That idea (memory/processing capacity) shows up in at least one of the minicomics (the one scripted by Gaiman) available at the whatisthematrix Web site. Even if the AIs are perverse/insane/impractical/punitive, it seems slightly more plausible.
Ditto your comments otherwise, especially the idea that the Oracle is a friendly AI. I like it, and of course there's an associated backstory that "for security reasons" no one ever gets "face time" with her in 2199...
On Sat, 10 Apr 1999, Jason Plog wrote:
> My protective rewriting of the Matrix changes the Coppertop battery
> concept into some kind of handy processor. Perhaps in Matrix II it
> will be revealled unto the Chosen Dude that the Matrix exists principally
> to keep all those brains sane so that they can run some kind of
> processing that is useful to the AI's below the surface. Not that the AI's
> couldn't do the processing, just that we're a conveniently available and
> capable of doing the work.
> Also, I am not so sure that the Oracle isn't a friendly AI.