Paul Durham awakes and realizes that he is a Copy, a software simulation recorded from his previous physical self, living in a computer-generated world. Such Copies and their environments are vastly simplified models. There is philosophical argument as to whether Copies are “really” conscious, but they believe themselves to be. Copies can interact with the physical world but are slowed relative to it. Many rich people have Copied themselves, then let their original bodies die. The Copies remain in control of their originals’ property, though they fear political changes that will force them to be shut down. Most of the newly created Copies elect to have themselves turned off, and Paul wishes to do so, but he finds that his still-living original has illegally disabled that function to be able to experiment on him.
Five years later, in the physical world, Maria Deluca is an unsuccessful programmer whose avocation is the Autoverse, a computer-simulated biochemical environment based on laws simpler than those of the physical world. A breakthrough in Autoverse technology brings her to the attention of the physical Paul Durham, who hires her to design an Autoverse-like system for apparently philosophical purposes.
Maria designs the new Autoverse and learns that the police are investigating Paul because he has been getting large sums of money from Copies, including Thomas Riemann, a Copy haunted by a fatal assault committed by his physical self. Maria...
(The entire section is 603 words.)