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‘Go then, there are other worlds than these’

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Are we living in a simulation?

It’s a question that has risen to prominence in certain technophilosophical circles in recent years, though in truth, the skeptical hypothesis regarding just how real reality is has been around for centuries; perhaps the most pop culturally present of those ancient arguments are things like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave or the “butterfly dream” from the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, though many other long-ago thinkers expressed similar ideas.

What it boils down to is the notion that everything about the universe we occupy, from the tiniest molecule to the most massive star, is a computer simulation. That includes us, by the way.

This current flavor of this theory springs largely from work in the early 2000s by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, whose premise presupposes that future predictions regarding the massive increase of computing power are accurate and that at some point, said supercomputing capacity would be devoted to running simulations of civilization’s forebears. Assuming those simulations are sufficiently detailed and fine-tuned, the people in them will be conscious and sentient … and virtual.

Bostrom’s simulation argument – which he calls a trilemma – states that one of these three statements is almost certain to be true:

  1.     The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage (i.e. capable of developing these sort of immense simulations) is very close to zero.
  2.     The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running simulations of their evolutionary history, or variations thereof, is close to zero.
  3.     The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation are very close to one.

Bostrom goes on to posit through anthropic reasoning that IF that third statement is true, then we are almost certainly living in a simulation.

There – that’s everything that five minutes on Wikipedia could teach me about simulation theory. You’re welcome.

But that’s not the whole story. In fact, we here in The Maine Edge’s Investigative Futurism Department have spent several hours digging into a different possibility with regard to our simulated world – a possibility that hits us where we live. You see, after much experimentation and deliberation, the IFD has come to an undeniable and paradigm-shattering conclusion.

We ARE in a simulation, but not one crafted by the powers that be in some far-flung future. No, the simulation in which we exist is not, one could argue, a simulation at all.

We’re characters in a story. Specifically, a Stephen King story.

“The Tower trembles; the worlds shudder in their courses.” 

“Now hold on,” I can hear you saying. “What do you mean, we’re characters in a story? That sounds like a bunch of unprovable nonsense.”

Look, I get it – I felt that way initially as well. It sounds crazy, the idea of all of us being nothing more than the products of the imagination of the greatest writer of popular fiction in the history of American letters. It’s a big leap to take. But I assure you, we’ve put in the work – it all checks out.

Central to all of this is King’s epic and expansive “Dark Tower” series. Specifically, the titular Tower itself and the beams that serve as its support. These six beams – or 12 spokes – are representative of the massive energy infrastructure necessary to keep the multiverse (represented here by the Tower) operational.

(This is a point of some contention in the IFD; we’re divided on whether this means that the Tower is itself an example of the kind of supercomputing entity that would be necessary to run a civilization or simply meant to be a graspable metaphor.)

Regardless, we are in agreement that King is the key.

Think about it. How is it possible that one man has proven able to create so many different worlds? How have these vast and varied stories sprung from a single imagination? To generate these myriad tales about places separate from, yet bearing various degrees of connection to, our own seems on its face to be a staggering and nigh-impossible literary feat.

But what if he is not creating, but rather transcribing?

Our working theory – and again, it remains a theory, albeit one with considerable confirmation – is that the many brilliant best-selling books he’s written over the past half-century are in fact recordings of observations he has made of the infinite worlds that he, as keeper of the Tower, is able to look upon.

His novels and stories are portraits of other worlds, and not in the figurative sense. They are literal snapshots of universes that exist above, beneath and alongside our own. And there is no reason to think that, if those worlds are all born of imagination, that ours is any more “real” than any other.

King’s power comes from the Beams, which in turn spring from the Dark Tower itself. As Guardian of the Tower, King can wield its energies as he sees fit in service to his only mandate: to prevent the multiverse from folding in upon itself. In this iteration – there have been many, as there has always been a Tower, hence always has there been a Guardian – King has chosen to weaponize the written word in his fight to prevent entropic collapse and avoid the singularity that would come should the barriers between realms break down.

Through these books, King is able to codify and hence protect the metaphysical integrity of each of the addressed universes. And yes, many of them bear a striking resemblance to our own, though often with additional supernatural and/or paranormal aspects. This is by design – King’s literary anchors are present in all worlds, but only those that can be connected to and comprehended by the residents of those worlds.

Basically, there is a Stephen King or his equivalent in ALL worlds, each a storyteller and narrative creator of great renown, but not all of the nigh-infinite variations appear in each individual realm. Instead, each world contains within it the works representing the parallels existing closest to it.

The existential implications are staggering, of course. The idea that our world exists as an outcropping of a mystical energy that operates outside of our understanding of time and space is troubling, sure. So too is the idea that these books, filled with monsters both mythic and all-too-real, are representative of actual places just the other side of a quantum veil. There are a lot of questions, to be sure, but one kept looming large for the IFD.

How is OUR book going to end?

“The quickest way to learn about a new place is to know what it dreams of.”

This is not the direction in which we expected this investigation to go. We were all-in on Bostrom, with every one of us convinced that our research would uncover the truth about the simulation in which we live. We felt sure that we would be able to provide proof, once and for all, that our entire universe is a the product of supercomputing so advanced that to us, it would be indistinguishable from magic, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, a speculative writer who we’re sure wasn’t actually the omniscient guardian of the mystical nexus solely responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the multiverse. Pretty sure, anyway.

But the deeper we dug, the more we kept stumbling into roadblocks and dead ends. Every time we’d think we were on the verge of unlocking the whole thing, some stubborn data point or another would pop up, rendering our current path untenable and leaving us to backtrack and try to determine another way in. Over and over, we were stymied, though we kept at it through the years, even as other research projects usurped chunks of time.

(You probably remember our 2012 consortium on the Mayan calendar. Or our lengthy investigations into the Crown of the Queen City and Bangor’s Secret Library. Or our expose about the alien origins of the old Bangor Auditorium. And who can forget our deep dive into the still-developing robot invasion? So yes – we’ve been busy.)

Many of those projects would provide bits of evidence that in turn pushed forward this grander investigation. We uncovered vital documents at the Secret Library that helped us clear a particularly tricky hurdle, a crumbling manuscript whose contents we cannot divulge. The Auditorium UFO story brought a lot of crackpots out of the woodwork, but it also put us in touch with one scientist – who asked to remain anonymous so as to avoid complications with his work – who showed us that while it was alien, it was not extraterrestrial; instead, it came from one of those dimensions directly abutting our own, breaching the barrier through methods that remain a mystery to us. And yes, while some of the robots we spoke to sent us on wild goose chases, their ability to perceive energies beyond human ken has proven beneficial to this particular mission.

Piece by painstakingly earned piece, we put together the puzzle. And with each step forward, it became clearer that we were moving away from the far-future supercomputing hypothesis and toward something far more abstract and metaphysical.

But it was the man himself who gave us the clue that made everything else fall into place.

“He who speaks without an attentive ear is mute.”

Stephen King wrote himself into the Dark Tower series.

The “character” appears in “Song of Susannah” and “The Dark Tower,” the sixth and seventh books in the series, respectively. Said character is a writer, one who is able to tap into the power of Gan (the godlike entity that created the universe and is the fundamental spirit of the Dark Tower) and through that connection, pen stories of Roland Deschain and his ongoing and occasionally Quixotic quest for the Tower.

It’s indicative of King’s utter commitment to the literary representation of the many worlds that he was willing to include a different universe’s version of himself in its story. It’s also a prime indicator of just how similar these parallel worlds can be – many of the details of the King in these books are applicable to “our” King.

(As to whether there’s a one-to-one comparison between King-as-Guardian and Gan, well … it’s tough to say for sure. While I can state with confidence that we’ve assembled an impressive amount of evidence bearing that out as truth, I must also concede that said evidence is exclusively circumstantial in nature. It’s a pile of possibility, but the absence of a smoking gun connection means that we must, for the moment, refrain from defining that connection as a certainty.)

“All things serve the Beam.”

So how does the Beam enter into all of this?

Well, we’ve been digging into that facet of the proceedings and we’ve made some frankly startling discoveries. It appears that the City of Bangor has been built up around the Beam that maintains this world. Specifically, it runs in a roughly north-south direction, cleaving the city in two.

We have yet to put eyes on the actual source of the Beam, though we do have some theories about that. It seems that it runs directly over (or through?) a pair of distinguished Bangor landmarks – the Thomas Hill Standpipe and the statue of Paul Bunyan. There have been some rather heated internal discussions about what that might mean; personally, I’m of the mind that the Standpipe is a sort of partial representation of the Tower in our world, a protuberance from the nth-dimensional space in which the Tower exists. Others believe that the animus of the Tower – its soul, to put it bluntly – lives within Paul Bunyan. We all agree, however, that both structures are clearly vital connections to the Beam and by extension the Dark Tower – they pop up far too frequently in King’s works for it to be a coincidence.

It’s worth noting also that King’s residence on this plane is almost (but not quite) directly between those two spots. One imagines that for a Guardian such as he, a delicate balance must be struck regarding proximity to the Beam – too far and finer influences prove more difficult, too near and the power overwhelms – so it makes sense that his base of operations is close, but not TOO close.

By tapping into the Beam, King can monitor the multiverse with whose protection he has been charged, moving from plane to plane with ease, sharing the stories of other worlds with each one that he enters. The vast majority of those stories are precisely the same as the ones he has gifted us with here – stories that explore the people, places and things (especially things) of worlds just an interdimensional eyeblink away.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re likely just as troubled as we are. No one is prepared to have the fabric of their reality defined for them – humankind might desperately pursue the truth of existence, but we’re simply not equipped to deal with what happens when we find it.

“Everything in the Universe denies ‘nothing.’ To suggest an ending is the one absurdity."

“But what about OUR book?” you ask again.

That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? For if our world has been (or is being – it remains unclear) written into existence, then there must be a way to read it.

But that’s the thing – the book that defines this world by definition cannot exist within its confines. The universe cannot contain itself. I mean, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic gist. Just as books like “Carrie” or “It” or “Under the Dome” or “The Outsider” or yes, even “The Dark Tower” series, cannot exist in the worlds they serve to document into existence, our book cannot be in our world.

But it can be – and is – in others.

Jack Torrance could read our book. Dolores Claiborne could read our book. Bill Hodges could read our book. Paul Edgecombe, Ralph Roberts, Arnie Cunningham, Carrie White – all could, if they so chose, read the book that is our world. We would be characters on the page to them, just as they are to us.

And yes, I’m aware that there is a considerable amount of overlap in the stories that King has offered up to us on this plane. Even the Man in Black, the erstwhile antagonist of “The Dark Tower,” appears in many different stories. However, the nature of infinite practically ensures that most parallel realms would share many, indeed most characteristics. They are the same, save for where they are different.

You’re likely familiar with the notion of the Mandela Effect, memories shared by numerous people that nevertheless turn out to be false. Most if not all instances of that effect can be chalked up to bleedover between worlds; the truth is that while in some ways, the barriers are impenetrable, in others, they are permeable. We cannot physically move from one to another, but our thoughts have free reign to drift. This occasionally leads to leakage where a truth from one place infects another, though those leaks are almost always benign a la the “Berenstain/Berenstein Bears” conundrum. Since King’s works are observations, it is inevitable that some of that same leakage takes place.

Now, before the more panic-prone among you start to freak out about the existential ramifications of a world contained within a book – a book that, like almost all books, has an ending – let me try to reassure you. Near as we can tell, these worlds do not simply wink out of existence upon their books being read to completion. Our best guess is that we as human beings are simply incapable of comprehending the vast unknowableness of an entire universe. These books that we are reading exist in many dimensions themselves; we are allowed to experience only what our fragile psyches can handle.

So no – reality is not going to vanish when someone closes the book. At least … we don’t THINK so.

“But what about free will?” you cry.

It’s an understandable question, but have no fear – as was explained earlier, the book does not drive our actions. Rather, our actions drive the book. This is a recording, a transcription of our universe. We aren’t being brought to life by the book – our lives ARE the book. It is an observation, not a creation … we think.

So now perhaps you have a bit more clarity as to what was meant when we talked about living in a simulation that wasn’t actually a simulation. Because this isn’t a simulation – it’s happening. It’s just that there are a lot of other realities also happening, all at the same time, layered atop one another like so many atom-thin dimensional sheets. Essentially, simulation theory is wrong, but it’s wrong in the right way.

Honestly, if you want to worry about something, worry about what happens if the Beam on which our reality balances should shift or collapse entirely. If THAT happens, then we’re going to be in some serious trouble. But hey – that’s why we have a Guardian, right?

“Time belongs to the Tower.”

So where does this leave us?

Look, we’re working without a map here – we’re an arts and entertainment weekly, for God’s sake; we’re hardly equipped to be pulling back the curtain on the great machines that operate the multiverse. It’s like taking the red pill from “The Matrix,” only in a world where that concept hasn’t been coopted by self-important jerks on the internet. Your eyes will be opened. You will be through the looking glass.

But when you uncover something like this, you have to tell the people. As for how many will accept these truths, that’s a different matter. Everyone is going to struggle with this kind of revelation – many will likely never make their way through that struggle to acceptance. It will be dismissed as a shoddily-researched and poorly-contrived joke, a tossed-off effort to have some fun at the expense of one of Bangor’s favorite sons.

And that’s OK.

We’re just sharing the fruits of our research with you. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you. We have no expectations of you. If you want to simply go on with your life, forgetting this story entirely, by all means – do so. Live the life that you want to live and leave it at that. Forget the Tower. Forget the Beam. Forget the idea of Stephen King as Guardian. Dismiss all of this as nonsense, if that’s what makes you feel better. None of that changes this fundamental truth:

You don’t have to believe the story, because the story believes in you.

(On the off chance that you haven’t already figured it out, this is our April Fools’ Day edition. As such, there will be stories that are completely and totally made up. The preceding was one such story.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 March 2021 22:33

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