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Raison D'etre.

Early last year, after about a year of working for Bohemia Interactive on VBS2, mainly travelling around on airplanes running training courses for military simulations folks, I finally embarked on a project that had been buzzing around in my head for over twenty years.

I'm fairly sure it was the catalyst of working in the simulations field that helped me realize that the time had actually come, and I actually could pull it off, but it had been a long road. When I wrote my first novel, which I started when I was nineteen (it shows its age!), I needed five years of research, which included joining the army and becoming an infantryman, before I could say I had the needed spark to finish it. The relative quality of these projects notwithstanding, no-one can ever say I don't take my research seriously.

The spark for this one came in the form of the Simulation Hypothesis.

I've heard it called a number of things. Theory, argument, hypothesis. It's an old idea, and the Matrix got a good deal of mileage out of it. As a narrative device, you can see it in works like The Truman Show and Dark City, among many others (Source Code and eXistenZ come to mind).

My favourite exploration of it is Nick Bostrom's. Do yourself a favour and read it, if you get the chance (or haven't already). He assigns three propositions equal weight.


On The Thoughtful Crocodile

As we came in for the final approach to Copenhagen the first thing I noticed was that I could see the ground. Having lived for so many years in China, I'm accustomed to descending into an impenetrable haze and, on a good day, if landing in Beijing, dropping back out the other side just in time to catch a glimpse of the endless low rises that have been thrown up around the airport. I say endless, but with the pollution it's hard to say. In comparison, even now, Wuhan is relatively undeveloped and the airport is predominantly farmland. When I first arrived, look out the window during a night landing and you could make out a solitary light bulb illuminating some well to do fellow living in a village next to the flight path. Now of course, the city aspires to be the new industrial region of central China and is trying hard to concrete over any evidence of nature, or cover it in a thick layer of dust at the very least.

The flight from Wuhan to Singapore was cramped and crowded but the second leg from Singapore to Copenhagen was one of those once every couple of years deals. Half full, a row to myself and no one else interested in helping themselves to the impressive spread of snacks available to the peckish or plain greedy. Thus, I slept, ate, slept some more and when the announcement for seat belts forwards, tray tables down and seats into the stowed position I moved to the window seat to get my first view of Denmark from the air. I'd been to Denmark before by train but trundling into the city and stumbling off the train into a deserted station at 10pm on a cold and wet winter evening doesn't really pack the same drama. As if he sensed this, the pilot kindly banked the plane around as we came over the Baltic sea at dawn so I could inspect the ocean, see the windfarms off the coast and make out the bridge to Malmo in the distance.

As we came over the land we passed over farms and houses, low enough to make out washing flapping in the brisk wind from the sea and dogs whipped into a frenzy by the roar of turbines and then with a brief bump were on the ground. The airport is compact so there was no endless taxiing around remote taxiways while the pilot tried to spot a parking place, although it might have helped it was still only 5.30 in the morning (I assume the washing had been hung out the night before, no one does that sort of thing at 4.30am do they?) And while I could hear the click of seat belts being unclipped as we rolled up to the gate, there wasn't the usual rush of impatient travelers trying to drag their luggage out of the overheads, or more accurately while we were still rolling down the runway. One Chinese gentleman did have a go but was rapidly informed of the errors of his ways by a fuming Singaporean flight attendant who looked as if he was further confirming her opinion of mainland Chinese. She looked like she wanted to strike him.

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