Recursion (novel)

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Recursion (2004) is Tony Ballantyne's first novel. It is in the science fiction genre and follows three separate characters and their stories in a futuristic dystopia.

Of high import to the storyline is the concept of the Singularity, a point in the near future when the evolution of technology reaches such a speed that thinking machines outpace human minds, a point beyond which we cannot possibly predict what will happen; and that of von Neumann machines, self-replicating robots that use available raw resources to make copies of themselves. The implication is that a system of such machines (just one would suffice) that is allowed to reproduce unchecked will in short order devour entire biospheres, perhaps even entire solar systems or galaxies if these von Neumann machines are equipped with propulsion devices. An interesting corollary to this is that if two systems of von Neumann machines are battling for resources, the winner will not be decided by which group has the most members; the victorious system will be the one that reproduces faster. Also brought up by Ballantyne is the intriguing possibility of being copied and inserted into a simulation. Bostrom's tripartition tends to suggest that we ourselves are living in a simulated universe. Moments exist in Recursion' in which the main character is rather unsure if he is in reality or a simulation — certain bugs in the program make themselves apparent, such as blank spaces appearing between buildings and the ground, causing him to question reality. Eventually it becomes apparent that he has been copied multiple times, and inserted into various simulations, and that what he thinks of as his identity is truly not the original, but merely one of many copies. It can be argued, however, that perfect copies, at the moment of creation, are identical and indistinguishable from their originals. A copy is the original, so to speak.