cover image Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy

Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy

David J. Chalmers. Norton, $32.50 (528p) ISBN 978-0-393-63580-5

“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. (Jan.)