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People connected either by hard line, or by wireless are both connected to the Matrix. So, why can agents only inhabit people that are connected by wire? Further, if an agent jumps into someone, can they jump back out (implying that the mind is "on hold"), or must the agent (and the human host) be killed to be able to pick a new target?

In the case of Bane, it is obvious that Smith overwrote Bane's mind with Smith's mind/program. But how/why is that special compared to how agents can jump from human to human? Smith obviously lost the ability to jump from connected person to connected person when he lost the sanction of the system, but through his relationship with Neo, he gained the ability to propagate.

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  • 2
    There's a LOT of questions here. I'll do my best to answer, but the question itself could use some clarification.
    – Jeff
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 15:18

2 Answers 2

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'Wireless' People Are Immune to Agent Takeover

The Agents cannot enter the mind of someone who has hacked in - so far as the system knows, they don't exist. The people who hack in (Neo and the rest of Zion's crews) are isolated from the Matrix's governing mind. All interactions with them are done in-Matrix, via actual dialog, rather than the way the Agents talk to each other/the Matrix core (exemplified by their ear pieces).

The reasoning for this is fairly simple: People who are wired in to the Matrix are directly connected to the Matrix's core code. The Matrix has root for them, in security parlance. It can be aware of anything they experience (or have experienced and recall) and can change/alter/control their bodies and perceptions.

In this manner, Agents can take over the bodies of people during emergencies. They are Agents of the system, which inserts them into compatible locations ('blue pill' humans).

Zion's hackers, on the other hand, do NOT have a direct connection to the Matrix core code or processes. Rather, they exist within the construct of the Matrix and interact with it. The Matrix becomes aware of them only when their interactions stray into the controlling AI's notice. Lacking direct access to their minds, the Agents cannot access them to take over.

Agent Smith

Thanks to Neo injecting himself into Agent Smith's code, Smith gained some of the powers of the One - he exemplified this by being stronger and faster than even the upgraded agents and by overwriting his code into others by touch. The most likely explanation is that Agent Smith, using the knowledge and power he gained from Neo, altered his (now-useless due to disconnection from the central Matrix core) overwriting code so that he could copy (instead of cut & paste) by touch. Instead of what the other Agents do (which presumably permits them to cleanly exit a person, removing their memory of being taken over) he obliterates the person and copies his personality and appearance onto their form.

When he put himself into Bane, he overwrote Bane's mind with his own, allowing him to propagate into the real world. This was possible ONLY due to the changes he had undergone thanks to Neo's actions at the end of The Matrix. Standard Agents cannot do this, or they would have simply overwritten Zion's crews at every opportunity (and Smith would have simply overwritten Morpheus when he was captured - if he gained the Oracle's eyes and was able to pass as Bane for a period, it's reasonable to suppose he retained access to the person's memories).

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This is explained in the introduction Morpheus gives to Neo in the training program with the Woman in the Red Dress:

Morpheus: The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around. What do you see. Business men, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it. Were you listening to me Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?
[..]
Neo: What are [Agents]?
Morpheus: Sentient programs. They can move in and out of any software still hard wired to their system. That means that anyone we haven't unplugged is potentially an agent. Inside the Matrix, they are everyone and they are no one.

(emphasis mine)

There are two relevant things to observe here, first allegorical/metaphorical and second technical; I think you were more interested in the latter, so I will start with that.

Technical explanation

In the second emphasized part, Morpheus states that they have access to hard wired "software" (software, in this context, includes human minds). That's why they cannot "posses" the redpills. They hacked into the system via external access and are therefore not integral, static components within the Matrix.

Metaphorical explanation

The first part of his introduction is much more relevant because it expresses the primary tenor of the entire film and even the entire trilogy: The people in the Matrix, who I call Prisoners1 are part of the system. That is true in the most literal sense. They help to keep the system running and entrenched and are therefore willing tools its agents. Again, this is a metaphor, as they are unaware of the true nature of the Matrix; The relevant point is what they are willing to accept, in order to keep the world they believe in intact.

This, it might be argued, is commentary on our real world, which is (so I suppose) not controlled by spiky-head, but other systems of control. Or at least so, according to some possible interpretation of the film.


(1) You could call them bluepills, but that is a bit misleading as they never actively chose the blue pill.

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  • So, theoretically, the people that are hacking in wirelessly are protected in a NAT-like gateway, where the user has full access, but the network has limited ability to try to come back the other direction without a voluntary receiver?
    – killermist
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 14:41
  • This is a very nice answer, and this is where I insert my disagreement. :D It has not to be a "commentary" on our world (much less being that "naturally"), it may be or may not ("left as an excercise on the viewer"). "You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe", I guess. This is true on both ends, either because you think that the comparison even is too extravagant, or because you think that it does not have to be a mere "comment" - I suppose, further possiblities may lurk. Implied meaning may be not necessarily inherent, although it may be free to be applied.
    – n611x007
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 16:57
  • @killermist: In a sense, I guess. I suppose it could be described as some sort of firewall or simple NAT. The redpills transmit their signal from outside the Matrix, so the security systems have nothing to possess, as the bodies are not inside the machine's power plant. But the relevant aspect for me is that the machines have root over the Matrix-prisoners, while they have no access whatsoever to the redpills. It's a perfect analogue to the metaphorical control vs. freedom.
    – bitmask
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 17:18
  • @naxa: You are correct. I was too hasty. I tried to fix this. Do you agree with the copy edit?
    – bitmask
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 17:20
  • @bitmask now it's clear that it is an interpretation. I like interpretations, by the way, I find them interesting to talk about. :) The viewer takes a work and can meditate, act and connect with others.
    – n611x007
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 17:27

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