Reality + is a unique book from a unique thinker. David Chalmers made his name in philosophy, with Andy Clark, on seeing the mind or consciousness as extending further than we think – what many now know as Extended Reality. I included them both in my series of 200+ Learning Theorists.
Here, Chalmers tilts his lance at what most regard as fake knights, but is quixotic enough to see both windmills and knights as ‘real’. A modern Descartes he pushes us towards a view that every virtual world is a new reality – hence the title Reality+.
More than this, he thinks that such virtual worlds can be as good as the world we think we know. He takes his considerable conceptual sword to that other pub philosophy topic, whether what we are living in is a simulation. The results may surprise you.
This is not a casual read, philosophy never is, nor is it a short read at 462 pages. Nevertheless, it is a key text for anyone interested in the big ideas behind VR, AR, AI and the Metaverse. Another word of warning, a lot of it is counterintuitive, philosophy usually is but that is what makes it so exciting, so stick with it! The good news is that he is a good writer, way better (also philosopher) than Bostrom. He also lightens the saddle by bringing in science fiction, movies and games.
In presenting the idea that virtual minds are genuine minds, he takes us through a philosophical journey from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, through to Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill and Frege to more modern philosophy of Moore, Rawls, Nozick, Putnam, Dennett and Baudrillard, cutting deeply into problems such as ‘What is real?’ He doesn’t shy away from ethics, not the superficial twaddle one sees most of the time but actual moral philosophy.
This is a book that matters, as the time is right for a deeper philosophical text around these issues. It is not a book for the beach, it is a book that will make you think deeply about technology and what is about to become a reality.