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I have been trying to figure out what show this story came from for the last few years.

A scientist is on the brink of creating a fully realized artificial world for the first time, complete with its own inhabitants. He explains to an incredulous colleague who thinks that the inhabitants will realize that they are in a simulation that since these people never alter their daily routines, they will never discover the edges of their world, and thus will not learn the true nature of their reality. The episode ends with the scientist being questioned as to whether he has ever adjusted his own daily routine in an unexpected way, and his realization that he has not. He drives down a road out of town in a way that he has never gone before, and suddenly discovers that the edge of town disappears into a grid of unformed nothingness, and he realizes that he is in fact living inside a simulation himself.

This is the earliest representation of simulation theory that I remember seeing on TV - but I have no idea what show it was from. I have a feeling it may have been The Outer Limits, or The Twilight Zone, but having read all of the episode synopses of both shows, none of them seem to be this story. Has anybody here ever heard of this?

  • Are you sure it was from a TV show? Could it have been from a movie? – Adamant Sep 21 '16 at 6:11
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    Because something similar happened in The Thirteenth Floor. Or it could be World on a Wire, if it needs to be TV show. – Adamant Sep 21 '16 at 6:13
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    I think it might be the episode of Welcome to Paradox called "The News From 'D' Street", though the protagonist was a detective, not a scientist. I can't find any good, complete synopses though so I'm running mostly off 20 year old memories and vague capsule descriptions off Wikipedia so I'm not ready to add as an answer until I'm more sure. – starpilotsix Sep 21 '16 at 10:52
  • The Thirteenth Floor sounds close, but there are too many plot elements in it with the multiple simulations etc. (unless maybe what I saw was derivative of it, or something else summarizing it?). I think World on a Wire is too old to be it - I think this was produced between 1980 - 2005. News from 'D' Street sounds very promising based on what I can see on tv.com ("A P.I. discovers that his reality is actually being simulated"). It's possible that the protagonist is a detective, and I'm mixing him with a scientist that does some exposition in the story. – Josh Jones Sep 21 '16 at 13:29
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Pretty sure this is the movie The Thirteenth Floor. In particular the scene with the scientist driving out of town and hitting a grid like end is a dead ringer for the movie.

"This leads Hall to perform an experiment outside the VR system, something that Fuller’s letter instructed him to try: drive to a place where he never would have considered going otherwise. He does so, and discovers a place that resembles a wireframe model. Hall grasps the truth, the meaning of Fuller's message: 1990s Los Angeles is itself a simulation."

Though, unlike what you mentioned the actual ending of the show is beyond this point. In the film's end,

the scientist manages to 'upload' to the higher reality which is running his simulation: "David's death as Hall in the 1990s simulation allows Hall’s artificial consciousness to take control of David’s body in the real world. He wakes in 2024, connected by a device to the VR system."

The Thirteenth Floor

enter image description here

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    I've taken the liberty of adding in the image showing the edge of the world and the theatrical trailer. It might help to job the OP's memory better than a written description. – Valorum Sep 21 '16 at 23:07
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    Thanks Valorum. Appreciate the add on. Agreed. – beichst Sep 21 '16 at 23:13

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