Red Pill or Blue Pill

Life. The Universe. And Everything.

Who is really in control?

by Imani Scott


      Is our world what we really think, or is everything we have come to believe a misconception brought on by an outside force? In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, readers are taken on a wild ride through the universe. Adams, through humorous and sophisticated injects, make us look past the humor and contemplate what our purpose in life is. The novel brings up a situation in which the main character Arthur must come to terms with his world being designed to be a computer, unlike anything he ever envisioned. This situation makes us question if we are really the ones in control of our own reality. As far back as Plato’s writing Republic, and as recently as The Matrix, this idea has been brought up, but does anybody actually know if we control not only the world around us, but our own reality.

All of the Answers?

     After reading this wild story, we now know the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is 42. However, many people also believe they have found the answer to whether we are controlled by an outside force or if reality is as it seems and we truly control our lives and fate. These are a few of the concepts that have been discovered:

Organized Religion:

     Most organized religion is based on the concept that there is a higher being controlling the world around us, and it is up to the individual to create their own path in the world. In Ephesians 1:20-22 it is said of Christ that God "set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet." This way of looking at the world puts humans in a constant simulation controlled by a higher being that will decide their fate.

Computer Simulation:

     One idea is that we are inside of a computer simulation. This idea, developed by Nick Bostrom, places humans in a world created by post-human computers. These computers, whose purpose was to simulate the “forebears” of life, created conscious beings that are currently living out their simulated lives. Bostrom’s idea suggest that not only are we not the “original race”, but that are minds are more comparable to that of the advanced descendants that created the simulation. In Bostrom’s research he came up with his three main ideas that argue for this proposal, which are:

     1.the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;

      2.any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);

     3.we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave:

     In the seventh book of Republic, Plato describes what it is like to be a prisoner to an unknown reality. "Plato’s aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessary for us to achieve this reflective understanding. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms. For the terms of the language we use get their meaning by "naming" the Forms that the objects we perceive participate in." This idea that we gain an unreal truth to things that we do not truly understand gives mankind have a naïve disposition. Plato also speaks of the release of imprisonment, and the discovery of "truth," as stated by Jacob T. Snyder. The discovery of the actual reality, while initially a difficult transition from ignorance, was undoubtedly an empowerment provided by knowledge of the genuine world. In Snyder’s opinion the unearthing of the "truth" is the point Plato is trying to get across. Without the discovery of the truth one can never know what a lie is.

     This video completely shows Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in depth. Having a complete realization of what Plato is trying to explain may be difficult, but understanding the overall idea that one must realize the truth and then explain those discoveries to others so that everybody is enlightened is a concept that seems to shine through everything else.

Lack of control in Science Fiction

     From the answers given from various concepts and ideas, an idea of how we can either reach enlightenment, or stumble upon it, have created an abundance of science fiction creations that keep this idea of something unknown having control over our lives. Keeping these concepts in the minds of those that choose to view or read these works of science fiction may possibly be the first steps towards a realization of why we are here on this planet, and what we are meant to do.

The Matrix

     While this movie may be famous for its action packed story and great graphics, it also directly links to Plato's Allegory. The story is about Neo, an average with a constant unease about life that he can’t quit understand. He is offered the opportunity to either continue his life in ignorance, or reveal the truth of what he really is and the world he is actually a part of. With little hesitation he decides to find out the truth behind the life he has been living. Throughout the movie distinct parallels are made between the transformation Neo goes through and that of the freed prisoner. The steps of ignorance, disbelief, and eventually enlightenment are paramount in both of their changes. This idea that another being is misleading them so they believe and act accordingly is also a common theme between them and other works of science fiction.

The Adjustment Bureau

     This movie is not what most, if any, would describe as a work of science fiction, but regardless of the lack of new age technology, this movie still brings viewers into a new world with new concepts to understand. The idea of simulation seamlessly ties into the idea of Bostrum’s Computer simulation with a much higher emphasis on the individual. In both of these notions there is the realization that there is someone, somewhere, controlling major aspects of our lives. In this movie a group of higher beings, known as the bureau, meticulously plot out the daily lives of everybody to ensure that the people don’t destroy the planet or themselves. While the bureau is there to help people in the end, the idea that you have no self-control is demonstrated, and there is no way of gaining it from them. The idea that we as a species are not mature enough to control ourselves was the main idea behind this higher power displaying control over us.

Ascent to Enlightenment

     While we currently don’t know if we are alone in this universe, on this tiny blue dot called home, we can continue to make theories that will expand our mind. The first step to enlightenment is walking away from ignorance, and once we begin to do that it will become easier to find the answers to all of our questions. The problem we face as a species is that we are afraid of change and things that go against the norm, even if the answers to life were figured out, those that discovered the answers would be shunned and scorned for their ideas. We as a planet must rise through the phases of enlightenment if we ever want to answer the life changing questions we are obsessed with discovering.


     1."Who Controls the World?". Retrieved April 14, 2015 2014.
     2.Bostrom, Nick. "Are we Living in a Computer Simulation?" The Philosophical Quarterly 53.211 (2003): 243-55
     3."The Allegory of the Cave". Retrieved April 14, 2015
     4.Snyder, Jacob. "Reading Plato with Heidegger: A Study of the Allegory of the Cave." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Kent State University, 2012. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center.
     5.“The Matrix 101” Retrieved April 14, 2015.
     6. Milford, Mike. "Neo-Christ: Jesus, The Matrix, And Secondary Allegory As A Rhetorical Form." Southern Communication Journal 75.1 (2010): 17-34. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web.