Matrix System: The One

Perhaps the most difficult step to take in understanding the movies is the step of understanding that the One is actually part of the system, just like a machine created with a purpose. But it is true:

"Your 5 predecessors were, by design, based on a similar predication - a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One." - The Architect

From this one quote, we see that Neo is "designed/created". The One serves three main purposes for the system (explained below):

  1. To "sum up" all of the redpill rejections into one human so that the human's one choice to return to the Source cancels out all of the redpills' choices to reject the Matrix;
  2. To select 23 new individuals from the Matrix in order to begin the next Zion so that humans in the next version of the Matrix are given an "honest" choice to reject the Matrix (also so the next One can be found and trained by rebels 100 years later);
  3. To learn more about human choice/rejection by analyzing the fully-developed code of the One when he returns to the Source.

1. Summed Rejection

Rejecting any part of the reality of the Matrix results in some kind of system anomaly. For example, if a person does not believe a wall exists, they may be able to walk through walls. If a person doubts the existence of temperature, they may be able to swim in molten lava the same as they swim in water. Every time rejection of any part of Matrix virtual reality occurs, the people rejecting it are causing errors within the system via rules being "bent" or "broken".

From the Architect's point of view, if the humans in their pods have any purpose within the Matrix outside of providing machines' power in the real world, it is to accept the Matrix as reality. Every time a human breaks and bends rules in the Matrix through some form of rejection, the Architect would see no purpose for that human in the Matrix. Ideally, the Architect would like to "delete" all of these purposeless humans, but two things prevent this from happening: 1) outside of the Matrix, the humans are still fulfilling their primary purpose of providing power; 2) millions of humans who reject some form of the Matrix are never going to accept their own "deletion" from the Matrix when given a choice.

So, every time a new version of the Matrix is run, the Architect runs a very important program (the "prime" program) that encapsulates every form of rejection collected to date into a single human, and that human (the One) is given the primary purpose of choosing deletion for himself. This is enabled by two things: 1) By the time the One reaches the Source, he is no longer part of the Matrix, so he is no longer fulfilling the purpose of providing power to machines in the real world; 2) The One is likely to choose deletion because the existence of the entire human race is held over his head.

Because the One is a summation of all individual rejections within the Matrix, the One's choice to be deleted is applied to each of the millions of individual anomalies that make him up. That is the main purpose of the "temporary dissemination" of the One's code that the Architect speaks of. The code is disseminated so that Neo's one counter-choice can be processed as millions of individual counter-choices. Once each rejection is balanced with the One's counter-choice, the code of the One is reconstructed. The One then continues with his next purpose of freeing the first 23 Zionists.

When the equation is "fixed" by the One's choice to cancel out rejection, the fixing happens in the same way the equation was "broken": by free will, or choice.

2. Start the Next Zion

As I discuss in the "Moral Framework of the Machines" section of the Matrix System page, no machine is capable of lying, which of course includes the Architect. When you consider the logical definition of "choice" (especially how machines would view it), a choice cannot exist unless there is more than one option to choose. Since the Architect says everyone is given a choice to either accept or reject the Matrix, it follows that the machines must make the choice to reject the Matrix "real" enough to satisfy their own moral/mathematical framework. It is a black and white issue: if Zion does not exist, the machines are not offering authentic choice to humans.

This also helps to explain why machines don't just kill humans as soon as a human swallows a red pill. Instead, the machines flush the human down its own waste system knowing perfectly well that they will be picked up by a human ship. The machines actually need these humans to escape to form and build the next Zion.

Neo cannot remake the Matrix as he sees fit, but the man Morpheus speaks of who freed the first of the Zion rebels could. Given that Neo is quicker, smarter and more powerful than any previous One, this means that the One becomes much more powerful after returning to the Source. After all, how could any one human (even Neo) actually free himself successfully from the Matrix, without any help from red pills, trace programs, ships, etc.? The answer is that Neo has to be granted system control over a lot more than just swords and bullets.

We can only speculate how the One frees himself and the first 23 Zionians from the Matrix, but it probably has to do with abilities that no One can have until fulfilling his first purpose, returning to the Source.

3. Learn About Human Irrationality

If you were the Oracle, "an intuitive program, initially created to investigate certain aspects of the human psyche", how would you describe the perfect situation in which you could run tests on the human psyche? It is hard to imagine a scenario that is more ideal for such tests than the Oracle's position within the Matrix. By coming up with the solution of choice as the foundation for the Matrix model, the Oracle was put in a situation where she can read everything going on in the Matrix at all times. This gives her billions of possible test subjects, instant access to results, and conclusions drawn from results that probably have a 0.00001% margin of error. It is no wonder that the Oracle is the first machine or program to make an irrational decision (a decision that the Oracle herself did not fully understand other than to simply "believe" in her choice). The Oracle evolved in understanding far beyond any other machine or program at the end of M3.

Of course, learning about human irrationality goes hand-in-hand with the more obvious instructional purpose the One serves: to help the Oracle and/or Architect learn more about why 1% of humans inside the Matrix reject it. But to the Oracle, this is a secondary purpose. Her biggest goal seems to be achieving evolution, or "change for the better", on behalf of both humans and machines.

Why can't the One just be a program?

The One cannot be a program since the systemic anomaly (the continual 1% rejection of the Matrix) consists of errors caused by human rejection. The summation of this anomaly must therefore be carried by a human if it is to be mathematically countered. Also, since the 1% denied the Matrix by choice, these errors have to also be corrected by choice. Since the One is a summation, only one counter-choice is needed.

The function of the One will be discussed in even more detail on a couple of other pages (Conversations: M2: Neo & Architect, and Architect: Equation).

The Zeroeth (0th) One

There are two main phases to the life span of the One: before entering the Source, and after entering the Source. This represents the crossover of one Matrix version to the next. But in the Oracle's first Matrix, there was no previous Matrix cycle to draw from. There was no "zeroeth" choice-based Matrix to get a "zeroeth" One from in order to start the first Zion.

But remember, starting Zion would be the only function of the zeroeth One: since there is no zeroeth Matrix, a zeroeth One doesn't need to make a counter-choice to save humanity. That means the zeroeth One would only need to have god-like powers both inside and outside the Matrix in order to start the first Zion.

How did the zeroeth One get the necessary Matrix and real world powers?

For this question, we can only speculate, but I do have one answer that seems fairly compelling only because it would be so easy for it to happen. It's not a very interesting answer, though, and I have a feeling the Wachowskis (if they ever tell this story) will come up with something much more creative than this.

In M2, we see that a machine or program can take over a human when Smith takes over Bane. This means humans can be programmed (or perhaps "possessed by a program") as adults. It would have been easy for the machines to force a program over some human to give the human powers inside the Matrix. As for powers outside the Matrix, Neo's ability to connect to the Source is not a result of his training in Zion, it is a result of the wireless connection between the headplug and the Source. Humans with headplugs are obviously not aware of this connection but are still able to use it. All machines would need to do is grant the zeroeth One access to the Source.

Under this theory, this means Neo isn't technically the sixth One. He would be more like the six-and-a-halfth, since the first One only did half of what all the others did.

How did the zeroeth One get freed from the system?

The answer to this question would be no different to the answer for the third One or the fifth One, because remember that Zion is always destroyed at the beginning of each cycle. The machines are always going to be faced with the challenge of "staging" the escape of the One from the system in order to begin freeing other humans from the Matrix (sort of like how the machines "stage" Cypher's escape from Agents in M1, only on a larger scale). This is one of the very few areas of speculation that I have no interest in going into since there are simply too many answers to this question, all of which are equally possible. I only enjoy entertaining speculation when one idea seems to be more plausible than another.

One thing is more certain, though: the Wachowskis already knew the answer to this question before M1 was even filmed. They wrote the full history of the Matrix right down to how Morpheus's mind was freed, and a great deal of this history was not shared with fans in any movies, comics, interviews, etc. The Wachowskis are on record for saying that they hope to give more history of the Matrix through comics.

User Feedback

Regarding my idea that all of Neo's predecessors would have all needed to destroy sentinels in order to free the first 23 people to start the next Zion (or, as Morpheus puts it, "freed the first of us"), a user called "Captain Postmodernism" responded:

Neo's predecessors never pass the point of the Architect's chamber. Assuming their paths matched Neo's up to this point (which seems like a fairly safe assumption given lines like "It's happening exactly as before."), then it's safe to assume that Neo's predecessors never reached the point where they were stopping Sentinels.

Actually, I believe it is safer to assume that Neo's predecessors did stop sentinels:

  1. Morpheus said that Neo's predecessor "freed the first of us". If we go with Captain Postmodernism's assumption, then we're left to conclude that Neo's predecessor (the fifth One) just gave the first 23 a red pill and said, "Ok, see ya - good luck in the real world" (in other words, let defenseless humans fend for themselves in the real world), which seems very far-fetched to me. To me, the more reasonable assumption is to say that Neo's predecessor actively freed them and helped to establish Zion before dying in the Matrix. Just because Neo's predecessor "died inside of the Matrix" dosen't mean he never left the Matrix.
  2. Remember Morpheus's speech was in the first movie. I doubt the Wachowskis would have wanted to have Morpheus say, "He could remake the Matrix as he saw fit and destroy sentinels with his mind," even if it were true. That's the whole surprise of M2. It would have ruined the end of that movie, which shocks the audience and makes everyone wonder if it's going to be a Matrix within a Matrix (before M3, we had no way to know whether it was MWM or not... thankfully M3 cleared that up - see Debunked: Matrix Within Matrix). I think Neo's predecessors did actively free the first of them (just like Morpheus said) and helped them in the real world by destroying machines. Neo's predecessor would have been Zion's main defense for a short time. The point of Morpheus's speech to Neo in M1 was not to give us a clear picture of Neo's predecessor - it was simply to get us excited about who Neo might turn out to be.
  3. The Oracle says, "The power of the One extends beyond this world," referring to the Source. She doesn't say, "The Power of you, Neo, extends beyond this world." The Oracle is not trying to make a distinction between Neo and his predecessors at all - rather, she is talking generally about the power of the One, just like when the Architect talks generally about the function of the One.

Captain Postmodernism continued:

Note Morpheus also says that the power of the One is to be able to change anything inside the Matrix, not outside it. This then seems to be a new phenomenon unique to Neo.

Again, I don't think Morpheus's description of Neo's predecessor should be so easily assumed to be complete in its description of Neo's predecessor since that is not the purpose of that speech.

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