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What would be the choice given to Neo's five predecessors when they were in the Architect's room? I don't think that would be one between saving their lovers and saving the whole human species.

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up vote 34 down vote accepted

They were given the same choice as Neo - help reload the Matrix, or face the destruction of the human race.

Architect: The function of the One is now to return to the Source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program. After which, you will be required to select from the Matrix 23 individuals - 16 female, 7 male - to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash, killing everyone connected to the Matrix, which, coupled with the extermination of Zion, will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race.

Notice that Neo is not being forced. Either the machines cannot force him, or (more likely) the problem is choice, and the One must choose to reload the Matrix willingly. All versions of the One must have been able to walk away. The difference between Neo and his predecessors is his increased humanity - aka. his ability to love.

Architect: However, the relevant issue is whether or not you are ready to accept the responsibility of the death of every human being on this world. It is interesting, reading your reactions. Your 5 predecessors were, by design, based on a similar predication - a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One. While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific - vis a vis love.

Love is, as they say, indistinguishable from madness. Thus, Neo is the first version of the one to not comply with the Architect - while the others cared enough about humanity to protect it from extinction, Neo was willing to risk extinction to save Trinity.

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Another way to look at the difference was that previous Ones had an attachment to the species as a whole, so were willing to sacrifice most to save all. Neo has an attachment to a specific person, and thus was unwilling to sacrifice her, even at the risk of extinction. – Allen Gould Feb 8 at 20:30

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