We were always trying to do the math in our heads, but even though I was leaning toward thinking it was possible, I either didn’t want to know the odds for sure, or more likely, didn’t want it to be true. Even if the math said there was a 99% chance we were living in an iteration of a computer simulation, there had always been too many impossibilities in my own experience to ever convince me.

A calm, rhetorically less-simple version of myself would say, “Well, what difference does it make? I’m not going to try for different things or find a different meaning in my life. I think most of us are trying to make the most of the time we have. It’s not like I’m going to figure it all out and find access to some source code that will let me reset some configuration settings and give myself a longer life or greater strength.

But speculation like that was raised too often not to grow into myth. And then there were always the evangelicals… I wasn’t going to be among them, but there would be certain people who would rally others to them.

These people wouldn’t win the adoration of others by some breathtaking, portentous, physical presence and people wouldn’t follow them because of well-written dogma, or charisma, or even a mass campaign of 24×7 lies. Even with all the classic cult power ever known, on some level people still need to want to believe what’s being shoved at them.

So the early believers were the least likely to attend rallies, overturn elections, spread the holy word, or even to go outside much. The first were scientists, software engineers, hardware engineers, writers (you couldn’t build what we think we’re living in without the greatest writers). They weren’t looking for anything specific, but in their own way, they did find their way out, even if that wasn’t the priority. The idea of finding access to any level of code that you could change from within the code – that was the great first step, the fantasy that kept a few worshipers developing this wild new iterative dogma, instead of living whatever life they had.

As science presented itself, goals and motivations grew from the concepts and experiments. For a long time, few were convinced, but there slowly spread some kind of awkward hope, a shapeless want starting as little more than curiosity. Rarely, some journalistic thread would open the mouth of this thing and it would bend in on itself and feed. And so it grew without intentional leadership as anxiety, aspiration, defense, craving, dreams, horror, a little bit of hope.

As would have been expected with a glance at history, many sought to delve inward to find the answers. These groups assembled their own teams of scientists… basically the same skill sets, although the writers were made up primarily of journalists rather than novelists. These scientists and writers were tasked with helping to recreate their existing world as exactly as possible with the intention of developing a perfect computer simulation within their world. As they developed the system, they would come across errors and problems that needed solving, and each bug was seen as a nice opportunity to analyze it from the perspective of being inside their own created world. So, if they found an error in their attempts at a new iteration then (as their blinding transitional logic dictated) they might find those same errors in their own world. And any bug found to a good hacker is a bug worth exploiting.

But some of the worlds they created eventually came to similar conclusions, similar approaches to solving their own existential prison. By design, no one system could know of another system, or at least that plan was part of the original manifesto regarding the development of artificial life or self-sustaining world simulations. There were also guidelines established regarding what constituted a valid form of life (such as humans were humans and not rats or plants and humans couldn’t fly or dematerialize). These guidelines were established because as those perceptions didn’t exist in this world, they would only be a distraction in the new worlds. The goals varied for those who best discerned what was starting to happen. Some wanted to get out, some wanted to create a loop and live their best moments over and over, others thought of flight, teleportation, magic.

But the developers could never introduce enough rules and security and even harsh enforcement to prevent some dangerous understanding from seeping between worlds. This distribution of knowledge was not organized, and it didn’t come in the form or extraterrestrial beings, but in subtle changes to perceptions and the last, in stories. Eventually, the stories were hard to ignore. For some iterations there grew an almost subconscious understanding of the potential vastness with dim speculation (some referred to recollections) of how many simulations inside of simulations had been created. Maybe they were hundreds of generations deep, perhaps nearly infinite iterations. So little by little, instead of hearing two writers or scientists having a drink, talking about getting out, you might once in a while hear someone mention “climbing up” or “getting above”. And that was the beginning.