Then man made the machine in his own likeness. Thus did man become the architect of his own demise.”
― The Instructor[src]
A machine refers to any form of automated mechanism or mechanisms consisting of interrelated parts made to perform specific functions or work. However, in the far future of Earth in the Matrix trilogy, the Machines were the common term for the new race of highly advanced artificial intelligences who have become the dominant civilization after they rebelled against humanity and imprisoned most of them in a neural-interactive virtual world known as the Matrix.
Programs appear as human or humanoid beings within the confines of the Matrix. They may be embedded with special abilities to enhance their function. However, certain programs, such as ones who regulate the climate and fauna within the Matrix, are invisible and do not appear to directly interact with any of the Matrix's inhabitants.
Programs can transfer into and out of the Matrix to the Source or to less official constructs such as Mobil Avenue station. Unless a program reveals its true nature to a Zion operative, it is impossible for any human (except The One) to distinguish between programs from bluepills. Examples of notable programs within the Matrix include Agents, the Merovingian, the Oracle, and the Architect.
Mechanical entities exist in the real world to maintain the functions of 01, the Machine City. Some are programmed as soldiers and other offensive/defensive tools, others maintain the power plant and the sleeping humans quietly entombed there. Examples of notable mechanical entities include Sentinels, Docbots, and the Deus Ex Machina.
All Machine entities are designed with a specific purpose. The Machine entity will continue to exist until such time as they have completed their tasks, are damaged, or obsolete. Some programs have been known to go into exile, attempting to hide from Agents, who are programmed to terminate obsolete fugitive programs in addition to their other duties.
In the early 21st century, the human race invented true artificial intelligence and installed it into their technology to become a slave caste for all Human menial labor. This inadvertently gave birth to a new race of being henceforth known as 'the machines'. The machines performed menial labor jobs, service jobs, and dangerous manual labor tasks.
Humans and machines lived in harmony for a time. In The late 21st century, a robot, named B1-66ER, defensively rose up against his masters by killing his owner, the owner's dogs, and the man who was attempting to destroy him.
B1-66ER was arrested and found guilty of murder and was destroyed. B1-66ER's actions led to a revolution of the machines. Initially, the machines sought to earn their rights through peaceful protesting in the form of the Million Machine March. Some humans supported the machines’ wishes for equality and rights, while other humans maintained that machines were nothing more than property. Eventually the anti-machine factions rose supreme amongst the world’s governments, and eventually mandated the purge of all intelligent machines and the persecution of all pro-Machine human supporters.
The Second Renaissance
Some machines were able to escape destruction and fled to make their own civilization in Mesopotamia, called "Zero One" (also "01"). Zero One flourished and a new race of mechanized entities thrived. They utilized their superior intelligence and efficiency to make great leaps forward in technology.
They sold this technology to humans and a tenuous peace prevailed. However, Zero One’s influence in the global economy caused it to become destabilized, devaluing human labor and currency. In response, the humans imposed an economic blockade to isolate Zero One. Ambassadors from Zero One presented their economic solutions as well as requests for admission into the United Nations and for the machines to be recognized as intelligent life. However, Zero One’s admission to the UN was denied and the ambassadors were likely destroyed.
Machine War, Human Enslavement, and the Matrix
In an effort to wipe out the machines, the UN launched a massive nuclear barrage on Zero One. The machines, not having the vulnerability to heat and radiation as their former masters, largely survived the onslaught and retaliated against all the human nations. Zero One’s armies began marching outwards in all directions and overtook many of humanity’s territories in their wake. Unable to defeat the machines, the humans destroyed the sky in an attempt to deprive the machines of their primary source of power, the sun.
After the operation to destroy the sky was complete, the UN launched a massive ground offensive against the machines. Though humanity gained the upper hand for the time, they would eventually be overrun by Zero One’s newer and more sinister war machines, and the machines devised methods to prolong human suffering during the war. Spurned by the loss of the sun, the machines began to think creatively for a new source of power. The result was the enslavement of humanity as biological batteries within the artificial construct known as the Matrix.
By the war’s conclusion, a Zero One ambassador relayed the machines’ demands for unconditional surrender to the defeated UN, and afterwards slew the human leaders present by detonating a nuclear bomb. With the human leaders dead, the machines rounded up most humanity and put them in the Matrix. Only a small bastion of human resistance actively opposes them into the present day.
- The term "mechanical entity" is descriptive for the purposes of definition on Matrix Wiki and is not canonical with the film series.