Last week the New Yorker published a sprawling profile on Sam Altman, the CEO of the startup accelerator Y Combinator and the emerging king of kings in Silicon Valley. Altman's accelerator is responsible for some of the most successful tech startups to come out of the valley, like Reddit, Airbnb, and Twitch. Clearly, Altman knows a good idea when he sees one, which made it all the more surprising when he revealed that there were a handful of anonymous tech billionaires in Palo Alto funding tech startups that focus on breaking us out of the simulation that Elon Musk thinks we're all living in.
In case you missed it, Musk thinks that based on the developmental trajectory of video games from Pong to the hyperrealistic games played today, if you extend that trajectory 10,000 years into the future, you'd end up with a simulation 'game' that is indistinguishable from reality. If Musk is right, that's the reality we're experiencing right now. If Musk is wrong, then we're pumping billions of dollars into technological problems that can't be solved because they don't exist.
If you find yourself rolling your eyes at Musk's proposition, then 'The Simulation,' the latest print-and-play board game from Seth Alter, the parody wiz behind gems like 'No Pineapple Left Behind' and a game about invading Texas, is probably for you.
In 'The Simulation' you and up to two other players play as nameless Silicon Valley billionaire CEOs who, "after a night of coding your most disruptive project yet," have a revelation: we're all living in a computer simulation. Unfortunately, your sleep deprived brain realizes the next morning that every other billionaire in Silicon Valley is trying to break out of the simulation, too. Can you break out of the simulation before they do and make a lot of money in the process? Are you the greatest billionaire tech mogul of them all?
'The Simulation' is far simpler than the IRL philosophical and technological premises it is based on. Two to three players take turns trying to acquire resources that will ultimately help them become the first to break out of the sim. The resources are divided into three categories (Cosmic Revelations, Money, and Buzz) and the board is divided into three distinct areas (the Show Floor, the Hallway, and the Hyperloop).
Each turn the player can either opt to pitch their brilliant simulation-breaking ideas on the Show Floor to earn some money, or travel around the hyperloop to spend their hard-earned cash on either Research and Development, The Cloud, or Burning Man. Each of these stations on the hyperloop will earn the player a certain amount of Buzz, Money or Cosmic Revelations depending on the card drawn at that station. Photos of naked women at Burning Man, for instance, earn the player +2 Buzz, whereas Drugs result in +2 Cosmic Revelation.
So how do you win the game? Well, you don't. It turns out that no matter how many Cosmic Revelations you have or how much Buzz you generate on social media, none of it really matters. The only point of the game is to accumulate as much money as possible, forever.