This is the winning theory in the Lost Theory Competition.
The theory was written by Bigmouth.
Say you had a group of people on the verge of developing psychic powers. How would you ensure their powers were used for the greater good, rather than personal gain? You couldn’t force these folks — they’re too powerful. But you might be able to convince them that some overwhelming threat existed to their lives and those of their friends and loved ones.
Enter the Numbers, which we’re told relate to the Valenzetti Equation’s prediction of the time left before humanity’s extinction. Such apocalyptic stakes are sufficiently urgent to grab the attention of the most self-interested souls. But I believe it’s all a long con — the Numbers are a noble lie meant to trick people into service of the greater good.
The victims of this con were the original Dharma participants. It’s no coincidence their assigned tasks were pointless. The Initiative’s real goal was to tap subjects’ psychic potential through exposure to the Island. The Hatches merely provided a controlled environment for this process, a cocoon where the metamorphosis into moths could take place.
That brings me to the noble lie. The notion dates all the way back to Plato’s Republic, which describes a utopian society organized around a carefully crafted myth about the need to separate members by birth into various classes. The lie is meant to maintain social stability by offering a divine justification for the class system — only a privileged few know the truth.
In Dharma’s case, the Numbers’ apocalyptic fib accomplished two ends. First, it convinced some of the most talented scientific minds to drop everything for life on a remote Island. Second, it offered potent incentive for “special” subjects to use their powers for the greater good. Only a handful in charge (maybe just Hanso and the DeGroots) were privy to the truth.
In their hubris, the perpetrators of this noble hoax presumed they could keep it secret. They apparently failed to consider that (surprise, surprise) secrets are hard to keep from psychics. The Dharma subjects tattled to those scientists who weren’t in the know, and together they staged a revolt that culminated in Hanso’s expulsion from the Island (the AH/MDG Incident).
Following this revolt, some returned to the real world, while Others remained behind to build a Baconian New Atlantis. But without the noble lie to constrain them, people started using their powers in selfish ways. Jack’s and Locke’s daddies, both of whom were former Dharma participants, illustrate this problem created by demystification of the Numbers.
Christian became chief of complicated surgery at St. Sebastian but his talents made him callous — he took to operating drunk. Cooper fell even further, using his special abilities to become a confidence man. Similar problems may have arisen on the Island, prompting the Others to become more authoritarian. That’s why they’re so concerned with discerning “good” people.
Without the Numbers to constrain them, moral character is all that stands against the rising tide of anarchy.
Opinion of The Judges
Cecilia – I thought this was a cool theory that explained Lost in a creative, original way. It had a twist that made sense, and still tied together story elements well. It had a philosophical slant that even had a touch of Orwellian cynicism.
Andreas – While I’m not so sure that Lost is all about psychic powers, the idea of a hoax designed to make people do what you want is very interesting. There is a similar hoax in Damon Lindelof’s favorite graphic novel Watchmen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if parts of your theory are spot on.