David J. Chalmers
From one of our leading thinkers, a dazzling philosophical journey through virtual worlds
In the coming decades, the technology that enables virtual and augmented reality will improve beyond recognition. Within a century, world-renowned philosopher David J. Chalmers predicts, we will have virtual worlds that are impossible to distinguish from non-virtual worlds. But is virtual reality just escapism? In a highly original work of ‘technophilosophy’, Chalmers argues categorically, no: virtual reality is genuine reality. Virtual worlds are not second-class worlds. We can live a meaningful life in virtual reality – and increasingly, we will.
What is reality, anyway? How can we lead a good life? Is there a god? How do we know there’s an external world – and how do we know we’re not living in a computer simulation? In Reality+, Chalmers conducts a grand tour of philosophy, using cutting-edge technology to provide invigorating new answers to age-old questions.
Drawing on examples from pop culture, literature and film that help bring philosophical issues to life, Reality+ is a mind-bending journey through virtual worlds, illuminating the nature of reality and our place within it.
Chalmers is a joy: an exuberant guide through challenging terrain, quick with anecdotes and arguments, wit and wild ideas -- Kieran Setiya * TLS * Delightfully - or perhaps worryingly - convincing... A brilliant and very readable philosophical investigation... [Chalmers] tackles some frankly mindbending ideas, but does so in a lively and entertaining style, filled with references to pop culture -- PD Smith, Book of the Day * Guardian * Everyone should read this important book -- Josh Glancy * Sunday Times * Fascinating... Thoughtful, clear and funny... Reality+ is a gripping act of philosophical escapology... Hugely entertaining -- Kit Wilson * The Times * One of the most important living philosophers, existing in an exclusive club of living thinkers who are on compulsory reading lists for undergraduate philosophy students... He writes with admirable clarity and there's something quite rock'n'roll about him -- Bryan Appleyard * Spectator * [Chalmers] deftly interweaves the finer points of ancient Chinese philosophy and Cartesian dualism with the metaphysics of the Matrix films and the World of Warcraft computer games... A rich, scintillating [...] book that reflects many fascinating facets of our virtual worlds -- John Thornhill * Financial Times * A David Chalmers book is a competition. On the one hand the writing is so clear and engaging that you want to keep turning pages; on the other, the ideas are so surprising and profound that you are continually stopping to think about them. Reality+ is a treasure trove of provocative reflections on cosmology, consciousness, artificial intelligence, ethics, and more. Reading it will change the way you think about the universe -- Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime Fasten your seatbelt and put your helmet on, David Chalmers is going to take you on an amazing trip. Reality+ is wild, profound, and playful, placing famous arguments from the history of philosophy next to surprising observations about video games. Cleverly disguised as light reading, this book carries a large payload of new ideas about existence, knowledge, and what makes life worth living -- Jennifer Nagel, University of Toronto As humanity enters a brave new world of artificial superintelligence and computer-generated virtual realities, how can we humble hunter-gatherers, descended from cavemen, begin to grasp our astonishing technological future? The answer lies in this book. We must think about the ultimate nature of reality. In Reality+ David Chalmers provides the roadmap to your future -- Susan Schneider, NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation, and author of Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind A stunning achievement. In effortless prose David Chalmers explores new ways to think about everything from consciousness to computation, deities to democracy. Reality+ shows time and again how familiar topics take on interesting new forms when viewed through the lens of virtual reality -- Scott Sturgeon, author of The Rational Mind What is real anyway? Exploring the deepest doubts about reality from Zhuangzi to Descartes, Chalmers stirs our own doubts and leads us into the real worlds of future virtual reality. A gripping book -- Susan Blackmore, author of THE MEME MACHINE and SEEING MYSELF One of the world's leading philosophers re-examines all the age-old questions of life through the new-fangled prism of virtual reality. Fun, provocative, occasionally zany, Reality+ sketches out the contours of a new "technophilosophy" and makes you think afresh about the possibilities of the metaverse -- John Thornhill, Books of the Year * Financial Times * What will it be like to be trapped in Zuckerberg's Metaverse? This is a mind-bending yet lucid discussion of how we might still lead meaningful lives, even in a simulated world -- The Telegraph Cultural Desk, Books of the Year * Telegraph * In a world stuffed with dangers of all scales, from microbial plagues to planet-smashing asteroids, might it be reassuring to know that we are all just software programs running on some vast alien computer simulation? The eminent Australian philosopher David J Chalmers addresses such sci-fi possibilities in Reality+ . Whether we are trapped in the Matrix or in Mark Zuckerberg's promised Metaverse, questions of what is real and how we might still lead flourishing lives are here discussed in mind-bending yet lucid fashion. The good news, according to Chalmers, is that a table made from digital ones and zeroes (if we are in VR or a simulation) is just as real as a table made from quantum wave-packets (assuming we live in the real world). That is, until a rock falls on it from space -- Steven Poole, Books of the Year * Telegraph * The Australian philosopher David Chalmers made this name when he concluded that consciousness was the "Hard Problem". Everybody else had come up with various daft conclusions. But Chalmers, not being daft, said we had no idea what it was. Now he goes further: we don't know whether we are a computer simulation -- Bryan Appleyard, Books of the Year * Sunday Times * Chalmers posits that virtual reality will not only be commonplace, but it'll be as valid as our genuine reality. We'll interact with virtual objects, which will replace screen-based computing. We'll spend much of our lives in virtual environments - come the next pandemic, we might be hanging out in simulate worlds, not on Zoom -- Rory Kiberd, Books of the Year * Irish Times * The future, too, is the subject of David Chalmers's Reality +. Rather than scoffing at Mark Zuckerberg's metaversal adventures, Chalmers gives due consideration to what the rise of virtual worlds could mean for the real one-and whether, after a certain point, they'll even be distinguishable. -- Books of the Year * Prospect * Chalmers is very clever because [in Reality+] he's managed to rehearse many of the key arguments that you would encounter in most philosophy courses, but through that lens of virtual reality... It genuinely is thought-provoking (or virtual thought-provoking). It's well-written too -- Nigel Warburton, Books of the Year * Five Books *
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