Crossposted from my Substack.

What if our universe had an undo function?

I wish to propose a new paradox about the implications of a simulated world in which we occupy. If concepts like the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) and Simulation Theory have grains of truth to them (both of which I will explore in depth later on), then could there be a specific state of stored “memory” (for lack of a better term) that could be referred back to like in a video game? If our world operates under a simulated system, where save states could be held and activated, could we (as inhabitants of the simulation) ever get to discover this mechanism? Could it be what David Chalmers describes as a “Sim Sign”? Who could be responsible for creating these states, and why would they revert back to that particular point in time?


This will be the introductory piece of what will be a many part series, in order to fully grapple with the concepts laid out later in the proposal.

Simulation Theory


"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

Simulation Theory, which posits that reality could be a simulated construct, has been widely discussed in the 20th century, with the realm of reality being questioned for millennia. From Plato, Descartes, and Zhuangzi to Philip K. Dick, the Wachowski Sisters and Nick Bostrom, people have questioned the senses and structures that have guided us through life. With AI becoming more sophisticated and capable, I feel like this question has extended to silicon-based substrates as well as carbon. If we can create consciousness or provide the means by which it can emerge within other structures, can this further evidence that we may be in a simulation ourselves?

In 2003, Nick Bostrom presented a tripartite argument in his paper “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” in which he states that at least one of the following propositions is likely to be true:

“1. Human civilizations are unlikely to reach a level of technology where they could run simulations of conscious beings.

2. Even if civilizations do reach this level of technological advancement, they will likely choose not to run a large number of such simulations.

3. We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.”[1]

I feel that in the 21 years since, these propositions have become even more pertinent. I mentioned in an earlier post that SORA, OpenAI’s new generative model video, is more than meets the eye. Its capability to create or replicate world physics to make realistic-looking media clips highlights AI's advancing capabilities in creating simulations of their own. Although we may currently exist on the lower rung of the Kardashev Scale (a tool for measuring a civilization’s technological advancement based on its energy consumption), it seems that this is simply a glimpse of what is to come. As we continue to advance, the possibility that we could create or even discover that we are part of a larger simulation becomes more significant. This trajectory of technological innovation could imply that we may be part of many such simulations, aligning with the theoretical frameworks proposed by Bostrom et al.

David Chalmers, in Reality+ (2022), creates a compelling argument either way about whether such simulation structures are possible and if we are currently inhabiting them. He lists what he calls Sim Signs and Sim Blockers as potential clues. Sim Signs range from finding anomalies to thinking about simulations to living in early times in the universe. Blockers exist in the absence of these; the fewer blockers there are, the more likely it is that we ourselves are sims. He concludes that we can’t know that we’re not in a simulation. In fact, he ends this particular section with the statement, “I conclude that we can’t know that we’re not in a simulation.”[2]

A twist on the Sim Sign


Inspired by these ideas, I propose a new Sim Sign—extrapolating from the constructs of video games, whose sandbox environments can hint at the possible creation of a simulation. In the gaming world, save stating refers to the act of copying a state in a game to return to; the player can refer to this point in time at a difficult stage of play or at a juncture within the game’s narrative. In this way, there’s a sense of freedom in making certain choices as they aren’t deemed “permanent”—the stakes are lowered.

If parameters are created within a set of physical laws, can these be held in a sort of stasis, possibly designed by the simulator themselves? If so, could we know if it was set to activate on a particular event—reverting back to the time before, memories of that specific time non-existent? If we were ever able to prove this correct or not, what implications would it have for our understanding of life and reality as a whole?

Consider this thought experiment: In a simulated world (if we indeed currently live in one), how could we detect an event similar to a state “reset”? Such events could be triggered for existential safety reasons or for reasons unknown to us. If this were the case, how would we become aware of such occurrences if we reverted to a time before the execution, affecting memories, physical states, and environmental continuity? Imagine if seemingly inexplicable concepts like Deja Vu and the Mandela Effect could be explained away with such a paradox.

Why would such a mechanism exist?


I think this boils down to the intention of the simulator and whether they wanted to either hide or keep this information from the simulated populace. I propose at least four possible scenarios in which this could happen:

The Riddler Simulator: Deliberately leaves signs and anomalies to see whether the simulated will pick up on this and understand the nature of their simulation.

The Protective Simulator: Has the reset mechanism to trigger on the verge of the simulated annihilation e.g. a nuclear war, extreme climate disruption. It could also well be for protection against any existential breakdown upon realising that they are all part of a simulation.

The Malevolent Simulator: Has the reset mechanism in mind to activate when conditions are too peaceful or if the simulated work out how to escape their situation.

The Joker Simulator: Thrives on the what-ifs—wanting to see every ending played out. To be honest, this could be 1 or 3 from another angle but the reset this time is purely for their benefit and curiosity.

Its legitimacy as a Sim Sign, if not applicable to 1 or 4, may well be futile in the structure of such a paradox. For example, the Protective Simulator will arguably be the most vigilant in disguising or removing any possibility of an anomaly for humans to detect—in other words, setting up Sim Blockers. Likewise, if the Malevolent simulator’s intention is to hide any sort of exploit or escape from the situation, there will be a similar pattern (although if the plan is to scare the simulated and trigger their existential fear, then this may be different).

The DRAPES equation


Let’s use an equation (aided by my custom GPT, Strawberry) to illustrate this. I noticed that the variables she used could spell out DRAPES, which made me liken it to the Drake Equation used in the search for extra-terrestrial life. The DRAPES equation is a tool to estimate the likelihood that we are living in a simulated universe with the Sim Signs of save state detection in mind—illustrating the “curtains” or “drapes” hiding the true nature of our existence. Each variable listed explores the statistical likelihood of our world being simulated, such as the existence of anomalies and the probability that they could be discovered and interpreted effectively. This allows us to question not only the theoretical possibility of a simulated universe but also the nature and understanding of consciousness and, by extension, our existence:

Where D = the detection of the save state

The likelihood of detecting a save state in the simulation—whether the simulated beings (potentially us) could discover if their reality has been reset.

R = the rate of hypothesised resets occurring in the simulation 

How often resets are hypothesized to occur—the larger the number, the higher the frequency.

A = the probability of the ability of the simulation to carry this out effectively (memory alteration or time travel)

The probability that the simulation can carry out the resets without detection. The closer A is to 1, the more effective the simulation is at concealing resets and going unnoticed by the inhabitants.

P= the probability that observers could spot/ measure these anomalies

This refers to the likelihood that observes in the simulation would identify and accurately interpret the anomalies as evidence of resets.

E = external evidence that remains post-reset such as anomalies and unexplained phenomena 

This would account for the amount of evidence left behind after a reset (anomalies, unexplained phenomena) that could be identified and detected by inhabitants.

S = the stability of the simulation’s parameters such as space/time metrics, physical laws

The variables in this equation allude to its connections with Simulation Theory and Quantum Mechanics, especially the rate of hypothesized resets (R) and the stability of the simulation’s parameters (S). High stability would imply a lower likelihood of inconsistencies being detected.

The DRAPES equation therefore highlights each aspect of how our perceived reality might not only be constructed, but manipulated as well. This theoretical framework invites us to reconsider our understanding of what constitutes reality and examine the fabric of our existence that could be crafted by external, unseen forces.

Compatibility of the Save State Paradox


I also considered the compatibility of the Save State Paradox with theories such as the Many Worlds Interpretation. If the Paradox holds up with other theories, this would only strengthen its validity in light of other studies and constructs.

The Many Worlds Interpretation, popularized by Hugh Everett, is a proposed solution to the conundrum faced in Quantum Mechanics: what happens during the measurement of a quantum system? Quantum theory normally suggests that particles exist in a superposition of multiple states simultaneously, described as such by their waveform. The question, though, is what happens to the waveform when it’s observed? The Copenhagen interpretation posits that the waveform would collapse to a single outcome when this happens. However, the Many Worlds Interpretation offers a very different outcome: instead of collapsing into one state, every possible outcome of the wavefunction is realized in a series of branches—a parallel universe. The universe therefore splits upon the observation of a quantum event, creating a copy for each possible outcome of the waveform. The observer perceives one of these outcomes in each branch, which portrays a potentially infinite number of universes where every possible future (and therefore history) can occur.

At first glance, the compatibility between MWI and the SSP becomes clear; each branch created by an observer could create its own “save state.” The “memory” or position of the state is held in the moment that a branch is created and could be referred back to. However, who is creating the state in the first place—the simulator or the observer? Does this have any effect on how the simulator selects the state to activate?

Even if these questions could be answered, this would lead to more inquiries about our concepts of free will and determinism, especially in light of the specific archetypes that could run such a simulation. Maybe the simulator does not fit into any of those categories, or maybe a hybrid of them. How can we create an example that fits the above equation? What does this mean in light of Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument?

I feel like splitting this essay up into different parts (quite appropriate too, given the subject) would be the most effective way at attempting to answer these questions, for fear of being too verbose—as well as giving time to fully consider each angle of this paradox. Stay tuned for the next instalment, which will examine the complexities of Simulation Theory, free will, the nature of the universe and other potentialities for the Save State Paradox to align with other theoretical frameworks.



Bostrom, Nick. (2003). Are You Living in a Computer Simulation? Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211), 243-255.

Chalmers, David J. (2022). Reality +: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. Penguin Random House.

  1. ^

    Nick Bostrom, "Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?" Philosophical Quarterly 53, no. 211 (2003): 243-255. First published 2001.

  2. ^

    David J. Chalmers, Reality +: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy (UK: Penguin Random House, 2023), 102.

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