Through various readings and viewings of the Matrix trilogy, I am finally able to understand all of it, I believe...except for one thing.

Why didn’t the machines foresee that Neo’s destruction of Smith in The Matrix would cause him to choose exile and become a virus for the system? Presumably the One had encountered and destroyed an Agent like Smith in previous versions of the Matrix. Why is it that this time the machines ignorantly essentially allowed Smith room to become a virus? What happened this time that never happened before, and why could it not have been foreseen, by, perhaps, either the Oracle or the Architect?

This issue came to me when reading the following answer by Null when trying to understand Smith’s final demise:

How did Neo destroy Smith in The Matrix Revolutions?

  • I am most pleased that you have gotten so much out of my posts! I hope my answer helps you with this question as well.
    – Null
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 7:15
  • (FYI, the @[username] ping doesn't work in questions/answers so I've removed it from your question.)
    – Null
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 7:17
  • 1
    Every year the vaccine manufacturers culture influenza strains for this year's flu vaccine. Every year cold and flu season rolls around, with millions contracting the flu and a few hundred thousand people dying of it worldwide. Every year. Knowing that the virus is coming doesn't mean you'll be able to stop it. Why would the machine systems fare any better?
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 7:55
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    Funny thing, I read "Smith" as "Sith". That would've been a fun cross-over... Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


I think this assumption is false:

Presumably the One had encountered and destroyed an Agent like Smith in previous versions of the Matrix.

Agents are incredibly difficult to destroy1 because they can simply leave the body they are possessing if they are "killed". Moreover, destroying an Agent is usually overkill -- as long as the Agent runs out of nearby bodies to possess or the Zion operative can escape the Matrix, there's no need to attempt to destroy the Agent. Notice that Neo didn't bother trying to destroy any of the other Agents he encountered later -- he simply "killed" them or escaped from them.

The only Zion operatives who stand a chance to destroy an Agent are the Ones, and there aren't many of them. It's quite likely that none of the Ones before Neo destroyed an Agent before.

It's also worth noting that Neo is particularly special, even among The Ones. The Architect notes that previous Ones were designed to be profoundly attached to the human species but Neo is profoundly attached to a particular human (Trinity) by love. Consequently, Neo is the first One to choose not to return to the Source. Neo broke the cycle that the previous Ones had allowed to continue, and became more powerful than any previous One. The Oracle explains that, as a result, Smith has become exceptionally powerful to match Neo's power:

[Smith] is you. Your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out.

In short, no previous One had ever destroyed an Agent before, and previous Ones always chose to return to the Source whereas Neo chose to return to the Matrix. This led to the unprecedented situation in which Smith became a virus powerful enough to potentially destroy the Matrix.

1By "destroy" I mean that the Agent is forced to choose deletion or exile. Normally Agents are merely "killed", in which they are merely forced to possess a different body.

  • Wow, thanks! Do you think Neo was made more powerful than the previous Ones on purpose, or gained more personal power as a result of his personal and unique love for Trinity (given that the previous Ones didn't have love)? Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 16:30
  • Also, do you think that Smith was given a "hatred" for the Matrix just as Neo was given love as a (perhaps misguided) attempt by the machines to balance out Neo's power? Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 16:32
  • @JohnnyApple No, Neo had the same attachment to the human species as all the previous Ones -- it's just that he fell in love with Trinity and his attachment to humanity was superseded by that love. The Architect would have preferred Neo to be attached to humanity because the Architect was blackmailing Neo with the extinction of the human race if Neo didn't return to the Source. Neo chose differently than the previous Ones and returned to the Matrix because of his love for Trinity. By not returning to the Source (which would have killed him), Neo had more time to become even more powerful.
    – Null
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 18:43
  • @JohnnyApple And since Neo wasn't designed for a special love, Agent Smith was not designed to have a special hatred. Agent Smith was especially contemptuous of humans even for an Agent, but the system was not trying to use Smith to balance out Neo's power until after Smith became a virus.
    – Null
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 18:46
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    @JohnnyApple I don't think Agent Smith was "made" to be different, he probably became contemptuous of humans over time. He has been around for a long time (he mentions that he chased Seraph) so he has probably grown to hate humans over a long time. Neo might have been influenced to love Trinity by the Oracle since she was clearly trying to end the cycles of the One by the third movie and she's the one who told Trinity she'd fall in love with the One. However, he wasn't designed to love Trinity because that's what caused the Architect's blackmail to fail.
    – Null
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 5:18

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