The Matrix 20 years on: how a sci-fi film tackled big philosophical questions
The Matrix is a cult Sci-Fi movie and refers to a computer-generated dream world where all mankind is suspended, not knowing that they are being farmed by AI(artificial intelligence).
The first film of the Matrix Trilogy is now 20 years old. Apart from being a huge box office smash hit and cultural phenomenon, it has spawned discussions spanning decades about the nature of human life and reality itself.
A Matrix-like scenario was discussed in a book by Plato, Republic, in which he imagined all human life akin to a group of prisoners who have lived their entire lives inside the walls of their prison, with the only experience of reality being the shadows on that wall.
If they are freed and discover the truth of reality, they may not be able to comprehend the vastness of life and may find it difficult to leave the captivity of ignorance.
The 17th century Frenchman René Descartes had observed how easily our senses are fooled and noted the difficulty of being certain about any human experience, which he claimed can be faked.
We know it too well now with the advent of fake news, fake-reality TV and our fake online identities, hiding all which is not good enough to broadcast.
The uncertainty about the realness of our experience is studied by many philosophers, like the 20th-century French thinker Jean Baudrillard, whose book, Simulacra and Simulation, ponders on the phenomenon of imitations/representations being mistaken as reality itself.
In recent times, the Simulation Theory ponders about the same questions about reality.
According to 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, our senses are everything, creating our reality for us. The world, according to him, does not have one reality, but as many realities as there are people.
Through our senses, the world available to us is the only world we ever experience and is a fraction of reality.
Neo, the protagonist of the Matrix, is pushed into the rabbit hole when he takes the red pill to embrace the real reality, instead of the blue pill, which is a way to return to the normal, ignorant reality most of us live in.
This choice itself was based on a 1974 thought experiment by American philosopher Robert Nozick, pondering how an experience machine, by which we can have any reality we desire(a comfortable illusion) would be better than our current reality, with all its problems.
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