After Neo chose the red pill and was ejected from The Matrix, a large machine came to unplug him.

Why didn't it kill Neo?

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4 Answers 4


It did try to kill him (or at least recycle him)

As a matter of fact, the Doc Bot did attempt to kill him almost immediately after it unplugged his ports, by flushing him down into a sewer where he would have drowned if there hadn't been a ship waiting for him. This seems to be standard procedure for any body that it reads as having been ejected from the Matrix (see below).

It didn't need to try to kill him (since it was already reading him as dead)

According Taki Kunitake (Head Illustrator for the Matrix) in the The Art of the Matrix book, he states that the Wachowskis intended for the Doc Bot to have read him as a dead body anyway, presumably as a result of the pill that the Rebels gave him to "disrupt [his] input/output carrier signal"

Kunitake: One thing that was really nice in the film, something that wasn't in the storyboards, was the reflection Neo sees of himself on the face of the DocBot. I thought that was a really cool evolution from the boards, tying in to his whole path. When this robot comes down, very threatening. Larry and Andy wanted a bit of a shock, so it reaches out end grabs his throat. As an audience, you're thinking it's going to twist his head off. but it actually disengages. They'd talk about how the DocBot is reading Neo as a dead body, a dead battery, and disengages him so can flush him from the pod. Even in the script, they wanted it to be very graphic: very shocking. I was trying hard to get that sensibility.

Releasing humans is a necessity (since Zion is a sham)

Of course, we later learn that the entire Matrix/Zion project was set up to allow humans the illusion of choice. If your only options were to stay in the Matrix (and cause trouble) or to die, the system would break down much sooner. In that sense it makes far less sense to kill escapees than to actually let them escape.

  • 13
    Morpheus said the machines recycle the dead to feed them back to the living. Simply dumping Neo into a sewer seems an inefficient way of doing this. Also, it's remarkably convenient that the Docbot happened to drop Neo right next to the Nebuchadnezzar. I prefer my theory that the rebels had hacked the Docbot's control systems. Jan 28, 2015 at 17:07
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit This would be a good point to add to your answer.
    – Null
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:09
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit Not "remarkably convenient" at all. Part of the pill was a tracer program, intended to determine Neo's physical location in the Matrix. More than likely, they already had a ballpark idea but needed to inject the tracking code to narrow it down. They've probably also done some amount of mapping for the dumping tubes so that, once they've found someone's pod, they can easily determine and quickly arrive at its eventual ejection point.
    – Iszi
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:39
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit - I assumed that the "sewer" he got dumped into was something akin to a maceration tank. Had the Nebuchadnezzar not grabbed him, Neo would have slowly had his tissues separated and liquefied for use as feeding nutrients.
    – Omegacron
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:34
  • @RoyalCanadianBandit not nearly as convenient as explaining it all away with the red pill... Jan 29, 2015 at 21:29

Similar to a previous question about seemingly senseless behavior on the part of the machines, the answer is two-fold:

The Docbot's Programming

The docbot is just doing what it's programmed to; in this case, it finds humans that aren't plugged in anymore and disposes of them. It may not even be aware that he's still alive. It's possible that the docbot figures anyone who's "carrier signal" is disrupted must be dead, and just watches for them and throws them out. Or, it might just not care, figuring that if the human's still alive, it will starve to death soon enough.

The Matrix's Plan

As for why the docbot is programmed like this, it's because the master plan of the Matrix requires letting humans go. On one level, it has to allow humans to choose to reject the matrix (that's part of the free will requirement that keeps the matrix working). But even beyond that, it relies on the freed humans to build up a settlement and ultimately work towards the return of The One, so the "glitch" caused by all that built-up free will can be purged. So, it's ultimately part of the machine's plan to let humans escape every so often, and killing them would defeat the purpose.


That wasn't a sentinel (the type of machine designed to kill Zion operatives), it was a machine nicknamed the "Docbot".


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Unlike the sentinels, the Docbot's purpose is to monitor humans plugged into the Matrix and eject them if necessary. Machines do not stray from their purpose, so the Docbot did not kill Neo.

In any case, Neo would have died without help from the Nebuchadnezzar since his muscles had atrophied and he would have drowned in the sewer. It would not have been necessary for the Docbot to kill Neo.

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    Small point - His muscles would not have atrophied. Atrophy occurs when there was muscle to begin with. Given that he spent his entire life floating in a fluid, he would never have developed the muscles in the first place. In point of fact, he should have looked pretty much like a skeleton with skin. Yes, there would have been muscles, but they would never have developed enough to atrophy. He shouldn't even be able to stand, and he certainly would not have been able to sit up.
    – JohnP
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:32
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    @JohnP - In one of the comics, we see that physical movement inside the matrix affects the body outside. Running, for example causes the legs to spasm slightly or laughing causes the lips to turn upwards. You would, therefore develop some musculature.
    – Valorum
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:48
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    @JohnP Null was obviously just using the terminology the movie writers fed us during Neo's rehab scenes. Can't much fault him for that. Besides, I don't think there's another term that could so succinctly describe the condition while still being widely understood. As for the general issue that pod people shouldn't have muscles at all to begin with, that'd add too much complication to the story for what realism it might be worth. This is sci-fi, after all - gotta check a certain amount of reality at the door sometimes.
    – Iszi
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:50
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    @Richard The Sentinel/Docbot picture comparison made perfect sense for the original question, since the asker had specifically expressed an assumption that they thought Docbot was a type of sentinel. They are quite starkly different in visual terms, to the point that when you have them side-by-side it's quite clear (IMHO) they serve different purposes.
    – Iszi
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:56
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    @Null My only contention with this answer is that it's still fairly weak. Though each machine has its dedicated purpose, they both presumably contain extremely advanced technology. This would include high-level processing capabilities, as well as integrated telemetry and command & control communications systems. In short, the Docbot should easily have the ability to recognize when it's picking up someone who is not dead, and the Matrix should by now have enough experience with the human rebels to order all Docbots to make sure the humans are dead before they're flushed.
    – Iszi
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:19

I always assumed the rebels had hacked into the Docbot's control systems and ordered it to free Neo. If they can hack the Matrix itself, presumably they can do the same with other systems belonging to the machine civilization.

As other answers have noted, the machines want humans to be able to escape from the Matrix. However, that system requires that the rebel humans have the illusion of choice. They must believe they are heroic rebels who are cleverly defeating the machines' security. The machines may well be allowing them to do this, by leaving back doors in the code or similar.

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    I don't recall any evidence of this in film or supplementary materials.
    – Valorum
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:49
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    Counter-argument to paragraph 1: They obviously can't hack Sentinels, so why assume they can hack Docbot? Paragraph 2 makes more sense, and is much better backed by established canon, but doesn't add anything new to the discussion - it's already covered in 2 other answers, both of which otherwise align much more cleanly with facts established in the movies and other official sources.
    – Iszi
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:56
  • @Iszi - If we count "Animatrix" as a part of the canon, the part "Matriculated" proves that hacking a DocBot - or even a sentinel - is possible, but obviously a difficult task and requires physically capturing the robot in question. There is no evidence that the DocBot was not hacked that way while it explains why they don't choose this method to fight against sentinels.
    – mg30rg
    Jan 30, 2015 at 12:02
  • @Iszi docbots are "low security" since the purpose is ostensibly to repair the ill. If they can hack The Matrix, why not other things affiliated with it? As security increases, hacking the systems become harder. Sentinels are the front line of an assault force. Hackable? Never. Part 2, Neo hacked several and destroyed them, tech-less. That's some serious hacking.
    – killermist
    Jan 30, 2015 at 23:56
  • @killermist Neo ostensibly was able to "hack" the sentinels because he is The One. So, we need to take that exceptional case out of the analysis. Then, we get back to my counter-arguments on Null's theory. By this point in the war, the machines should be well aware of the rebel humans' tactics and thereby place increased security around the mechanisms which would be most essential to crushing the rebellion. Really, my point here is that Paragraph 1 (and any other argument on this) just doesn't make sense without Pargraph 2. Paragraph 2 being the true root cause, it should be on its own.
    – Iszi
    Feb 2, 2015 at 15:59

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