A pixelated version of the Planet Express ship lands in a pixelated version of the Planet Express building. It is revealed to be a hologram over the center of the conference table in the Planet Express building hanger. Hubert Farnsworth (Billy West) shows the hologram off to Amy Wong (Lauren Tom), Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr), John Zoidberg (West), Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio), Philip J. Fry (West) and Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal).
Farnsworth explains he’s created a simulation of the entire universe. This includes three-pixel versions of the PlanEx crew, including Scruffy the Janitor (David Herman). Farnsworth explains that even to achieve this level of realism requires vast computing power. He says his Simputron uses more power than 100 bug zappers.
Simulated Hermes brings a one-pixel box to the simulated crew. It’s a delivery to Space Italy. The simulated PlanEx ship lands at Space Italy. Simulated Bender tosses the package in the simulated Trevi Fountain, but hits the simulated Space Pope in the process. Soon he’s being arrested by simulated cops. Simulated Fry and simulated Leela take in the simulated Space Italy sights in the meantime. When the pair begin “going at it like two packs of gum,” Leela covers the simulation hologram with a cloche. The crew is disappointed.
Hermes asks if the simulated crew knows they’re not real. Farnsworth says of course they don’t. They think the rules of his simulation are just the laws of physics.
Amy observes they think they’re real. She wonders if their universe could also be a simulation. Farnsworth says the idea is preposterous. He explains that it is computationally impossible. Every atom in the universe is affected whenever one thing moves. Bender twerks, sending waves outwards into the universe and illustrating Farnsworth’s point. Because Farnsworth’s software can’t compute all the gravitational changes between Bender’s ass and every other particle, he has to have the information travel outwards gradually at a fixed speed. Amy asks, “Like the speed of light in our universe?” Farnsworth dismisses this as a coincidence.
Next, he says he cut other corners as well. His simulation doesn’t track exactly where everything is. Bender takes out a ball and hides it under one of two cups. Zoidberg bets ten dollars that he can find the ball. Farnsworth says it’s another convenient example. “My lazy software wouldn’t even decide which cup the ball’s in until someone actually looked at it,” Farnsworth says. “Until then, it’s just sort of in both.” Amy compares this to quantum mechanics in our world. “Exactly like that,” Farnsworth confirms. Amy clears her throat.
Farnsworth concludes that their universe is probably also a simulation. Hermes says this is the opposite of what he said one minute ago. Farnsworth says new evidence was presented and he changed his mind. “I’m a scientist,” Farnsworth says. “Not a -” Bender interrupts, “Idiot?” Farnsworth concludes, “Politician.”
Amy imagines learning your personality is simulated, like Bender’s. Bender is offended by Amy. She says she just means he’s an artificial intelligence, like the people in the simulation. Bender says Amy ruined his big fat fake life. Hermes says Bender’s as real as any of them and cites Rene Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.” But Bender thinks he might not be able to think.
Farnsworth says it was a fun little universe but they’re looking at “a Godzilla-sized electric bill.” He moves to shut the Simputron down. Bender screams “no” and leaps through the air. Farnsworth grapples with the plug. He gives up and leaves the simulation on. Inside the simulation, simulated Fry resolves to watch every show ever, just like in the episode “The Impossible Stream.” Fry observes that simulated Fry “sure is dumb.”
Meanwhile, Bender empathizes with the simulated crew over being simulated. He says they deserve the same respect as any living creature. Farnsworth says they are only ones and zeroes. Leela says Bender may be right. “I mean, we’re nothing more than atoms, right? But somehow, we are more.” Bender sobs.
Later, Farnsworth, Bender, Fry and Leela gather at the Robot Strip Club. Bender asks Farnsworth for a solemn promise. He asks Farnsworth to swear to do everything in his power to keep the simulated crew alive. Furthermore, he makes Farnsworth swear he won’t let the crew know they’re simulated. Farnsworth swears it. However, he says the amount of electricity required would essentially mean they need their own hydroelectric power plant.
On Sunday afternoon, Farnsworth has a revelation while on the toilet. He again explains he does his best thinking on the toilet to the rest of the crew, who are also gathered in the bathroom. Farnsworth declines a request from Hermes to move rooms. According to the old maps Farnsworth uses in lieu of toilet paper, the New New York sewer line runs directly under the PlanEx building.
Using the drill first seen in “The Futurama Holiday Spectacular,” the PlanEx ship burrows into the floor of the building. Farnsworth says they’ll drill into the pipe, drop a turbine into the torrent, and harvest the resulting free “clean” power. The ship digs past remnants of the Land Titanic, a sign pointing towards “Sewer City” and “Robot Hell,” and the Albino Humping Worm. Then the ship arrives at the pipe and drills in.
Later, Scruffy sprays the PlanEx ship and crew with Fecto Antiseptic. Farnsworth plugs the Simputron into their new power source. He explains that the additional power means the simulation can run at a higher resolution. Simulated Farnsworth announces they have a delivery to the King of Space (see: previous episode). As the simulated PlanEx crew jumps up and down to celebrate, they become a higher resolution. Rather than being three pixels, they now closely resemble the regular PlanEx crew (but with a slight holographic glow).
Amy says the simulated crew is “so cute” and that she cares about them now. Farnsworth says they saved Bender’s little friends. Simulated Farnsworth announces a huge breakthrough: he’s created a simulation of their simulated universe. In the simulated simulated universe, simulated simulated Farnsworth announces a delivery to Space Italy. The simulated crew gasps in response. The crew gasps too. And probably you gasp also.
In the simulation, simulated Hermes is startled by the simulated simulation. Hermes asks where it all ends. Zoidberg says, “Hopefully there. Already my head hurts.” Simulated Amy asks if it’s possible their universe is a simulation. She postulates their laws of physics could be dictated by “some big, brilliant Professor playing god up there.” Farnsworth says, “Nailed it.” Simulated Farnsworth acknowledges “quantum mechanics is pretty ridiculous.” But he says it’s a moot point since they can never know.
They’re interrupted by flickering lights. Simulated Farnsworth says his simulation is drawing a lot of power. He determines that it’s because elsewhere in the simulated simulated universe, two black holes have collided. The complexity of the resulting computation means the simulated Simputron is straining to keep up. Simulated Amy realizes there is a way to determine if they’re in a simulation. If they are in a simulation, it must be running on a computer. She postulates that if they made something happen that was impossible for that computer to simulate, it would overload.
Simulated Amy isn’t sure what would happen next. She postulates things would pixelate and look weird. Simulated Farnsworth says the laws of physics would fail. Simulated Fry compares it to “playing a new video game on a crummy, underpowered game system.” And simulated Farnsworth continues that some phenomena would be too complex for a computer to simulate. One example is “a collapsing magnetic star, or magnetar.”
All The Way Down
However, simulated Farnsworth says such an event might take millions of years to occur. Simulated Amy suggests they intentionally cause a magnetar to collapse. Then they can simply observe the result and determine whether or not they’re living in a simulation. But simulated Leela isn’t sure she wants to know if they’re in a simulation. They put it to a vote. But everyone on the simulated crew both does and doesn’t want to know.
“Honestly, I want to know if I’m not living in a simulation, but not if I am,” says simulated Leela. Simulated Farnsworth says they should just forget about it. But simulated Fry says now they’ll always be wondering. Simulated Leela says, “Let’s just go.” The simulated PlanEx ship takes off.
Farnsworth says this isn’t good. He says his software won’t be able to handle a collapsing magnetar. Bender says Farnsworth swore a strip club oath the simulated crew wouldn’t learn the truth. “Alas, there will be no hiding the truth when they see that magnetar glitching out like a big flaming bag of Microsoft Word,” says Farnsworth. Bender says if they’re going to find out anyway, he should be the one to tell them.
Bender says that may be possible. Since Bender is “basically just software in a greasy wad of aluminum foil,” his programming can be extracted and injected into simulated Bender. This would allow Bender to take simulated Bender’s place. Simulated Bender would be pushed through to the sub-simulation. Bender asks what would happen to simulated simulated Bender. “It’s Benders all the way down,” states Farnsworth.
Bender says he’ll do it. Farnsworth tells Bender it will be a one-way trip. There’s no way for him to return from the simulation. Bender says he doesn’t want to live in a world where he’s less real than everybody else. Soon Bender is being hooked up to the Simputron. Farnsworth tells him he’ll reboot in the simulated universe in a few minutes (if he doesn’t die). The transfer is executed and Bender’s body collapses.
The simulated PlanEx ship arrives outside the magnetar implosion range. Simulated Farnsworth says they should be safe at that distance, “even if, god forbid, we’re real.” But simulated Leela says it’s time to put reality to the test. Simulated Bender is scared. Simulated Leela is too. But she says it’s “actually kind of beautiful.” Simulated Fry asks if it would be less beautiful if it weren’t real, and they weren’t real. Simulated Farnsworth says they’ll find out soon enough. He orders the commencement of monopole bombardment.
Simulated Bender feels sick and reboots. Bender reawakens inside the simulation and identifies his location as “Baloneytown.” He begins to address the simulated crew. But simulated Fry interrupts him and says he’s been thinking about whether they’re in a simulation too. He says, “I think it makes no difference at all. Either way, the laws of the universe are way beyond our control. So what can we do? We just make the best of it. I don’t know what we’re about to see, Leela, but I love you, now and forever. And that much is real, even if we’re not.”
Simulated Hermes summarizes: “I feel, therefore I am.” Bender realizes it doesn’t matter whether he’s real. He collapses into Fry’s arms sobbing.
In the PlanEx building, the Simputron is overheating. Leela extinguishes it with some Fecto. Farnsworth says to disconnect the Simputron. Fry protests that Bender is inside. Farnsworth says they have no choice. The building is about to burn and he has “doomsday devices hidden in every nook and cranny.” Fry apologizes to Bender’s body. But Bender reboots. He says he has to tell them something.
Farnsworth asks how Bender possibly rebooted (but he’s obviously the Bender from the next level up). Zoidberg says not to be rude, Bender is talking. Bender announces he knows how to save the simulation. After some toilet time, Farnsworth comprehends Bender’s plan to underclock the Simputron’s processor. This will cause the simulation to run much slower. The simulated crew won’t notice any difference. However, one second of their simulated lives will equal years or centuries of time for our crew.
Fry laments that he won’t be able to spy on them anymore. Farnsworth says he can spy all he wants, “but it’s about to get very boring.” Leela says, “Not for them.” Inside the simulation, the magnetar implodes. The simulated crew watches in awe as the phenomenon causes the simulation to pixelate. Simulated Fry and simulated Leela turn towards each other and begin to kiss as the simulation slows down. They continue moving closer to one another as the simulation exponentially slows.
All 11 seasons of Futurama are currently available for streaming on Hulu.
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