WHISPER it, but many respected scientists and academics are becoming increasingly convinced by left-field provocateur David Icke’s assertion that our reality is an artificial simulation.

“The universe is an illusion,” the goalkeeper-turned-Messiah told an unconvinced Terry Wogan during a now legendary TV interview in 1991. Icke – who preferred to be called “Son of the Godhead” at the time – had failed to ingratiate himself to the bemused host, perhaps regretfully kicking off the chat by informing Wogan that the moon was a hollow alien spaceship.

Personal eccentricities aside, if it turns out Icke was correct about what’s now dubbed the “Simulation Argument”, we all owe him an apology. The turquoise shellsuit and mullet remain utterly unforgivable, of course.

Although this increasingly popular theory was first mooted by Greek philosopher Plato in 400BC then sweetened for popular consumption by The Matrix, it’s Oxford academic Nick Bostrom’s recent paper supporting the concept that has lent it some heavyweight credibility.

Respected US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson gives it “better than 50-50 odds” that the simulation hypothesis is correct. “I wish I could summon a strong argument against it, but I can find none,” is his unsettling conclusion. Impish billionaire futurist Elon Musk has also mused – to a chorus of groans from Tesla shareholders – that we’re “most likely in a simulation”. It must be noted, however, that Musk was recently filmed smoking a rather large cannabis joint.

If the Simulation Argument is indeed accurate, it means everything we understand as empirical, objective reality – the entire universe – may actually have only sprung into existence a millisecond ago. Like someone firing up their Xbox for a shot of Assassin’s Creed. Our memories saved data, surroundings a hologram and bodies simply avatars, programmed to perceive a notion of forward-movement we call “time”. This serves to anchor our “thoughts” and allows us a concept of “future” for an illusionary sense of “self”.

But breathe, it’s not all bad news – the theory allows for one possibility that accepts you’re actually real. In fact, it suggests you are actually all that exists within this particular artificial reality and that everything in the universe is simply the creation of your mind.

This rather egotistical belief system is known as solipsism and sceptics who are 100 percent convinced of their own existence should note there are no definitive philosophical rebuttals to the theory. It’s certainly a tragedy I can’t convince you of my own existence, even when my picture appears right next to these words. If you are indeed the one who is dreaming all this up, please note I’d appreciate a less ridiculous hairdo.

So if it turns out the entire universe is just an infinitely divisible virtual reality where molecules are pixels, it’s likely our lives are simply some computer game played by alien children. And I suspect those who controlled the avatars of Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare and Prince used cheat codes.

Compute the mind of God

IF any of these unsettling musings truly reflect reality, then this simulation’s coding for irony is certainly in need of a debug this week.

Researchers from the University of Basque in Spain are currently embarking upon a new venture to reveal the true nature of the universe – using, yes, a computer. They do say it takes a thief to catch a thief.

It’s actually doubly ironic that it is shiny new “quantum” computers that are being used to “recreate the origin of Darwinian evolution”.

This is because events in quantum physics have a truly inexplicable and weird way of being influenced by observation – like a tree in the woods only falling when someone can see it. Some scientists believe such oddness at the molecular level of reality may be an actual quirk (or “bug”) inside our simulation.

These Spanish researchers, however, are clearly aware of the potential irony of asking a computer to essentially explain and understand itself. “We leave open the question whether the origin of life is genuinely quantum mechanical,” confirmed one of the scientists involved, rather cryptically.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence New Yorker magazine recently reported two unnamed tech billionaires have employed a number of scientists to work out how to break them out of the simulation using quantum computers.


So what’s so special about these quantum computers compared to that shiny new Macbook you only use for surfing the net and assimilating into society's higher social tiers? Well, the truth is even those who construct quantum computers don't really understand the difference. But they believe the chasm is seismic.

Today’s mass market machines compute using an internal binary language of 0s and 1s, while quantum machines also have a third potential state that lies, well … somewhere in between. Because of this, their computational units – known as quibits – have the special ability to become "entangled" with other quibits. After entering such a relationship, quibits will then instantly reflect any changes in its ‘twin’.

Why does this weird ‘mirroring' matter? Well, many particle physicists believe it’s an action that actually takes place outside of what we perceive as spacetime. This is because distance seems to be no barrier to quibits’ instant communication. And now, we're slowly learning how to harness this ability in order to create machines of almost infinite computing power. Simply, your Mac's 0s and 1s are very slow and the timeless dimension in-between is not. Forget that thing Richard Pryor created in Superman 3, we’re talking machines as powerful as the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron.


IT may be the case that quantum machines don’t discover a simulation at the root of reality, but actually confirm that Darwinian evolution all boils down to the mysterious ancient lifeform known as LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor).

What makes this great granny of all things especially fascinating is that it had the chance of eternal life – but decided to die so we could live. Just like Jesus four billion years later.

Most evolutionary biologists are convinced that everything that has ever existed originates from LUCA, and a genetic portrait was recently created by evolutionary biologists at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Apparently this oddity existed in deep sea vents on the magma-drenched, celestial baby Earth and was unlike anything else that has ever existed – a spindling conglomeration of tiny cells that spent hundreds of millions of years simply chilling in the sea doing nothing. Blind, deaf yet perhaps not so dumb.

It’s notable that gender or death did not exist on Earth until LUCA unzipped itself to kick off evolution, shuffling around its genetics using some mysterious early form of osmosis.

Why this organism died to unleash its essential ingredients and create all life on this planet remains a deep, abiding mystery. Or perhaps LUCA was simply an alien virus in our simulation, programmed to self-destruct and seed this virtual Earth with avatars. If so, the creators of this particular illusion are playing a very long game indeed.


EXPANDING further upon Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s recent Simulation Theory paper, what’s particularly striking is its casual assumption of many long-lived alien civilisations existing out there.

If these beings run computer simulations – and they will, says Bostrom – then artificial realities must be abundant throughout the universe. The problem is, these alien programmers would – like us – have no idea whether they’re part of a simulation themselves. Every universe may simply be a Russian doll trapped within the darkness of another – an artifical multiverse.

Yet, if we are indeed living in the root level of reality, perhaps our universal common ancestor LUCA was still a computer virus of sorts – one that sacrificed its original form to set evolution in motion, hoping to gain a multi-dimentional perspective of reality through the eyes of everything that has ever lived and died on Earth.

From the birds in the sky to fungus in the fields, LUCA is likely hiding in plain sight, with infinite perceptions of reality at its disposal to understand and conquer its planet completely.

And when its greatest achievement – humans – finally blast off to the stars, the entire universe awaits.