It is against the galactic treaty on the rights of living, thinking beings to:

  • Keep a person in ignorance of the wider worlds of humanity.

  • Hide technology that could save lives or ease suffering.

  • Lie to people about the year or time period.

  • Attempt to "recreate" people from history who have left no instructions for rebirth.

None of this stopped the Old Earth Collective.

Nostalgia is a powerful drug. It could easily be the case that people of the far future long for the simplicity of our primitive times and so they create simulations that allow them to experiences the more extreme hardships and joys of the past. If realistic human simulations require a machine intelligence of great enough complexity we could all easily be self-aware NPCs in someone else's "experience" -- Isaac Arthur has discussed something along these lines a few times.

But, when I think about the kind of people who would recreate the past I don't think they would be satisfied with a computer simulation-- no matter how indistinguishable or high fidelity. Imagine a political or social faction that hates the direction humanity in their technologically advanced future has taken-- so they get together and decide to recreate the whole earth, in 1:1 scale, every detail matched to the best of their ability to a particular year. Let's say that year is 1950.

And then these sad people who long for the past could insert themselves into world of early earth... and guide history in a "better" direction. Get it right this time.

Of course they would need to hide the project-- so we'd never meet the alien civilizations, but what's wrong with a world with a different answer to the Fermi paradox?

The people of 3135 probably don't have a perfect scan of the earth in 1950 or 1890 or whatever they want to go back to. They probably can't even produce a record of all of the people alive at that time, their names and ages and locations. So, there is a good chance that some of the "details" (us the people, possibly even whole species of animal and plant life) must be inferred... fudged.

What sort of inconsistencies and uncanny details might give this game away? Could a simple NPC ever find her way out of the deception and off the planet to tell someone what is being done to millions of people?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not usually one for calling these things out, but this sounds more like a story prompt than a question. And no, there wouldn't be a way out (except by author fiat). Given the sophistication required to physically recreate an entire planet, and billions of people, speaking hundreds of languages and countless dialects, it would be trivial to make "escape" impossible. $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Many "how can we tell if we're living in a simulation" questions have been asked here. So -1 for poor research and also VTC:Opinion-Based, which is the most popular reason why so many of those other questions were closed. Please see the difference between on-topic request for a finite list of things and an off-topic request for an infinite list of things. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 4:34
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    $\begingroup$ I do not expect someone would spot the inconsistencies in a simulation. We are able to discard things that do not fit in with our expectations. We have a large 'blind spot' in either eye and we almost never notice that. Maybe the clue would be deliberately hidden. I once was going to have a short story where the two main characters were Timmy O'Danos and Dona Ferentez discover their names in the Aenid. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ I think if you try to reconstruct history from incomplete information, if you are just guessing on the details this would lead to contradictions. Not exactly mistakes, but there ought to be a way to tell that some of the data are faked. I don't think this is a writing prompt at all, it's a puzzle. I'll post an example of a solution. $\endgroup$
    – futurebird
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ I think there is a big difference between an NPC finding out something is fishy or noting inconsistencies in the world versus this NPC actually finding a way to escape the simulation or even contact someone outside. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


It all depends on how careful the creators of this planet have been when filling in the information they don't know.

Suppose you start looking into the genealogy of the people on the planet. Many people have perfectly reasonable family histories. But, these are the people who left clear records of their ancestry, so they are based on real people who existed. Really the more records there are of a person the more "sense" they make (with a notable exception - 1)

On the other end there are people without family histories, and going back a few generations it's fine, but when looking at who shares common ancestors and how far back using DNA there are some impossible things. For example, ancestors that are just too far apart.

Most Black people in the US, have some white ancestry but it "should" be in the last 300 years or so, 450 at most. Instead it's much too old. For this to happen to a few people is possible-- but if it's a pattern in a whole population it starts raising questions.

Then there would probably be a population bottleneck implied by the genetic data that's much more recent than anyone expects. (Population bottlenecks have happened for humans, but they are like 70,000 years ago)-- the limited genetic information would make an anomalous population bottleneck that might be 6,000 years ago. Makes no sense with human history. Everyone was spread out then and there were lots of people.

Then looking at every species of animal similar patterns would arise.

Some species would turn out to have huge chunks of DNA from related species, but not blended and randomized as much as they ought to be since these are the species that had to be recreated from their descriptions and the DNA of close relatives.

This is one possible way to discover the fakery.

1 - Since the reconstruction is sometimes based on written records, these can contain mistakes-- suppose you detect a clear mistake: for example it was once common for families who had a daughter who had a child without being married to pretend that the child was instead the sibling of her mother out of a sense of shame. It's possible to infer when this has happened from family records, though not the sort of thing an automated system might detect. So you'd have every indication that two people should be mother and child... but instead they are sisters.


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