Who Is Who?


In video games, especially first person shooters, there are players, and there are non-player characters (NPCs) – computer-generated folk who flesh out the story but they are run via AI, and aren’t being played by a real person.

If the world as we know it is one big simulation, then one of the questions that must be asked is who are the players, and who are the NPCs?

The first possibility is that we are all players. That fits quite well because most people think all people are just people.

The second possibility is that we are all NPCs – and we are merely pawns in a simulation being run for unknown reasons.

Neither of those possibilities are worthy of pursuit, because ultimately the simulations are no different for us than if we were in a reality.

The third possibility is that some are and some aren’t. So who is who?

I presume I am a player, because an NPC would probably be programmed to not question their reality, otherwise the simulation loses its focus. (Yes, there is the possibility that the focus is seeing if NPCs can work out they are in a simulation…)

I also presume that real players are the minority. That is because NPCs exist to flesh out a scenario in a FPS video game, because it is easier to program and more economical to have it that way.

Historically there have been some very different individuals who have “stirred things up” or advanced the simulation somehow. Think Buddha, Jesus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Einstein etc. They stand out like a sore thumb and suggest to me that they were introduced when the simulation stagnated, that they are players with special privileges. You could argue that the only reason we have societies focussed on “progress” is because there is no point running a simulation that doesn’t progress.

Aside from them, I have a few ideas about who are players and who are not:


  • Might fight the system / break rules
  • More likely to be keen on physical and mental pleasures, including drug and alcohol addictions
  • Includes anyone on the Autistic scale, or pretty much anyone who could be judged as being defective
  • Singer-songwriters
  • Writers/Poets
  • Rebels and activists, or anyone who takes an individual stance that puts their life in danger


Purely from my own observations and totally guesswork

  • Cyclists and rowers – those who do so obsessively
  • Bus drivers – it has occurred to me that nobody knows one
  • Osteopaths – they all seem to be too nice and perfect, unlike GPs
  • People who look the same – not exactly the same but who feel familiar because you have known people almost the same as them
  • Adherents of organised religion
  • Politicians – only about 10% of them seem to have a soul, and the way they talk is surely programmed
  • Actors – ditto
  • Dancers – ditto
  • Classical singers – ditto
  • People who don’t have strong dislikes

Clearly the simulation will be a failure if the Players can tell who the NPCs are. Unless the aim of the game is to prove that we live in a simulation.

Or, just like Westworld the TV show, perhaps the players can beat the system, or hosts.

Whoever cracks this puzzle will be adept at spotting patterns, and perhaps won’t be able to prove them – just like modern AI systems that will just know the answer and not be able to show the path their logic took…



Is This The Easter Egg?

If we live in a simulation, proving it might be impossible. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to find proof, and not a day goes by without me actively looking for it.

For me the most likely proofs will be either:

a) the simulation’s internal logic breaking down – some customisation that doesn’t ring true


b) an easter egg – some little conceit from the designers that nobody is supposed to find

If the designers figured we would never land on Mars, or ever create cameras good enough to see the planet close up, then perhaps they slipped in a serial number?

The original NASA pic is here:

I would prefer finding similar on Earth, where it can be visited and beyond dispute.

My First Experiment

Roughly a decade ago, I was travelling through the south-west of the South Island, NZ.

There weren’t many people about, and there wasn’t much to see or do. Just harsh nature and some road.

I parked at what was the southern most accessible (by car) point, and when for a 15 minute walk to the beach. I was completely alone. I had been thinking about the we are not real concept quite a bit…

At the beach, convinced that nobody was nearby, I yelled to the sky: If this isn’t real, show me a sign!

I had been thinking that UFOs were shown only to those that wouldn’t be believed, and only in isolation. So the powers-that-be had a great opportunity to do the same for me.

Nothing happened.

I hiked back to my hire car, figuring I was an idiot, and not expecting to think such thoughts again. At the car park was now a second car. No people were around, but the car’s licence plate stood out – it was custom and it said DAZIGN. The Sign!

For a few minutes I thought something extraordinary had occurred – I asked for a sign and received it. However, elsewhere on the car’s exterior were words about the business – a hairdressing company. The name fitted the industry. I figured that if I were to wait for the car to leave, and follow it, I would realise that it was nothing to do with me and my quest. For the powers-that-be to create this business just to respond to me seemed unlikely.

Just like the craziness of going back in time and affecting the future – introducing a car, person and business into the current simulation would have so many butterfly effects that I couldn’t see it being feasible. Showing me a UFO on that lonely desolate beach would have been far easier…

That licence plate was just a freaky coincidence 🙁

Paranormal Phenomena could be the answer?

According to Wikipedia:

Paranormal is a general term (coined c. 1915–1920) that designates experiences that lie outside “the range of normal experience or scientific explanation” or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science’s current ability to explain or measure

Scientists expect that anything paranormal can be explained by science, eventually. And if we lived in a non-virtual world, that would make sense. However, a simulation could involve factors that are not represented in the physical world…

Take karma, for example. Many people, myself included, believe that (crudely stating) if you do good deeds you accumulate karma points, redeemable when you need them. In a video game, your karma would not actually appear in the physical world – it would be tracked in the background, in the code.

Perhaps the key to discovering the true nature of our non-reality is via paranormal phenomena? That which seems to be a factor in our world, with no connection to physics?

Such phenomena includes:

  • Ghosts
  • Psychic abilities
  • Telepathy
  • Out-of-Body Experience

On a personal note, I am starting to believe that there is a (weak) force in play in our world called Care. Basically the more you care about the a being, object or outcome, the more likely that it will exist the way that you like it. Not the ridiculous art of manifestation, but rather affecting change by 0.0001% – so small that an individual can only make a difference when they odds of a negative outcome is equally as small.

Example: in a thunderstorm your favourite tree is vulnerable – it could be struck by lightning. The scientific odds are 1 in 100,000. But because you care about the continued existence of that tree, your weak Care force adjusts those odds down to say 1 in 98,000. It is real, it is conducted behind the scenes (in the software but not in the physical world), and it is not significant enough to be proven scientifically.

What I like about Care, as opposed to telepathy and ghosts, is that it is based on intent. If a large enough experiment could be conducted, perhaps something could be proved.

I imagine a life-or-death medical operation that has a well-proven 50/50 chance of success. Show the operation live on TV and the general public should project care towards the situation. The odds should improve. Run the experiment enough times and the survival rate could improve.

Even if I am wrong with Care, perhaps one day an experiment will be created that can prove that there is cause and effect that exists outside the physical world. Yes there is the “spooky action at a distance” of quantum physics, but I’m thinking something the layperson would understand and accept.

Let’s find a force that is acting outside of the known laws of physics.

The Logic Behind The Non-Reality

The short answer is this:

If man on Earth ever progresses to the point where they can create Earth (and everything on it) simulations so good it is hard to tell them apart from the real world… then they’ll presumably make many of them and the odds of us being in the one real world is slim.

Here’s a more elegant way of putting it, from Nick Bostrom:

At least one of the following three propositions must be true:

1. Almost all civilisations at our level of development become extinct before becoming technologically mature.

2. The fraction of technologically mature civilisations that are interested in creating ancestor simulations is almost zero.

3. You are almost certainly living in a computer simulation

Underlying Lattice of our Reality

In an attempt to find a universal theory of everything, scientists look for underlying code and mathematical constants that can define our universe. But if we find such a simple answer to how our environment is constructed, then it suggests that the universe is designed, implying creation. Some might take that to mean divine creation, while others like myself see at as evidence for our world being part of a simulation.

Here’s the abstract for Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation:

Observable consequences of the hypothesis that the observed universe is a numerical simulation performed on a cubic space-time lattice or grid are explored. The simulation scenario is first motivated by extrapolating current trends in computational resource requirements for lattice QCD into the future. Using the historical development of lattice gauge theory technology as a guide, we assume that our universe is an early numerical simulation with unimproved Wilson fermion discretization and investigate potentially-observable consequences. Among the observables that are considered are the muon g-2 and the current differences between determinations of alpha, but the most stringent bound on the inverse lattice spacing of the universe, b^(-1) >~ 10^(11) GeV, is derived from the high-energy cut off of the cosmic ray spectrum. The numerical simulation scenario could reveal itself in the distributions of the highest energy cosmic rays exhibiting a degree of rotational symmetry breaking that reflects the structure of the underlying lattice.

The authors point out that simulations already use this lattice in a computer environment, so all that is a building block in the direction of a full simulation:

With the current developments in HPC and in algorithms it is now possible to simulate Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), the fundamental force in nature that gives rise to the strong nuclear force among protons and neutrons, and to nuclei and their interactions. These simulations are currently performed in femto-sized universes where the space-time continuum is replaced by a lattice, whose spatial and temporal sizes are of the order of several femto-meters or fermis (1 fm = 1015 m), and whose lattice spacings (discretization or pixelation) are fractions of fermis. This endeavor, generically referred to as lattice gauge theory, or more specifically lattice QCD, is currently leading to new insights into the nature of matter.

So, they have created a good theory. In the future, this specific lattice concept could be a feature of simulations. Which means there might be tests that prove we are in a simulation. The math is very complex, but for now all we need to know is that we don’t have the technology (although, presumably, one day we will…):

The spectrum of the highest energy cosmic rays provides the most stringent constraint that we have found on the lattice spacing of a universe simulation, but precision measurements, particularly the muon g 2, are within a few orders of magnitude of being sensitive to the chiral symmetry breaking aspects of a simulation employing the unimproved Wilson lattice action.