In this next piece I want to talk about control and religion. With the help of a couple of lines from Mr.Robot said by the main character Elliot. Lines like: “F*** god. I need a better scapegoat.” and “I don’t listen to my own imaginary friend. Why should I listen to yours?”
Well, he has a point. Why should he believe in something that he can’t see? It makes no sense. On the other hand his comparison is a bit flawed. An imaginary friend is someone, somebody actually sees. The problem is no one else does. It’s different with religion, no one sees god. And if you do people will think you’re mad. Do note the irony.
With the rise of science, religion started to fade. And it’s been fading ever since. Because now we can predict things like the movement of particles and the weather. Now we gained a sense of control over the universe and with that our lives. No longer are we part of a bigger plan, we create our own plan. Now we’re fully in control. Or are we?
I think a point that is being made in Mr.Robot is that we’re not as much in control as we would like to think. Even though we can predict things and create a well structured society. Even though we stay in the lane and drive under the speed limit, we still get hit by that car, as a character in the series puts it.
The car is a symbol for an uncontrollable and inevitable factor, that we just can’t factor in. Or at least not yet. With the innovations in science it feels like we’re getting more and more control over things that we couldn’t dream of before. We can make all kinds of decisions, concerning for example genetic alterations, that question morality and make us feel divine.
We can create artificial and virtual worlds but there are still things we can’t comprehend. There is still an uncertainty. Something that doesn’t make sense in a world where everything does. And even though we are (naturally) further than we’ve ever been before, it seems like an ‘old’ theme like control and religion is not yet solved. Should you see as something that is solvable in the first place.
It gets really interesting when you start to think about the control we have in worlds that we create ourselves. For example Westworld. In the series, Westworld is mostly created by Dr.Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins). The power and sense of control he has is incredibly interesting. You can see a bit of that in the video below.
“In here we were gods and you were merely our guests.”
Dr.Ford says this in an extremely daunting way. It sounds unnatural yet in the scene it’s sunny and there is green everywhere. A contradiction, that amplifies the scariness of his line a little. And also describes my thoughts on creating our own worlds, it’s awesome in the most daunting way.
Ford is entirely in control of Westworld because he created it. He knows it like the back of his hand. Better even, imagine he created his hand.
It makes sense we would feel completely in control in artificial worlds. But how about the digital world, the internet. We created the internet. It’s a world where everybody, at it’s core can create. Just like you can create things physically, you can digitally. Creating and predicting are things that cause a sense of control.
Let’s go back to Mr.Robot. We have Elliot, the main character. He is struggling with staying in control. The only time he remotely feels in control is when he’s programming.
When he is creating and knows what will happen when he presses those keys. And the computer executes his every command. It’s this part he is so in control of that keeps him sane enough and allows him to live with the chaos in his life. It’s the internet that keeps him sane.
The digital world connects us with people on the other side of the world. Just imagine what people would say in the middle ages if we would show them this. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Because I’m thinking sorcery. Magic. Witchcraft even.
They would probably look at it as something unholy, in any case unnatural. Those days are well past. But it’s still interesting. Often you hear things like: “without the internet we’d be back in the dark ages’. I’m not sure about that, but it would sure destroy any collective connectivity we have. And it might cause people to feel like they are thrown into the deep waters of unknown individualism. Which may in turn feel like you’re left to your fate and that would definitely not boost your sense of control.
What is control?
I have been tiptoeing around this question. I think there are few kinds of control. The kind where what you do has meaning. More like an influential control. And then there is the kind where you’re the one that decides what to do, you have a free will and are in control of your choices. I’ve mostly been talking about that last kind, whether we’re the one’s really creating our own lives.
But I’d like to leave you with one more thing. Riddle me this. If everything is your choice. There are still things that happen to you. Like the car I was talking about earlier. But in an artificial world. Or a virtual one for that matter, those ‘random’ things shouldn’t exist because it’s all planned and created by us, right? But aren’t those worlds still in this world? Does it matter that it’s a perfectly planned out world in a world full of chaos? And if it does my final question is: Should anything I said even apply?