Real?

April 2, 2012

Scene: Douglas Hall has discovered his 1990s world is simulated and questions Jane about it. Douglas identifies himself as a puppet, to which Jane replies, “A puppet can’t have a soul.” Douglas claims he doesn’t have a soul, to which Jane replies he does, an anomaly of the 1990s simulation they had created in 2024, wherein the people there should not know anything of the simulation, but both Fuller and Douglas had figured it out. Jane believes it means that they do have souls, but Douglas says that since this is simulated, pulling a plug means the end of the simulation, his actions, thereby his unexpected soul. Jane explains Douglas’ link to his user David, who is her husband. She says that she knows Douglas because she has watched him ever since the simulation was created, seeing his acts of kindness and falling in love with him. Douglas argues how she can love him if he isn’t real as a dream cannot be loved, crying. Jane replies, “You’re more real to me than anything I’ve ever known.”

This scene in the film explores what it means to be part of a created or simulated world, and its repercussions of humanity. Douglas’ discovery of his role in a simulation causes him to lose belief in the importance of his own actions, as this behavior can eradicated along with the simulation. This disconnect between the morality and self can also be seen in the change in Ashton once he understands that he is part of a fake, created world. Ashton becomes increasingly erratic, acting without fear of repercussion as he has lost all the semblance to reality that had been given to his simulated world Although these simulated worlds are created, the characters of Douglas and Fuller in particular, beg the question of whether or not these worlds and the people therein are real, a question linked to the question of their having souls. Jane, through her observations of Douglas and Fuller believes they do. She is also inspired by their superior intellect, as they have both figured out the simulation of their 1990s world, something that has not happened in any of the thousands of other simulations. Jane’s belief in the presence of soul in Douglas is supported by her own feelings for him, culminating in her idea that he is the most real thing she knows, even though he is a simulated projection of her husband.
The ending of the film further complicates the idea of the 1990s world as a simulation from the 2024 world, with the 1937 world being an offshoot of the 1990s simulation, by the use of the graphic of a computer turning off. It makes me wonder if the 2024 is also some sort of simulation by a more advanced species, blurring the idea of Jane, her father, and David being real, while Douglas and the others in the 1990 world being created. Another aspect of the film that complicates these rules of the world is the transfer of the consciousness of the simulated person into the person jacking in to them, such as when Ashton travels into Whitney’s 1990s body and Douglas travels to David’s 2024 body. This can mean that since the consciousness is fully formed, it is real, a soul, and moving it to the root of the simulations only solidifies its existence.

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