The Blue Pill Dilemma: Is Knowledge a Blessing or a Curse?
The question about choosing knowledge or willful ignorance is at least as old as Plato’s Cave; older perhaps, down to the Tree of Good and Evil. Science Fiction writers can be as illuminating as they can be ambiguous. In the original The MatrixNeo took the Red Pill, choosing Truth – and got himself into a world of trouble. Wouldn’t the Blue Pill (of “Ignorance is Bliss”) have served him better?
In dystopian tales, deep questioning is proscribed to safeguard the (questionable) happiness of the general population. In pre- and postapocalyptic scenarios scientific knowledge can be savior and culprit, both revered and feared. Brain-in-a-vat stories make the choice between harsh reality and simulated bliss vivid and poignant, while cyberpunk stories emphasize the double-edged dangers of making all our personal information conveniently available. The tension thus created in these stories merits examination. Which is preferable? Which is better? Can a truth cause more harm than a lie? Is there a danger of knowing too much? Is knowledge just a neutral tool, or is there, as Plato would have it, something inherently good about seeking knowledge?
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