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I remember reading a book a while back and was curious to finish it, but lost it. Story elements I recall:

  • characters can copy/replicate themselves (or at least their minds) and there are two 'grades' of the copies
    • alpha: basically the same as the person, regulated?
    • beta: good for doing lesser work in your style, like editing a paper or something
  • one of the main characters had an alpha-copy of their deceased father (or other relative) to talk to(?)
  • ancient artifact hunting or some other 'dig', impeded by storms (sand or snow?)
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Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Beta simulation

characters can copy/replicate themselves (or at least their minds) and there are two 'grades' of the copies

Beta-level simulations were sophisticated computer programs designed to mimic a person in appearance, mannerisms, and thought-patterns. While capable of successfully impersonating a human mind down to their most minute idiosyncrasies, they were not in fact self-aware -- they were just near-perfect imitations of life. As such, they enjoyed no legal rights or protection

one of the main characters had an alpha-copy of their deceased father (or other relative) to talk to(?)

Dan Sylveste

Sometime after arriving on Resurgam Dan's eye were injured, and replaced with prosthetic ones by the beta-level simulation of his father, Calvin.

ancient artifact hunting or some other 'dig', impeded by storms (sand or snow?)

Detailed Summary of Revelation Space

As a violent dust storm threatens to temporarily shut down the excavation, Sylveste discovers new evidence that the entire Amarantin race achieved a much higher level of technological sophistication than was previously known, before they were wiped out in a single mysterious cataclysm.

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    whilst this particular case is undoubtedly Revelation Space itself, the alpha, beta, (and gamma) AI's are also in many of his other works in the same universe
    – Tristan
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 9:57

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