In the first movie, Morpheus told Neo in a simulation program that their virtual bodies were mental projection of theirs. That's why they looked like their real world counterparts.

How did then their virtual bodies continue to exist in the Matrix after their real bodies had died? Once the person projecting the mental image was dead and physically removed from the system, why did their corpse remain (and presumably decompose)?

  • If I remember correctly, if you die in the Matrix you do die in the real world, and vice versa. This happened quite a few times in a first movie.
    – commando
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 3:58
  • @commando I am talking about survival of dead body..
    – user931
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 4:01
  • They didn't. Switch and Apoc died instantly in the Matrix when Cypher killed/unplugged them in the real world.
    – phantom42
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 4:02
  • 9
    The Matrix is a virtual reality simulator. It virtually simulates the decomposition of the body so people IN the matrix don't suspect they are anywhere but in the real world. The computer simply presents people with the information they are expecting. Though the real person's body may be disconnected from the System, a virtual construct is maintained until whatever rites are needed to be done and then the body and its attendant information are deleted from the System. Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 8:47
  • 12
    The matrix has a horrible garbage collection algorithm.
    – fire.eagle
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


AFAIK, this issue is never directly addressed in the moves or Animatrix shorts, but the behavior here seems to match exactly what we might expect from a virtual reality simulation.

The residual self-image projected by the individual allows the Matrix to maintain a consistent projection of a connected person that matches what they believe themselves to look like. This image of a connected person changes as they age and grow, and the Matrix needs to allow that image to adapt.

Once the person dies, their image no longer changes according to their mental image of themselves. It now changes according to entirely predictable rules of biology and chemistry. The Matrix will have a "snapshot" of a person's residual self image at the moment of their death. From there it can project the expected decomposition, but in effect, the corpse is no longer an image of a living human, but a "prop" made of organic tissue (in the same way I assume the Matrix produces life-like plants and animals.)


Only people who had already existed in The Matrix were able to be inserted into The Matrix.

Tank and Dozer, for example, had no ports and could not be inserted into the simulation.

Switch and Apoc, on the other hand, had been freed. The simulation already had their information in its memory. But being disconnected from the simulation in any way removed them FROM the simulation. When Cypher killed them in the real world, they were removed from the simulation - but the program/simulation still had the information regarding their original appearances, etc.

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