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Elon Musk says we're probably all characters in a video game

Technically Incorrect: Tesla's CEO says there's a one in billions chance we're not in some sort of simulation controlled by others. Indeed, he says, we should hope that's the case.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Elon Musk. I wonder who's his controller.

Recode/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

On good days, we know we're insignificant.

We're incompetent at so many things. We struggle to remember basics like washing, eating and not annoying others. And we often kill each other for no reason whatsoever.Some explain this human frailty by suggesting there's a deity that controls it all, one who looks down upon us, strokes his gray beard and ruefully shakes his head.Elon Musk has another idea.

Answering questions at Recode's Code conference Wednesday, Tesla's CEO admitted he'd thought a lot about the idea that we're all merely participants in one big simulation.

After all, he said, games used to be merely rectangles and dots. Now, we're plunging headlong toward a reality that's augmented.

"If you assume any rate of improvement at all," he said, "then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now."

I can feel gamers licking their lips. I can feel other humans suddenly experienced a drying sensation in the mouth.

Musk extrapolated: "So given that we're clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we're in base reality is one in billions."

How logical. How thrilling. And how awful.

Might, though, discovering that we're just dim Sims be a relief to us? Musk thinks there are, indeed, positives to the notion that we're characters in the gaming consoles of advanced aliens.

"If civilization stops advancing," he said, "that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization. So maybe we should be hopeful this is a simulation, because otherwise we are going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist. We're unlikely to go into some multimillion-year stasis."

Some might feel the need to poke a couple of holes in Musk's thesis. They might suggest games are mere human constructs that show the limitations of humanity. No higher power needed.

On the other hand, I'd be thrilled to introduce you to my controller and explain what twisted intentions she has for my being.

I'd be thrilled, but she says she just doesn't want to meet you. She says human worms (her words) are beneath her.