Permutation City asks whether there is a difference between a computer simulation of a person and a "real" person. It focuses on a model of consciousness and reality, the Dust Theory, similar to the Ultimate Ensemble Mathematical Universe hypothesis proposed by Max Tegmark. It uses the assumption that human consciousness is Turing-computable: that consciousness can be produced by a computer program. The book deals with consequences of human consciousness being amenable to mathematical manipulation, as well as some consequences of simulated realities. In this way, Egan attempts to deconstruct notions of self, memory, and mortality, and of physical reality.