Simulated consciousness in fiction

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Simulated consciousness,synthetic consciousness, etc. is a theme of a number of works in science fiction. The theme is one step beyond the concept of the "brain in a vat"/"simulated reality" in that not only the perceived reality but the brain and its consciousness are simulations themselves.

Science fiction genre of fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".

Brain in a vat thought experiment

In philosophy, the brain in a vat is a scenario used in a variety of thought experiments intended to draw out certain features of human conceptions of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, consciousness, and meaning. It is an updated version of René Descartes's evil demon thought experiment originated by Gilbert Harman. Common to many science fiction stories, it outlines a scenario in which a mad scientist, machine, or other entity might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives. According to such stories, the computer would then be simulating reality and the "disembodied" brain would continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences, such as those of a person with an embodied brain, without these being related to objects or events in the real world.

Simulated reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by quantum computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from "true" reality. There has been much debate over this topic, ranging from philosophical discourse to practical applications in computing.

Stanislaw Lem's professor Corcoran (met by Ijon Tichy during his interstellar travels, first published by Lem in 1961 [1] ) simulated conscious agents (personoids) to actually test the viability of the "simulation hypothesis" of the reality, i.e., the idea of solipsism. [2]

Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem: initially in The Star Diaries, later in The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, and Memoirs of a Space Traveller.

The simulation hypothesis or simulation theory proposes that all of reality, including the Earth and the universe, is in fact an artificial simulation, most likely a computer simulation. Some versions rely on the development of a simulated reality, a proposed technology that would seem realistic enough to convince its inhabitants the simulation was real. The hypothesis has been a central plot device of many science fiction stories and films.

Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. This extreme position is claimed to be irrefutable, as the solipsist believes themself to be the only true authority, all others being creations of their own mind.

In the 1954 story The Tunnel under the World by Frederik Pohl, a whole city was simulated in order to run tests of the efficiency of advertising campaigns, and the plot evolves from the point when one "simulacrum" suddenly notices that every day is June 15. Pohl's idea was elaborated in Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye (alternative title: Counterfeit World), which tells the story of a virtual city developed as a computer simulation for market research purposes. In this city the simulated inhabitants possess consciousness; all but one of the inhabitants are unaware of the true nature of their world.

The Tunnel under the World short story

"The Tunnel under the World" is a science fiction short story by American writer Frederik Pohl. It was first published in 1955 in Galaxy magazine. It has often been anthologised, appearing in, among others, The Golden Age of Science Fiction, edited by Kingsley Amis (1981).

Frederik Pohl American science fiction writer and editor

Frederik George Pohl Jr. was an American science-fiction writer, editor, and fan, with a career spanning more than 75 years—from his first published work, the 1937 poem "Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna", to the 2011 novel All the Lives He Led and articles and essays published in 2012.

<i>Simulacron-3</i> Novel written by Daniel F. Galouye

Simulacron-3 (1964), by Daniel F. Galouye, is an American science fiction novel featuring an early literary description of a simulated reality.

Furthermore, various novels by Greg Egan such as Permutation City (1994), Diaspora (1997) and Schild's Ladder (2002) explore the concept of simulated consciousness. [3]

Greg Egan Australian science fiction writer and former computer programmer

Greg Egan is an Australian science fiction writer and amateur mathematician.

<i>Permutation City</i> novel by Greg Egan

Permutation City is a 1994 science-fiction novel by Greg Egan that explores many concepts, including quantum ontology, through various philosophical aspects of artificial life and simulated reality. Sections of the story were adapted from Egan's 1992 short story "Dust", which dealt with many of the same philosophical themes. Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year in 1995 and was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award the same year. The novel was also cited in a 2003 Scientific American article on multiverses by Max Tegmark.

<i>Diaspora</i> (novel) novel by Greg Egan

Diaspora is a hard science fiction novel by the Australian writer Greg Egan which first appeared in print in 1997. It originated as the short story "Wang's Carpets" which originally appeared in the Greg Bear-edited anthology New Legends. The story appears as a chapter of the novel.

See also

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Stanisław Lem Polish science fiction author, futurologist

Stanisław Herman Lem was a Polish writer of science fiction, philosophy, and satire, and a trained physician. Lem's books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 45 million copies. From the 1950s to 2000s, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological. He is best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris, which has been made into a feature film three times. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon wrote that Lem was the most widely read science fiction writer in the world.

<i>The Futurological Congress</i> book

The Futurological Congress is a 1971 black humour science fiction novel by Polish author Stanisław Lem. It details the exploits of the hero of a number of his books, Ijon Tichy, as he visits the Eighth World Futurological Congress at a Hilton Hotel in Costa Rica. The book is Lem's take on the common science fictional trope of an apparently Utopian future that turns out to be an illusion.

<i>Observation on the Spot</i> book

Observation on the Spot is a social science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. The novel is a report of Ijon Tichy's travel to a faraway planet Entia to study their civilization. This report was supposed to fix a misunderstanding arisen from Tichy's Fourteenth Voyage to supposedly Entia, which turned out to be a satellite of Entia, masqueraded by Entians to misguide explorers. The travel was also to verify the results of the "Institute of Historiographical Computers", which use predictive modeling to overcome the speed of light limitation and get information about the state of the affairs on remote planets based on information obtained from previous expeditions.

Michael Kandel American translator and author of science fiction

Michael Kandel is an American translator and author of science fiction.

Mind uploading in fiction

Mind uploading, whole brain emulation or substrate-independent minds is a use of a computer or another substrate as an emulated human brain, and the view of thoughts and memories as software information states. The term mind transfer also refers to a hypothetical transfer of a mind from one biological brain to another. Uploaded minds and societies of minds, often in simulated realities, are recurring themes in science fiction novels and films since 1950s.

<i>Summa Technologiae</i> book

Summa Technologiae is a 1964 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. Summa is one of the first collections of philosophical essays by Lem. The book exhibits depth of insight and irony usual for Lem's creations. The name is an allusion to Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas and to Summa Theologiae by Albertus Magnus.

Everything is all that exists; the opposite of nothing, or its complement. It is the totality of things relevant to some subject matter. Without expressed or implied limits, it may refer to anything. The Universe is everything that exists theoretically, though a multiverse may exist according to theoretical cosmology predictions. It may refer to an anthropocentric worldview, or the sum of human experience, history, and the human condition in general. Every object and entity is a part of everything, including all physical bodies and in some cases all abstract objects.

<i>Zendegi</i> novel by Greg Egan

Zendegi is a science fiction novel by Australian author Greg Egan, first published in the United Kingdom by Gollancz in June 2010. It is set in Iran in the near future and deals with mapping the human brain, virtual reality and the democratization of Iran. The title of the book means "life" in Persian; the name of the virtual reality system featured in the story is Zendegi-ye Behtar, Persian for "better life".

Professor Tarantoga, xenozoologist, traveller, and inventor, is a fictional character from science fiction works by Stanislaw Lem.

Ijon Tichy: Space Pilot is a satiric German television series loosely based on the series of science fiction stories The Star Diaries by Stanisław Lem. The television series was created by Randa Chahoud, Dennis Jacobsen, and Oliver Jahn with Jahn playing the protagonist, space traveller Ijon Tichy. The major female role, the female robot hologramme, is played by Nora Tschirner.

Sepulki or sepulcas are unclearly defined fictional objects found in works of Polish science fiction writer Stanisław Lem, The Star Diaries and Observation on the Spot. A fictional dictionary lists them as "objects used for sepuling".

Science Fiction and Futurology is a monograph of Stanisław Lem about science fiction and futurology, first printed by Wydawnictwo Literackie in 1970.

Mad scientists appear in fiction of Stanisław Lem in the memoirs of Lem's starfaring vagabond Ijon Tichy, collected in The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller. They include professors Corcoran, who created several artificial universes in isolated lockers; Decantor, who created an immortal soul, Zazul, who cloned himself and was apparently killed by the clone who took his place; Diagoras, who created progressing makes of an "independent and self-perfecting device that is capable of spontaneous thought" and was unwittingly used by the two of them as a communication medium; doctor Vliperdius, a robot doctor who runs an asylum for mentally ill robots; and professor A. Dońda. Dońda catastrophically succeeded in his quest to prove mass-information equivalence, analogous to mass–energy equivalence: by accumulating a huge amount of useless information in a supercomputer, Donda made the total amount of information accumulated by the humanity to cross a certain threshold, after which it all converted into a new universe, leaving the humanity without any knowledge.

Virtual reality in fiction describes fictional representations of the technological concept of virtual reality.


  1. Lem, Stanislaw (1 February 2000). Memoirs of a Space Traveler: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy. Northwestern University Press. p. 39. ISBN   978-0-8101-1732-7 . Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  2. Swirski, Peter (27 July 2006). The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 118. ISBN   978-0-7735-7507-3 . Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  3. "An Interview With Greg Egan | Counting Backwards From Infinity". Eidolon Magazine. 15: 42–45. July 1994. Retrieved 27 July 2018.