If you’ve heard of simulation theory – the idea that our entire universe could run inside some sort of extra-dimensional computer – there’s a good chance you’ve encountered it through a high level believer like Elon Musk. But how would an average person, someone whose weight doesn’t depend on some provocative dormitory philosophy, embrace her? How would the idea that the world is not “real” define the way they interact with others? If you are even somewhat intrigued by exploring the subculture, you will enjoy A glitch in the matrix, Rodney Ascher’s latest documentary on particularly obsessive personalities.
And if you are wondering, no, the film does not reveal any secrets about simulation theory. Even Ascher tells us he has no idea whether this is true or not. Instead, his interest is less in the theory itself, but in why people believe it. His award-winning documentary from 2012 Room 237 was about the crazy fan theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick The brilliant. Its follow-up, The nightmare, explored sleep paralysis and how it often constructs terrifying scenarios from scratch. It’s easy to draw a line between these movies and the people who are suspicious of the very fabric of reality.
If the title wasn’t enough of a sign, A glitch in the matrix looks like an introduction to simulation theory instead of a rigorous discussion. The matrix, after all, introduced the concept of simulated reality to a whole generation of emo teens (myself included) in 1999. But what it may lack in depth it makes up for with simple gaze.
It’s both hilarious and a little sad to hear apparently serious adults – portrayed as cartoonish CG avatars – dismiss the idea that there are 7 billion individual consciousnesses on Earth. Why? Obviously, because there’s no way our universe simulator would have enough processing power to handle this. The most logical explanation, sureis that the machine only recycles a few hundred thousand personalities, like a Assassin’s Creed the game creates its large crowds by reusing the AI code.
Too often, I wish Ascher had pushed his subjects a little more to test the limits of their beliefs. But I guess it’s like trying to discuss the shape of the planet with a Flat Earther. One subject managed to leave the site of a drunken car crash in Mexico without serious injury, or without being arrested. He thought it was the simulation that just crafted a successful narrative for him, rather than silly luck and his American privilege in action. After surviving something like this, how can we convince him otherwise? One person’s miracle is another’s optimal simulation path.
If such stories make you roll your eyes, A glitch in the matrix has more meaty material from Nick Bostrom, the Oxford philosophy professor whose 2003 article launched modern interest in simulation theory. He suggested that, given the large amounts of computing power that we expect to have in the future, it is possible that later humans could run simulations of people similar to their ancestors. These artificial people would probably be conscious. And given this possibility, there is a high probability that we are one of those simulated realities, instead of being the “primordial” beings. (Alternatively, he argues, we could either disappear before we can develop our own simulation technology, or ditch the technology altogether.)
Bostrom, doesn’t have many answers in the documentary, but it reminds us of the fact that humans have been thinking about higher levels of reality for thousands of years. by Plato Allegory of the cave was an argument for education and inquiry in the face of ignorance, but today it also describes how many people think about simulation theory.
A glitch in the matrix Also really surprised me with images of Philip K. Dick explaining his own beliefs about higher consciousness. He began to have religious visions as a result of an operation, which he ended up writing about in his Exegesis, a collection of over 8,000 pages of notes. Dick looks like someone who glimpsed the world outside of our potential simulation, although the simplest explanation is that he was with severe mental illness throughout his life.
Although I may have qualms about what A glitch in the matrix focuses on, it’s still a well-done documentary stuffed with intriguing visuals. Ascher has honed his ability to visually convey a narrative over the course of his latest films, so you’ll never be bored. And for people who haven’t heard of simulation theory yet, I’d bet it would take their breath away, just like people who dare to step out of Plato’s cave.
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