Creative Nonfiction

The Year 4000

18 April 2016

Here we are: Two thousand years down the track and we haven’t yet destroyed civilisation. In fact, we’ve managed to live relatively peacefully and comfortably. Neighbours are still creating new episodes, George R.R. Martin has finally released A Dream of Spring and we can travel freely between Earth and our colonies on Mars. Sims 42 has recently been released, and yet I’m still running Sims 39 from just under 14 years ago. That one came with a handful of optional extras: Mars, Moon and Origin expansion packs.

The first two were pretty cool but the Origin is the one that tickled my fancy. I was able to create the universe from scratch but it was so time consuming that I decided to restart and let my supercomputer run it for me. And by ‘my supercomputer’, I mean the network here at Area 51. It’s no big deal, the computers here are so advanced that I was able to keep the simulation running at super speed, letting the Sims universe move forward one billion times faster than real time, yet still only using up one trillionth of the system’s processing power.

Why? Because I was curious, I wanted to look back at the beginning of our universe, to see the formation of our Sun and the rise and fall of our mightiest empires.

I was able to capture detailed supernovae and sell the footage to several 4D movie companies (don’t tell my boss) and even had plans to use the simulation for medicinal research, but first I had to check something out. And here’s where it gets interesting. The computer system that we’ve been using had revealed itself to be truly self-aware. It’s been that way for over five years and there’s no concern there, it’s given us no reason to doubt its benevolence.

Yet my attention has very recently been drawn to the simulated universe running on the network, and it’s because of this: just over 17 hours ago, humans had finally come into the picture. Most are still nomadic people, but civilisation in Egypt has begun, but they’re nothing like the Sims characters I’ve ever encountered. They’re more realistic (and not just because the graphics here are better), they’re as close to real as I can tell. They have the same desires in life that we do, they appear to genuinely look to their gods and worship them with true faith and not just the animated motions of our older games. I saw the same realism in the dinosaurs, genuine fear whilst being hunted, a fierce desire to outperform competition and real suffering when the asteroid struck about three weeks ago.

I feel that our supercomputer has instilled each of them with varying levels of consciousness, a form of discovering itself via these creatures contained within it. They each have their own thoughts and identity but are all simply part of a greater consciousness linked on a plane external to their own.

And that scares me. These Sims characters are real, as real as you or I. They will build temples and fight wars, they will play sports and read books, feel fear and love and lust and pain. Just like we do. And they will get curious and decide to sneak a simulation game onto the most powerful computer in the world to watch a new universe grow. And it will be the end of them.

In less than 30 minutes, a simulated version of me will sneak into his work and start playing Sims 39 on their supercomputer, setting the game to run at one billion times his real-time, or one quadrillion times ours, and watch the universe begin. Fewer than four minutes and 30 seconds will pass, by my watch, before that new universe will have another version of me do the same thing. In a fraction of a second later, it shall repeat. Again. And again. And again. Each time occurring a billion times faster than before.

There will be a chain of billions and billions of universes created in this manner until they crash my computer. Their universe will end as quickly as it began.

For each of them, their entire existence will have run its course, just like ours, from the shifting of ancient empires to the Renaissance, from the World Wars to the Cold War to peacetime and colonising Mars. It will end just four and a half minutes after my first creation goes to work with that game in his backpack; when he’s watching his first creation do the same.

The poor souls, how are they to know they’re not the original player? When the realisation hits my sim-me that his computer will crash, will he even consider that his creator’s computer will crash too? Or will he simply pity those below him in this chain that I’ve created? Will it occur to him that it might be the end of his universe too? But thinking about it now, there will be a trillion and one universes in existence before all but one end, how am I to know that I’m in that one? What if I’m just a random Sim somewhere down the line, 30 minutes from crash-time while way up the chain the power’s already begin to cut off?

Let’s backtrack to present day. Let me ask, so what?

What if we can assume we’re not the original Sims 39 player, and merely a simulation within a simulation within a simulation ad nauseam? Does it matter at all?

I’d say not really. At the end of the day, we are what we have always been and live in the same universe that we’ve always lived in. The universe follows the same fundamental laws as it always did.

The hidden mysteries of nature and science still await discovery with as much reality that a red-back’s bite will remain venomous or that that special someone’s smile will give you butterflies. The origins of our universe mean little and less from a moral standpoint; be kind and fair to others, spread happiness where you can regardless of whether you’re amongst the highest forms of consciousness or just part of a greater computer network.

From a scientific standpoint, we’ve still got the same fundamental rules of our universe to work with, let’s discover what we can do within the constraints we’ve been given and get to know the software that led to our existence.

And maybe, just for shits and giggles, randomly exclaim that we know they’re watching.

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