The Truman Show

Plato’s Cave or Truman’s Dome?

Stephen Baxter

[Excerpted from Stephen Baxter, “The Real Matrix,” in Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present, ed. Karen Haber (2004), p. 35.  The present title was not Baxter’s, but was rather applied to the excerpt by Alexander S. Peak.]

Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank

The idea that the world around us may not be real reaches back to Plato, who wondered if what we see resembles the flickering shadows on a cave wall.  The notion of creating deceptive artificial environments dates back at least as far as Descartes, who in the seventeenth century speculated on the philosophical implications of a sense-manipulating “demon”—effectively a pretechnological virtual-reality generator.  A recent example is the movie The Truman Show (1999 [sic]) in which the protagonist is the unwitting star of a TV show, trapped under a fake domed sky.