Do we have explicit confirmation that the machines in the Matrix are able to control human memory?

Is there anything that gives us proof positive, for example, that they can erase the memory of a particular encounter or implant fresh new memories into a human mind without the person knowing?

Please note that this question (and its answers) take for granted that it's possible but doesn't offer any specific proof that it's the case

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    scifi.stackexchange.com/q/82015/31051? Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:03
  • Beat me to it by 30 seconds! Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:04
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    Actually, since you ask for explicit confirmation, you might end up with no answers. The Architect claims to reload Matrix, Smith claims he will fulfill his bargain with Cypher. But here's one thing - Morpheus and Co were able to insert the knowledge of martial arts into Neo; if they can do it, there's no reason to suggest Machines can't. Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:07
  • @Gallifreian - I'm reasonably sure that there's a canon confirmation somewhere in the Matrix Films & Animatrix.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:33
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    – Möoz
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:59

4 Answers 4


Yes. The machines are shown to be able to remove memories

In the Animatrix short "World Record" an athlete sees the truth of the Matrix as a result of pushing his body to the limits of human endurance. Afterwards we see him in hospital. An agent notes that his memories have been altered and redacted.

Agent [VO]: An interesting case, but nothing to be concerned about. His memory of the race was expunged with no residual effects.

Additionally, in The Matrix Resurrections, we learn that Neo and Trinity have been reinserted into (an updated version of) The Matrix, with their original memories replaced with an entire lifetime of fake memories.

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    The closing moments after the next line "He will never run again. He will never walk again.", with the athlete breaking his wheelchair and walking to escape on his damaged legs, saying "Free. Free!", with the nurse and agent rushing to stop him, always indicated to me that the procedure wasn't as successful as the agent thought. Seems to support the other answers that it's not easily or lightly done and the Matrix doesn't have total, exact control.
    – Dacio
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 16:12
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    @Dacio - Exactly so. They would hardly have lost "entire crops" if the procedure was trivially effective.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 16:13
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    @Dacio I see that interpretation. Another interpretation is that they did erase his memory of awakening, but missed the underlying drive for freedom that lead him to awaken previously (and which is manifesting again in that closing moment). I.e. they treated a symptom, but not the underlying cause.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 18:13

When Neo is captured and interrogated by Smith and Co. on the first movie, he remembers them bugging him. If they could manipulate memory, they'd bug him, and erase the memory of the action, lest they risk him telling the Resistance he was bugged. So, this at least points to the fact they can't change memory at a fine level.

Cypher was asking for a whole wipe though. He wanted essentially to forget everything since he was in his pre-teens when he joined Morpheus - which might be easier to do, since we know people can suffer from amnesia in real life and forget pretty much everything. Set up his new identity, and let humanity take the wheel. "Hello Mr. rich guy, we thought we lost you there." Can they cause amnesia though? We don't know.

  • Well, it shows that it's perhaps non-trivial to do it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 12:59
  • They were hunting Morpheus. It was their number one target (as per the news Neo is reading), and Neo was their bait. So I doubt they'd spare time/expenses readying the bait. If it was within their power they'd have done it.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 13:15
  • Morpheus says that they're underestimating Neo's importance.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 13:36
  • I'll use just the first movie for my argument here. They use him as bait to catch Morpheus, when they don't realize he is destined to become more dangerous than Morpheus. They only care about Morpheus, or the codes to Zion in particular. If you count the sequels, they were just playing their role to lead the One to the source - we never know exactly how much they know, while playing their role. Do they know about the prophecy and that it was a machine creation? Either way, my point remains. Morpheus was their no1 target, so they should pull all the tricks up their sleeves.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 13:55
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    @Valorum - Re. perhaps non-trivial - "Christ! That thing is real?" suggests that they didn't need to. Anything else is further speculation. The agents might be underestimating Neo's importance, but the system, by design, knows better than to, F with his brain, pal; it ain't worth it. 'The codes' are a red-herring-plot-coupon which became invalid with the release of the second and third movies.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:45

Implant: sure, why not? Don't you know Kungfu?

Erase: doubtful. Why would they have lost entire crops if they only needed to sedate people and then try again?

You just get flushed.

What we do see on-screen is that any time something extremely fishy is seen going on, that person is immediately overtaken by an agent. For example, the bum in the subway and the helicopter pilot. We are left to speculate that should the original person who was overtaken happen to live long enough to be released, they wouldn't remember what transpired, but that never happened in the trilogy.

  • IMO, and in most people's it seems, the original trilogy itself rapidly declines in canonical worth as it carries onward. Be forewarned that if you find an acceptable answer citing anything but the movies, I'll downvote your question ;) Or at the very least, vie to close it as a dupe of the Cypher question. You might ask Biology.SE if you can un-lobotomise someone, but I doubt it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 3:55
  • You'd lose crops because becoming aware that you're in the Matrix results in you dying ("popping"), something we see happen in the Webcomic Saviours (scifi.stackexchange.com/a/124962/20774)
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 13:28

They may not have the ability to totally wipe memory but they can certainly tweak it if Neo had taken the other pill (blue) he would have woken up thinking it was all just an intense dream (his dealings with Morpheus) the same way he woke up in his bed after been taken to the police station and bugged, he thought it was just a dream; remember his reaction when they get it out of him in car "that thing's real!!!"

  • Well, he appears to have become unconscious and been taken to his apartment where he awoke. I'm not sure that's "memory control"
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 0:05
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    "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." - IMO that couldn't be closer to reality and as good of an answer as this question's going to get. Plus one.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:51

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