How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Living in the Simulation

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Neo from the Matrix is shown with glasses advertising online car sales.

The algorithms that increasingly run our world are getting smarter every day. While some privacy advocates might get freaked out by Facebook’s ability to predict our next purchase or Pandora’s knack for catering to our musical taste, there’s no denying the convenience of the all-knowing, all-seeing code that dictates everything around us. From grocery shopping to Christmas gifts and online car sales, it almost feels as if computers are reading our minds at this point.

The meteoric rise of this eerily accurate technology does bring up some uncomfortable questions however. Are we really that easy to predict? Is free will real, or do all our decisions follow a carefully laid-out master plan? And if an algorithm is making all my decisions for me, why do I have such a hard time figuring out what I want for dinner? These questions could be answered by one formerly fringe theory now gaining traction in the scientific community: we are living in a computer simulation.

While your first instinct might be to don an all-black leather ensemble and swallow every red pill you can find, your time might be better spent leaning into this new reality. I, for one, welcome our binary overlords and urge you to think of the myriad benefits to our simulated existence. One: Nothing you do matters. Two: You and everyone you know are just long strings of ones and zeros living under a mass delusion of consciousness, so why bother brushing your teeth? And three: you can predict the next vehicle you will buy by studying the code in your simulation.

The theory might seem a little out there, but some modern estimates put the odds at 50/50 that the entire width and breadth of human existence is little more than a self-contained program run on a galactic scale using technology that we can’t even begin to fathom. The idea has popped up numerous times in popular culture over the years, most famously by the Greek philosopher Anaxarchus, Aztec tomes written by the Teotl people, and some movie from 1999 with that guy from Point Break.

It may be a little unsettling to think that you, your mom, your dog, Jesus, and Warren Zappa (who, it turns out, was just a re-skinned Jesus) might all just be NPCs in what basically amounts to Minecraft version 2,048,381.0, but the upside more than makes up for it. For example, car buying has long been a stressful process, but take comfort in the fact that your next vehicle, and every one you’ll own until the day your code is called back to the source, has already been determined. Ignore that feeling of existential helplessness for a moment and consider the fact that this means you never really had any choice but to buy that Scion back in 2007. You were programmed from birth to see that boxy abomination as a bold statement of your individuality…as were 3.7 million other white males aged 18-30.

So how do you access this ability to see through the thin veil of our modern world? Turns out it’s as easy as closing your eyes. Remember those little squiggles you see floating past your field of vision from time to time? Turns out these are actually complex packages of code that determine everything from the weather to who will win the next season of Survivor. Simply let your eyes go out of focus, face a bright light source (don’t worry, the sun is only programmed to feel like it’s burning your retinas), and study the inner workings of the universe.

This isn’t an exact science at this time, but a little patience will pay off. Look for squiggles that resemble the outline of some of your favorite vehicles, but beware: with every crossover SUV on the market cutting a strikingly similar silhouette; it’s easy to think the Great Programmer in the Sky wants you in a CR-V instead of a RAV4. Some drivers have reported difficulty in accessing the source code, but as is so often the case in the tech world, there’s a frustratingly simple fix. A short nap––basically the analog equivalent of turning a computer off and back on again––should fix any issues.

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