“I think I’ve got it,” Jack said. “I’ve finally figured it out.”
Dylan looked up from his computer. “The error you were getting on the new software?”
“No, no, not that!” Jack said. He was grinning. “Life! I’ve figured out life!”
Dylan squirmed in his seat. “I see.” By now he should’ve been used to the nonsense that Jack spouted all the time.
“I was listening to a podcast a minute ago, and it was talking about living in a simulation,” Jack explained. He pressed his elbows into the back of Dylan’s chair and nudged him left and right. “Someday we’re going to have the technology to create a simulation of Earth, and populate it with life-like people, right?”
“A whole planet? That would take a lot of processing power.”
“Sure, but a thousand years in the future? Why not?” Jack’s grin had somehow gotten bigger. “So someday that’s possible, yeah? It’d be like a more realistic version of Sims.”
Dylan tossed a hand in the air. “Yeah. It’s possible.”
“If the simulation is realistic enough, then over the span of a few thousand simulated years, the people in that simulation would be capable of creating their own simulation. Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Dylan repeated. “It’s possible.”
“And it keeps going down. Simulations within simulations within simulations. Theoretically infinite! And do you know what that means?”
Jack spread his arms dramatically. “If there are infinite layers of simulations, what are the odds that we’re in the real world?”
Dylan wrinkled his nose. “Low, I’d suppose.”
“Exactly! It’s proof that our lives aren’t real!”
“Proof, huh? This all sounds theoretical.”
“But you admit that it’s possible, so if there can be simulations like that, then it’s already happened! Who knows how deep down the rabbit hole we are right now!” Jack was looking around the office, as if he were expecting a standing ovation. Clearly nobody else was listening.
Dylan clicked around his computer, pretending Jack wasn’t there for a moment, but he eventually had to ask, “What’s your point?”
Jack’s eyes widened. “My point?”
“Yeah. So what if we’re in a simulation? Life’s still life. Feels real enough to me.”
“Don’t you get it? It explains everything!”
“Everything? Name one thing it explains.”
“Why is my life so boring?” Jack asked. “Nothing exciting happens to me. No serious accidents. No serious illnesses. Maybe some minor drama, but nothing too wild. Think about it. My life has been as generic as possible. I’ll bet the simulation is why I haven’t had a serious long-term girlfriend in so long! They programmed it that way!”
“Why would the simulation be programmed to make your life boring?”
“Processor power! Too much to program! I don’t know!” Jack was ecstatic. “I couldn’t even be sure that you’re real! I’m probably the only conscious person in this whole simulation!”
Dylan frowned. “Well now I’m certain that you’ve lost your mind.”
“Processor power!” he said again. “I hear about crazy things happening to other people all the time, but never me! It’s too much to design. Hell, they probably haven’t created most of the planet. Any place I travel to, they have to make a bunch of 3D structures, and populate it with a bunch of character models! I’ll bet that’s why I’ve never left the country! I’ve always wanted to see Indonesia, or somewhere crazy far like that. And I’d look out the window the whole flight, so they have no choice but to generate all of that ocean!”
“Sounds like a basic copy-past job to me.” Dylan saw Jack’s passionate expression was unchanged. “You can leave the country if you want.”
“But they can control events! Maybe they’ll slow down my perception of time, make me freeze, so they have more time to program! It’s just a hassle for them. Maybe they planted the idea in my head not to bother leaving the country! Every time they think I’m getting close to traveling to a new location, they dissuade me, make me hesitant!”
Dylan shook his head and sighed. “I asked you what the point was, and I feel like we haven’t made any ground on that subject.”
“The point is that I don’t give a shit!” Jack exclaimed.
That made a few heads pop up in the neighboring cubicles.
“Nothing is real! I can do whatever I want!”
“Sure, you can do whatever you want,” Dylan said. “But you’ll still face consequences that feel very real. And you still haven’t given me any serious evidence that we’re in The Matrix.”
“Think about all of the things in this world that don’t really make sense,” Jack tried.
Dylan’s face drooped. “You don’t understand physics or chemistry?”
“Yeah! Like, what the hell is electricity? And radio waves! How do those work? How does the internet work? You’re telling me that there’s hundreds of gigabytes of information flying around the air all the time, invisible? Yeah right!”
“Well…” Dylan hesitated. “If you’d read a textbook once in awhile, you could understand it.”
“No!” Jack proclaimed. “No! I’m done with this office! I’m done with this job! None of this matters! I’m the only conscious man alive! They won’t let anything happen to me! They need me to stay alive for the sake of the simulation!”
Dylan pressed his palms into his eyes. “Who’s they?”
“The programmers!” Jack waved a hand. “I don’t have to argue with you. You’re just going to say whatever they want you to say. It’s meaningless!”
“I have never known nihilism to strike somebody so hard and so suddenly.”
Jack started strutting away. “I’m outta here! I’m going to do whatever the hell I want!”
Dylan considered stopping him. But this would be fun to watch.
Jack hammered his fist on the door to the boss’s office, then opened it without waiting for a reply. “I’m leaving,” he told the boss. “Goodbye!”
The boss sat up straight. “You can’t leave work an hour early!” he said.
His boss frowned. “Hm. Alright. Be on your way then.”
As Jack strolled up the hall, he gave Dylan a smile and an I-told-you-so sort of look. Already he was loosening his tie and untucking his shirt.
Dylan tried to focus on his computer again, but found it difficult. “That guy needs to stop listening to so many podcasts.”
On the other end of the office, a woman was sitting with her briefcase on her lap. She popped it open, touched something inside for a moment, and then shut it again. She stood and followed Jack out the door.