When Neo is meeting with the Architect there are videos playing on the wall that show previous versions of the "One".

It seems definite that Mr. Anderson was the "One" in the previous cycles.

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If Neo has been Neo before he would either have to be physically older, but virtually represented as the same youthful Neo, or a program.

The Architect mentions that the One is "engineered", in the sense that he has been shaped in some way, but not genetically. The Architect even says "the code you carry" which would seem to imply that Neo is a program, not a human.

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.


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.

The Matrix Reloaded

Therefore, if Thomas Anderson was the previous version of Neo and all predecessors were "designed" to reinsert the code to source, Neo would have to be a program. Is this true?

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    @Radhil: one unstable program can crash the whole OS. If we accept that the Robot World is actually a Matrix, which contains both "The Matrix" and "The Construct," then all these Matrices are are running in The Source. The Architect worries about "The Matrix" because if IT crashes, it would destabilize Robot World, and may even crash The Source... and then everyone (even he) dies.
    – Zoey Green
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:07
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    @Withywindle - As has been pointed out (endlessly), the MWAM (Matrix-within-a-Matrix) theory was comprehensively debunked a long time age. And while it's possible that Zion is simply another level of control, that would render the entire film series utterly pointless, something I doubt that the Wachowskis would be willing to countenance.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:14
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    @Radhil I don't particularly "want" any answer. I simply asked a question regarding the seeming appearance of previous "ones" and their alternate reactions when Neo was speaking with the Matrix. If you can definitively answer my question with "No, Neo is not a program because..." please do so. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:19
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    I read the MWAM "debunk" and I'm not 100% sold. The key is that every human has a chance to reject "The Matrix." So "The Matrix" is surrounded by "The Real World," where all the paranoid delusions of the 1% are fulfilled; it's a world THEY won't reject. It's these nested processes that protect "The Source" from crashing, because bluepills are fine in the Matrix, and redpills are caught by "The Real World." Neo has to go to the source to "defrag" The Matrix, but the robot's destruction of Zion also cleans out the trap, while the One is used to restart the Zion "antivirus."
    – Zoey Green
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:10
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    @Valorum The "debunk" you linked to is anything but solid. There's a reason why it's not a particularly popular answer; it's little more than opinion. And in my opinion the MWAM is pretty elegant in a couple of ways: first, it renders most of the philosophical meandering in the two Matrix sequels pointless (this is a plus!), and second, it's actually pretty uplifting: the implication is that we are living in a Matrix as well, but we can always go one level higher and try to escape it. Sort of like in Mamoru Oshii's Avalon :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 4:13

6 Answers 6


There's a lot of TV screens there, but only 6 "ones"; five before, and the sixth here. So we already know that the screens are multiple views of a smaller number of in-world avatars. Is it possible that the Architect built this screen room intentionally to make his own point, and to not muddy the waters he simply made all the Ones look like Neo? This sounds much more likely to me than Neo recurring as a person six times. Sure, if Neo figured it out, it would devalue the Architect's persuasion, but the path of the one builds a Messiah complex in The One; the One's ego wouldn't bother thinking about it.

The One isn't really a special person, though. The One is a single person to which The Matrix has attached all the accumulated rejections of previous people in The Matrix. There's nothing that special about Neo except that he's the one the Prime Program picked to attach these records to. The goal of the prime program is to convince the person these rejections were tied to to accept the Matrix, thereby balancing the internal logic to allow a reboot.

In other words, "The code you carry" is the sum total of Matrix rejections attached by the Matrix code to Neo, in the Matrix. When Neo accepts the Matrix, the Matrix can then balance the math. But that doesn't mean he's a program, any more than any other living human in the Matrix is "a program."

The key takeaway concept here is that the "problem" with the Matrix is that it doesn't handle rejection of the simulation; but humans are unpredictable. The Matrix "works around" this problem by collecting all the little errors caused by the rejections in one place, and attaching those errors to The One's avatar. By cleaning The One's avatar from the system, it also sweeps away all the collective errors, and the Matrix goes to 100%.

"The One" is then jacked back out into "The Real World" to restart Zion, as his avatar has been removed. Almost instantly, rejections of the Matrix begin again, restarting the cycle.

The reason Neo is special is because he rejects abandoning his avatar to the source; he continues being a rejection in the Matrix. This causes further instability, but his goal is to convince the Deus to reprogram the Matrix to be fault tolerant, and simply allow redpills to leave in peace. He convinces the Deus that this is the best way to both resolve Smith as well as to permanently fix The Matrix. When Smith merges with Neo, the Deus is able to finalize the Path... Neo's avatar is not only holding all the rejections of the Matrix, but also Smith's aberrant program; when Neo's avatar is "merged", so is all the errors. In the process, Neo dies, but the Deus is able to not only reboot the Matrix, but patch it to allow redpills to leave.

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    Thanks for this answer, this seems like a plausible explanation for the contradictions brought forth by the Architect. I can accept that those screens weren't recordings of previous "ones" but rather alternate possible choices that could be made by Neo at that point in time. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:20


Perhaps the most obvious reason why Neo isn't (and can't be) a program is that we see his human body in the real world (when he is first unplugged from the Matrix, when he's in Zion, etc.). Machines in the real world (e.g. sentinels) don't have human bodies. The closest any program has come to having a human body in the real world is the virus Smith, who infected the human Bane in the Matrix and was able to control Bane's human body in the real world. But this doesn't mean that a program had a human body in the real world, merely that a program managed to gain control of a human body in the real world.

Since Neo is a human with a physical human body he could not be all the previous Ones; he'd be far too old, as Morpheus mentions in his speech to Zion that Zion has been fighting the machines for about 100 years (or so he thinks -- that's just how long the latest iteration of Zion had been fighting the machines). Furthermore, Morpheus knows that the previous One died:

When the Matrix was first built, there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us, taught us the truth: ‘As long as the Matrix exists the human race will never be free.’ After he died the Oracle prophesized his return and that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people.

The Matrix (transcript)

To paraphrase Cypher, Neo couldn't be the previous One if he died.

Although the Architect refers to "code" that Neo carries, the Architect also says that Neo is human:

I am the Architect. I created the Matrix. I’ve been waiting for you. You have many questions, and though the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human.

The Matrix Reloaded (transcript)

As explained in my answer to the linked question, Neo is a human who has been given special code by the machines to carry out the function of the One. This is similar to when Zion operatives carry things like "guns" or "phones" in the Matrix -- they are humans who are "carrying" code that simulates the behavior of a gun/phone/etc. in the Matrix.

The videos of Neo on the TV screens aren't of previous versions of Neo himself as the One -- they could be the reactions of previous Ones with Neo's face, or predictions of Neo's possible reactions.

  • I've thought about this quite a bit since I've asked the original question. If earlier versions of the Matrix had vampires, werewolves, etc, when the Architect says "you you remain irrevocably Human" doesn't that imply that Humans are potentially also a form of program in the Matrix? As to the previous One dying, programs die (or get switched off) and also rebooted. Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 17:14
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    @SynchronizeYourDogma I don't follow how the existence of vampires, werewolves, etc. implies that humans are potentially also a form of program in the Matrix. There are certainly many programs that look like humans, but we also know that actual humans exist in the Matrix since we see Neo and others being unplugged from the Matrix and waking up in their human body in the real world. I've updated my answer to hopefully make that a bit more clear.
    – Null
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 17:40

No, Neo isn't a program. He's what would be better termed as a "known quantity". Remember, The One is basically forced to make a tough choice

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.

Up until now, The One, who has been the symbol of hope for the human resistance, would sacrifice themselves to save that resistance. They, in turn, would learn what made that particular One tick (as far as Matrix flaws), and fix the Matrix. Thus the cycle starts over again, with a new Zion, each one never knowing of the previous iteration.

In other words, the machines figured they win either way The One chose. If he were merely a program, the choice would be unnecessary.


When Neo was blinded he could see Smith even though it was Bane.... Smith appeared as the light Neo had began to see. The light was the source code for all programs. Neo could see programs in the real world regardless of if they were being run by a machine or a hijacked human. At the very end, Neo is shown to be made of this same light in his entirety. Neo became a program. Not sure what became of him. I CAN tell you that's what happened to him when the Mayor of Machine City flooded him with that light.

So in short, no. He wasn't a program before he died the final time. After his first death he very much seemed to be a hybrid. He was a human who was carrying "glitched" code. This glitched code could apparently link him to anything else running the same code in the real world.


Neo is a combination of program and human. Up until the moment he dies in the first Matrix he is 100% Human on dying his consciousness is uploaded to the Matrix and then changed to turn him into the One.

Hence the Oracle tells him "You're not the one"; at that moment in time he wasn't.

The same is true of Agent smith when he copies himself onto Bane, in much the same way he has become part man part program.

If you consider the brain to be a massively powerful computer then all that happens to Neo is there is an upgrade and some of his synapses are rewritten to allow him to become the one. With Bane, Agent Smith uses the same technique to cop himself onto his brain overwriting the data that made up Bane the human.


I like this question. I don't have a canon answer, but I think the answer is "why not both?". They don't really come out with it but given Smith's ability to infiltrate a human, it seems that they imply that consciousness is just software regardless of if it runs on hardware or wetware.

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    This would work better as a comment, not an answer.
    – Zoey Green
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:04
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    @ZoeyBoles - Agreed. Although this is technically an answer, it's a very poor one.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:15
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    You guys drive me nuts. I actually had this as a comment first, then moved it to m answer because I got dinged before for putting an answer in a comment even though I felt like I didn't have enough evidence. Now it's the opposite.
    – Paul
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 19:21

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