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Looking for a short story that ran in a magazine, I thought Popular Science, but I can't seem to find it. Was between probably 2014 and 2020, guessing about 2017.

A researcher is porting into a world of his creation that is a computer simulation to do research on climate change I think. There's time dilation between the "real" world and his simulation. His simulated society is living in the artic regions and have developed giant shades that are suspended from towers. He has a virtual wife who has learned the nature of the world and that he's the creator. (Think the title of the story plays on that about God or creator) He exits back to his own world and finds out that things are becoming unstable there, apparently because his world itself is just a simulation. A co-worker loses it because of that realization and I think kills himself. The main character escapes back into his simulation to be with his virtual family and take advantage of the time dilation.

Definitely not the Stones of Significance that was suggested below. Still looking.

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While it's not about Climate Change, otherwise the details match with David Brin's Stones of Significance.

The issue under study is the possibility of classifying virtual entities as sentient with rights and privileges that would come with giving them the same status as natural borns.

The scientist studying the idea creates simulations of different lines of investigation, these simulations consist of virtual versions of himself studying the problem. The prize for coming up with a good solution will be the granting of sentient rights to the simulation that has the best idea. In the end the scientist finds a rock, with the score for his idea on it.

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  • As an aside, that theme of determining sentience came up in David Marusek's The Wedding Album. "We want you to make-believe." Tell a story, pretend, hypothesize, make-believe. [...] Anne was desperate to comply, but each time she pictured Benjamin at the altar, in his pink bowtie, he opened his mouth and out came, "I do." How could it be any other way? She tried again; she tried harder, but it always came out the same, "I do, I do, I do." And like a dull toothache tapped back to life, she throbbed in pain. She was failing the test, and there was nothing she could do about it. Apr 16 at 10:06
  • Sounds interesting, but Stones of Significance is definitely not it. Other than a researcher in a simulation, nothing else is similar. Other details I remember that I'm less sure about were that the researcher had gone back into the "real world" to tweak something because of an injury in the simulation. Think someone had fallen from one of the shade towers. Definitely ran in a magazine because I remember the restaurant I was eating lunch at as I read, just not what magazine it was.
    – Charles
    Apr 16 at 20:17

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