Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Because I haven't actually written anything for long, and I just read something really interesting today, I will just write a thing quickly.

The book I'm reading is called "PHILOSOPHY 101: FROM PLATO AND SOCRATES TO ETHICS AND METAPHYSICS, AN ESSENTIAL PRIMER ON THE HISTORY OF THOUGHT”.  I think I bought this book when I was travelling San Francisco. I don't know why, but I was feeling like reading something philosophical and wanted to understand it (briefly). Check this out on Amazon. It's really easy to read.

Anyway, the idea/story that caught my eye is "Plato's Allegory of the Cave". (I'll just copy and paste the part, so it's quite long.) 

There exists a cave where, inside, a group of prisoners has been locked up since birth. These prisoners cannot move. Their necks and legs are chained so that they can’t shift or turn around and they can only see what is in front of them: a stone wall. Behind and above the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a low wall where people walk, carrying objects on their heads. The light of the fire casts shadows of the objects onto the wall in front of the prisoners. These shadows are all the prisoners can see. The only sounds they hear are the echoes from the cave.

Now, because these prisoners have never been exposed to the actual objects and all their lives they have only witnessed the shadows, they mistake these shadows for reality. The echoes of the cave, to them, are noises created by the shadows. If a shadow of a book were to appear, for example, these prisoners would claim that they have seen a book. They are not saying this is a shadow of a book, because their reality doesn’t know shadows. Eventually, one of the prisoners would understand the nature of this world and would be able to guess what shadow would come next, which would lead to praise and recognition from the other prisoners.

Now, let’s suppose one of the prisoners is set free. If a person were to show that prisoner an actual book, the prisoner would not be able to recognize it. To the prisoner, a book is the shadow that was cast on the wall. The illusion of a book seems more real than the book itself.

Socrates continues, pondering what would happen if that freed prisoner were to then turn toward the fire. The prisoner would surely turn away from so much light and turn back to the dark shadows, which he holds to be more real. Now, what if this was taken one step further, and the prisoner was forced to go outside? The prisoner would be angry, distressed, and unable to see the reality before him because he would be so blinded by the light.

A great example that shows this idea in popular culture is the Matrix. I was obsessed with it about 5 months ago. I just kept watching it, wondering what if the world we're living in isn't real. What if what we see, hear, everything we are taught is manipulated by someone, and we don't realise if that's real or not because everything is just so manipulated.

I read this article "We can’t let tech giants, like Facebook and Twitter, control our news values", on the Guardian the other day, and made me think manipulation is happening today. It's happening as a name called "algorithm". It's not exactly the same as what we think "manipulation" is, but what I'm saying is that we only seek what we know and we are only shown what we look for.

Anyway, I just wrote this down quickly as a note just to sort out my thoughts.