reality + david j chalmers

Reality + : Book Review

Reality +: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy by author David J Chalmers

There is no denying that technology is rapidly evolving. I use AI regularly to help me with work and even this blog. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligences have become normal for average households. With all of these new advancements many people are questioning what does the future hold but also what does this mean for our own reality? Are we living in a simulation?

The bare essentials statistical argument for us living in a simulation is that we can see in our near future that we will be able to develop a fully functioning simulation of a society similar to our own. Since we can do this, it stands to reason that other advanced civilizations somewhere in the universe can do this too. If we understand that there is an infinite universe and therefore infinite societies creating infinite simulations, statistically, we are more likely to be in a simulation than a fundamental world.

Reality + lays out this foundation for the premise of us living in a simulation. Although the book does go into the likelihood of such a theory it focuses more on emphasizing that a simulated world is a genuine world and we should not feel less than if this happens to be true. The bulk of the arguments made involve the conclusion that we can still have rich lives regardless of the reality status.

A human, a sim, and a Boltzmann brain walk into a bar… I don’t know the punchline to this joke but it probably involves the Boltzmann brain exploding.”

David J Chalmers- Reality +

Author Chalmers has a strong background in philosophy and mathematics and he is an expert in this field. He writes in approachable language and breaks everything down so that any layman can pick up this book and understand the complex theoretical physics and statistics. Actually, he breaks everything down too far.

My biggest complaint about the book is that every subject is broken down so far that it becomes incredibly repetitive. He has multiple examples for everything when one would suffice in demonstrating his point. I found myself skipping pages at a time because I had essentially already read them in a previous chapter or had already gotten the point and didn’t feel like having it explained again.

He also suffers from a locational bias that could make this nonfiction book frustrating to readers around the world. Although Chalmers was born in Australia he has been living in the US. His US experiences influence many of his examples and cause a lot of references to American politics to be used as the “real world” parallels. This American defaultism plagues us. I know I’m guilty of it from time to time but we must remember that the rest of the world exists too and not everyone knows about or gives a care about our presidents and their shenanigans.

Reality + is a very informative book and provides a lot of thought experiments that will make you stop and seriously ponder. It is a philosophy book first and foremost, don’t expect hard science nonfiction here. (Unless theoretical physics counts, but that’s mostly philosophy too in my opinion). Additionally, most of the book only theorizes about a perfect simulation in which we would never be able to leave or become aware of so it mostly boils down to a big fat “so what?”

The idea of a perfect simulation is just intelligent design rebranded. There is a creator, the program runs, maybe eventually they’ll interfere but probably not, in the end no one knows what happens when it’s shut off. So… what do I do with this information? It doesn’t change how I’ll live my life in any way so why should I care?

It doesn’t matter if we’re in a simulation, everything will stay the same. It doesn’t matter if god or the big bang or a flying spaghetti monster started our universe, everything will stay the same. So why should you read Reality +? Well, if you like thought experiments about our place in the universe you’ll be able to get something from this book. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter if you read it or not, everything will stay the same.

3/5 brains 🧠🧠🧠

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