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Would a Simulated Universe Even Make Sense?

A well-crafted short sci-fi film suggests, intentionally or otherwise, maybe not

Simulation (24 min), written, directed, and produced by Hashem Al-Ghaili, features a boy who discovers he has a gift… wait, no, it’s about a guy who discovers a secret message… or… wait, I think it’s about a meteor that holds alien technology… or… okay, I give up.

Don’t get me wrong, Simulation isn’t a terrible short film. I’ve seen quite a few sci-fi short films over the years and Simulation is certainly one of the better ones. For a small studio short, Simulation has pretty good CGI and VFX. I love a film, especially a short film, that puts so much effort into its computer effects and graphics. It’s artful and sometimes beautiful. Also, the soundtrack is quite pleasant. However, beyond that, I’m not sure this film knows what it is; it’s an identity crisis. I know the film is about simulation, somehow, but I can’t seem to frame the film in a way that makes the events comprehensible.

It begins by showing a highly advanced civilization interacting with a simulated universe. Then cuts to a boy named Thomas who is plagued by nightmares of being lost in the forest. After a brief scene between Thomas and his mother, it cuts to an alien probe (sent by the creators of the universe?) that is placed inside a meteor and hurled toward Earth. After the meteor fragment containing the probe miraculously lands in a lake without disintegrating and obliterating everything around it, the film cuts to grown-up Thomas on a workout bike. Then we fast forward through a few scenes of Thomas finding binary code on Instagram(?). Then we journey through a scene where Thomas is texting someone from the future(?). Afterward, Thomas travels to an abandoned town in the middle of the forest where someone has been experimenting with time travel(?).

At any rate, Thomas ends up in the future where his consciousness (which is described as energy) is removed and used to resurrect a different consciousness whose energy has expired. Thomas himself will cease to exist. We discover that Thomas exists in merely one of infinitely many universes that have been created by an advanced intelligence in order to harvest the energy from the consciousness of those that inhabit the simulated universes.

The ending expounds that premise which, although still somewhat unclear, is the best-explained part. However, the events leading to the future Thomas remain unresolved. Why did young Thomas have nightmares? Why did aliens send the probe? Who put the time travel device in the abandoned building? Who was Thomas in the alternate reality ‘coming after’?

Simulation wants us to think about the nature of existence in relation to simulation theory. That is, what if all of reality as we know it is merely a computer simulation created by a highly advanced form of life (perhaps human beings in the future)? That is a view held by prominent people, including British astronomer Martin Rees, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and self-driving car entrepreneur Elon Musk. Would life, as a natural consequence, seem as disjointed and lacking in resolution as the events in the film?

There are a number of reasons for thinking that our universe cannot be a sim world but if you want to explore the idea, check out “Simulated Reality,” an excellent explainer vid by LEMMiNo.


If you enjoyed this Sc-Fi Saturday review at Mind Matters News, check out other reviews by Adam Nieri:

Ad Astra: The Great Silence becomes personal. The film images the fate of those seek significance in the stars and may well wait indefinitely. In a world where the divine touch of extraterrestrial intelligence doesn’t elevate human existence to any level of significance, we are left with Ad Astra: a slow, methodical decay of human significance.

Another Life: All fun and games till an AI falls in love. Then it descends into a convoluted drift of uncertain storytelling. And the victim is not primarily the viewer, who has other options. The victim is the art itself.

Alita, Battle Angel: A Mind Matters Review: If you love anime and felt betrayed by the flop of Ghost, I would highly recommend Alita.

and

A Mind Matters Review: Love, death, & robots Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several of these shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch.


Adam Nieri

Adam Nieri, Program Assistant, has interests in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and he holds an MA in Science and Religion from Biola University. He has background in social media and marketing, photography/graphic design, IT, and teaching.

Would a Simulated Universe Even Make Sense?