Tech billionaires are asking scientists for help breaking humans out of the computer simulation they think they might be trapped in

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Elon Musk.
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Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The theory that we might all be living in a computer simulation has gotten so popular among Silicon Valley’s tech elites that two billionaires are now apparently asking scientists to help break us out of the simulation.

That’s according to a new profile in The New Yorker about Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. The story delves into Altman’s life and successes at the helm of the famous boot-camp and investment fund for tech startups, and doesn’t shy away from the quirkier aspects of Altman’s character.

In the piece, Altman discusses his theories about being controlled by technology and delves into the simulation theory, which is the idea that human beings are unwittingly just the characters in someone else’s computer simulation.

The simulation idea has gained popularity among Silicon Valley’s elite – it’s so popular that even Elon Musk is tired of talking about it. But now, a few of the tech industry’s billionaires might be doing something about it.

Here’s how the New Yorker tells it:

Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.

The piece doesn’t give any clue as to who those two billionaires are – although it’s easy to hazard a few guesses at who they might be, like Musk himself or Altman’s friend Peter Thiel – but it’s fascinating to see how seriously people are taking this theory. According to Musk, it’s the most popular topic of conversation right now.

“…it got to the point where basically every conversation was the AI slash simulation conversation and my brother and I finally agreed that we’d ban any such conversations if we’re ever in a hot tub. Because that really kills the magic,” Musk said on stage at Vox Media’s Code Conference in June.