A writer explores the idea that life is merely a simulation in this nonfiction book. What if the real world isn’t real but just some kind of computer program? As Virk (Treasure Hunt, 2017, etc.) puts it, “The fundamental question raised by the Simulation Hypothesis is: Are we all actually characters living inside some kind of giant, massively multi-player online video game, a simulated reality that is so well rendered that we cannot distinguish it from ‘physical reality’?”
Though the idea first entered the public consciousness courtesy of the blockbuster Matrix films, it is actually a topic that has interested people for far longer than video games have been around. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave suggests a similar concept, as do the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism. Jung was interested in the notion of mental projection while Philip K. Dick—who frequently imagined such situations in his fiction—firmly believed that the world was a simulation. In this book, Virk explains how the Simulation Hypothesis is not as out there as it may initially seem, outlining how computer science, humanity’s understanding of physics, and mystical traditions going back thousands of years all point to the idea that the world may not be as “real” as people think it is. The author’s prose is clear and accessible, laden with pop-culture references and elucidated scientific concepts. He excels, particularly, in making the notion of a simulated reality—something that many readers might brush off as a subject best left to the very high and very paranoid—feel relevant to everyone: “The goal of what we call science is to understand the nature of reality. If we are in fact inside a video game, then science becomes a matter of ‘discovering’ the rules of this video game.” Most readers will likely not come away convinced that they are living in the Matrix, but, particularly with his discussion of quantum mechanics, Virk proves that reality is a much trickier thing than people are usually inclined to admit. Those looking to expand their brains for a few hours should enjoy this cerebral work. A well-crafted discussion of simulation that is unexpectedly persuasive.