If a stranger told you that the whole world was a scam and you were living in a computer simulation, would you believe them?
Movies don’t often choose their moments, so it’s a happy coincidence that two films about simulation theory, the notion that the world we believe is real is actually virtual, dropped on the same day earlier this year were. Both Amazon science fiction films bliss and the documentary A bug in the matrix Consider the consequences of acting in a simulated world and amoral behavior when everything around you is the product of source code. It’s less about simulation theory itself and more about the kind of people who stick to it. in the A bug in the matrixThese include Paul Gude, Alex LeVine, Jesse Orion, and brother Laeo Mystwood, Ascher’s main interviewees, each represented by colorful gonzo avatars. in the blissThey are Greg (Owen Wilson) and Isabel (Salma Hayek), two “real” people who live in a simulated reality, where they enjoy telekinetic powers that are given to them by the inclusion of suspiciously harmless-looking yellow crystals.
You could have a drug problem. Or they really live in a simulation. But what bliss Hints without going into deeper exploration, and what A bug in the matrix explicitly stated, this fundamental question is: does it matter?
bliss and A bug in the matrix approach this dilemma from very different angles. in the blissUnlucky Greg meets Isabel (Hayek), a Magic Pixie Cyber Crust Punk, on the worst day of his life: he has just been fired from his job and has accidentally killed his boss as well. There is Isabel, who tells him that the world and its inhabitants are being simulated, helps him cover up the death of his boss, and then takes him to roller-skate, where they wipe out the entire arena with just a few simple steps. Bodies tilt left and right, some deserve it, some not, until only Greg and Isabel stop, laughing, happy as it can be the mere consequence of their violence. To his credit, Greg has to convince before he lets go. He is new to this reality, which is not reality at all, and he is still clinging to his old cultural problems.
But if he does released, he makes pistol fingers and fans out his thumb hammer for joy while people fall like dominoes. He is released. He can do what he wants and he doesn’t have to feel bad. He has no regrets about the death of his boss. Nothing is more important than personal satisfaction, a bargain that costs a few dozen NPCs their lives and dignity.
Ultimately bliss glossed over morals where A bug in the matrix fixated on it. Paul Gude, depicted as a riff on Lion-O with a shimmering ruby mane and centurion armor, tells Ascher about a conversation he had with his uncle about 50 minutes later as a child A bug in the matrix: “’What if this is all wrong? You know? What if none of this is real? ‘And he said,’ Well what’s going to keep me from going door to door and just shooting people in the head? Or what’s going to stop me from shooting you? ‘“Their exchange is re-enacted in primitive CGI as Gude narrates; By the end, the sequence threw the dark side of simulation theory into sharp relief. Gude’s ethical calculation does not change depending on whether the world is real or a computer program, but for his uncle the belief that our reality is the only reality takes precedence over his have
Gude speaks to Ascher and sounds haunted by memory and its human implications. If the only thing stopping people from breaking laws and committing heinous acts is that people are real, the world is real, and actions have consequences, what does that say about your character? Is it morally good or just neutral to act against “wrong” people like Isabel does? You are not real. Who cares? Drop a lamp on it. Hit them with a car. Programmed intelligences have neither feelings nor souls. Getting crazy! The problem when bliss incidentally, this implies that it flows into the wish-fulfillment component of simulation theory: fantasy enables people to escape either their unsatisfactory lives or their take responsibility for the dissatisfaction of their lives. If their actions have no consequence, they are not responsible for the state of their life, and this dismal affirmation gives people permission to break all kinds of laws and morals.
in the The matrixNeo discovers that he is not a cog in a machine and that he is the savior of mankind, Kung Fu Jesus in a black trench coat; in the Total recallDouglas Quaid takes a vacation and wages civil war on the surface of Mars. in the The thirteenth floorThe main characters are all slowly realizing that their world is a VR simulation, and a noir tangle of backstabbing and murder emerges. in the existenceVR game tests generate bloody corporate espionage. The worst examples of VR gone wrong, of course, expose simulated violence as immoral, while the best examples – The matrix and Total recall – Dress up the violence in action theater robes. Particularly, The matrixThe famous lobby shootout, which looks indisputably cool 22 years later, has sober consequences. Not only do Neo and Trinity shoot down enemy mobs in a video game, they kill real people who are hooked up to the Matrix and work as security guards in the simulated world. Even if you defeat an agent, you have to kill an innocent person whose consciousness is captured by artificial intelligence.
It is noticeable that Gude, Ascher’s first and most articulate A bug in the matrix The interview topic clearly identifies the great moral dilemma of simulation theory: the argument for simulation theory differs from the argument that even simulated actions have consequences. It takes the story of Joshua Cooke, who killed his parents in February 2003 after convincing himself that the Matrix is real, to underscore the extent to which belief in alternate realities can drive people, and killing whether in the flesh or in the zeros and 1s, indulge our most terrible basic instincts.