Perhaps the grandest challenge that exists is being able to answer “what if?”

What happens to a city when all the cars start to drive themselves? Or when a certain policy is implemented, or an economy or a piece of physical infrastructure fails?

The answers may just lie in the virtual worlds of Britain’s hottest tech startup, Improbable. Already valued at over $1 billion, they create huge, complex simulations to help us better understand the impact of disruptions – and ourselves.

Co-founder and CEO Herman Narula believes in the underrated power of video games to question morality and imagine what could be. Perhaps controversially, the 29-year-old’s ultimate aim is to change the way we make decisions.

Prepare to have your mind blown

“What we’re doing is so new, we’re pretty much building the train tracks while we drive the trains.”

Atlas of the Future partnered with Improbable to film their ‘Artificial Realities’ two-day event at Warner Brothers Studios in LA. It sounds improbable: scientists, academics and astrophysicists coming together with sci-fi scriptwriters, Hollywood bigwigs and policymakers – but the participants list read like a sapiosexual’s dream dinner party.

Watch ► Herman does some fast talking in ‘New York Alley’ on the WB lot, somewhere between Gotham City Police HQ and Blade Runner’s Leon’s Hotel.

Improbable enables developers to build massive simulations using thousands of machines in ‘the cloud‘ via their SpatialOS operating system – a platform that gives players the power to stitch together multiple servers and game engines to power massive, persistent worlds with more players role-playing than had been possible before.

Herman believes that AI gets all the press, but his idea is going to be as significant. Just be thankful the train isn’t driving itself.

Yet.

All videos were produced by Atlas of the Future for Project Breakthrough (United Nations Global Compact/ Volans). Check out our other videos here. Do you think virtual worlds can give us insights? Comment below to get an Atlas avatar.