In the Animatrix, the human leadership surrenders to the Machines in the UN building in New York City. The machine ambassador speaks on the terms of the surrender and then "signs" the document to accept it while the human leadership looks on.

This is the scene: Hand Over Your Flesh

After the surrender is accepted, the machine ambassador detonates a hidden nuclear device which destroys much of New York. The human leadership that just surrendered is obviously killed in the blast.

My question is: why did the Machines detonate the nuclear device and kill the human leaders, along with much of New York? What purpose did it serve?

From what we've seen in the rest of the Matrix, the Machines are cold and calculating but not butchers. When there is sufficient cause for violence, the Machines will use it to accomplish their goals, but what goal called for them to destroy the human leadership?

I realize that the instrument of surrender allowed the Machines to take essentially any action without reneging on the terms, but the detonation of the nuclear device seems irrational. For example, at the end of Revolutions, the Architect agrees to free the humans that wish to leave the Matrix. The Oracle inquires if he means to keep that agreement and the Architect seemingly scoffs at the idea of reneging. That suggests that the Machines would not make an agreement they did not mean to uphold, and it seems logical that the Machines would not take any extraneous action beyond the terms of the agreement (e.g. actions out of spite, revenge, etc.).

That is, once the Machines accepted the surrender of the humans, there was no need to kill the human leadership. The humans had been subjugated, the leadership usurped, and the Machines were given complete control. What reason did they have to detonate the nuclear device in the UN building?

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    +1. This is a good question, and one that has bugged me for a while. My only thought was that maybe the destruction of New York was part of the terms of surrender, payback for the attack on 01? But that doesn't make sense, because the diplomats don't seem like they're about to die. Looking forward to seeing if anyone has an answer. – Nerrolken Mar 10 '15 at 18:11
  • @Nerrolken - Agreed, I thought that was the reason, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. The humans understood the surrender to mean that militarily and politically the Machines have won. Generally, though, a surrender means an end to the violence and doesn't include a massacre. It's not really Machine-like to make an agreement where you essentially trick the other party, and it's also not Machine-like to enact payback. If that was the goal, why accept the surrender? Just blow it up, no surrender needed. That's the source of my question; the obvious explanation doesn't make sense in-universe. – Fatbird3 Mar 10 '15 at 18:22
  • Good question. The (unconditional) surrender does order the rest of humanity to stand down, so it was necessary for the machines to obtain the surrender. And since it was unconditional the machines technically had the authority to blow up NYC. So the machines did uphold their agreement, albeit the destruction of the human leadership was probably unnecessary. – Null Mar 10 '15 at 18:27
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    Out of universe, the detonation of the nuclear bomb is probably to further the parallels between the humans' surrender to the machines and the Japanese surrender to the Allies after the detonation of the atomic bombs in WWII. – Null Mar 10 '15 at 18:28
  • @Null Kind of breaks the metaphor, considering that the Humans had already surrendered when the nuke went off. – Nerrolken Mar 10 '15 at 18:30

There are three possibilities we can glean from what we know. All of them require speculation on our part, however:

Option A - The machines felt that it was a necessary strategic tactic.

The machines may have felt that, despite the treaty, the humans would eventually attempt to rebel or fight back. Therefore, they may have felt that it was a logical, necessary tactic needed to both eliminate the human leadership as well as intimidating the remaining human populace into obedience, in addition to having the treaty signed (for those who would honor such a signing). The machines most likely predict logical outcomes based on scenarios & odds, but the idea of anger & revenge are difficult concepts for them to understand. Therefore, the tactical effects of eliminating New York would far outweigh any side effects such as inciting the humans.

Option B - The treaty was a deception.

Another possibility is that the treaty itself was a deception designed entirely to lure the human leadership into a single location. Keep in mind that one of the recurring themes of the Matrix universe is that the machines had to start thinking like humans to win. Abstract concepts like deception, fallibility & hope are what it ultimately took to make the Matrix work. It's entirely possible that the event you describe was the Machines' first attempt at deception - a tactic they had seen the humans use to great effect.

Option C - The detonation could indicate a rift in Machine philosophy.

While no evidence is seen of this during Animatrix, it DOES appear on-screen in the films. There may be two differing philosophies, or even factions, within the Machines at the time of the signing. Whereas Faction 1 might be legitimately signing the treaty in good faith, Faction 2 could be taking advantage of the opportunity and destroying the human leadership. As we see in the later films, not all machines agree as to what should be done with the humans. Perhaps this incident was an early indicator of that disagreement.

  • Neither of those options require the Machines to sign the instrument of surrender. There is no logical reason to accept the human surrender if it is only meant as a deceptive or cynical tactic. The leadership had been gathered and the nuclear device could be detonated without signing the instrument. A: detonation without acceptance of the surrender would accomplish both intimidation and decapitation of leadership. B: detonation without acceptance of the surrender would have successfully deceived the human leadership into gathering to be killed. – Fatbird3 Mar 11 '15 at 19:18
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    Well, it depends - the machines could actually WANT the treaty signed yet still kill off the leadership. But, your comment also made me think of a third option which I'll add. – Omegacron Mar 11 '15 at 20:07
  • If the Machines want the instrument signed, that would suggest that they feel it is binding. If it is binding, yet they still wish to eliminate the human leadership, that means the Machines do not expect the humans to uphold their side of the agreement (which is a reasonable conclusion, given their history). But, if the Machines do not think the humans will abide by the agreement, why do the Machines want a formal surrender? It just seems like an arbitrary wish, which goes against the character of the Machines. – Fatbird3 Mar 11 '15 at 20:13
  • The Machines may understand at that point that there are two types of human - those who will honor the treaty, and those who won't honor a treaty but WILL honor a show of force. – Omegacron Mar 11 '15 at 20:15
  • Regarding Option C, also plausible. As you said, though, that would be speculative. It's also worth noting that the Machine ambassador both signs the agreement and is the source of the nuclear blast. Given the way Machine personalities (e.g. Architect, Smith) are portrayed in the movies, it seems out of sorts that a single Machine personality -- the ambassador, in this case -- would act in the interest of more than one Machine faction in a "split personality." It seems more likely that the ambassador would pick a side and act accordingly. – Fatbird3 Mar 11 '15 at 20:17

There is some evidence that the machines are less inclined or capable to break the terms of agreements than humans would be. From the ending of Matrix: Revolutions:

The Architect: Just how long do you think this peace is going to last?

Oracle: As long as it can. What about the others?

The Architect: What others?

Oracle: The ones that want out.

The Architect: Obviously they will be freed.

Oracle: I have your word?

The Architect: What do you think I am? Human?

That last line seems to imply that even if it might be to the Machine's advantage to go back on the agreement they made with Neo, something in their nature would prevent them from doing so. Given this attitude, a plausible answer is that they had some sort of moral code about agreements, and that this would include a preference for a surrender agreement in which both sides' obligations were clearly spelled out, even though they had the power to impose the "surrender your flesh" solution without any agreement from the humans. And if the terms of surrender didn't say anything one way or another about the specific fate of the ambassadors, perhaps that was why they had no problem with blowing them up if it they calculated it was to their strategic advantage (perhaps for the reasons Omegacron suggested, decreasing the likelihood of future rebellion by removing the human leadership), once they had already obtained the surrender agreement. If the ambassadors had thought to insert terms saying that they personally would be spared, I imagine the machines wouldn't have blown them up. But if the ambassadors didn't think of this possibility, then perhaps the machines only felt bound to abide by the letter of the agreement, not to any "spirit" of accepting humanity's peaceful surrender that wasn't explicitly spelled out.

  • +1. It's plausible that the Machines simply wanted a formal surrender, but then what reason do they have to detonate the device? To be safe that there will be no human resistance? It seems plausible but arbitrary, which the Machines are not. Arbitrary in two ways; first that the Machines want a formal surrender -- they are not bound by human morality, so desire for a formal surrender is odd. Second that upon receiving the surrender, they also wish to eliminate the possibility of resistance. As Machines, it's unlikely that they would bother with a surrender that they saw as unreliable. – Fatbird3 Mar 11 '15 at 19:58
  • Even if they don't exactly replicate human morality they may have their own sort of moral code, which includes a preference for a spelled-out agreements to end conflicts. I think the Architect's comments contradict your view that "As Machines, it's unlikely that they would bother with a surrender that they saw as unreliable"--he skeptically asked "how long do you think this peace is going to last" but scoffed at the idea of failing to abide by the Machine's side of the agreement (which also supports a kind of Machine morality--now that Smith is taken care of, what non-moral reason is there?) – Hypnosifl Mar 11 '15 at 22:13
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    The Architect talks about a "systemic anomaly" and says the One is the "eventually of an anomaly"--the anomaly is apparently related to human "choice", the desire to rebel from the Matrix, but it's not really clear if the Architect means that the periodic appearance of the One is also part of this anomaly, or if the Machines designed the One as part of their way of dealing with the anomaly of human rebellion. Even if the second is true, I don't think there's any evidence they designed the One to "change the Matrix" in any way he sees fit, rather if he was created by design, the design – Hypnosifl Mar 12 '15 at 4:02
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    (continued) Nothing in this would imply the Machines had designed the One to make independent judgments about how the Matrix should be managed, or that they would trust his judgments over their own. So I don't see why there would be anything irrational (a better word than 'illogical', which as I said deals only with whether statements are true or false, not which courses of action are good or bad) in simply ignoring the One's ideas about how to reform the Matrix once he had killed Smith. And if they trusted his ideas, why wouldn't they go along with them even before Smith was killed? – Hypnosifl Mar 12 '15 at 4:12
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    @Richard -- for some reason I'm not seeing any "take this discussion to chat" link now. – Hypnosifl Mar 13 '15 at 22:41

While I've not seen Animatrix and etc, one thing does come to me everytime I think about this:

What better way to state "Your flesh is now mine and I do what I like" than blow up a nuke with the human leadership there? It is the ultimate statement. And the humans can’t even complain, since they have given their bodies to the machines.

And what about the ending of a war? What did Julius Caesar say? He said (and I’m saying loosely, my memory prevents me from saying it precisely) that the conqueror will impose everything that he cans and the conquered will take everything imposed.

It is logical. Especially if you think about what the machines wanted. They wanted complete and total victory without having to deal with significant rebellion or partisan's work. Hence the statement. "Your flesh is now mine..."

A statement is different from a massacre. And yes, it is an massacre nonetheless in the case of this statement, but they still do whateaver the hell they want with their new slaves, and that sets how things are going to be from now on. Complete anihilation at the first sight of rebellion.


Found here it is stated that:

"Eventually brought to its knees by the might of the machines, the U.N. signs an armistice with them. However, after the machines' representative to the U.N. signs the treaty, it detonates a nuclear bomb in the meeting chamber, killing the assembled leaders and destroying New York City, one of the few remaining human settlements, and ending the war."

This implies that the most logical and effective way for the machines to have ended the war, knowing human cunning and deceitfulness (especially when humanity is faced with extinction), was to ensure complete submission. Humans might have decided to submit to the machines by means of survival as well, which explains the signing of the document, but the document was not meant to entail complete surrender:

"An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, since it might be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace." and "The key aspect in an armistice is the end of fighting without the surrender of any party to the conflict."

As a logical machine, knowing human history and the human nature, it would make the most sense to "cut off the snakes head", minimizing human counter-aggression and improving machine-survival dramatically.

Why did the machines sign the armistice anyway, though? The only logical thought behind it is that the machines wanted to make a statement that they did not accept the human ways of war/peace. There would be no further negotiation because the machines saw this as the most effective route, and for the surviving humans humans to understand this, this statement was necessary.

  • The problem with citing wikipedia as a source is that anyone can write anything. I could just as easily edit it to say that they did it because they didn't like the decor. – Valorum Mar 12 '15 at 8:25
  • I don't think Wikipedia's phrasing should be used as a definitive source. It's not quite right, anyway, as it was an unconditional surrender and not an armistice agreement. The full text of the instrument of surrender is visible in the Animatrix, and is transcribed here: matrix.wikia.com/wiki/Instrument_of_Surrender. As you can see, it was very much and end of the war. – Fatbird3 Mar 12 '15 at 16:20
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    @Richard To be fair, the decor in the UN building is hideous. They've got shag carpet on the walls, for crying out loud. So don't discount that theory quite yet... – Nerrolken Mar 13 '15 at 22:52

I think that it was a human terrorist attack. Maybe our political heads could sign a treaty with the machines but there is not such a thing as a monolithic human thinking. You can see it in Matrix Reloaded. So, when humanity received the news about the surrender, it is very possible that rebel groups arose.

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    Are you basing this on solid Matrix evidence that you could edit in to back up your answer or is it just speculation? – Jenayah Jul 13 '20 at 5:21

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