Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy
One of the Washington Post's Best Nonfiction Books of 2022
A leading philosopher takes a mind-bending journey through virtual worlds, illuminating the nature of reality and our place within it.
Virtual reality is genuine reality; that’s the central thesis of Reality+. In a highly original work of “technophilosophy,” David J. Chalmers gives a compelling analysis of our technological future. He argues that virtual worlds are not second-class worlds, and that we can live a meaningful life in virtual reality. We may even be in a virtual world already.
Along the way, Chalmers conducts a grand tour of big ideas in philosophy and science. He uses virtual reality technology to offer a new perspective on long-established philosophical questions. How do we know that there’s an external world? Is there a god? What is the nature of reality? What’s the relation between mind and body? How can we lead a good life? All of these questions are illuminated or transformed by Chalmers’ mind-bending analysis.
Studded with illustrations that bring philosophical issues to life, Reality+ is a major statement that will shape discussion of philosophy, science, and technology for years to come.
"Virtual worlds need not be second-class realities," writes philosopher Chalmers (The Conscious Mind) in this fascinating look at the simulation hypothesis, which proposes that humans are more likely than not living in a computer simulation. According to Chalmers, advances in computing power and virtual reality technology put long-standing philosophical questions about the nature of reality in a new light, as vast and highly sophisticated simulations become commonplace. Virtual reality, Chalmers writes, offers a chance to reckon with a tradition of philosophical skepticism that, beginning with Descartes, dismisses simulated reality as mere illusion. For Chalmers, virtual reality is a "genuine" reality composed of bits rather than atoms and quarks and while "the virtual object is different from the nonvirtual one," he writes, "both are equally real." The implications of Chalmers's "simulation realism" are various and eye-opening, as in the new life the hypothesis lends to religious concepts of creation and a creator. Crafted with the general reader in mind, this is an object lesson in philosophical reasoning and a bold, often awe-inspiring discussion of its implications. Philosophy-minded readers weened on The Matrix and ready for the metaverse will want to take a look.