A common theme in H.P. Lovecraft’s stories is the seeker after knowledge who goes insane when he discovers the terrible truth. What that truth is differs from tale to tale, but the common denominator is that whatever it is, it’s so horrible, so awful, that the protagonist wishes he’d never gone searching in the first place.
Which begs the question: What truth would drive you suicidal or insane?
What if, for example, you discovered incontrovertible evidence that our universe isn’t real — that it’s a computer simulation, and that you yourself are a creation of the programmer(s)? This strikes me as a 21st century version of a Lovecraftian “terrible truth”.
What if you then discovered that the programmers were going to pull the plug soon? Would that make it even worse?
(Note that I’m not saying this is true, just asking a hypothetical question.)
According to the theory, which an academic from Oxford and a scientist from Nasa have put forth separately, there’s an almost mathematical certainty that we’re toiling inside an intricate simulation created by beings existing anywhere from 30 years to five million years from now. In essence, we’re just some future being’s hobby…
Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University and director of its Future of Humanity Institute, calls it the “Simulation Argument”. An adherent is astronomer Rich Terrile, director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They don’t wear tinfoil hats, wander around city parks and spout sci-fi-worthy conspiracy theories. Their views are shaped by maths, science and history.
Read more here.
Whether this is true or not, it’s interesting to think about. More to the point for Lovecraft fans, it seems like a great idea for a Lovecraftian story.
With that in mind, I’d like to devote a future issue of The Lovecraft eZine to this idea. So writers: If this intrigues you, please send me a story with this theme. The usual submission guidelines apply. Please put “Simulation Argument” and the name of the story in the subject of the email.
Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org , and be sure to review the submission guidelines.
Everyone else: What are your thoughts on this? Comment below!
(By the way: If you’d like to watch an excellent movie that explores these themes, check out The Thirteenth Floor. You thought I was going to say The Matrix, didn’t you? Naw… The Thirteenth Floor is much better.)