Philosopher David Chalmers has an amazing book called “Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy” that is being released on January 25th, and I was able to get early access and interview him about the many provocative ideas that he covers in his book. It’s part introductory course to philosophy, a public philosophy translation of age-old debates around virtual worlds and Descartes’ evil demons, but also lot of novel philosophical arguments that will challenge your concept of the nature of reality itself. Tune in for an overview of some of the biggest ideas around how virtual reality should be considered a genuine reality and how we can’t prove that we’re not in a simulation.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So David Chalmers is a philosopher of mind who is famous for coining the hard problem of consciousness and is a pretty big figure within the field of philosophy. And for the past five plus years, he's been working on this book called Reality Plus, Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. It releases on January 25th, 2022. And I had a chance to get an advance copy and to do an in-depth conversation trying to outline some of the major ideas and concepts that are covered within this book of Reality+. I'm extremely excited because I think that what Chalmers has been able to do is to really contextualize virtual reality, not only within the history and the evolution of different historical debates within the field of philosophy, but also to be able to look at what is the nature of reality itself. And he's really advocating that virtual reality is not sort of illusionary reality, that it's actually a real reality, it's a genuine reality, that in some contexts can be just as real as our physical reality. He's also expanding on the simulation hypothesis, essentially arguing that it's very difficult for you to prove that we're not in a simulation. Therefore, we should take it seriously as a possibility. And if that's true, then how does that recontextualize all these other philosophical debates about what's the nature of knowledge, what's the nature of living a good life, what's the nature of reality, how do you describe reality? So it's a book that makes a really compelling argument in the first half, and the second half starts to apply it to other things like the philosophy of mind and the values and these underlying foundations of how we can start to think about the nature of reality itself. So, that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with David happened on Monday, January 10th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:01:56.310] David Chalmers: My name is David Chalmers. I'm a professor of philosophy at New York University. In the past, I've worked a lot on the mind and consciousness, but these days, actually, the last few years, I've been thinking a lot about virtual reality and the philosophical issues that it raises. And I've got a book, which is out January 25th. called Reality plus Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, which really are just a whole bunch of philosophical reflections on virtual reality, both its philosophical and even some of its practical aspects.
[00:02:29.662] Kent Bye: Great. So yeah, maybe you could give me a bit more context as to your journey up to this point. I know you talked about the Matrix as metaphysics paper that you wrote back in 2003, but maybe just a general background as to your journey into philosophy and some of these questions that you've encountered around virtual worlds in your career.
[00:02:47.826] David Chalmers: Yeah, well, my background was actually mathematics and computer science as an undergraduate. Actually, my very first virtual world, the story I tell at the start of my book, was Colossal Cave Adventure way back in 1976. I was at the University Medical Center where my father worked, and there were these computers around, and I was exploring them. I taught myself to program a little bit in BASIC, and then I came across this game called Advent. And it was a Colossal Cave Adventure, the very first text adventure game, basically a virtual world albeit without the graphical interface. And that was amazing. And I explored that and that kind of turned me onto the whole idea of artificial computer generated world, which of course just exploded in the years to come. But yeah, I did my undergraduate degree with math and computer science. I went on with math. But at a certain point, I got obsessed by philosophical questions, especially about consciousness and about the mind. I wanted to understand human consciousness. I wanted to understand how on earth consciousness could be present in a physical system. such as the brain. So I ended up, I went to Indiana University to do a PhD with Doug Hofstadter, who some of your listeners may know as the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach and The Mind's Eye and a bunch of other wonderful books that I'd read and were very influential for me as a kid. And I ended up doing a lot of work in AI and cognitive science, neural networks, but the core of what I was interested in was consciousness and ended up writing a PhD thesis on the problem of consciousness that turned into a book. The Conscious Mind came out in 1996, I guess. And, you know, I did a lot, you know, consciousness is still in a certain way, you know, my number one love, but over the years I've gotten very interested in questions about reality as well. I mean, from a background in artificial intelligence, this is natural. Philosophers think about the relationship between the mind and the world. And one key issue in thinking about the mind is could there be artificial minds? You know, could an AI system genuinely have a mind? Could it genuinely be conscious? But you can also raise exactly the same questions about the world side of the equation. Could there be artificial worlds? And if so, are they real worlds? And here are the relevant artificial realities. The obvious candidate is virtual worlds of the kind you experience in VR, or maybe just in the ordinary non-immersive virtual worlds you've experienced on a desktop, like in a video game. And so the same question arises, are these virtual worlds real? And you know, the philosophical tradition going back to Descartes says, no, this kind of thing would just be like a fake or fictional reality. Descartes talks about, could you be fooled by an evil demon into thinking there's a real world out there when in fact there's not. And a lot of philosophers have wanted to assimilate virtual worlds to something like that kind of Cartesian hypothesis. not real at all. But the more I thought about it, the more it came to seem to me that virtual realities really do have a status as real worlds in their own right. I first got to writing about this when The Matrix came out in 1999. I was thinking philosophically about some of these issues, partly stimulated by that. And then I got an invitation from the production company responsible for the Matrix, Red Pill, who had a philosopher working for them. And they wanted to get some philosophers to reflect on the movie and on the issues for the Matrix website, thematrix.com, or whatisthematrix.com, I think it was then. So this philosopher, Chris Graal, actually wrote to a bunch of people. I think the Wachowskis really wanted, you know, they're very philosophical thinkers and they wanted to see what philosophers would make of the Matrix movie. And so I thought, well, this is just a great opportunity to take these things I'd been thinking about and write them as a reflection on the Matrix movies. So I ended up writing a piece called The Matrix as Metaphysics, where the basic idea is Yeah. Well, one view is that if you're in the matrix, none of this is real. And it's just a giant skeptical hypothesis where you have no knowledge of reality at all. And I wanted to push the opposing view, which is if you're in the matrix, all of this is perfectly real. There's still tables and chairs and cats and dogs and planets and people around you. They're real. It's just that they're ultimately computational. They're digital. They're made of bits. Okay. Which is a different kind of metaphysics for reality, a reality where things are made up of bits. But it's not a way of not being real. It's just a different way of being real. So that kind of led me to this idea now, which is the main slogan of my new book, Reality Plus, virtual reality is genuine reality. And in a way, this whole book is just a series of riffs around that idea, arguing for that idea, trying to establish it, trying to connect it to other things, and trying to draw out what it means both for philosophical questions and for practical issues about the technology.
[00:07:38.751] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I think the book is quite an achievement just from the philosophical scholarship tracing the lineage of all the different aspects of these thought experiments from back to Descartes' Evil Demon, even the word virtual and the etymology of that and how that's changed and evolved over the years. And there's this dichotomy between the virtual world as being some sort of fake illusionary world and the physical reality as being somehow more real. One of the ways that you say it in the book is that rather than just calling virtual reality machines, they're just reality machines, which is the result of this argument that you're making. In this paper that you did back in 2003, there's a little caveat that says that the bulk of this paper was meant to be accessible to a broader audience. But at the same time, the paper is intended as a serious work of philosophy with relevance to central issues and etymology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind and language. I feel like this book is kind of similar in that way that It's what in the philosophy circles we've referred to as public philosophy, where you're translating these ideas into metaphors in ways that are digestible, connect these discussions into not only science fiction, but at the same time, there seems to be a lot of arguments that you may be actually making for the first time comprehensively. So I'd love to hear some reflections on your part in terms of your own process of doing lectures and writing academic articles, but also consuming popular media and taking those metaphors to be able to translate that to be able to tell this larger story that you're making, which is the series of arguments that's making a larger point.
[00:09:08.262] David Chalmers: Yeah, you know, in this book, I really tried to do two things at once. I really wanted it to be a totally serious work of philosophy with a lot of original arguments, trying to work out what I think about these issues and make a really serious philosophical case for them. But at the same time, I absolutely wanted it to be a book that anybody can read. So I really went to town making it as accessible as possible. Every single idea I tried to illustrate with some concrete example, very often from science fiction, because there are so many great science fiction. These ideas have already been explored so often in great science fiction scenarios. I got an illustrator for the book who did 57 amazing illustrations of a whole bunch of the key ideas. Yeah, and I tried to connect it to pop culture to try and make it concrete wherever possible. So yeah, my aim was totally serious and also totally accessible. We'll see if I succeeded in that, but that was the hope. It just seemed to me that this topic of virtual worlds and virtual realities just connects at the center of so many topics, which are so important in all kinds of different ways. It connects to science, thinking about the nature of reality, the nature of the cosmos, connects to philosophy, thinking about what can we know, what is real, what matters for a meaningful life. But it's also super practical. People are actually using VR technology and they're going to be using it more and more in the years and decades to come. And people want to know what to make of that. What is this going to mean for our lives? Are we going to be able to live a meaningful or a good life in virtual reality? Or is it always just going to be escapism. So this territory just seemed to be prime territory for exploring so many issues at once, which is super important to the leading edge of philosophy and science, but which are also just at the heart of what a whole lot of people are interested in and care about.
[00:10:59.125] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could take me back to the moment. When was the moment that you decided that you wanted to write this book?
[00:11:05.178] David Chalmers: Interesting. You know, I wrote that article on the matrix back in 2002, 2003. And I guess I gave it as a talk quite a lot. And I talked about similar things. Whenever someone asked me to give a philosophical talk to a broad audience for a few years, I would often talk about the matrix because it just resonated with people so clearly. But I also found that this just connected to so many key issues. in philosophy, knowledge, reality, value, religion, the existence of God, our mind, how our minds and bodies are related in the matrix or in a simulation. And it gradually came to seem to me that you could, in a way, illustrate and introduce almost any topic in philosophy through this lens. So I kind of hit on the idea of doing this partly as an introduction to philosophy, where this just happens naturally along the way that, you know, you can think about basic philosophical questions. What is reality? How can we know anything? What is it to lead a good life? And then immediately frame them in terms of virtual worlds. Like, you know, it's like, yeah, maybe sometime around 2015, I started thinking, okay, well, what I'm aiming for here is a book, which is simultaneously an inquiry into VR and analysis of these amazing science fiction scenarios, like the simulation hypothesis, an introduction to philosophy, but also then a very serious meditation trying to build and put forward my own philosophical point of view on these things. And yeah, it took me about a good five years to write the thing. I got a contract for the book, I guess, back in 2017, five years ago. It was a slow process putting the things together, but I think I ended up writing the book I wanted to write. So I'm now curious to see how it does as it makes its way in the world.
[00:12:50.159] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had somehow heard about it before I ran into you at the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting in 2019, because I was very eagerly awaiting what you were going to be able to produce. And I think it was definitely worth the wait. You've been really thinking about this. And you talk about in the book how you have this band of merry philosophers who were doing these different explorations in VR. So maybe you could take me back into like, when did you first get your VR headset or when was your first VR experience? When did that fall into the timeline when you got into VR and then this period during the pandemic where you kind of recreating the hallway conversations at a philosophy conference?
[00:13:25.020] David Chalmers: Yeah, I've been following the progress of VR, especially maybe the last 10 years or so since Oculus made its breakthrough with consumer level VR. I think the first headset I ordered was maybe the DK2, the second developer kit for the Oculus Rift. And then, yeah, I played around with that a bunch. What was the order of them all? I had all the different Oculus headsets as they came through. The different Rifts, the Go, the Quest 1, the Quest 2. I also had the HTC Vive and various iterations of Google Cardboard. With that first quest, sorry, the first Rift, the DK2, that was exciting. It was still primitive, but you know, you could really see where it was going. And around that time, I visited a few VR labs. One of the first I visited was a researcher, Betty Muller-Tesch, who has a great lab in Chubingan, or had. and got to do a bunch of really cool VR experiences there. And then I visited a few other VR labs, quite often run by psychologists, actually, because I've got a connection to cognitive science and psychology. Bill Warren at Brown was one. I talked a lot with Mel Slater and Mavi Sanchez-Viv in Barcelona, who have done all this amazing work on presence. So I started getting into the science side of it as well, but partly just as a consumer, you know, it's just great to actually experience these worlds. So yeah, during the pandemic, yeah, started in March 2020, or that's when the lockdowns really started anyway. And then so suddenly, There I was spending a whole lot of time at home. And then I was just emailing with a couple of other philosophers. Actually, first contact was a philosopher, Neil McDonald, at the University of Glasgow, who's done a lot of good work on philosophical issues in virtual reality. Now they actually have a big grant at Glasgow to work on philosophical issues about augmented reality. But his brother had actually started up a VR firm. He's a very knowledgeable guy. And we started just hanging out in a couple of the platforms, including the platform that He was involved in setting up and then rapidly, I mentioned this to a couple of other philosophers, and this turned out to be this little subculture of philosophers with VR headsets, who are into it. So basically it turned into maybe a group of about eight of us who every Wednesday, 4pm. would get together in VR and different platforms. At the beginning, we just tried a whole bunch of, I think we started by trying a bunch of the different quasi-social VR platforms, spatial, big screen, old space, VR chat. Rec Room, of course, a few other ones. And then sometimes, you know, somebody would give a philosophy talk in there and just a brief like 10 minute talk, and we'd have some questions. I gave one about the physics of VR at one point, and we did a whole bunch of experiments like throwing tomatoes around inside big screen and trying to figure out if we could come up with a coherent physics for this world. But also just a lot of games and, you know, one of our favorite things is still just, you know, play Beat Saber or Synth Rider or any of those simple games. Yeah. And the group is still meeting on and off every week. It's, you know, not everyone can make it, but often maybe just three or four of us can do it. And that's a great way to actually have a lot of experiences with social VR. I don't that much go into just, you know, a world, you know, hang out and say VR chat just for the fun of it. I mean, that's cool. It's also kind of intense and so on. I find this sort of thing a little bit more straightforward when you're there with people you know. Oh, one thing that's happening now, the book is coming out, is I'm getting a few invitations to do interviews or to give talks in VR. I gave an interview in the old space a couple of weeks ago, and I've got another one coming up. So I'm hopeful that this will actually lead to new ways of exploring and hanging out in current virtual worlds.
[00:17:02.370] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's really cool to hear. It sounds like you've been a little bit of an early adopter of the technology and experimenting and tinkering and being able to hang out with folks. And I came across some of your lectures that you gave, I think in 2016, the virtual realism ideas of saying are virtual objects, are they real? Are they fictional or virtual events? Do they really happen or not? The virtual experiences, are they non-illusionary or illusionary? And then are experiences in VR as valuable or not as experiences outside of VR? And for me, when I think about those questions, the conclusion I come to is that yes, these objects are real in the sense of my experience of them from a human consciousness level. And then the events are actually happening and the experiences seem to be non-illusionary in the sense that I don't feel like I'm being tricked, even though within the language of even the VR community, there's been a long history of the plausibility illusion, the place illusion, the virtual body ownership illusion, the power illusion, all this kind of illusionary ways of framing it. And so I really appreciate it in your book of starting to push against that, but maybe you could take me back to some of those early lectures of starting to flesh out whether or not these events and objects and experiences are real or illusionary within VR.
[00:18:12.056] David Chalmers: Yeah, I was invited to give a couple of lecture series. Sometimes as a philosopher, they invite you to give a series of three lectures to elaborate your thoughts on a given topic. And I was lucky enough that around 2015, I was 16, maybe I was invited to give maybe three or four of those lecture series in Paris, Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, and also Trinity College in Dublin. And so I thought for all of those, I actually started talking about themes in VR. Also themes tied to the experience of space more generally, which is something I've been very interested in, how do we experience space and how does this connect to issues about knowledge and illusion, but increasingly framing them in terms of VR. I ended up writing a long article called The Virtual and The Real, basically arguing for this. a version of this view that virtual reality is genuine reality. And I gave that in two lectures in Lisbon, actually, at the University of Lisbon, and they published it in their journal out of Lisbon called Disputatio. as an article, which then had seven different philosophers as commentators. And that was a chance to really put forward and build on some of these ideas. I think there were four different theses. Objects in virtual reality are real. Virtual objects are real. They're digital objects, but they're real. Events in virtual reality really happen. There's a common view of taking them to be like fictions. It didn't really happen, like the Lord of the Rings or something. But I think in an average, ordinary VR, the events that happen really happen. Experiences in VR need not be illusions. As you were saying, there's this very common view of saying that the experiences you have in virtual reality are illusory. They present things as happening all around you when you're not there. And even Mel Slater, yeah, the place illusion and the plausibility illusion, you have the illusion that you're at a certain place when he says, when you know that you're not actually there. And what I want to say is, actually, no, you have correct perception that you're at a certain place in a virtual world, and you really are at that place in the virtual world, or your avatar is at that place in a virtual world, and that's totally analogous to your physical body. being in a certain place in a physical world. So I wanted to argue that, yeah, experiences in virtual reality are not illusions. And then finally, that on the value side, that you could actually have perfectly meaningful experiences and even in principle live a good life inside a virtual world. And again, there's a tradition of philosophers and others arguing against that. The philosopher Robert Nozick had a famous example called the experience machine that would give you wonderful experiences as of an amazing world where you did amazing things and you were the world champion of whatever you like. And he said, would you want to enter that world? And he said, no, no, you wouldn't because all this would be fake. And he kind of generalized that at a certain point to VR in general. But what I tried to argue was, Whatever you think about Nozick's experience machine, that does not apply to VR. In an ordinary social virtual world, you can have meaningful interactions, meaningful relationships with people, have totally meaningful achievements. So that was the fourth plank. You can have a meaningful life inside of VR. And all that was just, it was a semi-academic article, maybe four or five years ago. And yeah, that very much laid the groundwork for what I'm exploring in this new book, just at much greater depth and connecting it to a much broader range of topics and also trying to make it something that anybody can read and think about.
[00:21:41.093] Kent Bye: Yeah. When I, when I heard some of those different arguments, I think about that phrase, virtual reality. There's often a dichotomy between something's either real or it's virtual. So I've struggled with like, what do you call my experience of it's called in real life IRL, you know, creating this false binary and bifurcation between the virtual and real that we almost have to do this conceptual shift about what we define what reality is. Because, you know, from my perspective, I see that in the intellect tradition, there's a strong bias towards substance metaphysics of saying that everything is made up of these objects and concrete stuff. And then unless it involves an experience that is engaging with that concrete stuff, then it's not real. which has led me to more of the process relational metaphysics. And I think in your book, you start to explore other more digital metaphysics or other metaphysical frameworks that would allow us to evaluate this emulation hypothesis that we can get into. But I just wanted to get your take on this contrast between the virtual and the real, and maybe is a better way of phrasing it like the Milgram spectrum that has like the physical world and one in the virtual world kind of settling upon this idea of physical reality. And then there's a whole virtual reality, but then to kind of expand our concepts of what encompasses reality, like I said before, rather than calling it a virtual reality machine, you're almost advocating that we just call them reality machines.
[00:23:02.842] David Chalmers: Yeah, you know, this is very common, this thing of just using the word real to mark the physical realm and maybe using the word virtual for the digital realm. But I think it ought to be resisted because I really think they're, in all the senses that matter, they're equally real. So for example, instead of talking about the reality slash virtuality continuum, as Milgram does, I would say, let's talk about the continuum from physicality to virtuality. Yeah, two different kinds of processes, physical processes, virtual processes, but they're both equally real. Yeah, probably it's going to be stuck in the language for a long time. I mean, this idea of IRL in real life, even people who are very serious about VR, they just kind of use this as a natural mode of expression, even if they don't believe it. I find people who actually use a lot of VR are very receptive to this thesis that what goes on inside VR, even 15 plus years ago, people hanging out in, say, Second Life and living half their lifestream. Of course, what goes on there is real. It's not fictional. It's not fake. It's totally real relationships and events and things happening there. It just happens to be based in the digital. So I think, yeah, people have used a lot of VR, are very open to this kind of as a philosophical view. Yeah. I mean, it's kind of obvious in a way, of course, this is real, but even then they find themselves using these locutions like in real life and so on. Maybe that will start to change as VR becomes more and more central and more and more people's lives. It'll just be part of real life. But yeah, but the philosophical view I'd advocate is that these are basically physical reality, virtual reality are both spheres of totally real events, they just happen to be different substrates. So one way of thinking about it is the structure is the same. If you look at say an ordinary physical world and then a perfect simulation of that physical world on a computer, what I want to argue is the simulation has basically the same interactive structure, patterns of cause and effects among processes and entities. The structure is the same, the substrate may be different. And what I think is really the most important though for the status of a given reality is the structure. This is a philosophical view that sometimes gets called structuralism or structural realism, that what really matters is the relations between things and the patterns by which they interact and the structure of those interactions, not so much what they're actually made of. And I think this probably parallels what you're talking about with the contrast between processes and substances. Maybe these aren't exactly the same distinction, but yeah, but your focus on processes and relations, I think corresponds here to my focus on structure. And you say it's not substance that matters. I mean, I think there could be substances. I'm not opposed to there being substances underlying physical reality, or I'm not opposed to there being substances underlying the digital processes in virtual reality. I just think those substances aren't what really matters when it comes to the world we're interacting with. We could be interacting with a world where trees are made of some ultimate physical substance, or where they're made of some alien substance, or they're purely digital. What really matters is not the substance, it's the structure.
[00:26:04.027] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was reading this book through the lens of someone who's been leaning towards more of a process relational approach. And so I was happy to see near the end, some different bridges between you're saying, what is the substrate of reality? And you advocate this Kantian humility, meaning that there's a certain level of reality that we can't really know about. And so we have to just make some metaphysical assumptions as to what might be there at a certain level that if space-time is emergent, then there's a non-spatial, non-local field that we don't have direct access to, and we have no idea what's actually happening there. I think what's interesting in this book is to take this cosmological view of this unknowing and then say, well, we could be living in simulation, and there's no way to know that we're not in a simulation, which I think as I was reading your book, I just have to say that it feels like this series of arguments that I did my 1000th episode and I had a whole section on simulation hypothesis. And it's a hypothesis that never really resonated with me as something that I believe intuitively to be true, but I didn't have like a comprehensive philosophical argument to stand behind. And I think reading a book like this, it took me from being like, Oh no, that's definitely not true to be like, well, I can't prove that it's not true. Kind of like sitting with it. And then at that point needing to be like, okay, I have this strong distrust that we're ever going to be able to have machines have consciousness. Then it's like, well, if I can't prove that we're not in a simulation, then that means that I could be already an entity that has consciousness that is within the context of a simulation, which then forces me to reckon with this resistance that I have. Okay. What is the simulation blocker? So I feel like by reading your book, there is like this deconstruction of my own worldviews in a way that maybe reevaluate some of those and actually change my positions in a way that I'm much more sympathetic to something like the simulation hypothesis. Whereas before, I would just have an intuition around like why I don't like it, but that's not necessarily a philosophical argument. So I appreciated being challenged in that way. And I hope that as people read this book, they may have similar ideas. Maybe it's around virtual reality or virtual objects or you have this saying from Bertrand Russell that says that the key to philosophy is to make a series of simple statements, but that when they're added all together, they come up with some radical paradoxical conclusion that you could really never imagine. And I feel like you're able to achieve that in this book. And that's someone who's speaking, someone who's been deeply steeped within the virtual reality realm, but I think you're able to make some really strong, compelling arguments in this piece to be able to really challenge people's ideas about what the nature of reality is.
[00:28:34.358] David Chalmers: Okay, that's great. Yeah, one thing I was really trying to do in the book was take some of these far out science fiction ideas that people throw around and see if I could, to what extent could I turn this into rigorous arguments that where there was actually reasons to accept some of these conclusions, or if you're going to doubt the conclusions, then you'd have to like bite a bullet here or This is where you'd have to get off the boat there. And that is one of the things I think which philosophy and philosophical argumentation can do for you. It very rarely proves a radical conclusion to be true, but I could at least articulate the best reasons to believe it and to show you what you have to accept to reject. some of these views. So, I mean, philosophy is great at kind of charting out intellectual landscape like that. And yet in my own work, I find I'm just a compulsive arguer. I want to, I think here's a thesis. Now, how can I argue for it? So, I don't know. Somebody once said to me, the great philosophers don't argue. They just tell you what's true. They make a big declaration. They draw a beautiful landscape. Like, I don't know to what extent did Whitehead argue. Maybe he just told, he had a beautiful vision and that's why he's been so successful, but for better or for worse, whenever I do philosophy, I can't help but just lay out an argument, try and give some reasons and try and give the best support I can to actually accepting some of these theses.
[00:29:45.711] Kent Bye: Let's go back to the simulation hypothesis, because what I found interesting was that you were saying that actually 2003 was kind of a key year for both you putting forth this Matrix as Metaphysics paper that you wrote, and you actually cite Bostrom in there, which I think at that point he had also come out with his paper making this simulation hypothesis. You called it the Matrix hypothesis, but your book, you kind of elaborate how you're making some similar arguments in this original paper you wrote back in 2003. But in your book, you seem to take his, what I'd say is a bit of a statistical argument, like trying to use this kind of Bayesian reasoning to see what the possible futures are with these simulations and how likely is it that we live in a simulation. And I think you're kind of like generalizing in a way that maybe puts it so that if you have disagreements around simulation blockers, it's maybe structured in a way that's a little bit more elegant. But maybe you could sort of walk through that. When did you first come across this simulation hypothesis and maybe the evolution of it to the point what you wrote out here in this book?
[00:30:46.157] David Chalmers: Well, I mean, the actual simulation idea, boy, I mean, that's been around for such a long time. I remember being influenced by Hans Moravec's book, Mind Children, as a graduate student. And that's got so much, that book now is way ahead of its time. It had the singularity, it had a lot of stuff about AI, a lot of stuff about simulations and, I mean, Greg Egan and Permutation City. So the simulation hypothesis is not under that name. was certainly out there. But yeah, but what Bostrom really did was to come up with this argument for taking the simulation hypothesis seriously. And that was his simulation argument, which is this quasi-statistical argument that, to put it very simply, you would expect that most intelligent civilizations will eventually construct many simulated universes. So there are many more simulated people than non-simulated people. Then statistically, what are the odds I'm one of the non-simulated people? Pretty low. Maybe it's actually vastly more probable that I'm one of the simulated people. Actually, Moravec had a version of that argument in the 90s, but Bostrom was the one who really developed it and elaborated it mathematically. His piece came out around the same time as I was thinking about The Matrix. I think His piece was maybe about a year ahead of mine. It was on the web and I certainly cited it in writing my article, but his, yeah. So Bostrom was focused on, here's a reason for taking the simulation idea seriously. I was more focused on the consequences of the simulation hypothesis. If it's true, then what does that mean? Is all this real? Is it an illusion? And so on. So I think they were kind of complimentary. in that respect. Yeah, I called it the matrix hypothesis, partly because my paper was on the matrix. And Boston called it the simulation hypothesis. And in the end, the simulation hypothesis is stuck. It's a more general term. Matrix is a bit too tied to the movie. So in the book, I've switched to using simulation hypothesis, which has become a standard term for the hypothesis. But yeah, but there was also a chapter in the book actually on the Bostrom style simulation argument, the argument for the simulation hypothesis, or at least as Bostrom puts it, for taking it seriously. Bostrom doesn't say the simulation hypothesis is true. Rather, he says one of three hypotheses has to be true. Either we're probably in a simulation, intelligent civilizations will all go extinct before they can build simulations, or they will choose not to build simulations. In the book, I try and give a slightly more fine-grained analysis. These other two hypotheses are examples of what I call SIM blockers. There are ways that that could fail to be many simulations. Going extinct or not building them would be two SIM blockers. There are also some other ones on a fine-grained analysis. Maybe that could turn out to be more, yeah, we'll build some simulations, but we'll build even more non-simulated intelligences like robots. who won't be in simulations, they'll be in the physical world. And if that happens, then maybe the odds are that we're robots. not living in simulation. So that was an example of another SIM blocker. And then also there's the whole issue of consciousness, which you mentioned. If it turns out that machines can't be conscious, simulations can't be conscious, then that would conclusively rule out that we're in a simulation because at least that we're in what I call a pure simulation where we are simulated because, hey, we're conscious right now. If machines can't be conscious, then we're not machines. So I would add that as another different kind of blocker for the simulation argument. So in the end, I'm quite sympathetic with the statistical argument, but I think maybe the options need to be laid out slightly differently. And I think in the book, I break it down as, are simulations of conscious human-like beings possible? There are various ways that could turn out to be false. like if simulations can't be conscious at all. And second, if they're possible, will they actually be created? Sorry, I guess it was our full-scale simulated worlds, including simulated conscious human-like beings possible. And then if they're possible, will they be created? And there's various ways both of those premises could go wrong. Still, I think what I ended up saying was, as far as I can tell, there's at least a 50% chance that each of those things is true. that simulations like this are possible, and that many of them will be created. And if they're both true, then most beings like us are in simulations. And I figured, well, the odds they're both true, 50% of one, 50% on the other, if they're roughly independent, then we get a 25% chance that they're both true, 25% chance that we're probably in a simulation, and then just evening out the numbers. So that to me, led me to think, okay, Yeah, maybe there is actually a 25% chance that we're in a simulation. It's not a proof that we're in a simulation, but it is at least some pretty good reason to take the hypothesis seriously.
[00:35:22.717] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, you kind of start with Descartes' evil demon and this global skepticism as an argument that he didn't know if the external world existed. And you cast this as a problem in the context of philosophy that no one's really ever come up with a comprehensive solution to this problem. It's kind of lingering there. And you, I guess you have your approach of addressing it somewhat here in your book in the end, but it's sort of a recurring theme that we can't really know about the external world, which when you think about the simulation hypothesis, it's like, to what degree can you prove that we're not in a simulation? And it turns out that that's a very difficult problem. I don't think I could come up with any sort of test because any layer that we can measure or even observe, it's all being generated by some sort of algorithm or by digital code or whatever ends up being, you know, you have a number of different structures of the it from bit or from the it from structure from bit or it from structure, you know, all these different layers of consciousness and digital reality and these mathematical structures, whatever combination of those things that are at that metaphysical layer that we have to make an assumption around that somehow we have the world that we can observe and measure. So our knowledge around that is going to be limited to a certain point. So then as philosophers, that's where you have to step in and make an assumption, but those assumptions you make are maybe driving other behaviors down the road, which I think is the value of making that, which I think in this book, I see that you're establishing, hey, you can't prove that we're not in a simulation. Therefore, let's evaluate all these other arguments throughout the philosophical history through that lens, through this conceit of the simulation repost where you're starting to kind of reevaluate that. So yeah, maybe you could talk about that as a conceit of once you establish that the simulation hypothesis may be true, you can't prove that it's not true, then using that to build upon and evaluate other philosophical discussions.
[00:37:21.207] David Chalmers: Yeah, this simulation idea connects to so many corners of philosophy. One that we mentioned already was Descartes arguing that maybe we can't know anything about the external world. He said, of course, we can't rule out that we're dreaming or we can't rule out that an evil genius is fooling us into thinking all this is real when none of it's real. The contemporary version of that is Yeah, you can't rule out that you're in a simulation. If it was a perfect simulation, you could never tell the difference. And then people say, if we're in a simulation, nothing is real. And they conclude, you can't know that anything is real. That's a classic form of skepticism about the external world. We can't have any knowledge of it. And you might think, okay, well, I actually agree with the main premise of that argument. Yeah, I accept, you cannot know, you're not in a simulation. I said, we might be in a simulation. I just gave it 25% chance. Maybe there are certain ways that we could know that we were in a simulation if the simulators chose to reveal themselves and communicate with us and show us the source code and show us the amazing things they can do. But if we're in a perfect simulation where no one ever does anything like that, it just simulates the physics of an ordinary world perfectly, then we may never know because it will be indistinguishable from ordinary reality. So yeah, I ended up accepting the first half of this claim that we can't know we're not in a simulation, but I don't accept the conclusion that we can't know anything at all because I want to reject the second claim. The second premise that people always combine with this is if we're in a simulation, nothing is real. And this is like simulations are fake. They're illusions. They're fictional. It's the same old line. That's the line I wholeheartedly reject. If you accept that line, then you're going to get Cartesian skepticism. We can't know anything about reality. but I just wholeheartedly reject that line. Even if we are in a simulation, things are still real. So from this Cartesian argument, you kind of get the consequence that we can't know anything is real. And in fact, I think we can still know an awful lot about the structure of external reality, even if we can't know about like the intrinsic natures, the substances that it's made of. And that knowledge of the structure of external reality, I think is the really important stuff for many purposes. So yeah, that's one connection. connection to this traditional issue of knowledge of the external world. But another issue is issues about God and religion. People throw all these arguments for and against the existence of God. I've always been mostly an atheist myself. But you think about the simulation hypothesis. Well, if we are in a simulation, then, boy, then it looks like there is a creature that at least stands in a god-like relationship to us, someone who created our world, who's all-powerful and all-knowing, and that's namely the simulator, the person who got the simulation up and running, that being. They created all this. They have an awful lot of control over it, presumably. They know an awful lot about what's going on. Those are three of the properties of a traditional god. In the book, I entertain the idea that, okay, Maybe God exists and turns out to be a hacker in the next universe up. Maybe just a teenager on a computer running iUniverse. You don't get all the traditional properties of a God. This person needn't be particularly benevolent or all good. They could have who knows what motives. I certainly don't recommend that you set up a religion around a simulated God. I don't think this being as somebody who one should worship. Someone suggested to me, maybe it's more like a traditional demiurge than a god of the whole cosmos. It's like the person who locally created our reality, but they're not running the whole cosmos. They may have a god of their own. They may be a simulator inside a simulation. and maybe we're 42 levels deep, and somewhere in base reality, there's the original level, and maybe, maybe, who knows, there's a God who created all that. So the simulated God is more of a demiurge, but still very interesting connections to philosophy of religion. And it's made me a little bit more sympathetic with the idea that you can reconcile the existence of some kind of God, maybe a watered down God, with a fairly naturalistic worldview. There'd be nothing supernatural about this kind of simulated God.
[00:41:29.742] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. It reminds me of a theme throughout this book is how as technology advances, it provides new embodied metaphors for us to use in these other concepts and ideas. You know, there's a anecdote that you shared about in the nineties when you came up with this concept of the extended mind with Andy Clark and that one of your friends had said that it was not true when he came out, but it eventually became true. because technology had evolved to the point where we did end up using our cell phones, the internet as an extension of our cognition or our thinking. And this is a trend that you saw very early on. And I feel like now that we're starting to get the very early beginnings of virtual reality, just how much has progressed over the last seven plus years that I've been covering it. has been pretty astounding. And just to know with Moore's law and all the different technological advances we have with digital light fields and everything else with Unreal Engine and the open web, who knows where it's going to be in another seven to 10 years to the point where we're able to match the different aspects of reality to a certain point where we feel like you kind of have this replacement of saying instead of the place illusion, a plausibility illusion, it's this sense of place and the sense of this plausibility where we have these sensory experiences where the expert users, which as a caveat, most of these languages that were being made in the academic research were in the context of industrial era VR that was not widely accessible on a consumer scale. But now that we have all this stuff in the consumer scale, we're able to have these direct embodied experiences. And one of the things that I've seen at least over the last seven plus years and talking to over 1600 people, I've talked to other philosophers who say, you know, I've had some of the most interesting discussions about philosophy after VR has come about because it brings up all these discussions that you're talking about in this book. and it kind of recontextualizes it where we've had a movie like The Matrix, but now we have our own direct embodied experiences and stuff that we may have not considered as being a valid potential. Once we have the sense of place and the sense of plausibility and the sense of the virtual body ownership, the immersive nature, the interactive nature in these computer generated virtual worlds, that it becomes more plausible that maybe the entire reality is created out of the simulation For me, the simulation blockers around computational complexity and classical computing, could that be really being around the universe? But you make these arguments around no-man skies being procedurally generated or quantum computing. If there's quantum computers at this next level up, and if that's running everything, then why wouldn't it be able to replicate all the nuances of quantum mechanics that we see? Maybe that's why it's so weird. But the larger question I have is just this point around the evolution of technology and how technology changes and almost like recontextualizes these arguments that had long been forgotten within the philosophical context.
[00:44:16.384] David Chalmers: Yeah, it's interesting. Yeah, you mentioned this case of the extended mind that when we wrote the article, people found that the mind could extend to things outside your head and that, you know, a notebook you wrote someone's address in that could be part of your memory, part of your mind. People were very, very dubious, but now yeah, fast forward 20 years and everyone's got a smartphone that they use for all these purposes, and so much of their memory and their navigation, that yeah, actually now people did a poll of philosophers recently on whether this extended mind thesis is true. And I don't know, I think about 60% said yes and 40% said no. So now it's become a majority view. And I think, okay, that may have been partly, maybe our argument helped, but also it's just the progress of technology. Now this is actually part of our lives. So I kind of hope that maybe the same could happen with VR, probably if you polled people right now on whether virtual reality is genuine reality or an illusion, you'd probably get a majority for it not being real, for it being some kind of illusion. But yeah, hang out in VR enough. And once in, say, 20 years' time, once this is totally commonplace for everybody, then I think, likewise, evolution of technology, then by this point, maybe the thesis of my book will hopefully be common sense. Virtual reality is genuine reality. Well, yeah, of course it is. What else would it be? I think it's just, yeah, your philosophical views are just naturally influenced by your experience of reality.
[00:45:38.694] Kent Bye: You mentioned the polls of philosophers, which, you know, you helped start MindPapers back in like 2006 or so, which then came into PhilPapers, which has been almost like the archive of being able to do the preprints and make research available in the philosophical context. And 2009, you did a survey of different philosophers. And then in 2020, you did another survey. And I found it interesting that you were able to make these statements that like, at this point, this many philosophers in the community believe this. And I think in the introductory comment, you make the statement that this shouldn't be taken as any sort of conclusion as an argument, that you still have to go and look at all each of these arguments, but you're at least able to draw some trends. What I find interesting is that there's things where you can start to see like more and more people are into Platonism or panpsychism or things that it's harder to get a sense of whether or not there's these momentums or these shifts. almost from a Hegelian dialectic, you know, kind of the history to see how there's these big shifts where things kind of move back and forth. And it feels like we may be going through some of those now with maybe more acceptance of more platonic ideas because of if we live in assimilation, maybe these mass structures that are underlying reality, like, you know, Max Tegmark, you mentioned in the book and this Pythagorean idea that all of reality is mathematics, but that you kind of have these swings and shifts, you know, like this Cartesian dualism, even if we're a biological entity within the context of assimilation, then that is kind of like the definition of a Cartesian dualism in some ways that our body is separated from our minds in a way that there's a metaphor there that kind of reintroduces that. So love to hear some reflections on being able to survey the philosophical community and what different trends you're able to draw that you're able to put in a book like this in RealityPlus?
[00:47:22.414] David Chalmers: Yeah, you know, this kind of grew out of PhilPapers, which is a project I've done collaboratively with David Bourget, who is a graduate student of mine at the Australian National University, maybe 15 years ago, and combines the properties of being a great philosopher with being an amazing software engineer. He's just a genius as a software architect. He contacted me out of the blue, maybe 20 odd years ago, I had a bibliography of work in the philosophy of mine online on my website, thousands of articles there. And he just said, oh, I found a way to automate some of it. Add some links, add search, get this and that. I said, wow, fantastic. And then we started emailing and it turns out he had a strong interest in consciousness. Same as mine. So he came out to Australia, started a PhD, and then, yeah, we gradually just built up this thing. We turned it into a fully automated thing, which we called MindPapers. That was maybe 2006. And then we realized, well, now we've done this, won't be hard to extend that to all the philosophies. So in 2009, we launched FillPapers, which was a combination of, yeah, it was an archive for people putting on their work in philosophy, but it's also a bibliographic index. of all the work which is out there in philosophy. Our original idea was we would focus on online work, but then very rapidly everything available in philosophy, pretty much everything was available online except for a few things. So it just immediately became a bibliography of pretty much all work. And now it has, you know, it has 2 million plus entries and Everybody in philosophy uses this. We have 800 editors working on curating their particular area. So that's been a cool project. But at a certain point we realized, now we have the tools to actually survey philosophers and find out what the philosophical community thinks. Because people make claims about this all the time. They say, Yeah, well, of course, everybody rejects this. Everyone these days is a materialist. No one's a dualist. Or Quine showed that the analytic-synthetic distinction is bogus. So nobody accepts this view anymore. We thought, okay, we can test some of those claims. People make these claims too. Like in the 18th century, everyone thought this or thought that. Wouldn't it be nice to have data about this? We don't have genuine data, but now we can supply some of that data. So yeah, 2009, we figured just through the database we had of philosophers, we were able to, I think at that point we emailed about 2000 philosophers from a hundred leading philosophy departments in the English speaking world. And we asked them 30 questions. materialism, mind, physicalism or non-physicalism? That was one. God, theism or atheism? Metaphilosophy, naturalism or non-naturalism. Morality, moral realism or moral anti-realism. Mostly dichotomies of two, sometimes three or four. And we got data. And we found out, for example, yeah, 73% of professional philosophers in this group accept or lean towards atheism. And only 13% accept or lean towards theism. That's interesting. 56% for physicalism about the mind, 28% against, and the rest in between. So yeah, that was fascinating. Now, finally, 11 years later, 2020, we did a follow-up survey. And this let us go beyond the original survey in a few respects. First, we expanded the number of questions from 30 to 100. Second, we asked many more people from philosophers around the world. And third, we could get longitudinal data by comparing views in 2009 to 2020. I think the longitudinal project of doing this over time is probably more of a long-term project. What you get in 10 years is just really a little slice of big trends over time. But still, you could see some things changing in certain directions. Moral realism grew more popular. More people thought aesthetics value was subjective. Physicalism about the mind held fairly constant. Atheism fell off just slightly, but the reason was that we went to a broader population of philosophers. which started including many people in, say, Catholic universities, and so on, which correlates with belief in God. So if you just pinned it to the same criteria as the original survey, it was much the same. But anyway, yeah, this is all just fascinating as sociology. I would not claim that these surveys are a guide to what's true. in philosophy, just because 73% of philosophers accept atheism doesn't make atheism particularly more likely to be true. Philosophers can be wrong, and there are wild fluctuations in what communities of academics believe. So I wouldn't use this as a guide to the truth, but as a guide to the sociology of philosophy and to the future history of philosophy, I think it's fascinating, and it's just nice to have that data.
[00:52:12.575] Kent Bye: Yeah, it comes up quite a bit in your book in terms of just being able to reference, you know, the deeper sociological trends. It makes me think of Thomas Kuhn and the structure of scientific revolutions where there is a sociological dimension to some of these different discussions. And I feel like that there could be things like something as an example is like the Wigner Von Neumann interpretation of collapsing of the wave function. So is consciousness somehow collapsing the wave function? And that's something that would be a pretty radical minority view in that sense. But I saw one of your footnotes that you're actually like writing a paper around this as an idea. So just the idea that in order to bring these different paradigm shifts that sometimes, even if it's a minority view that, you know, panpsychism as an example is probably a minority view and the philosophy of mind. But, you know, over time, maybe there's more data than more evidence or there's these shifts. I found it interesting to be able to go to fill papers and look at your profile and see how you specifically answered each of those questions. And so as a philosopher, you have the option presumably to disclose publicly what you voted on, what your views are, which is kind of like interesting to see where people are at, although your views may change over time. And I don't know if you can update that or whatnot, but anyway, I guess it's probably a good segue to talk about some of the philosophy of mind aspects here in your book, because that has been a big focus of your work. You've famously coined the hard problem of consciousness. And as I am reading the different sections on here and the reality plus this concept of uploading your mind, I have this visceral reaction against it. Maybe it's because I have like a real strong, you know, you talked about extended mind. There's also concepts of the embodied mind. And so it's not just the brain, but it's also the body. So the idea for me to upload the neural circuitry of my brain, I wouldn't imagine that that would give me the same perceptual or sensory experience of what it means to be embodied as a human. And so this idea of uploading your mind into a computer, I just have, again, more of a visceral reaction against it. My reaction is that maybe there's a substrate, you know, if I were to articulate it as the blocker, maybe there's this substrate that we need as humans for consciousness. But maybe you could talk about the intersection between your regular work of the philosophy of mind and consciousness and how you see virtual reality in the simulation theory is starting to maybe evolve that thinking or start to push it in new directions.
[00:54:28.202] David Chalmers: Yeah. I mean, so in my work on consciousness, I've tended to argue that, yeah, there is a serious problem of consciousness, and it may not be fully solved by a materialist approach to the mind. So maybe neuroscience alone or physics alone will never explain consciousness, would always leave a gap. And I've suggested that consciousness might be a fundamental element. in the universe in the same way that space and time and mass and charge are. I should say that that view is largely independent, my view about virtual reality. You certainly don't need to hold my view about consciousness to hold my view about virtual reality. And it may even be that people who are reductionists about consciousness may even be more open to my view about virtual reality. Yeah, if you're more inclined to think maybe just a structuralist about everything, about physical reality and about the mind. I actually think for physical reality, that's all about structure. I think the mind is about more than structure. I think it's consciousness involves experience, which has got certain qualities, the redness of red, the painfulness of pain that go beyond mere structure. So I'm not a structuralist about the mind, but someone who is. might be sympathetic to my views, but maybe one way of bringing out a continuity is that even in my, one way of articulating the hard problem of consciousness is by saying physics just gives you like structure and dynamics. That's what physics is. It's a whole bunch of equations, specifies patterns of interaction between things and their dynamics. Structure and dynamics alone only just gives you more structure and dynamics, but consciousness involves more than structure and dynamics, involves like experience. feels like something from the inside. So one way of arguing against making the hard problem is by saying it's the gap between the pure structure of physics and the experiential quality of consciousness. So that kind of builds in a structuralist view of physics, of physical reality as a central component. But most of my focus there was on the consciousness part. In this book, my focus is on the reality part, where this idea that, yeah, what's actually central to physical reality is its structure. That idea plays a leading role because, yeah, the structure of interactions with things that can be present in a non-virtual world, but it can also be present in a virtual world or in a simulation, even in a simulation. structure of interactions can be the same. So in a way that structuralist idea is one point of continuity between the work on the hard problem of consciousness and this work on the nature of physical reality. Now consciousness itself in the new book plays only a relatively small role. It comes up certainly very centrally in thinking about, say, the simulation hypothesis. Yeah, could a simulated being be conscious? One chapter, I try to argue that, yeah, simulated beings could be conscious. AI systems can be conscious. The easiest case that I always like to start with is go from a human brain, start with the biology, then replace the neurons one at a time by silicon circuits till you end up with a fully computational being, a digital being, maybe running on silicon. And there I try to argue that at least given certain assumptions, it's very plausible that if you've got consciousness at the beginning, you'll have consciousness at the end of this gradual replacement process. If that's right, then it looks like you get, yeah, AIs potentially being conscious too. And then I go on to argue from there to some questions about morality and value. Do simulated lives matter? Eventually, are we going to have to give equal rights to AI? And yeah, my view is probably yes. That's very likely. So yeah, so consciousness plays a role on many of those issues. It also plays a role in thinking about illusion and reality, because when thinking about whether reality is an illusion, that's always with respect to a conscious being. Yeah, there's no fully getting away from consciousness and thinking about But actually, there were also this whole set of cool issues just about the way mind and body relate in virtual reality. When we're actually in ordinary VR using a headset, it's a little bit like Cartesian dualism. You've got the world you're in, the virtual world, has its own physics. Maybe it's got a physics engine, maybe there's a few basic algorithms governing what happens in that world. But then there are these beings, the players, the people with minds, the users, who are not governed by the physics of that reality at all. Maybe I have a brain and a biological body outside the virtual reality, but from the point of view of that virtual reality, it's as if that was like a non-physical Cartesian mind, not governed by the within-world physics. some totally separate mental process. And these minds, whenever you perform an action inside VR, you're affecting the physics of VR with your mind. And maybe the physics of VR will have an effect back on your mind, which is not part of the physics. So it's as if there's this kind of mind-body interaction that Descartes argued for in the case of the physical world, non-physical minds affecting the physics, except all that's happening with respect to a virtual world. I mean, you can always step back and take the broader perspective of the outside world. and then say, ah, not so mysterious. It's all physical processes. But if all you knew was the virtual world, I've got a nice illustration in the book that Tim Peacock did of Rene Descartes and Princess Elizabeth hanging out in Minecraft, where they grew up, having an argument about whether they have a mind outside the world. In fact, you see Descartes and Elizabeth inside headsets. So they actually do have minds outside. the world. But yeah, all these issues of mind-body interaction just kind of take on a new light and once fleshed out in view of virtual worlds.
[00:59:53.936] Kent Bye: Yeah, the book is structured in a way that you're kind of going through a series of different arguments, I'd say, in the first half. The knowledge question of, can we know we're in a virtual world? The reality question of, are these virtual worlds real or illusionary? And then you're applying it to both virtual reality, the mind, values, and then looking at some of the different foundational aspects. I think we've been jumping around each of these, but the foundations where you started to talk about the philosophy of language, there's a lot of times in this book where I'm coming into these surprising conclusions. I think the way that you're describing whether or not, if you're embedded into the world, the language that you use to talk about that world versus if you're outside of that world talking about it, it has different truth claims or there's different nuances. The best I could understand or describe it is that in linguistics, there's this concept of pragmatics, which is trying to take into consideration the context in which you're in. In Whitehead's philosophy, he has these concepts of myriology of holes and parts. There's ways in which there's a fractally nested holes and parts on top of each other, And a lot of this book is about you being in this larger, myriological context of, say, the metaphysics of reality that we don't understand, we have our existing world, and then we're going into these virtual reality worlds. And so it's like a world within a world within a world, almost Inception style. And that when you're going inside and outside of those worlds, you're changing contexts, And then sometimes the words that you're using are inclusive of that virtual world. And sometimes it's exclusive. So if you're talking about a couch to sit on, that could be an exclusive word that doesn't have the same meaning. But sometimes if you're just hanging out with your friends, there's ways in which that the language of that means exactly the same thing, regardless of what that. you're in a virtually immediate aid space or not. But I found it interesting, these larger arguments you're making around the philosophy of language and making these differentiations as you go through these context switches. I'd love to hear any other reflections you have on that, because it's kind of like a mind blowing thing to try to wrap your mind around in terms of some of the conclusions you come to when it comes to looking through the lens of context and language.
[01:01:58.751] David Chalmers: Yeah. I mean, language in general is fascinating, but language in virtual worlds is fascinating. When we're using VR and we talk about, I don't know, cars or treasures or buildings or characters or people, are we talking about the same thing we're talking about in non-virtual worlds? I mean, it's tricky because we don't narrowly say that if we connect someone to a simulation, we say, in our world, there are trees. but inside the simulation, there were no trees. Maybe there are virtual trees, maybe there are digital trees, but they're not real trees. I don't know. I think if you've lived most of your life in a non-simulated world, that's the right thing to say. There's trees, there's trees are biological. Virtual trees, okay, they're digital entities, they're real, but they're not genuine trees. Our word tree picks out the biological entity. On the other hand, if we grew up inside a simulation, then all along our trees have been digital trees or virtual trees. And then what we've been calling trees all along have been these virtual entities, in which case, yeah, our world tree connects to virtual trees. And this connects to what philosophers call externalism about meaning, where what we mean is partly tied to what we've been interacting with all along. And then it gets really interesting and complicated once we actually start using VR, and going back and forth between physical reality and virtual reality. And then maybe initially you'll say, okay, this is a tree, this thing in VR, it's not really a tree, it's a virtual tree. But maybe after a while, I don't know, some words have already made the crossover. Like you say, a calculator in physical reality, a calculator in virtual reality, that's already a calculator. A club, yeah, it's still a real club, even if it's virtual. A library. I don't know. A building, maybe not. Is a building in VR a real building? But over time, once we start spending more and more time in VR, then we might just be inclined to say, oh, yeah, there are two kinds of buildings. There are physical buildings and there are virtual buildings. And we'll use the word building in a VR inclusive way. Yeah. A hard case I talk about in the book is kitten. Okay. Well, kittens are cute. Of course, they're biological. A virtual kitten is not really a kitten. I think it's going to be a long time till we say that virtual kittens are a kind of real kittens. I think we treat them like robot kittens, real objects, but not real kittens. So yeah, maybe our language is going to stay virtual exclusive there for a while. But in a way, language evolves. You know, this happens a lot with, say, our concept of marriage has evolved from being a same-sex exclusive to same-sex inclusive. Many gender terms like man and woman have evolved from being trans exclusive to being trans inclusive. So yeah, language evolves all the time. And I think as we use VR more and more, then words which initially just had application to the physical world are, I think, going to... I mean, we already kind of use them. It's already kind of second nature to at least use the word tree or car or building or treasure inside virtual reality. But I think over time, it's just going to be more and more natural for that to come to seem like, yeah, maybe that's just a new kind of car. you kind of building, you kind of tree. It's a tricky one to get to the biological entities. There's a bit more resistance there, but it's just still an empirical open question, how the language in these spaces is going to evolve. And there are linguists and sociologists who've written on the language that people use with video games and so on. And I think it's just wide open, super interesting territory for anybody thinking about language maybe over the next 20 years.
[01:05:25.039] Kent Bye: Yeah. The terms that we use, I think are really important in terms of it. not only establishing what our deeper ontological and metaphysical commitments might be, but also just, it's something that evolves with the culture. Just covering over the last seven years, there's been a lot of waves of terms that have come in, like XR is an example for extended reality rather than just virtuality. Mixed reality has gone through many different iterations for what it means.
[01:05:47.231] David Chalmers: But I guess- Now we have metaverse, which is being used in all kinds of new ways. No one's quite sure what it means.
[01:05:54.716] Kent Bye: Exactly. This last section here about the foundations, I want to ask you a few questions that came up that weren't mentioned explicitly in your book, but it made me think a lot about the philosophy of mathematics and this age-old debate as to whether or not mathematical objects are invented or discovered. And there's, on one side, the more platonic mathematical view is that these objects are inherently there and that somehow mathematicians are using their intuition or somehow accessing these non-spatial temporal realms to understand the underlying structure of these objects. And then more of a nominalist view or fictionalist view would say, well, these are just language games. And it's only true as an object within the context of the story of mathematics. When you start to talk about these structures that they're true, but there's no deeper commitment to what those are, that we don't have to make a commitment ontologically to these math objects being real. So I felt like there's a very similar kind of threads through some of these debates as to whether or not people want to say that it's a fiction or it's just illusion that these realities are not real. It's may be real within the context of the story of this virtual world, but it's only contained almost kind of like this nominalist turn within mathematics, trying to turn everything into these descriptions. And I found some parallels into the arguments you're making around instrumentalism seem to me maybe some parallels between that, you know, just shut up and calculate type of, there's nothing deeper there. You're not trying to find a deeper meaning or pattern around things. I'd love to hear if you see some parallels between some of these debates within the philosophy of mathematics and how they may apply to some of these other arguments that you're making within this book.
[01:07:25.420] David Chalmers: Yeah, I find the mathematics case interesting and confusing. A number of years ago, I taught a seminar. Maybe just when I was starting to think about some of the ideas in this book, about seven or eight years ago, I taught a graduate seminar at NYU just called Structuralism. It was meant to be on structuralism in all these different domains, where structuralism is the idea of understanding things in terms of the connections between them and not what they're basically made of or their intrinsic natures. That's been a super popular idea in science. In this book, I focus especially on the case of physics and physical reality, where the view now that we understand physics in terms of certain mathematical structures describing interactions is, I think, very much the orthodox view these days. But yeah, this structuralism comes up in so many domains, in metaphysics, in language, and as you're saying, in mathematics. The structuralist line about mathematics says, you don't really need to think about some special object, one or two, or the number three, just hanging out up in abstract heaven. Rather, the integers are basically a structure that you can find anywhere. You can find any set of objects and like map on one, two, three, four, mathematics is a way of characterizing structural relations among objects. And I'm at least sympathetic to that line, to the structuralist line. Actually, I got complex views on ontology here, on whether there's even a fact of the matter about whether there are numbers or not. But I do think a lot of the cash value of what mathematics does for you is describing structures. And most of the mathematics has huge cash value in science and characterizing structures among physical things. And that turns out to be an awful lot of what physics can do for us as well. It gives us some mathematics for explaining and predicting what's going to happen in the world. So Yeah, it's kind of like becomes this structure swallows everything line in a way. It's like, yeah, the whole world is outside oneself, becomes a world of what really matters is the structural connections between these things. But I always want to say, but we still have consciousness at the core, which is still present. I don't think our conscious experience is merely a matter of structure. And consciousness has this amazing ability to invest all that structure with meaning. And yeah, sometimes that's meaning which reflects what was already there. And sometimes it's something which consciousness has itself added, you know, the experience of something is red, maybe the redness was not out there in reality. Maybe that's just something that we attribute to the reality. And maybe something like that's going on in in mathematics as well, where we consciousness like invests these numbers 1234 with some special kind of existence, because that's useful and cool, even if they don't have some independent existence. But I've still got to figure out the fine details of my structuralist view of mathematics here.
[01:10:13.093] Kent Bye: So I wanted to ask you just in terms of process philosophy and how there's ways in which we talk about relationships and structure, there seems to be things that are similar there. But when you talk about these sort of metaphysical realities, you're talking about a lot of different options in terms of digital objects or whether or not there's substances or whether or not there's these underlying structures when I think about process philosophy, I think about these unfolding processes. And, you know, one of the things that also includes is almost like this teleological final causation of these larger processes that are emerging that, you know, the question of how do you take these structures and have it actually interface or what's it give it its impulse. And so I know that there's been more discussions around process relational metaphysics and how you see some of those discussions I find it personally helpful when thinking about consciousness and perception and embodied cognition and thinking in terms of these processes that are kind of looping and iterating in a way, even in the way that we put together nested sets of hierarchies of, you know, our touch is getting input at this sort of frequency, our sight, our hearing, and it's all kind of being added together in some way into these either percepts or ways that our consciousness is coming together. But I'm curious if that's something that's been on your radar at all, or how do you contextualize these process relational approaches within the larger philosophical community?
[01:11:27.810] David Chalmers: Yeah, I don't really have much expertise on process philosophy. I've come across it over the years and every now and then someone says, oh yeah, you really have to read Whitehead, Process and Reality, which is the classic work here. And then I've gone and cracked open my copy of Whitehead and maybe made it two or three pages through before giving up. It's quite difficult and quite dense. That said, I've managed to pick up a few of the ideas here and there from conversations and from reading. I mean, I'm a pluralist in philosophy in general. I think there's lots of perspectives you can take on things, even at the level of metaphysics. I think the process is one incredibly useful tool or one incredibly useful perspective. So thinking about what's going on in the world as processes is incredibly useful. Thinking about the mind, Yeah, so much of what's important about the mind is a process. Some of those processes extend beyond the brain, then you get extended mind style processes. So I guess when I think about the issues in this book, I think of the process relational view as at least an instance of a structural analysis of reality. And it shares this idea that what's important is not the underlying substance. Maybe there is something, I don't know whether in process philosophy, there can be a substance that underlies the processes or whether they just reject substances completely. I guess I would say that a lot of the time for thinking about reality, maybe there's a substance there, but the substance is not what's important. When you're interacting with an object in VR, the fact that it's running on a particular computer maybe neither here nor there. Whether that computer is made of silicon or graphene doesn't really matter for many purposes. What really matters is the structure. What really matters is the pattern of interactions. I'm thinking you could put that in Whiteheadian terms by saying what matters is the process and the relations, not the underlying substance. That's the commonality. that I see here. But then, you know, there's this whole, that's just the very beginning of process philosophy. And there's this whole framework of process philosophy that I don't fully understand that has any number of tools that I could probably benefit from, but I'm not yet fully familiar with.
[01:13:33.978] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think there's probably some bridges in there. I think when you start to say that there's certain structures and then there's like the it from structure to X, where X is like, we have no idea what is there, that X could represent any number of things, including processes that are unfolding.
[01:13:48.706] David Chalmers: Whitehead talks about- Unfolding processes underneath structure on that way of looking at things.
[01:13:53.519] Kent Bye: Yeah, it almost gives it like a deeper, what Aristotle kind of Aristotelian final causation or teleology, it could give it an impulse because there's the challenge of how do you take something and then have it actually interface. And I think with that process relational view, I mean, Whitehead's metaphysics, I mean, they often say that it's like the last greatest metaphysical approach that we have within philosophy. But there's obviously, you present in here in your book, another one, which is that all the basis of reality are these digital objects. So there's a certain point where we don't actually know. And so it's- That's interesting.
[01:14:24.969] David Chalmers: How would Whitehead process philosophy connect to an inframed reality? Could an inframed reality be a Whitehead style process reality or are these two opposed ideas?
[01:14:33.789] Kent Bye: I know there's a recent book by Timothy Eastman, it's called Untying the Gordian Knot, Process, Reality, and Context. And his big point is that context is very important. You always need a context that any sort of quantum measurement has an input and output and always the context of that measurement. And so when I think about ways in which that information or semiotic, I think of like Pearson semiotics approach who has like a triads rather than a dyads of like a dyadic approach of like Shannon is like a little bit more thinking about in terms of bits and input output versus the triadic approach. And so that's just, as I've started to look at it, I'm myself, not a Whitehead scholar. I've just been listening to a lot of Whitehead scholars and being in discussion with them. But I do think there's this very interesting aspect of information and meaning that is there. And that another big thing that comes up is potential. So Ruth Kastner has a transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics, as well as Epperson and Zephyrus as relational realism. And they're both trying to say that the potentia is real, and that a lot of times within a substance orientation, you try to say that those potentials are not real, because once it gets into space-time, then you the Everett's mini world interpretation kind of spatializes all those potentials out into orthogonal spatial realities. But a lot of what Whitehead is also talking about is this concept of potential. So potential that hasn't been actualized yet. So this difference between potential and actuality, which I think is, you know, Bergson and also Deleuze has kind of picked up on these different things of the differences between the actual and the potential.
[01:16:04.963] David Chalmers: I have a footnote in my book about how, look, I have no expertise really on Deleuze, but he does talk about the virtual a lot. So I looked a bit into this and I came to believe that what Deleuze means by virtual is a little bit different from what people in the VR sphere mean by virtual. He basically uses virtuality as a kind of potentiality, which I don't think is exactly what's going on with VR. That's closer to maybe the similarity. In VR, it's the origin of virtuality is in having the relevant effects. a virtual chair as one has all the effects of a chair. But for Deleuze, I think it's tied to potentiality, which maybe then has some connections to process philosophy. I don't know if that's how you see, I don't know if you have any expertise here.
[01:16:44.688] Kent Bye: When I listened to Tim Eastman, the way he was talking about how you can think of reality as like a Boolean logic and how, and the quantum substrate is like almost a non-Boolean logic, meaning that there's these quantum wave function, which is more statistical potentials and probabilities. and that Whitehead had this concept of eternal objects. And eternal objects are kind of like the bridge to these platonic forms. So the platonic realities of these structures that are living in the potentia, and then from the potentia, then somehow they get collapsed into actuality. So there is this interface between, I guess, when I look at the philosophy of mathematics debates, there's like, does mathematical structures interface with the fabric of reality? Kind of like an Aristotelian formal causation in a way that is the mass structure causing anything to happen? And I see it as this kind of formal causation as we look at these different mass structures that are in this realm of potentia in the quantum realm, but then are somehow subtly shaping what unfolds. So that's at least how I start to think about that. So yeah.
[01:17:47.410] David Chalmers: Cool. Yeah. One of these days I'll really make a project of reading Whitehead and trying to make sense of him. But it sounds like this book is potentially a good way in.
[01:17:56.214] Kent Bye: Yeah. Timothy Eastman, Untying the Gordian Knot. There's also a book on the quantum explanation by Randall Auxier and, oh gosh, I forget the other co-author. So it's called The Quantum of Explanation. And Matt Siegel is another Whitehead scholar that I actually did an interview with. But they've been having these monthly meetings with Timothy Eastman, Untying the Gordian Knot, which basically has these collection of process philosophers, quantum ontologists, and people from different fields that have been discussing the book, which I think has been really helpful for me. And I've, I've just, like you said, it's difficult to kind of read the direct source, but the secondary literature, I think there's been a lot more thing that's been happening recently. So.
[01:18:35.916] David Chalmers: Oh, that's cool.
[01:18:37.627] Kent Bye: So yeah, just to kind of wrap things up here, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality might be and what it might be able to enable.
[01:18:45.614] David Chalmers: Oh boy, I think, you know, the ultimate potential of virtual reality. I think we are going to live increasing amounts of our life in virtual reality, partly because it's initially convenient, partly because it gives us good ways to do things. It'll be a form of communication. It'll be a form of socializing, it'll be a form of work. That's just the early stages of VR, not the ultimate potential. I would start to think that over time, virtual environments have the potential to get far more interesting than physical environments. So much will be possible in virtual environments. I mean, they'll be much faster. for a start than your average virtual environment, which is going to be constrained by slow physics. Maybe we'll have upgraded our brain processes. We will ourselves be super fast digital entities. We're going to want a super fast digital environment to interact with. So it's easy to see like a, you know, a distant future where virtual environments are everyday environments around normal environments. Maybe we'll occasionally go hang out in slow physical reality from time to time because we need to, or because we want to, but our average realities may well be virtual realities. The ultimate, then, potential for VR is to be perfectly mundane. It will be our mundane, everyday reality. It will be where we spend so much, if not all, of our time. If we're perhaps uploaded, we'll live in wholly virtual spaces most of the time, and that will just be reality to us. Let's say the ultimate potential of virtual reality is to be a perfectly mundane and ordinary form of reality.
[01:20:28.266] Kent Bye: One follow-up, a question I forgot to ask is, do you think that virtual reality is going to be able to make advances in the science of consciousness because you're able to maybe control subjective experience to the degree you've never been able to, things like brain control interfaces and neurophenomenology, if you expect that maybe through the process of experiential design, we'll be able to actually develop theories of consciousness and test them?
[01:20:51.668] David Chalmers: Yeah, I mean, there are people already doing experiments on consciousness with VR and AR and so on to give them new experiences and see what happens and maybe sometimes measure brain processes at the same time. But I think, yeah, it's when brain-computer interfaces come along that maybe All this has the potential to explode, to actually give you wholly new forms of experience, not just new inputs, but to manipulate the brain in interesting ways. And then I think it may not be VR that's exactly doing the central work there. Maybe the brain-computer interfaces, but those brain-computer interfaces are very naturally going to work with VR in a VR context. And maybe the combination of VR and brain-computer interfaces may give people all kinds of new experiences. I mean, there are already people doing the science of consciousness with things like psychedelics. and other kinds of altered states to just see the range of conscious states which are possible. VR, to some extent, enables something like that. But yeah, but VR plus brain computer interfaces, I don't know if it suddenly solves the problem of consciousness, but it does enable a whole lot more data, both in the sense of generating new experiences. And I think consciousness is all about first-person experiences. You need first-person data about first-person experiences. This is why psychedelics are useful. Well, VR is certainly going to be able to play that role just for a start in generating first-person experiences. but also in a scientific context of, yeah, seeing what's going on with the brain at the same time. Yeah. It's potentially at least a very rich subfield, just as, you know, psychedelic experience is a very rich subfield of the science of consciousness. Virtual experience, I think is very likely to be at the very least a very productive subfield. And who's to say that, you know, maybe insights might come out of that, that end up revolutionizing the whole field.
[01:22:40.998] Kent Bye: Yeah. And thank you so much, David, for your book, The Reality Plus, Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. I really enjoyed a very brain stimulating and coming into a lot of conclusions that may be surprising for a lot of people. And I think it will not only give them a great introduction to the field of philosophy, but also some of the different corners of the historical debates about these ideas of virtual worlds, but also the more contemporary metaphors to be able to explore all sorts of really interesting questions about the field of philosophy. Thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast to be able to help unpack a little bit more.
[01:23:13.415] David Chalmers: Thanks, Ken. I really enjoyed the conversation.
[01:23:15.816] Kent Bye: So that was David Chalmers. He's the author of a book that's coming out on January 25th called Reality Plus Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. So this book is amazing. It's certainly the favorite book that I've ever read about VR and may actually be near the top of my list of favorite books that I've ever read. It's one of those books that actually changed my own mind around convictions that I had an intuition around. Kind of loosening up my own resistance to ideas around the simulation hypothesis or whether or not it's going to be possible to have Consciousness within something that's not a human whether it's a machine or a biological machine whatever that fundamental substrate ends up being that eventually we may be able to create these intelligent entities and That they're going to be able to have a phenomenal consciousness just like we have So the book itself is a must read. I think he's making a lot of really compelling arguments in here, in terms of the language that we're using, especially when we start to think about the place illusion or plausibility illusion from Mel Slater, and to kind of switch it into the sense of plausibility, the sense of place. because it is more of a perceptual sense rather than an illusionary sense, because the illusionary sense is making a metaphysical statement about what is real and what isn't real, kind of equating the virtual reality with an illusionary fake reality, which is the framing that has been not only within the modern research context of all of virtual reality, but the entire tradition of philosophy since 1641, since Descartes came up with this problem of the external world and how to really solve it with this evil demon. If there's an evil demon that's controlling all your perceptual input, then whatever reality you're experiencing is fake and not real and illusionary. Therefore, we can't know anything about the external world. I think what Chalmers is trying to do is attack that Cartesian global skepticism and say that even if we are living in a Matrix-like simulation, that it's a perfect simulation, there's no glitches in the Matrix, there's no way for us to really interrogate and to know, for sure that we live in a simulation, that given that, then we should accept that what we have around us is our reality. And that just as you go into different layers of simulation, that creates another contextual reality that is going to have new afforded that are real, but also are going to be similarities between what is also real in both of those contexts, this kind of idea of the language around the virtual inclusive and virtual exclusive as the language we use as we go in and out of VR. I had been saying things like in real life, but I'm going to be trying to shift into the physical reality, which is the meat space, as some people call it, the physicality of the world versus When you go into the virtual world, it's more ethereal in a way that it doesn't have as much of the embodied interactions that you might have with the haptics and the touch and the smell. But there could be, over time, us either creating external ways of stimulating that, but also direct brain-computer stimulation to be able to invoke those different things that we don't have right now. Chalmers is trying to attack this global skepticism around equating all of the things that we experience within virtual reality as this fake illusionary, things that are not as meaningful and not as real, like whether it's the objects or the events or the experiences, are somehow less than the things that we have in the physical world. And so he's saying, actually, if you look and define virtual reality as this immersive and interactive computer-generated virtual world, So the immersive part, that's the perceptual and embodied interactions that you have within an immersive environment. Then there's the interactive and causal aspects where you're expressing your agency within the virtual reality. And then it's within the context of the virtually simulated world that when you have all those things together, then You're able to make choices and take action and have the perceptual experiences and emotional reactions to the world in a way that feels just as real as any other reality. There are going to be ways in which there's qualitative differences between, say, the embodied experiences of smell or haptics or touch or things like that, that are pretty far away from us getting to the point where we need to be. Eventually, maybe you'll get there with direct brain stimulation or whatnot. Right now, we're going to this place of trying to figure out what are the things that are going to be inclusive, meaning that they're the same experience within the virtual or the physical reality, or exclusive, meaning that there's a distinct qualitative difference between specific types of experiences that you're doing within the virtual context versus a physical context. So there are going to be some differences between the virtual realm and the physical realm. But on the long trajectory of things, I think part of the argument that Chalmers is trying to lay down here is that we should more start to think about these virtual realities as genuine realities rather than these fake or illusionary realities. But overall, this book is making a lot of really compelling arguments, and I think it's something to point people towards. It challenged my own perspectives on a lot of things, and so I think it has potential to really contextualize what's happening with these virtual worlds. Anybody who's been a long-time listener of the Voices of ER podcast should probably agree with a lot of the major conclusions that he's coming up to, which is essentially that the different types of objects and experiences and events that you have in virtual spaces are just as real as some of the other events that we have in our physical world. So, again, I highly, highly recommend this book. And, you know, I guess some final thoughts is that these discussions around the process for relational approaches and the structuralist approach. When I went to the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting, which is the one and only philosophy conference I've gone to with professional philosophers, I actually talked to a philosopher of mathematics named Ellen Lehat, who was talking about the explanatory powers of category theory. In other words, she was arguing that category theory was a radical new approach to the epistemology of mathematics. In other words, being able to have knowledge about a mathematical system just based upon the structure. And the category theory was able to make statements about knowledge, about what you can and cannot know in the realm of math, just through the pure structuralist approach. just took a look at the structuralist approach to the philosophy of mathematics, the category theory came up. And so category theory has been on my mind for, it's referred to as the algebra of relations for a while, and there's been this kind of mystery, it has all these magical properties, and I think it's this combination of both the relational approach, the algebra of relations as it's often called, But it's also perhaps a deeper thing, maybe a process relational ontology. So maybe there's processes underneath those relationships that Chalmers in his book is saying a number of these different, we have X, and then there's something underlying the X. So are these bits? Is it consciousness? Is it matter? Is it substance? Is it structure? In this book, he's basically stepping through all these different metaphysical realms of what those layers could be. There could be multiple layers. There could be underneath the structure, there could be the processes, or there could be some other realms. Like he said, we could be on level number 42 of the simulation, which would mean we can only really see the one layer that's just underneath us and see some semblance of that. And maybe there's deeper layers beyond that that we can start to determine different effects of. But that's still very speculative as to where that's all going to go. But my point right now is just that there could be that structure is that layer that we can empirically measure through mathematics and science. And there may be, underneath that, underlying processes that are unfolding that gives this impulse connection between those structures and the reality. That's what Whitehead was really starting to come across. Also, I think it's worth mentioning that the Foundations of Relational Realism by Epperson and Zafiris are taking a category-theoretical approach of looking at the topology of some of these different potentia and being able to use a mathematical structure that is from category theory, and then from there, being able to take a lot of insights from Whitehead and process philosophy. So Eberson, being a little bit more of the process-relational philosopher, and Zephyrs, being the more category-theoretic mathematician, collaborated on this book called The Foundations of Relational Realism, which I think is starting to tie together these different things to kind of connect that structuralist approach with the process relational approach. And Timothy Eastman's Untying the Gordian Knot is also tiling all that stuff in there. And The Quantum of Explanation by Randall Auxier and Gary Hurstein is the other one that I couldn't think of the name. But overall, this book is just fun to read because there's a lot of pop cultural references and it's very stimulating to your brain. I will say it is very dense in the sense that there's a lot in here. It does feel like a full introductory course to philosophy. So, It's quite intense, so give yourself plenty of time to digest it, because there's a lot of ways, and that's challenging some fundamental concepts that we may have about the nature of reality. And yeah, there's just a lot in here that is able to cover quite a lot of ground. So anyway, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of ER podcast. And if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of ER. Thanks for listening.