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The thirteenth floor didn't exist... and yet it was there... filled with unknown terror!
October 26, 2010 9:05 PM   Subscribe

"Greetings, I'm MAX, the computer. Maybe you've heard of me, I'm superintendant here!" - Welcome to The Thirteenth Floor!
posted by Artw (14 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
More on The Thirteenth Floor from Wikipedia.
posted by Artw at 9:10 PM on October 26, 2010


Huh, there are lots of similarities to the movie "The Thirteenth Floor" but there doesn't seem to be a direct creative link. You're living in a simulation of a simulation and you don't know it! As the essay says, that is actually scarier to me than a guy in a mask hacking up flesh. I at least like to have the comfort of knowing that my illusions are mine.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on October 26, 2010


Amazing how addictive these old British comics are. It's like that other one with the shark, you start reading and just can't stop...
posted by Kevin Street at 10:20 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the way the characters narrate their fate as it is happening to them: "I am being savaged by sharks!" "Oh no! The giant crab claws are pulling me down into the sand!" "Woe is me, the computer-generated nurse-skeletons are about to drain my lifeblood, a quite painful process I imagine!" "Cripes, I was right!"
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:05 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember reading these sat on the floor of my best friend's bedroom when I was in primary school. Gadzooks. This, "Monster" and "The Dracula Files" (it's Dracula, but in Britain right now!) have stayed with me for mumblety-mumble years. Double gadzooks.

(And M.A.C.H. 1 and M.A.C.H 0 as well from, I suspect, the Eagle reprints)

(And all the rubbish Eagle fumetti strips of things like Sgt. Streetwise)
posted by Hartster at 4:03 AM on October 27, 2010


The 13th Floor movie was based on a 1964 story turned into a TV movie in 1973. So both the 1999 move and 1984 comic could be based on either of those. Or maybe the movie took it's title from the comic because of the (coincidental) similarity of plots. Or any of a number of other permutations.

In any case, I'm not all that filled with horror at the idea of living in a simulation. For one thing, what's the practical difference? (This is assuming the computer or the programmers outside can't make me dance, which was protrayed very unconvincingly in the 1999 movie. But even if they can, that raises philosophical questions: In order to "make" me do something, don't they have to make me want to? At which point, do I really object?)

And for another thing, what's the real difference between living in a world perfectly captured by a Theory of Everything and a world powered by a Program of Everything? That is to say, the Newtonian Mechanical Universe (even modulated by quantum uncertainty and chaos) + Initial Starting Conditions = Program. So if you are sympathetic to, or at least unhorrified by, the former, you must be sympathetic to, or at least unhorrified by, the latter.
posted by DU at 5:12 AM on October 27, 2010


I'm confused. We probably are living in a simulation, so where's the horror? Just because a hit movie was based on the notion doesn't mean it isn't true.
posted by Goofyy at 5:20 AM on October 27, 2010


The horror, I think, is in the helplessness at being at the mercy of whims of essentially godlike entities who have no moral or ethical obligations towards their simulation. You know all of those clips where you see people trapping their Sims until they pee themselves or catch on fire? Fun if you're not the Sim.

Perhaps you are not being sufficiently entertaining — ooh, let's do a schizophrenia hack to DU. Perhaps you're interesting enough to be noticed: that Goofyy process is kinda neat, I wonder what it would do if I did this to it?

The indifferent, ceaseless grind of physical law is one thing; the dread of being actively singled out by an unstoppable force who, on its lunch break, wants to see something cool happen to this simulated entity, is quite another. Job, with no reward at the end, nothing owed to you, because you are not considered real. So go on, twist the head off of that Barbie doll; it's just plastic, right?
posted by adipocere at 6:09 AM on October 27, 2010


Which is why I said "this is assuming the computer or the programmers outside can't make me dance".

But even if they can, *how* exactly do they make me dance? In the 1999 movie, they couldn't (for some reason) control the simulation from outside. They had to enter it and lie to people, manipulating them the old fashioned way. Unpleasant, sure, but not really specific horror separate from normal, non-simulated existence.
posted by DU at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2010


Amazing how addictive these old British comics are. It's like that other one with the shark, you start reading and just can't stop...

Ah, you'd love Shako - the only bear on the C.I.A. deathlist.
posted by Artw at 6:42 AM on October 27, 2010


Shako also has going for it the greatest character name in the history of, well, everything... Buck Dollar.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2010


I love the basic morality of those 70s/80s Brit comics... if you were the least bit bad you died, usually hideously. And often if you were good too.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2010


The one point of the 1999 movie which stuck in my craw was the inability of the people running the simulation to control it. It just found it unrealistic, inasmuch as "realistic" applies to this scenario. Maybe they didn't have the GUI built yet, but, yeah, I can't explore that situation.

With some fine-grained control, you would not necessarily have to want to do something — your arms might jerk and your hips would grind without your volition, like a hapless marionette. Or perhaps you might hear music and suddenly think you were in a club without paying attention to how you got there, and the next thing you know you're Leland Palmer getting his groove on in Great Northern. Sure, the sim-runner could implant in you the urge to dance, but that might not be as much fun.

Although, if you subscribe to the idea that the rational mind constructs a narrative for actions we have made, a narrative that an "I" is in control, you might well view yourself as having wanted to dance, after the fact.
posted by adipocere at 7:31 AM on October 27, 2010


I feel the gold standard of spectacularly patchy but intermittently awesome Eagle comic strips remains Doomlord.
posted by DNye at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2010


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