Simulation THEORY: 

Technology, Sci Fi, Religion, and Philosophy 

 Do We Live in the Matrix?

Class overview - Offered at Arizona State University

Simulation Theory: Technology, Sci Fi, Religion and Philosophy

(a full study of the simulation hypothesis)

Class Info Website

FSE 494 / FSE 598   (Fulton Schools of Engineering)

FIS 494 / HSD 598 (College of Global Futures)

TMC 498

Spring C 2024, Online

A new interdisciplinary groundbreaking course, taught first and only at ASU by the author of the bestselling book, The Simulation Hypothesis, open to graduate and undergraduate  students.

For questions on this course, please email Rizwan Virk,, or Jason Bronowitz,

Short Catalog Description: 

Today as the idea of virtual environments gains popularity through video games, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence and the Metaverse, it’s natural to speculate about where it will all end up.    The newly emerging field of simulation theory explores an idea that is being articulated by scientists, philosophers, theologists and more: that we live inside a simulated reality, like that  depicted in science fiction like the Matrix.  This course follows several threads that make up this exciting new field: Science Fiction, Technological Innovation, the Singularity, Religion and Philosophy.   

Topics covered include  the modern simulation argument, representations of virtual worlds in science fiction, the evolution and future of video games, the Metaverse and AI, and the intersection of simulation theory with western and eastern religions, as well as western philosophical ideas about the nature of reality. This includes an interdisciplinary exploration of simulations we might create, and the big question: whether we might already be inside another civilizations simulation. We will also do a deep dive into whether simulation theory is a new religion or philosophy or scientific hypothesis, or something else entirely that allows us to address age-old questions in a new way.

Full Description

This course explores the newly emerging field of simulation theory, following several threads that make up this exciting new field: Science Fiction, Technological Innovation, Religion and Philosophy.  While many are familiar with the idea that we live inside a simulation from movies like the Matrix, many academic scholars and existing philosophers, physicists and mystics have made similar points going back hundreds or thousands of years.   In this class, we explore the idea from multiple angles and explore the societal and individual impact that this futuristic idea can have, and trace its evolution through history.  This includes a deep dive into  the simulation argument, a modern argument for why we may be in a simulation.

More specifically, we look into how modern simulation arguments relate to prior arguments from Western philosophers like Descartes and Berkeley and others.  We explore the edge of consciousness, AI, and modern multiplayer games by exploring the schism between the NPC version and the RPG versions of the simulation hypothesis.  We explore the evolution of modern technology such as virtual reality and brain computer interfaces and explore the philosophical, moral, and financial implications of how these might develop into the theoretical Simulation Point, a kind of technological singularity in particular and technological singularities in general and their potential impact.  We look at how building our own simulations might put us into awkward moral positions, including the awakening of consciousness in silicon or other substrates and ethical questions around being simulators or in a simulation. 

Simulation theory, on top of digital physics, may provide an outlet for the strange effects that have been part of the quantum theory, namely quantum indeterminacy, including the Copenhagen and the Multiverse . Simulation theory has been called the most interesting new development in Theology in a thousand years, and we explore how simulation theory parallels ancient teachings in Buddhism and Hinduism, specifically exploring concepts like reincarnation and karma and maya. We also look at the Western (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) traditions to explore how simulation theory does and does not agree with their outlook of the world. Finally, we delve into major debates about whether we should try to find out if we are in a simulation or not, using philosophical frameworks like Pascal’s wager and the Sim Trolley Problem.  We will also look at simulation theory as a new kind of religion, what has been called “religion for atheists”.  Assignments will include watching or reading science fiction, scholarly  papers and popular articles about simulation theory.

 Resources / Books



About the instructor

Rizwan Virk is a computer scientist, venture capitalist and video game pioneer. He was the founder of Play Labs @ MIT, currently at ASU’s College of Global Futures and teaching at ASU's Fulton Schools of Engineering, and a venture partner at Griffin Gaming Partners, one of the largest video game funds in the world. He is the author of The Simulation Hypothesis and The Simulated Multiverse.  

Visit his ASU profile, personal website at, or follow him at @rizstanford