Permutation City

Greg Egan
Permutation City Cover

Permutation City


A book which makes the assumption that digitizing consciousness is possible but expensive; a character who cons rich people living past their lives into a guarantee of eternity, and an exploration of what that would or could mean in the short and long term.

It also contains a second main character who tinkers with simulated life using incredibly advanced computing. Her explorations connect with a theory of life as simulation with sufficiently advanced computers, and Egan explores dust theory. Basically - the nearly infinite dust of the universe will eventually mirror the actions of our most powerful computers, and what if the program those computers are running is our consciousness and computing environments? So is life just a simulation?

The assumption that consciousness *can* be digitized is not explained or explored, leaving a big hole for the plot. No Star Trek Heisenberg compensators here. The skeptical second character (also female) ends up the target of infodumps, which is unfortunate. Two subplots are interesting, but their relation to the two main plots is a little weak.

Egan, a major hard science fiction author, has some really interesting ideas and explorations here. I found Quarantine a slightly better book in terms of plot; both were solid in terms of science fiction. For more on Dust, I read "Mad" Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality in the recent past.