Did the Agents know about the history of the Matrix (the Paradise and Nightmare Matrix, and the transition to the choice-based Matrix) and/or the existence of previous Ones? Most answers assume that the Agents did not know about previous Ones (see, e.g., the answers to this question).

I've been thinking about the Agents' quotes throughout the Matrix universe and there is some evidence that they might know about the history of the Matrix after all. For example:

  • Agent Smith knows about the Paradise Matrix:

    Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

    Agent Smith doesn't mention the Nightmare Matrix, and the failure of the Nightmare Matrix would seem to disprove his hypothesis that humans "define their reality through suffering and misery". Maybe he really doesn't know about the Nightmare Matrix, but he's interrogating Morpheus in this scene; we can't trust anything he says because he may be lying to Morpheus. In fact, the only reason we now know that Agent Smith was telling the truth about the Paradise Matrix is because the Architect corroborated his assertion in The Matrix Reloaded.

  • Agent Smith has also been around long enough that he chased Seraph while Seraph was an Exile:

    Agent Smith: I remember chasing you is like chasing a ghost.

    Seraph: I have beaten you before.

    Agent Smith must have chased Seraph after the Merovingian was exiled, and before Seraph began working for the Oracle; this was potentially a long time ago, and Agent Smith (and the other Agents) might have learned about previous Ones due to Seraph's close association with the Oracle.

  • Agents (or Agent-like programs) have been needed in the Matrix for a long time: not only have redpills been hacking into the Matrix in all previous choice-based iterations, but Agents are in charge of chasing down Exiles (many of which have been around since the Nightmare Matrix -- e.g. the Merovingian's henchmen). Thus, it is possible that Agents have existed for all or many of the iterations of The One -- in which case the machines would have to wipe their memories just to keep them in the dark about the Ones. And why would the machines keep the Agents in the dark? The Agents are machines and will fulfill their purpose whether they know about the Ones or not.

All this suggests that the Agents do know about the history of the Matrix. Unfortunately, I have not been able to come up with a quote (or other evidence) that conclusively indicates whether or not the Agents knew about the history of the Matrix and/or the previous Ones. Does such evidence exist anywhere in the Matrix canon (films, Animatrix, comics, etc.)? Have the Wachowskis answered whether or not the Agents knew? Or do we simply not know?

  • 2
  • @KSmarts Yeah, I linked to it in the question.
    – Null
    Feb 4, 2015 at 16:35
  • Oh, I missed that. Or forgot it. It's a long question.
    – KSmarts
    Feb 4, 2015 at 16:39
  • @KSmarts Yeah, I tried not to make it too long but I wanted to provide some evidence that the Agents do know about the history.
    – Null
    Feb 4, 2015 at 16:44
  • Cool entry. ;) And no, not too long. I believe that when Architect mentions iterations of Zion he means it. Not the Matrix itself. The Merovingian also says "Your predecessors had more tact (???)". I believe however that Agents are reset-able. So they may not know/remember previous Zion iterations?
    – AcePL
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:50

3 Answers 3


When the first part of Matrix was made, the purpose of the agents was clear. They were the Gatekeepers, they could move around anywhere within the world of the matrix. They could access the visions of all the people still wired to the matrix to look out for suspicious activities. Agent Smith is shown to be a program unlike the other agents. Apart from being the lead gate keeper, he also reacts with frustration and impatience. From the standpoint of matrix programs he is an anomaly too. The agent program is to safeguard the matrix from getting attacked from outside. They were basically antibodies for external attacks.

In Matrix Reloaded, along with the extended key players in the Matrix, they enhanced the function of the agents to not just keep the threat of external attack under control. They were also playing the role of the antibodies for internal threats. They had an added function of hunting down renegade programs and deleting them. As the story grew, their role grew.

In each version of the Matrix, once the anomaly chooses the 16 females and 7 male from Zion, the prime program (Matrix) is restarted with the added information of the anomaly's code. In this process, all programs get upgrades, some are cleaned up and replaced with better options. This applies to the gate keeper program too. They have a straight forward purpose, keep anomalies out/dead. The other agents are not shown to have the kind of information that Agent Smith has. The others are more mechanical, raw purpose. The reason Smith seems to know is probably because he doesn't get "reset" in an appropriate way. The other agent in The Matrix is even asks Agent Smith - "What were you doing?" in the Smith - Morpheus interrogation scene.

To summarize, the agents in general are not meant to know the history of the matrix as that information doesn't give them any added advantage. It irrelevant information as far as the gate keepers are concerned. Agent Smith however being a renegade himself has additional information from previous versions of the Matrix. Perhaps it's the collective information that is in Agent Smith's code that helps him avoid going to the source to get garbage collected.

  • 1
    Aside from the fact that Agent Smith is the leader of his group of Agents, he isn't special until he becomes a virus at the end of The Matrix. So if he knows about the history of the Matrix then so do his fellow Agents. If the Agents have existed for previous cycles of The One (and I think that's the case) then why would the machines wipe their memories? They don't need to know about The One to fulfill their purpose, but they don't need to not know, either. Sorry, but this is not the conclusive answer I'm looking for (e.g. there's a lot of "probably" and "perhaps" in this answer).
    – Null
    Feb 9, 2015 at 14:41
  • :) It's standard programming practice, let any module in a program know and handle exactly what it's supposed to. Just more efficient that way. Agent Smith is not special, just different. Compared to the other Agents, Agent Smith is shown to be more expressive of his agitation while the other agents are more calm. The scene with Morpheus is a proof for that. However, unfortunately there is no conclusive proof if the Agents knew of the previous versions of the Matrix as it's not mentioned in the movies anywhere :(. Smith shows the knowledge even thought it serves no purpose to have it.
    – John
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:00
  • It's standard programming practice to only let modules know what they need to know, but then it's not standard practice to let programs choose between deletion and hiding in the system ("exile") as the Matrix allows. I can't think of conclusive proof in the movies, but there may be something more conclusive in the other media (comics, video games, etc.) that I've missed.
    – Null
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:22
  • Exactly, it's not standard practice to let programs choose between deletion and not. That is the intrinsic bug in Agent Smith. There is already something about him that's odd, that makes him... disobey. Let's hope someone can answer this based on other media.
    – John
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:40
  • It is standard practice in the Matrix to let any program choose between deletion or exile, not just Smith. My point is that this is counter to real programming practices, so I don't think the point about letting modules know only what they need to know works in the Matrix. Also, I've explained why Agent Smith disobeyed and became a virus here. Before he was destroyed by Neo at the end of The Matrix he did not have any special properties, but he knew about the Paradise Matrix before then.
    – Null
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:47

As thoroughly mentioned by Tivep, most of those programs must have been replaced by newer versions because there are fundamental differences between different versions of the Matrix as it is mentioned by The Architect. Anyway we may safely assume that not all of the programs were deleted after the end of each version; maybe some of them just were updated instead.

In the dialog between Merovingian and Neo, when Mero wants to escape from Neo he says: "I have survived your predecessors and I will survive you." So we can understand that he knows about the other The Ones. It is a spoiler, but no one really pays attention to it. As we all know he has refused to be deleted and have preferred to live in exile.

Based on the first dialog that you wrote, I think Agent Smith knew about the Matrix history and he had words in machine community. Even he always act as a boss between agents. But our lack of knowledge about machines history may stop us from finding an exact answer to your question.


Yes, they knew

Agent Smith explicitly mentions previous versions of the matrix when he's interrogating Morpheus.

We don't have to speculate by appeal to programming practices, or even look beyond the text of the first film. It's right there in the dialog.

  • Smith is an Agent.
  • Smith talks about previous versions of the matrix.
  • Thus, Agents know about previous versions. QED
  • 1
    Please read my question more carefully. I acknowledge in my question that Agent Smith knows that there were previous versions of the Matrix of some sort and he even seems to know something about the Paradise Matrix, but he doesn't indicate that he knows about the Nightmare Matrix. Knowledge of previous versions of the Matrix also doesn't indicate whether or not Agents knew about previous Ones.
    – Null
    Sep 16, 2022 at 3:40

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