Academic paper inspires New York theatre production

18 January 2012

Are you living in a computer simulation?, a paper written by Professor Nick Bostrom, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, has inspired Jay Scheib’s theatre production ‘World of Wires’, now showing in New York.

The paper, Philosophical Quarterly (2003), argues that “at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.”

A “posthuman” stage of civilization is one where humankind has acquired most of the technological capabilities that one can currently show to be consistent with physical laws and with material and energy constraints.

World of Wires was adapted and directed by Jay Scheib following the film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder based on the novel Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye. According to the theatre website, World of Wires is also inspired by the works of Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom, including his compelling paper, Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”

World of Wires runs at The Kitchen, New York, until 21 January, 2012.

  • Find out more about Nick Bostrom’s research at the Oxford Martin School
  • Read about further links between Oxford Martin School academics and the arts:

Film industry turns to Oxford for mathematical expertise

Excellence in research award for arts collaboration

Oxford Literary Festival 2012

Oxford Martin School at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival 2011

Photo: Paula Court