And so both of these bizarre events put one in mind of a simple but arresting thesis: that we are living in the Matrix, and something has gone wrong with the controllers. This idea was, I’m told, put forward first and most forcibly by the N.Y.U. philosopher David Chalmers: what is happening lately, he says, is proof that we are living in a computer simulation and that something has recently gone haywire within it. The people or machines or aliens who are supposed to be running our lives are having some kind of breakdown. There’s a glitch, and we are in it.
Once this insight is offered, it must be said, everything else begins to fall in order. The recent Super Bowl, for instance. The result, bizarre on the surface—with that unprecedented and impossible comeback complete with razzle-dazzle catches and completely blown coverages and defensive breakdowns—makes no sense at all in the “real” world. Doesn’t happen. But it is exactly what you expect to happen when a teen-ager and his middle-aged father exchange controllers in the EA Sports video-game version: the father stabs and pushes the buttons desperately while the kid makes one play after another, and twenty-five-point leads are erased in minutes, and in just that way—with ridiculous ease on the one side and chicken-with-its-head-cut-off panic infecting the other. What happened, then, one realizes with last-five-minutes-of-“The Twilight Zone” logic, is obvious: sometime in the third quarter, the omniscient alien or supercomputer that was “playing” the Patriots exchanged his controller with his teen-age offspring, or newer model, with the unbelievable result we saw.
There may be not merely a glitch in the Matrix. There may be a Loki, a prankster, suddenly running it.