“A Glitch in the Matrix” and the Simulation Theory Obsession


If you’ve heard of the simulation theory – the idea that our entire universe could be running inside some kind of extra-dimensional computer – chances are you’ve come across it. a high level believer like Elon Musk. But how would an average person, someone whose influence doesn’t depend on the provocative philosophy of a dorm, embrace it? How would the idea that the world is not “real” define the way they interact with others? If you’re even somewhat intrigued by subculture exploration, you’ll enjoy A bug in the matrixRodney Ascher’s latest documentary on particularly obsessive personalities.

And if you’re wondering, no, the movie doesn’t reveal any secrets about the simulation theory. Even Ascher tells us he has no idea if it’s true or not. Instead, his interest is less in the theory itself, but in why people believe it. His award-winning documentary in 2012 Room 237 was talking about wild fan theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick the brilliant. His follow-up, The nightmare, explored sleep paralysis and how it often constructs terrifying scenarios out of thin air. It’s easy to draw a line between these films and people who distrust the very fabric of reality.

If the title was not a sufficient sign, A bug in the matrix feels like an introduction to simulation theory instead of a rigorous discussion. The matrixafter all, introduced the concept of simulated reality to an entire generation of emo teenagers (myself included) in 1999. But what it may lack in depth, it makes up for in sheer viewing ability.

Magnolia Pictures

It’s both hilarious and a bit sad to hear seemingly 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 has enough processing power to handle that. 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 mobs by reusing AI code.

Too often, I wish Ascher pushed his subjects a bit more to test the limits of their beliefs. But I guess that’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 arrest. He thought it was the simulation that just crafted a successful narrative for him, rather than dumb 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 bug in the matrix has meatier material from Nick Bostrom, the Oxford philosophy professor whose 2003 paper launched modern interest in simulation theory. He proposed that, given the vast amounts of computing power 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 these simulated realities, instead of being the “prime” beings. (Alternatively, he argues, we could either disappear before we can develop our own simulation technology, or abandon the technology altogether.)

Bostrom doesn’t get many answers in the documentary, but he reminds us of the fact that humans have been thinking about higher levels of reality for thousands of years. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave was an argument for education and research in the face of ignorance, but today it also describes how many people think about simulation theory.

A bug in the matrix also really surprised me with images of Philip K. Dick explaining his own beliefs about higher consciousness. He started having religious visions after 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 saw the world outside of our potential simulation, although the simplest explanation is that he suffered from severe mental illness throughout his life.

Although I may have some qualms about what A bug in the matrix focuses on, it’s still a well-made documentary packed full of intriguing visuals. Ascher has honed his ability to visually convey a narrative over the course of his later films, so you’ll never be bored. And for people who haven’t heard of simulation theory yet, I’d bet it would blow their minds just like people who dare to come out of Plato’s cave.

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