation of energy' and he is specifically required to produce sensitive and conscious energy needed for maintaining the harmony of the solar system. He can produce this energy voluntarily, or involuntarily. The first way is by 'work on oneself;' that is, by striving for self-perfection. The second way is by dying." (Bennet p. 191) These 'maintenance' energies are produced by all nature but man alone has the capacity of increasing the quantity and improving the quality of his 'psychic' energies, but only by a conscious will and effort."