Do Not Panic, This is a Simulation

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The Quantum Regulator was playing up again, and this time it seemed like it was packing in for good. “Goddamnit Knalp” screamed Reginschrod, Knalp suppressed a laugh, “if we don’t get this fixed then simulation 42 is going to be having all kinds of trouble.” She sighed to herself. He wasn’t wrong. It was just, why care so much about bits?

Things had been going wrong for days, thought Andrew, biting his nail. The blackouts, people disappearing… that time with the spatula. He shivered as Alexa flared into life – another power surge? – the daily briefing. If he had been paying attention the words “National Emergency” might have been a cause for concern, but he was otherwise distracted - the world had burst into eight and he saw octuple - he could see the room from every angle at once: himself (several times), his genetics and anthropology books littered the battered old couch and the warm orange London glow pressed the curtains. I should really clear up, he idly thought to himself, eight times. Then he passed out.

Reginschrod really wasn’t handling things well. He theatrically tossed the Universal spanner at the Regulator, which gurgled back at him, emitting some combination of dust, high frequency chirps and a disturbing green glow. Knalp, on the other hand, had been around a lot longer. “Look, we have two options, hard reset or virtual fix. If we hit the Wall fast we can clear the bug and be out before disturbing the simulation too much”, she said matter-of-factly, as if discussing the intergalactic weather. Reginschrod’s complexion cycled through colours faster than Knalp thought humanly possible, “ARE YOU MAD?!”, he cried, “This is the only successful simulation to date, we’ve just begun to understand what we have built. Ditriemocs will have us writing a report for the next century, they specifically said ‘DO NOT DISTURB STATE’…” He paled and Knalp smiled, as she slammed the big red button.

A loud bang woke Andrew, followed by the whirring quickfire of unrestrained expletives only Sophia was capable of. Sophia? Hadn’t he just been happily dreaming about her? They were researching ancient human relics together and had recently narrowed the location of the latest mystery down to a valley in Namibia. Well, “if it exists”, he muttered to himself, chuckling at the long-winded discussion after… He started, realising the dense jungle surrounding him for the first time. Dusk light filtered through the branches above and he could hear the soft rustle and shrieks of nearby animals. He remembered Sophia. The world whirled and suddenly Sophia was in front of him, characteristically zigzagging uncharacteristically between jungle undergrowth, like when she was trying to solve a difficult problem. Eyes darting up she spluttered, “Andrew?!”.

Knalp calmly observed the chaos in front of her. The simulation had turned up more than they ever could have hoped or imagined. People, actual people, rushed terrified through the streets in the image on the Wall. The Wall was an all-purpose debugger: system state analysis, function rewriter, hard reset - the works. What it showed was clear: The quantum rules were taking over. People teleporting, splitting into multiple states and the spooky glow of entanglement permeated everything. Clearly, the laws confining quantum to the world of particles had been broken, if Reginschrod had messed up the 12th Law again she would personally have him murdered. Reginschrod’s anxiety had evaporated as he observed their creation, he glanced sideways, “We did it. We actually god-fricking-damn did it”, beaming at her. The significance of the find was not lost on her. A self-contained universe evolving identical to theirs would have major implications for The Project.

Andrew and Sophia stared dumbfounded at the relatively normal looking pair from behind as they nonchalantly discussed the carnage unfolding on a screen, which was embedded in a towering sandstone block etched with archaic markings. The taller of the two, who was clearly in charge (or at least in control), waved her arms like a conductor of a vast orchestra, or someone who had spent too long at a bar, and the screen in front of them blurred into meaningless symbols too quickly for them to follow. Sophia raised her arm sharply, as if to interrupt the clandestine meeting, and Andrew’s arm followed, apparently with a mind of its own, slapping him artistically in the face. The crack echoed across the clearing and the two opposite them turned incredulously.

“Well, they’re clearly entangled. They’re practically fizzing with it. So, if we just fix up Law 12, displace the t-vector by a few dots, we’ll be good to go and Dems will be…”. The words floated over to Sophia and Andrew who were propped up against the Wall. Sophia, even with the inexplicable scene right in front of her, was engrossed with the markings on the Wall, “It’s flawless… can’t be…” she muttered to herself. They had been sat down like schoolchildren caught where they shouldn’t be and were waiting, mostly in shock, for something to happen. “It’s not string theory Reginschrod. Their quantum state was here all along, they were searching for this before the QR hit the bug. We could…” Knalp trailed off, wicked gleam in her eyes. Reginschrod knew that look, and resigned himself to the madness that would follow.

“My name is Knalp,” Knalp declared, dramatically, “We mean you no harm. Your universe is experiencing a bug. We will have it fixed in no time at all.” Andrew and Sophia blinked, slowly. “There will be no permanent side-effects”. Reginschrod coughed, imperceptibly. “You may go home, and like the rest of your people here in this simulation, you will remember nothing.” Sophia and Andrew frowned, rebelliously. “Or you may come with us, we will download you to some new bodies. You can help us with The Project more than you will ever know. Now… will you join us?”. Knalp straightened, teeth bared like a Cheshire cat, “There are only two possibilities: yes, or no?”

About the Author: 
I am a PhD student from the Quantum Engineering CDT at Bristol, currently researching applications of quantum computing at NASA. My favourite book is Sophie's World and favourite film is Princess Bride.