On free will, predictability and conning

Conning, or manipulating someone into doing something by making them think it's their idea, is obviously a huge theme in LOST. It happens frikkin all the time, not just when Sawyer's around. And of course, the ultimate in long cons is Jacob's scheme to get everyone to the island--he works on this long con for the characters' entire lives until they reach the island.

Essential to the success of a con is the knowledge that the person being conned will act predictably; e.g., do A to them and they will do B. So Jacob knew that while the people he was following through their lives (Jack, Kate, Sawyer, etc.) were broken people, often stuck in ruts or vicious cycles, they would act predictably, much like every piece of matter in Newtonion/classical physics acts predictably. Everything is caused by something; molecule "B" is in the place it's in because it bounced off molecule "A" at an angle opposite to its current position. Under classical physics, everything is predictable; with enough technology you can trace any situation back to its causes. That means that with a supercomputer you could also predict everything that will ever happen in the physical world. And this means that there is no free will.

Until the Losties go to the island and truly find themselves, they are simply reacting to the situations around them predictably, just as would an atom in a Newtonion universe. But once they each realize their calling and their potential as people, they can no longer be conned by Jacob: their actions stop being manipulable by outside forces; they control their destinies. When someone has only one goal driving them, their actions are sadly predictable. An example of this is corporations. For-profit corporations have only one goal: profit. Because of this, you can always predict what they will do in a given situation: they will take the route that will lead them to the most profit. But when multiple goals govern someone's actions, the person becomes unpredictable and much less vulnerable to manipulation or conning. Before going to the island, many of the main characters acted predictably in their own self-interest. But then they go to the island, and they finally come to terms with who they are and become deep, happy people. This is when many of their actions begin to seem unpredictable because they are no longer acting for themselves alone; they will make great sacrifices for each other. So, with our analogy, you would expect the Losties to become much less vulnerable to manipulation--much less con-able--after their adventures on the island. An example of this shows up in Season 6, when Jack et. al. discover the bomb that Smokey has conned them into carrying onto the submarine. Having grown more intelligent and less able to be pushed around by outside manipulating forces, Jack realizes that they have to do what's most counter-intuitive: wait for the bomb to tick down. Unfortunately, Sawyer is still on his path to full realization and gets conned into doing what Smokey wants. But by the end othe series, all of our beloved main chracters have become free, non-manipulable people who truly make their own decisions and don't get pushed around. If before they were like molecules being mundanely and predictably governed by classical physics, now we could say that they act according to quantum physics.

In quantum physics, scientists cannot accurately predict the location, state, or even time of a given quantum particle as they can with classical physics. In a quantum world, free will does exist. Rather than simply follow the predictable reactions brought on by the movements of other particles, quantum particles apparently act of their own volition, and scientists still have no idea how quantum physics can spur such phenomena as entanglement and quantum non-predictability. A famous thought experiment regarding non-predictability, Schrodinger's Cat, is referenced in LOST by Sayid's former torture victim when she tells him the story of the cat in the box full of fireworks.

So that's one dimension of LOST. Jacob gets the characters to the island by conning them, relying on the fact that they will act predictably. Once they have fully realized themselves, though, they can no longer be conned. Like quantum particles, they have been freed from the Newtonion world of cause and effect, birth and death, linear time, and endless cycles. They can move on.

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