Red pill and blue pill

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The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, are pop culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill).

I know why you’re here. I know what you’ve been doing, why you hardly sleep, and why night after night you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did…The answer is out there, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to. -Trinity, The Matrix

The terms, popularized in science fiction culture, derive from the 1999 film The Matrix. In the movie, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix, therefore living the "illusion of ignorance", while the red pill would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the real world, therefore living the "truth of reality".

Choosing How You Want to Live, the Red Pill and Blue Pill[edit]


You’re here because you believe—at least on some level—that there is more to life. You have become self aware that you have a choice on how you wish to live your life. We give so much meaning to things that don’t really mean anything at all. Those things are not important. What’s important in your life is actually far more simple, and yet vastly more complex. And thus the old cliche holds true: life’s most important things are, in fact, free.


What is important in our lives? We believe it’s:

Health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)


Pursing your passions

Personal growth

Contribution beyond yourself

Freedom (spending your time how you chose to spend it)

What else is important to you? We bet it’s not a bunch of physical stuff, we bet it’s not some T-shirt or some gadget or some material possession.

Self Awareness and Life Decisions, Jane Chin

1. Nothing happens until you act. You can be the smartest most incredible reservoir of potential the world has ever known and this potential will die with you unless potential energy becomes kinetic energy.

2. Your ability to heal, to help, and to harm intercalates with the stories you tell yourself about who you are, why you exist, and the nature of the world you believe you live in. “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”- Mahatma Gandhi

3. Your true personal power grows not from what you will do once you have arrived, but what you have been doing all the way along the journey, especially the really shitty parts where you imagine everyone's booing you and laughing at you and betting on you to quit or, making this life a perverse game indeed, betting on you to stay until the bitter deadly end instead of quitting while you're ahead.

4. There is a reason why the word "fulfillment" is written as "FULfillment" and not "FILfullment": you must identify what you already hold in full (abundance) and give this away as readily as you exhale your breath. Same goes for why the word "generous/generate" is stitched into the word "regenerate": you become renewed the more you gift of what runs through you, inexhaustible. The more you give to take from others, the more exhausted you become in giving. The more you give that comes from a place of "you cannot help but to give of this, as this is how you express yourself to life", the more you are given in return.

5. There is a critical lesson that the most favored Psalm in the world teaches, regardless of religious affiliation (I posit a similar lesson resonates in other religious texts only I'm not scholarly enough to know them) -- "even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." notice how the song does not speak of "the valley of death" but instead inserts a seemingly clumsy extra appendage "shadow" as in "valley of the shadow of death". This is because we become afraid more of the shadow, which creates the valley, than of death itself, which we cannot know. But we who live all learn to know fear. Thus my final lesson is, correctly identify the shadow, and please do not mistake the shadow or equate the shadow for death itself. We fear the fear of death more than we can truly fear death.


We took the proverbial red pill and an entire new world opened up for us, and we discovered an utterly new and simple life, one in which we wake up every day excited to live, one in which we are passionate and fulfilled, happy and free.

If you already took the red pill awhile ago—and you’re already taking your journey, we applaud your efforts, and we support your decision. But if you’re standing there, at nightmare’s ragged edge, wondering if the red pill is for you, we want you to ask yourself one question…

Do I want to live a more meaningful life?

If the answer is yes, then we encourage you to take the red pill, embrace reality, and stick around.

Take the Red Pill, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus


In The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) hears rumors of the Matrix and a mysterious man named Morpheus. Neo spends his nights at the computer trying to discover the secret of the Matrix and what the Matrix is. Eventually he is introduced to Morpheus by another hacker called Trinity.

After some explanation of the Matrix by Morpheus and the truth that he is just a small part of the Matrix and one of the Matrix's "slaves", and as he tells him that he can become free, Morpheus explains the choice to Neo:

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.

As narrated, the blue pill will allow the subject to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix, and the red pill serves as a "location device" to locate the subject's body in the real world and to prepare him to be "unplugged" from the Matrix. Each person has only one choice with no possibility to reverse their original choice. There are two kinds of people" the "bluepills," the people who took the blue pill and remained in the Matrix or were not yet given the choice; and the "redpills" who took the red pill and were freed from the Matrix.

In the film, Neo chooses the red pill, and is shown the true nature of the Matrix; a detailed simulation of Earth circa 1999, in which the bodies of human inhabitants are stored in massive power plants, complacent in a mental prison, in order to convert their heat and bioelectrical energy into power for consumption by machines.

Predating The Matrix[edit]

The 1990 movie Total Recall features a red pill that is offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Douglas Quaid. He is told "it's a symbol – of your desire to return to reality."[1][2] No blue pill is present in the film, and the story centers on the very uncertainty of whether Quaid is dreaming or in the real world. However, the pill is offered to him with the claim that he is dreaming, and that the pill will return him to reality, with the words "inside your dream, you'll fall asleep."


An essay written by Russell Blackford discusses the red and blue pills, questioning whether if a person were fully informed they would take the red pill, opting for the real world, believing that choosing physical reality over a digital simulation is not clear-cut. Both Neo and another character, Cypher, take the red pill over the blue pill, with the latter showing regret for having made such a choice, having stated that if Morpheus fully informed them of the situation Cypher would have told Morpheus to "shove the red pill right up his [Morpheus'] ass." When Cypher subsequently makes a deal with the machines to go back to the Matrix and forget everything before, he asserts that "Ignorance is bliss." Blackford argues that The Matrix trilogy sets things up so that even if Neo fails, the taking of the red pill is worthwhile because he lives and dies authentically. Blackford and science-fiction writer James Patrick Kelly feel that The Matrix stacks the deck against machines and their simulated world.[3]

In the book The Art of the Start, author Guy Kawasaki uses the red pill as an analogue to leaders of new organizations, in that they face the same choice to either live in reality or fantasy. He adds that if they want to be successful, they have to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.[4]

Matrix Warrior: Being the One author Jake Horsley compared the red pill to LSD, citing a scene where Neo forms his own world outside of the Matrix. When he asks Morpheus if he could return, Morpheus responds by asking him if he would want to. Horsley also describes the blue pill as addictive, calling The Matrix series a continuous series of choices between taking the blue pill and not taking it. He adds that the habits and routines of people inside the Matrix are merely the people dosing themselves with the blue pill. While he describes the blue pill as a common thing, he states that the red pill is one-of-a-kind, and something someone may not even find.[5]

Other uses[edit]

  • The Blue Pill rootkit ("malware"), and the Red Pill technique, reference to the pills in a special type of software that utilizes the virtualization techniques of modern CPUs to execute as a hypervisor; as a virtual platform on which the entire operating system runs, it is capable of examining the entire state of the machine and to cause any behavior with full privilege, while the operating system "believes" itself to be running directly on physical hardware, creating a parallel to the illusory Matrix. Blue Pill describes the concept of infecting a machine while Red Pill techniques help the operating system to detect the presence of such a hypervisor.[6] These concepts were described by Joanna Rutkowska in 2006.
  • Until they were removed from the Maemo operating system application installer in January 2010, certain advanced features were unlocked by a "Red Pill Mode" easter egg to prevent accidental use by novice users but make them readily available to experienced users. This was activated by starting to add a catalog whose URL was "matrix" and then choosing to cancel. A dialog box would appear asking "Which pill?" with the choices "Red" or "Blue", allowing the user to enter red pill mode.[7][8] In "Red Pill" mode the installer allows the user to view and reconfigure system packages whose existence it normally does not acknowledge. In Blue Pill mode the installer displays only software installed by a user, creating the illusion that system software does not exist on the system.
  • The choice between taking a blue or red pill is a central metaphor in the 2011 Arte documentary film Marx Reloaded, in which philosophers including Slavoj Zizek and Nina Power explore solutions to the global economic and financial crisis of 2008–09. The film also contains an animated parody of the pill scene in The Matrix, with Leon Trotsky as Morpheus and Karl Marx as Neo.[9]
  • The reference to the pills is also in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. After flying to Greenland, Walter is asked to choose between a blue and a red car. By choosing the red car, Walter Mitty starts his adventure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Total Recall - final script, Retrieved Jul 2013.
  2. ^ Dr. Edgemar's Pill, Total Recall (1990), Retrieved Jul 2013.
  3. ^ Kapell, Matthew; Doty, William G (2004-05-28). Jacking in to the Matrix franchise: cultural reception and interpretation. ISBN 978-0-8264-1588-2. 
  4. ^ Kawasaki, Guy (2004). The art of the start: the time-tested, battle-hardened guide for anyone starting anything. ISBN 978-1-59184-056-5. 
  5. ^ Horsley, Jake (2003-11-08). Matrix Warrior: Being the One. ISBN 978-0-312-32264-9. 
  6. ^ Joanna Rutkowska. Red Pill... or how to detect VMM using (almost) one CPU instruction(archive), Invisible Things Lab
  7. ^ "Red Pill mode". wiki. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ "src/". hildon-application-manager. Line 153. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Marx Reloaded trailer". Retrieved January 16, 2012.