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Permutation City: A Novel Paperback – September 16, 2014
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Some of the extrapolation is fairly straightforward, for example the idea that humans will have themselves "scanned" and instantiated within a computer as Copies to achieve immortality, and the first to do this will be the elderly and the fatally ill. Egan goes several orders beyond the straightforward, and hits on some big questions: If I get moved into a computer, is it still "me"? Should sentient software be considered legally human? If I am a program running in a computer and I edit my memories and my most basic desires, have I become a new person? If I halt a Copy's program and archive their data indefinitely, have I "killed" the Copy? What would it be like to be forced to live forever within a computer, with no ability to commit suicide ("bail out")? If these are interesting philosophical questions today, they will become much more tangible over the coming decades as (or if, depending on your view) AI develops.
Now, a few caveats. A book that seriously considers AI must, I think, include the possibility of super-human AI as well. And Egan, like most authors, doesn't address this possibility. For example, in Permutation City there is an unexplained 17x slowdown of Copies relative to real time.Read more ›
Permutation City is the only fiction book I keep in my reference section. As an SF fan since age seven, and a member of the first generation to grow up with computers, it takes an awful lot to give me a sense of future shock. Out of the thousands of SF books I've read, this is one of exactly two books that bowled me completely over. It's like sticking your brain in a high-voltage electrical socket. Read it or else.
Another reviewer of a different Egan book said it was like a detective story where the main character is sneaking into a building to get clues and sees a bit of paper and goes into the history of paper production since its inception and what it will be like in the future. The information is irrelevant to the story and actually detracts rather than enhances.
Despite this however, I was really glad to get past this and into the 2nd half of the book. Egan gives a feeling of what true immortality might be like and what real loneliness is. I don't know if he intended to, but that's what I took away from this book. With a new type of virtual processor tucked away into its own little universe, untouchable by anyone, the virtual people can live forever, not just until the end of our universe, but really and truely forever. I've never seen it explored before, and find it a great idea. Even someone scared of death must be a little hesitant about the offer of true immortality, not just no aging, not just outliving your friends, but outliving everything in the universe. Billions and billions of years. Forever is a long time and I found it a bit daunting.
Another idea that I really liked in the book was concerning loneliness. What's it like to be really alone. Well, some of the characters find this out as they sneak into the artificial universe created for other characters, but they can never interact with it. No one can ever see them or talk to them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Permutation city takes place in a future where computing power is a key resource. They have developed the technology to scan people and run "copies" in VR but it's very... Read morePublished 14 days ago by J. Erlich
Greg Egan is an important writer in the tradition of Azimov, Verne and Wells. Like them, he explores the feasable technologigies of his era and expands their scope and... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Robert Hills
Ideas reign supreme in this book so the writing is great in that aspect, but the characters are not fully developed.Published 1 month ago by Rp
Quite interesting subjects are being explored. The plot is moving in many unexpected directions while tying to imagine computer intelligence, human minds surviving death by being... Read morePublished 4 months ago by H. Kilian
Egan takes the idea of uploaded personalities to beyond the beyond. Requires a couple of leaps of faith. Read morePublished 5 months ago by maxClimb
I simply could not put this book down. I hadn't read fiction in many years and stumbled upon this by accident. What a fascinating accident indeed.Published 5 months ago by Anthony Lee
When Egan explores a concept, he wrings it dry. In this story he analyzes the nature of existence and the boundless range of mechanisms that could underly any reality. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Michael Mcginnis