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In the matrix, outsiders were able to bring weapons. If it was based on mental projection, it would be obvious that bringing tanks was beyond their willpower (or, something similar). But, it was shown exclusively in the first movie that weapons were also independent programs pushed by outsiders. Neo & Trinity requested a lot of weapons before they started their quest to rescue Morpheus. And, Tank really pushed a lot of weapons.

When they were able to push anything to the matrix, what was holding them back for not to push an armada of automatic drones, tanks etc against Agents?

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    It's never stated that they can create anything they want in the Matrix. Clothing, weapons, and some small tools are the only things they bring with them from the Construct program into the Matrix. Everything else is shown to be acquired from within the Matrix. – Monty129 Feb 15 '13 at 13:29
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    The Matrix is not a "push" environment. It is a "pull" environment. People can only pull things with them into the world, they rarely "push" anything there. They can utilize what is in the environment and whatever they can carry at the time of insertion. Think of the characters as sophisticated programs and their tools as apps they use while they are there. They can take over vehicles, utilize computer systems but only because someone is there to send information to. They can take advantage of physics such as explosions and the like but rarely take over the underlying structure of the Matrix. – Thaddeus Howze Feb 15 '13 at 18:59
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    I disagree with the downvote and the vote to close. It is an interesting question: If you can bring in a gun, why not a tank. He made the assumption that you CAN they just DON'T, which isn't strictly proven, but the core question is valid. – Ashterothi Feb 15 '13 at 20:08
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In-Universe

First of all, Agents are very good in dodging bullets (or finding human shields). So, even if you had all the fire power displayed in "The Construct" (infinite white room), you can only use a maximum of two fire arms at any given time. Miniguns are really not portable by human beings (we see one attached to a helicopter but you couldn't both carry it and aim). So you would have to use military style rapid fire weapons. Something that really doesn't impress Agents.

Now, when it comes to actual tanks and tank-like vehicles. What would you accomplish? Humans usually infiltrate large cities. The regular military would be enough to stop a bunch of tanks rolling into a densely populated area. Hence, not an option either.

Automatic drones are typically intelligent (whether they operate in a computer environment or in the "real world") and the humans don't really have the expertise to create artificial intelligence (anymore). They are refugees and underground fighters, not scientists. Furthermore, humanity made bad experiences with artificial intelligence, so the (very spiritual) council would not readily grant research into such advanced warfare drones even if they had the know how (even remotely), which they certainly don't. Note that all their technology comes from a pre-war era and they barely manage to keep it functioning.

Edit

In addition to it being really really hard to bring down an Agent (see above), it's utterly futile. Even if you actually succeed in killing an Agent, you merely killed its human host (something that the free humans would not be particularly inclined to do if not really necessary). They can instantaneously repossess any nearby civilian. Towns tend to full of those. You basically would have to wipe out an entire city. Not a very covert operation.


Out-of Universe

That's an in-universe answer, but the more interesting aspect are the metaphorical and allegorical implications. Humans are supposed to be held in bondage by technology, either physically (like the people living inside the Matrix) or psychologically (like the people living in Zion). This is an allusion to our own dependency on advanced technology for our survival and every-day life. It wouldn't make sense for the humans to use technology for their fight against their dependency on technology.

  • Nice answer, but you shouldn't discuss about examples like Tanks etc. There're many other things for one to use in defense. – Captain Cold Feb 15 '13 at 15:07
  • @SachinShekhar: You weren't asking about defence but offence. Running away (while wildly shooting behind oneself) seems to be the best defence. To try and bring down an Agent with large machinery would be an offensive action. – bitmask Feb 15 '13 at 15:13
  • @SachinShekhar: Please see my Edit regarding the futility of even trying to kill Agents. – bitmask Feb 15 '13 at 15:17
  • Do you know, a country's military is powered by DEFENSE budget.. despite they can use them offensively. – Captain Cold Feb 15 '13 at 15:19
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    @SachinShekhar: It's an euphemism, really. In addition a country might use proactive defence (i.e. offence) since it cannot run away. Don't confuse an individual defending themselves from a country defending itself. Take the German military for example; It is, by our constitution only allowed for defence, but they still can attack other countries because by doing that they're just "defending" ours. That's the way politicians talk (not that I condone it). – bitmask Feb 15 '13 at 15:25
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Let's assume that they can "push" anything into the Matrix.

There is still the issue of where they can push things into the Matrix. Every insertion into, or exit from the Matrix that we see occurs via a hardline phone connection.

Yes, Neo and Trinity arm themselves to the teeth with guns and bombs, and then they take those weapons WITH them into the Matrix - via a hardline connection. This is another issue, as Iszi points out - and why the premise of operators "pushing" objects in may be faulty to begin with. We never see any objects being inserted into the Matrix without being brought in by a person.

So running from Agents is still necessary because they can't just randomly insert a new cache of weapons to wherever our heroes are unless they happen to be right next to a hardline. At best, operators may be able to insert objects near phones that the heroes can try to get to along their way.

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    Note that we also never see anything directly pushed into the Matrix - everything is actually brought in by someone. – Iszi Feb 15 '13 at 15:57
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I would argue it is a matter of subtlety. Neo can do crazy stuff because he is the one and can fight agents and win. The rest of them get by with stealth, speed, and anonymity. Creating a ruckus in the Matrix does not only endanger those within the Matrix, but the agents can dispatch sentinels that endanger the entire crew.

In every case other then when they go "all in" to do as much as possible to not disrupt things any more then needed, to avoid detection. Tanks are noticeable. Cell phones and black sunglasses, less so.

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The first answer that comes into my mind is that by doing so, they'll have destroyed the mental sanity of all the people still connected to The Matrix, by forcing them to see suddenly something they could not understand.

Moreover, like coding itself, one thing is displaying a ton of weapons in the intermediate blank program they used to load up before entering The Matrix, a different thing is bringing it up to The Matrix itself. Huge intrusions are harder to make, easier to spot and as we can see, communications are often traced by agents.

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