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In the early to mid 90's I recall reading a book where a computer scientist is asked to create a virtual reality for life to exist after death, using the idle cycles of networked computers from around the world. At the same time, a separate 'simulation' with all the building blocks of life to create a completely artificial life. The book focuses on the creation of the virtual reality. At the end, from the virtual world, the MCs peek into the separate simulation to find a 'hive-like' digital race who until then didn't realize there was 'another universe'.

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Could be Permutation City by Greg Egan, published in 1994. There are VR worlds, and something called the Autoverse, The Autoverse is an artificial life simulator based on a cellular automaton complex enough to represent the substratum of an artificial chemistry.

From the Wikipedia plot description:

Copies form the conceptual spine of the story, and much of the plot deals directly with the "lived" experience of Copies, most of whom are copies of billionaires suffering terminal illnesses or fatal accidents, who spend their existences in VR worlds of their creating, usually maintained by trust funds, which independently own and operate large computing resources for their sakes, separated physically and economically from most of the rest of the world's computing power, which is privatized as a fungible commodity. ...

At the opposite end from the wealthy Copies are those who can only afford to live in the virtual equivalent of "Slums", being bounced around the globe to the cheapest physical computing available at any given time in order to save money, while running at much slower speeds compared to the wealthy Copies. Their slowdown rate depends on how much computer power their meager assets can afford, as computer power is traded on a global exchange and goes to the highest bidder at any point in time. When they cannot afford to be "run" at all, they can be frozen as a "snapshot" until computer power is relatively affordable again.

Observing one of the Autoverse worlds is an important plot point, and if the inhabitants can be convinced they were created by a force outside of their world.

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  • Hmmm, I will pick this up and double check, but perhaps this is it. What’s confuses me is that I am pretty sure I read this in ‘93 or earlier, but maybe I’m remembering the wrong bedroom. 🤪
    – AvidReader
    Jan 28 at 22:48
  • Skipping to Part 2 (If I’d read it before then wasn’t a spoiler right?) confirmed this was what I was looking for. Thank you, I’d been waylaid by the fact that I could only find the “2nd Edition”, released in 2013/2014, in my prior searches.
    – AvidReader
    Jan 28 at 23:31

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