Yellow pill

In “The Matrix”, Morpheus offers Neo a choice:

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

In popular culture, the “blue pill” has come to be associated with choosing to live within a happy and tranquil illusion. The “red pill” has come to be associated with making the braver but more difficult choice to live in reality, no matter how harsh that reality may turn out to be.

So here we have a comparison between two opposite approaches to life. Should we optimize for avoidance of pain or for truth?

Speaking of truth, in truth there are three primary colors, not two. So suppose there were a yellow pill? What would it signify?

Other than reality or illusion, what else is there? What could that third thing be?

5 thoughts on “Yellow pill”

  1. Green is the third primary for additive colors, yellow for subtractive colors.

    For additive material (eg: LED lights), color adds from black. For subtractive material (eg: paint), colors subtract from white.

    The color of a pill comes from dye, which is subtractive.

  2. But in this case we are adding. You are adding knowledge (sometimes described metaphorically as light).

    Is it the hard truth you are ingesting or a happy lie.


    In terms of what the pill (whatever colour it is), I think the third option would be something along the lines of a comfortable acceptance of reality. A form of double think where you can be aware of the truth without getting upset by it. The quote that jumps to mind is the Christopher Hitchens one on Free Will: “Yes I have free will; I have no choice but to have it.”

  3. Hitchens has a good point: the red/blue pill setup invokes a dualism based on oppositional logic: either one or the other, exclusively, and not both since that would break the law of the excluded middle. The “yellow pill” in that case amounts to recognizing that binary oppositions are high abstractions, whereas the underlying condition is one of mutualist inclusion. Whitehead gives us the example: “Where there’s a leisure class, someone’s doing the work!” As soon as you construe any class, you have at the same time construed its other, and the two are mutually bound together and presuppose each other. As other examples, the finite is meaningless apart from infinitude, the north pole is meaningless apart from the south, and so on. In short, binary constructs are really triads. As soon as you propose two poles, A and B, there is also always implicitly constructed the unity, chunk, or whole, which we could write as A~B, and under which the two poles are related and given ground as mutually inclusive terms. As you observed, we have a habit of forgetting this, the yellow pill. Btw, this is why Whitehead prefers the term “contrast” in place of “opposition”: the notion of contrast already encodes a bundled perspective or standpoint, and allows that shifting our standpoint can alter the angle of incidence, revealing that where there were previously two options, there is now a rainbow of alternatives. Gender, as a contrast rather than an opposition, is fully compatible with the emergence of a plethora of letters beyond M and F. This mode of thinking is anathema in certain materialist circles, however, since it amounts to admitting that the law of the excluded middle and the principle of sufficient reason are in some way or another contingent and conditional, rather than hard and fast facts about our universe. To which a 2019 Morpheus will no doubt say: “So you think contingency and necessity are mutually exclusive? Interesting.” And smile that cheshire cat grin… Enjoy Siggraph!

  4. Jon, very insightful analysis. We miss you here at Siggraph. 🙂

    Building on your argument, we might argue that “I am experiencing a pleasant illusion” added to “I am experiencing true reality” would actually be the purple pill (the sum of red and blue). We can associate this pill with the concept “I am experiencing”.

    If we accept this premise, then the yellow pill would perhaps represent the negation of the “I” — experience without ego.

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