The 2020 Simulator

A How-To Guide for Editing the Simulation

Adrian Hanft
3 min readNov 23, 2020


Note: The following letter is a sample of my weekly email to friends. It’s free to sign up and new subscribers get Art of the Living Dead for free just for subscribing.

Dear friend,

Let’s say you could load 2020 into a simulation that you could replay on your computer over and over. I know that sounds like torture but stick with me…

Once the 2020 simulator is on your computer, you could experiment with editing. Digitally you could experiment with violence, dropping bombs on Wuhan and assassinating world leaders. For fun you could inflict calamities on your co-workers and political rivals just to watch them suffer. Perhaps you would feel guilty for inflicting pain on your enemies. Perhaps you wouldn’t.

Unlike video editing software, editing the 2020 simulation would be done by changing people’s thoughts. You’d do this by typing ideas into their minds. It would be a bit tedious because you could only enter one person’s mind at a time. But if your implanted ideas are potent enough, the altered beings would spread the idea themselves until the entire simulation bends to your will. As you perfect your god powers you would learn which ideas spread and which thoughts dissolve without a trace.

Let’s say you spend 8 hours a day watching this simulation, tweaking variables, and trying to optimize for utopia. How long would it take you to perfect the simulation?

Are you already ahead of me? This ideas sounds like science fiction but we are already living it. We hold this simulation in our hands every day, we’re glued to our devices watching doom play out and wishing things would have played out differently. And instead of participating in the real world, making tiny improvements that actually matter, we invest ourselves in a miniature view of the simulation, fooled into believing we are stuck with it.

Our phones allow us to select from competing realities, each flavor begs us to believe they are permanent. We essentially vote for reality with our attention. And unlike literal voting this decision actually counts because your view of the world changes to fit the movie you see playing on that black mirror. We either choose to be the change we want to see or…



Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia