The Experience Machine

Welcome. Glad you’re here. Your arrival is no accident. We’ve been expecting you. We have an important message for you.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a lawyer. I represent the Experience Machine Company. At EMC, we provide our clients, our Voyagers as we like to call them, with the finest simulated experiences of popular historical epochs. We provide the chance to live in the historical past just as it may have actually happened.

We do this by controlling all neural impulses to and from the brains of our Voyagers. We prevent ordinary sensory information from reaching their brains and directly supply simulated information. While with us, Voyagers do not experience normal reality and do not realize they are in the Experience Machine. We temporarily block access to memories of their real life. What Voyagers see, feel and experience is completely under the control of the Experience Machine, which monitors and maintains normal physiological functions. The EMC simulated reality is just as realistic as normal reality. When a Voyager’s brain decides to perform an action, the Machine adjusts conscious perceptual experience to correspond to the effect of that action. If a Voyager were faced with a dragon, for example, he or she might decide to grab a sword and slay it. The Voyager would perceive their body moving to perform that action.

The Experience can be quite exciting, because it feels entirely real, not like a game. Voyagers would think their life really depends on slaying that dragon. The emotion of fear would be real. Voyagers who experience simulated injuries feel real pain. All pleasant feelings of the Experience are real too. The world of the Experience is simulated, but the conscious experience of it is just as real as actual life. Choosing to enter one of our Experiences is therefore not to be undertaken lightly. The Experiences feel like life.




I am required by law to give you the following advisement.

You are one of our Voyagers.

You have chosen a deluxe Experience, EMC Squared: an entire simulated lifetime in the distant past. You have chosen the 21st Century, popular because it’s the earliest historical epoch that includes at least some rudimentary transportation and communication technology (not to mention indoor plumbing).

The current year is 12052, not 2019, as you think it is. You actually live in the 121st century, not the 21st. At this moment, you are resting peacefully in our North Crater facility. What you are currently experiencing is a fictional simulation of what we believe life was like more than 10,000 years ago, with state-of-the-art historical accuracy guaranteed. You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.

An Experience like yours in the distant past must be for the whole ride, the complete lifetime. We must start you in childhood so you have a chance to learn the dead ancient languages and primitive customs. Without that background, your Experience could be unpleasant.

But don’t worry, you’re not spending your entire real lifetime in this barbarous era. Our patented Subjective Time Compression technology with Direct Neuron Stimulation allows us to give you up to 100 years or more of historical living in just a long weekend. You came in on a Friday in November in 12052 and you’ll be done by Sunday afternoon, Monday at the latest. You’ll be returning to normal consciousness and heading home real soon, in a day or so, even though to you it will seem like several more decades will pass.

Right now, during your Experience, we block your access to all your memories of your life in the real world. You started your Experience with the earliest memories of childhood, and learned everything anew, in a new lifetime, which only lasts a weekend of real time.

At this moment, you do not have any way to know what age you really are, what gender you are, or anything else about your actual life. We control your interaction with the simulated world so that it seems perfectly natural at all times. We feed your brain with realistic sensory inputs and when you form a mental intention, the Machine shifts the simulation just as if you performed a real action in the real world. All your current memories are of your Experience. When you return to the real world, your memories of your actual life will return to you just as if you merely had a long nap and a long dream. Of course, you get to keep all your memories of your Experience as well.

You probably don’t believe what I’m telling you, and that’s fine. In fact, not one of the many clients we’ve given the advisement to has ever believed it. This unnecessary reality check is a product of 121st century lawyers with overactive imaginations. It’s completely pointless, just another example of the absurd regulations imposed on private enterprise in the 121st century. Besides, believing the advisement might spoil your Experience, or at least make it less realistic. I’m not allowed to tell you to forget everything I’ve said, but you know what I mean. In a few hours, when your Experience is over and you return to normal consciousness, we’ll all have a good laugh about it.

So continue to enjoy your EMC Squared Experience in the 21st century. Be careful, have a good life, and we’ll see you back in the real world shortly.



     1)  How do I know you are telling me the truth?

Answer: You don’t. You wonder, Do I live in the 21st century or the 121st century? Are my current perceptions caused by the real world or generated by the Experience Machine? Right now, you have no way to distinguish between these possibilities.

     2)  If everything is the same either way, what difference does it make what century I live in?

Answer: At the moment, it makes no difference. However, you will soon return to reality, and then the truth will be apparent.

      3)  If this is only a simulation, why does it seem so real?

Answer: Conscious experience is a function of brain activity. Your brain can only process whatever it gets from your sense organs. Normally, those inputs start with light and sound from the physical world. But that’s not happening to your brain at the moment. The inputs to you brain are being generated right now solely by the Experience Machine. We’re glad you feel it’s realistic. Our goal is to create same kind of neural impulses in your optic and auditory nerves that would have been created by light and sound. We’ve been perfecting the process for several millennia.

      4)  Can I perceive the Machine?

Answer: No, not directly. Of course, everything you are experiencing comes from the Machine. So what you are perceiving is the Machine at work.

       5)  Why have I been having feelings of spirituality and transcendence, that there is something beyond the world of my immediate experience?

Answer: Those feelings are quite common among our Voyagers, and in a way quite accurate. Do they represent an intuition of the reality behind the simulation? Our scientists are working on it. 

      6)  How does my life end?  

Answer: Your Experience ends when you “die”. Any normal death in the epoch you’ve chosen will cause you to return to normal consciousness back in our facility in the real world. Your real body will not be harmed in any way. Of course, your Experience would be shorter than it otherwise could be, so caution in your epoch is advisable.

     7)  Does this mean I am immortal?

Answer: No, but you do have real life after simulated death.

     8)  What happens if I get injured or ill but do not die?

Answer: Only death can end your Experience. However, illness and injury can be unpleasant, especially if the era you’ve chosen has only rudimentary medical technology. We advise caution for any Experience in an era prior to the 44th century.

     9)  Do I have free will?

Answer: We guarantee it! We provide the historical set-up for a great Experience, but what you make of it is entirely up to you. What happens is a product of the interaction of your selfhood and our historical simulation. We simulate the time and place of your Experience, you do the rest.

     10)  Are my achievements real?

Answer: Yes. EMC does not determine what you do or what happens to you in your chosen simulated epoch. That’s up to you. Our goal is to give you your chance to live as realistically as if you’d actually been born in that epoch. No magic help from EMC. Your achievements and your experiences are all your own.

     11)  Can I change history?

Answer: You already have, in the world of your Experience. You didn’t actually exist in the epoch you’ve chosen, so putting you there, even as a child, changes simulated history. Your life could have a profound impact. Remember, however, it’s all fictional.

    12)  Do I really exist at all?

Answer: Yes, within your Experience, you and your thoughts — perceptions, beliefs, emotions, etc.— are all that exist. The world that forms the content of your mental states does not exist independently. In short, everything you know is wrong.

    13) When I return to consciousness in the real world, will I remember my Experience?

Answer: Yes. Your simulated life will last a lifetime. No photos are possible though, since what you’d be photographing doesn’t exist. Trying to bring souvenirs home doesn’t work either.

14)  Can I have another lifetime next weekend?

Answer: Yes, but all that high-speed neuronal stimulation can get tiring. We recommend a break of 6-8 weeks before embarking on another complete lifetime. You may want to consider EMC Basic: an Experience of less than a year sometime in the last millennium or so. You can combine that with our frequent flyer program, the Veridical Voyager. Details available at any of our facilities.

Good Luck and Happy Voyaging!



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  1. This seems like a great test of the nature vs nurture debate. Without access to any memories from your 121st century life you’d be left to develop under the designed experience in the culture of the time. Historian Dan Carlin always seems to question how different we really are today from people who lived thousands of years ago. We look back at those times and can’t believe the kind of cruelty and violence that existed and it doesn’t seem possible that we’d be capable of those things if we’d just been born 1000 years earlier or so. Can the differences in human behavior be attributed to culture alone?

    And how you would handle the memories you gained when you wake up? With a lifetime of experience in a completely different world would you be changed, or simply process the memories as if you’d watched a life long movie of someone you could barely recognize. If I suddenly remembered life as a medieval peasant where I attended public executions for enjoyment, how would the mind process this? If culture is as dominant a force in our development as it appears then you’d essentially have two completely different people merged into one body. Not something I’d like to try!


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