Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s hit HBO show, Westworld, based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 novel of the same name is about a Western-themed amusement park populated by androids that malfunction and begin killing the human visitors. These visitors come to live out their fantasies and perform acts of debauchery, paying to choose-their-own adventure. The world is neatly reset each night for the following day. I began thinking, this model seems awfully familiar. I’m writing this piece in the middle of my own Westworld town: Venice, Italy.
Scientists working on the fringe with Simulation Hypothesis, propose that all of reality, including the earth and the universe, is in fact an artificial simulation, most likely a computer simulation. Not hard to see why. What makes this so utterly plausible is the fact that tourist towns like Venice display the same tight system of operation as any computer software might.
Computers operate on numbers, using patterns of 0’s and 1’s to run effectively. Venice operates on numbers, using a calendar with dates and times to run effectively. Both are open systems. Venice, as our example is the software, programmed with all sorts of content: people, settings, objects. Now let us boot up the computer, run the software and see what happens.
Every day at 5:30 a.m. the vendors wheel their carts of food and souvenirs into town square, at 6:00 a.m. the sun rises, at 6:30 a.m. the train station opens and by 7:00 a.m. the scene is set completely (the program has fully loaded). Suppose for a minute that the people are simulated people who are conscious. Every person who works in Venice wake up knowing what job they must perform and which manner of speaking to have, oftentimes using the same “script” as the previous day.
My wife and I were catching a train early this morning just after Venice was reset (about 4:30 a.m.). The canvas was essentially blank and waiting to be realized. Much like Disney World, the software wasn’t yet loaded, and we moved through the virtual matrix while it was on sleep-mode. But when the software is up and running at 7 a.m., it’s game on, player one. Cheese, meat, wine, repeat.
Life certainly imitates art, and art imitates what it sees happening in life, but things get real interesting when life imitates arts interpretation of life; we end up with a hyper-realistic version of reality. Venice began to feel like I was in an RPG, something akin to Harvest Moon, Earthbound or Zelda. The merchants stay in the same place for hours each day, boat tours run on a loop, banks and shops are ready for your business for a finite time, and the town is just small enough to see the same people more than once. Joking with my wife as we searched for our way on day one I said, in regards to the same sailor we had seen multiple times, “babe, he’s waiting for us to click X so he can introduce himself and tell us where to go in this level.”
Is there any way to prove we’re in a simulation? One of the main arguments that businessman, inventor and engineer, Elon Musk makes is that a more advanced civilization will have video games that are of very high resolution — so high that we would be unable to distinguish between the “real” world and a “simulated one”. We can have a world that is generated and looks infinite using 3D modeling wherein it’s just a set of maps and rules. There are underlying missions or quests, which are mapped out by the game designers no matter how “open” it appears. Is it possible that we have a similar illusion of “open-ness” in life?
In my personal artwork I make a point to lift the veil of reality and see if it’s possible to peak behind. Just like in Westworld, human beings (the slightly more woke amongst us) are aware of their position in the greater universe. We are sentient creatures who seek our maker at any cost. Our approaches to doing so vary. My hypothesis is that the answer comes not from religion but from Reality Hacking. What in the Westworld is that, you ask? Reality Hacking is the pursuit of finding “holes” or “gaps” in everyday life that would indicate we are living in a simulation that can be broken into, adjusted or manipulated.
Occultists have been hacking reality since the dark ages and I’ve attempted to outline the fact that reality is thinner than it lets on in my original project, SHIFT (See more on my site). Reality is ultimately a series of sensory inputs and outputs. The more understanding we have over a space we are in the more control we have over it. In my upcoming work, SCENE STEALER, I am hoping to provide a basis for this theory. More to come on that later.
Simulation or not, what I have learned is that your imagination allows you to experience what you want. Decide on your own adventure and begin laying out a series of smaller choices and incidents to get you there. Free will? Perhaps. Though you may revel in knowing you never have to figure out the “how” of achieving something, you simply assume the feeling of it already being done and embrace the joy and relief that it is so. Your path to get “there” will unfold naturally before you from your thoughts, actions, ideas and circumstances.