18 October, 2012

The Green Pill

Meaning is a human construct. It is not a property the universe possesses, that only humans are capable of grasping. It is an artifice, that only the human mind* is complex enough to construct. And while it bears some decided advantages (I would wager that bestowing life with meaning is a powerful survival advantage), getting lost in it can bear grave disadvantages - most notably in a willing blindness to the truth, like when faced with the fact that our consciousness will most likely someday return to the nothingness from whence it sprang, and not live on in an eternal afterlife.

(*It is conceivable that an organism with a comparable percentage of the capacity of the human mind may experience some level of 'meaning', and that a hypothetical organism with intelligence surpassing that of man's potential could also experience 'meaning', perhaps on an even more sophisticated level.)

I would be a fool to suggest that fantasy can not have a positive impact on life - but to get lost in it, losing sense of reality in the process, is dangerous. I do not think anyone's enjoyment of movie pictures, for example, are seriously hampered by the knowledge that they are just dramatic fantasies. On the other hand, those that allow themselves to remain trapped within the theater - like those chained inside of Plato's Cave - who are ignorant or unwilling to recognize the true nature of the world outside, may be doing themselves a disservice; but, more importantly, on a mass scale, their influence can negatively affect the quality of individuals' lives, as well as the advancement of human civilization on the whole.

Yes, I'm saying that meaning is a fantasy - but I'm also acknowledging that fantasy can have meaning. The impetus for this whole line of thought was the classic philosophical conundrum that presents itself in The Matrix as the red pill/blue pill question. Yes, of course, life in The Matrix is more comfortable than life out in the harsh, depressing world of reality. That's probably why so many people have turned to religion over the course of human history. For some of us, like myself, there is perhaps some virtue in enduring hardship for the sake of truth, and being free from deception. But here's the kicker:

Life in The Matrix may be more comfortable than life in the real world, but it is those who recognize The Matrix for the artificial construct that it is that have the power to mold that construct to their will, giving them abilities and experiences they couldn't dream of whether in The Matrix and ignorant of its artifice, or out in the real world. It's the ones who recognize the deception, but do not shun its deceptive properties, that are in a position to control it and wield it for their own ends. It is not simply a question of red pill or blue pill - harsh reality versus comfortable illusion. I urge you to take the green pill - so that you can begin to recognize the code and program it to suit your needs - in a sense, becoming our own gods. And as a transhumanist, I believe this is what we ought to do as a society on the whole.