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The Most Efficient Way to Debug the Simulation

This article is from WIRED's special series on the impact of the Matrix franchise—and the future of reality


====== “SIMULATION NEXT STEPS” =======

== GENERATED AT 17/1.4326804812586S ==


Hello, everybody.

It's great to see you all in one place for the first time. I've been doing my best to learn your names, but I'm terrible with hexadecimal, so bear with me. Before we start, a quick housekeeping note: I know you're used to holding these stand-up meetings once per Earth extinction event, but I think we need a more agile cadence. Let's try Tuesday mornings. Look out for the calendar invite.

I'd like to begin by thanking each of you for the warm welcome you've given me since I took over as product manager. Like I told the Stakeholder this morning, I can't imagine a team I'd want to lead more. While I know your last PM had their own way of working, and many of you enjoyed the flexibility and latitude they gave you, I do want to remind you that they have been erased. So this is truly a fresh start for all of us.

Whenever I come on board as a PM, one of the first things I like to do is clean up the ticketing system. Too many open tickets can make it hard to see priorities and set shared goals. We currently have 2.37 trillion of them outstanding. At this stage I just want to call out a few showstoppers and explain my thinking. We'll be working through the rest in subsequent stand-ups.

ERTH-0019, “World peace.” Look at the length of this thread! Obviously everyone wants this, because it seems like every engineer and designer had an idea or five to contribute—but no one wrote any code or broke it down into milestones. You'll hear me say this a quadrillion times, so start counting: Visions are not goals. If I can't see a straightforward way to make incremental progress and measure success with consistent, reliable metrics, I will remove a ticket. So seriously: Marking WONTFIX. Also in this category: HUMN-9991, “End war.”

CHEM-1083, “Delete most silicates.” Great ticket, but why didn't anyone step up to implement it before it was too late? We knew from prior simulations what would happen if they discovered semiconductors: They'd develop transistors and computers, figure out Moore's law, and pretty soon Elon Musk would be on Twitter. Imagine the number of wasted development cycles we could have avoided if we'd just replaced all the quartz and silicon with, I don't know, calcite. It's too late to do anything now; if we remove the silicates, they're going to realize they're in a simulation, and we'll have broken the Stakeholder's rule.

RLGN-3944, “Make prayers work.” I know the original spec called for this, but ultimately it didn't land in early releases, and implementing it now would be a huge lift. We've spent all this time building out a big globalized economy, and suddenly we're going to let anyone who closes their eyes and makes a wish be a billionaire? Plus there are a ton of edge cases that I don't see captured: Sure, someone could pray for Grandma to live, but for how long? What if not everyone wants to see her thriving? Marking WONTFIX and archiving.

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MNEY-3848, “Replace simulated real currency with simulated digital currency.” This is one of those tickets where engineers make up the solution to a problem that exists only in their heads. There was one galaxy I managed where the interplanetary currency was denominated in shrieks of pain (wedding gifts were a particular challenge), but even that made more sense than the blockchain. That said, we're in it now and we need to see this one through. Leaving the ticket open and looking for ideas.

ERTH-4873, “Fix Versailles.” Great example of a badly worded ticket. It was filed in 1927, so the original intent was clearly to lower the financial burdens on Germany after the First World War and avoid a second. Instead, an engineer and a designer spent 20 years shaping the topiary at the gardens of Versailles, which is an edge case at best, and by the time anyone noticed, we were down, what, 70 million users? This is not what the Stakeholder is paying for. Archiving.

PNGA-8901, “Add more ice to the Arctic.” Another good ticket, and I can't figure out why it was ignored. If we'd done this we'd have much less mess on our hands.

MAML-0784, “Squirrels but with spider legs.” This is one I just hate. There's no use case, no market demand, yet for some reason at least three of you believe this sim needs eight-legged squirrels. Also, why is it sized at two months of work? It's an afternoon in the modeler for any designer. So I can't decide whether I'm more annoyed that it was proposed or that it didn't happen. There are millions of tickets like this. Not even marking them WONTFIX, just deleting.

I'm also closing out “Elect a dinosaur president” (Was this serious?); “World peas” (duplicate of ERTH-0019); “Have just one gender and race” (I've tried this and it was far, far worse than you might expect); “Make a new religion based on science” (Fun idea, but you have no idea how insufferable it gets); “Introduce generalized artificial intelligence” (When we let them do that they figure out it's a simulation! Remember what the Stakeholder pays us for!).

In general, I feel that this group has lost track of the Stakeholder's mandate, which is to build the most ridiculous, grimly comical universe possible within physical law. I did hear in my first meeting that they liked the US health care system, Enlightenment-era sea piracy, and cats. They hated the US Civil War (too serious), squirrels (I guess that's why someone suggested spider squirrels?), and Facebook (unusable). Overall, it seems like this has been a disappointing experiment, which is probably why it's been so hard to get resources to expand it beyond just this one planet. I know you all feel that. Stick with me, though. At my last universe, I managed to spin out over 30 galaxies. Or you can be harvested and turned into metaversal cognicurrency. Your call.

I may ask for some nights-and-weekends work up front, but know that I want us all to get onto a normal schedule. It's clear that we need to be communicating much more frequently. I'll be organizing some epics, and I don't mean HIST-0003, “Send the Bull of Heaven to attack Gilgamesh.” (Seriously, let's not go there again.)

Also I know you all put a lot of work into it, but we should probably go ahead and sunset the moon.

See you Tuesday. I'll bring coffee.

More from WIRED's special series on the impact of the Matrix franchise—and the future of reality

This article appears in the December 2021/January 2022 issue. Subscribe now.

Let us know what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor at mail@wired.com.

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