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> Excerpt from Permutation City

Excerpt from Permutation City

This excerpt is a bit of a spoiler, but it's also brilliant, explains the concept of self as ideas, and is my favorite passage in the entire book (Permutation City). What's more, it's not even central to the story. So here it is.

Peer shook his head. “What have I become, already? An endless series of people—all happy for their own private reasons. Linked together by the faintest thread of memory. Why keep them spread out in time? Why go on pretending that there's one ‘real’ person, enduring through all those arbitrary changes?”

“You remember yourself. You believe you're one person. Why call it a pretence? It's the truth.”

“But I don't believe it, anymore. Each person I create is stamped with the illusion of still being this imaginary thing called ‘me’—but that's no real part of their identity. It's a distraction, a source of confusion. There's no reason to keep on doing it—or to make these separate people follow each other in time. Let them all live together, meet each other, keep you company.”

Kate gripped him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye. “You can't become the Solipsist Nation. That's nonsense. It's rhetoric from an old play. All it would mean is … dying. The people the software creates when you're gone won't be you in any way.”

“They'll be happy, won't they? From time to time? For their own strange reasons?”

“Yes. But—”

“That's all I am, now. That's all that defines me. So when they're happy, they'll be me.”


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@ March (2000)