A Glitch in the Matrix
- Emma Simmonds
- 2 February 2021
Intriguing but not particularly persuasive documentary which looks at simulation theory
A mind-blowing concept is explored with some skill in this intermittently attention-grabbing documentary from director Rodney Ascher that gathers insight from a wide range of contributors, some substantially more credible than others. It takes a look at simulation theory, which posits that the world we see around us is merely a computer-programmed fabrication.
A Glitch in the Matrix nods to the wildly popular 1999 Wachowski siblings' film and its two sequels – another belated addition to the series is pencilled in for release at the end of this year. The Matrix is credited with introducing simulation theory to a general audience, though similar ideas can be traced right back to Plato's Cave and Descartes' evil demon in Meditations on First Philosophy, while author Philip K Dick set tongues wagging in 1977 with a provocative lecture entitled 'If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others'.
When the film moves from quirky or brain-bending and into darker territory, things get pretty terrifying. There's crossover with various other conspiracy theories, and the ramifications of losing touch with reality are brought into distressing focus during the testimony of convicted killer Joshua Cooke, whose account of his crime and deluded mindset leading up to it is extremely chilling.
The film features several 'average Joe' advocates who appear in the guise of computer-generated fantasy characters, a choice that does somewhat undermine their own experiences, which aren't particularly convincing to start with. There's a bit of a sense that people look to this outlandish idea as a more interesting way of explaining their problems with depression and social alienation.
Even those more prominent persons who subscribe to the idea, Elon Musk as a recent example, don't inspire confidence, while it's not easy to wrap your head around the more complex argument of influential philosopher Nick Bostrom, which isn't exactly examined in great detail. Ascher gives us plenty to ponder here but it's not hugely persuasive; ultimately, it's hard to see the concept in question as much more than a fascinating thought experiment, taken to extremes by those who philosophise or create worlds for a living, or who perhaps have a little too much time on their hands.
Available to watch on demand, including via Dogwoof On Demand, from Fri 5 Feb.