As I suggested above, we can change a digital version of some aspect of reality in any way we want. I've used the simple example of tinkering with a digital photograph, but the possibilities for transformation go far beyond this. We can set up elaborate replicas of real-world systems and inspect them in detail. We can establish digital models and run them forward in time to see what might happen in the future. We can even create completely imaginary digital worlds and then explore them as if they were real. The computer not only gives us access to the immediate present world, but to the past and to possible future worlds – and to new worlds as well.
As I try to show in , this ability to encapsulate important features of the world inside a computer and then use the machine to transform them has already had a huge impact on the arts, on science and on our understanding of the way the world works. It may have an immense impact on politics and society in the future.