peteg's blog - noise - books - 2012 07 22 Egan PermutationCity

Greg Egan: Permutation City. (1994)

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I pilfered this one from mrak's bookshelf and read it on the flights from Sydney to St. Louis. It's an old friend from my time in Melbourne where it was foist on me by [a pde] who is now doing wonderful things at the EFF.

Now as then I really liked the conceit of finding computational structure everywhere and using it to simulate/account for consciousness. However again I struggled with the details, such as computing a simulation of consciousness out of order; I do not understand how such a complex discrete process could be run that way. How can we compute a third state directly from an initial one, without first computing the intermediate one? Without this building block, that the "internal" experience of consciousness is independent of the underlying computational substrate, the rest falls away. I still don't get the symmetry arguments about the cellular automata in the second part that lead to Armageddon.

As a love-love letter to computation, it is mostly well-written when in flight, but stalls on, for example, a humdrum deviant-sex scene that was a mandatory feature of the cyberpunk of the day. I haven't read anything else from Egan as good as this. I wonder what he's up to now.