David Chalmers’ Book “Reality+” May Change How You See Reality [podcast episode + book/guest recommendation]

A very interesting discussion between Kent Bye and philosopher David Chalmers: Voices of VR #1043: Philosopher David Chalmers’ Book “Reality+” May Change How You See Reality: VR is a Genuine Reality & We Can’t Prove We’re Not in a Simulation

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.

Turns out Chalmers is totally into virtual reality and has been for some time. I think he would make an excellent guest (attn: @Night.Club). I would love to hear him discuss these ideas with @Andrew. One aspect left out of the discussion was how dreams/lucid dreams fit into this picture.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Chalmers’ book Reality+! You can find more information about the book and his ideas on this at: Reality+ – David Chalmers

I like this: " The central thesis of the book is virtual reality is genuine reality . This applies both to full-scale simulated universes, such as the Matrix, and to the more realistic virtual worlds of the coming metaverse."

yep yep – as he said in the talk, experiences in virtual reality environments are real experiences.

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Very interesting discussion…

For me one of the main points is the age old discussion of how to define what is „real“ and what is „reality“…

In the western cultural heritage the definition of „reality“ is embedded and defined in a materialistic world view, i.e. objects define what is real… if we can“t truncate something as an object, it does not seem to be real.
Seeing reality like this is based on a belief system that posits an objective (while negating the role of the subjective) materialism.

From a different vantage point, one can try to define reality on the basis of subjective experience. I.e. that which is a subjective experiences is real (to the subject).

For what reason would a subjective experience in a dream or in VR be less „real“ than anything else?!

How can one confidently posit that there is an independent objective reality which does not depend on experiencing subjects? In the tradition of science, any such theory must be confirmed by experiment. And experimentation always means interpretation of phenomena by a subject.

Is there not ALWAYS intrinsically a subject involved in experiencing reality?
If so, then objective reality can not exist outside a framework which does not involve subjective „experiencers“ of that Reality.

Converse: Is reality then not defined by subjectivity itself and „reality“ equates to „experience“?!

So, Is the world view of objective materialism not just a dream in the mind of the subject?

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In my opinion, the thesis is wrong if one views it from a conventional belief system (i.e. objective materialism).

Viewed from a belief system of subjective phenomenalism, the thesis is correct but ONLY so because ANY subjective experience (materialistic or not) is defined as real, and VR is - like dreaming or an other experienced activity - an experience.

Lastly, from the view of several non-dual spiritual traditions, all forms of dualistic realities are seen and experienced as illusions (I.e. essentially as not real) since the perspective of dualism itself is an illusion, which obscures the pure vision of ultimate non-dual reality.

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I admit there’s something about VR that doesn’t reasonate with me. I look at it as yet another layered distraction (version of reality) to get lucid from. To me it seems like a trap, like creating a nesting Russian doll scenario. I find myself not wanting more layers (perhaps my own ignorance). I appreciate the contrast between dream and waking reality. Having to contend with VR seems like alot more gymnastics for the mind. Or maybe I’m just lazy because the dream world is the first stage of reality, then waking, and now this evolving VR reality makes for more hoops to jump through. It’s like creating in the dream state is so hard, but it gets more stable and easier to do in the waking reality, and VR will be even more creative and easy to create. To me it definitely seems like an evolution, but is it what we really want/need for our ability to become more lucid and not get lost in the appearance? Could VR also be a de-evolutionary approach because of our inability to master lucidity in the dreaming state let alone waking state? Hence it’s easier to create a VR reality. I wonder what Lamas and meditation Masters think about VR. So many musings as I wake for the day and lie in bed as I write my reply. Haha

Great topic!

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@c_scerri Very good points. As my VR-experience is very limited, I rather borrow on my immersive PC-gaming experience. A bit less than VR but it is still occasionally very immersive… From there I try to look at it … playfully :wink:
And yes I am always amazed that, when re-emerging from a session, I notice that I completely had lost lucidity. (Smartphone, PC, etc. are imho all in the same league)
An interesting experiment for me is to remember from time to time that I am playing, while playing the game, thus becoming lucid in the immersion.
This experience has to do with emotional detachment .

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I’m curious as to whether you’ve tried VR personally? In any case you’re not the only one with that opinion. Some people (e.g. @Andrew) have opined that VR could either help liberate people or draw them further into samsaric delusion, depending on how it’s approached.

You may be interested in the interview Andrew did with Joran Quaglia: The Exciting Future of VR, “Virtual Lucidity”, why Deepak Chopra said VR will “Change the World” and Much More! | Interview with Jordan Quaglia

In this interview Andrew talks to the cognitive neuroscientist Jordan Quaglia about their joint study on the relationship of virtual reality to lucid dreaming.

They discuss the exciting future of VR, as well as the many concerns. VR is like a stem cell, which can grow into healthy tissue (all the psychological and spiritual benefits) or a tumor (pornography and raw entertainment). VR, like lucid dreaming, can be used to develop empathy via virtual embodiment and also help us prepare for death via virtual disembodiment.

Andrew and Jordan talk about the phenomenology of non-lucidity, and how we love to be “captured” and swept away by outer displays like movies and VR, as well as the inner display of the mind itself.

They introduce the concept of “virtual lucidity” and its relationship to dream lucidity, and discuss exciting future directions for research. Plus, discover why Deepak Chopra said after his first VR experience, “This is going to change the world.” It’s all here and more!

Quaglia and Holecek coauthored a paper on Lucid Virtual Dreaming: Antecedents and Consequents of
Virtual Lucidity during Virtual Threat

ABSTRACT

Here we report the first empirical findings on virtual lucidity (VL),
a new construct similar to lucidity during dreaming, but regarding
awareness that one is having a virtual experience. VL concerns the
depth and breadth of this awareness, as well as the extent it affords
regulatory monitoring and control. To study VL, we adapted a
measure from lucid dreaming research to assess whether more VL
predicted lower fear, but not less enjoyment, during a virtual reality
(VR) threat scenario of walking, and being asked to step off, a
wooden plank seemingly high above a city. We examined
predictors of VL and related outcomes across a community sample
and lucid dream trainees at a meditation retreat center. In line with
hypotheses, higher VL predicted less fear, more enjoyment, and
greater likelihood of stepping off the plank. Moreover, a number of
dispositional factors predicted greater VL and lower fear. Lucid
dream retreatants, engaged in a contemplative practice called
illusory form yoga, experienced more VL and less fear compared
to nonretreatants, with marginally higher likelihood of stepping off
the plank. Finally, VL mediated all significant relations between
predictors and outcomes. Results held controlling for presence or
fear of heights. We discuss the potential validity and utility of VL,
its relation to presence, and examples of how it may inform the
development and application of VR and related technologies.

<LINK TO COMPLETE PAPER>

The article Is Virtual Reality Getting Too Real?: As VR technology takes the world by storm, two Buddhist teachers and a cognitive neuroscientist debate its spiritual potential and shortcomings. A conversation with Andrew Holecek, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, and Jordan Quaglia, edited by Julia Hirsch may also be of interest

Andrew Holecek (AH): Like any technology, virtual reality is neutral in and of itself and depends entirely on how it is harnessed. I like to think of VR as a kind of stem cell. Depending on what type of environment it develops in, it’ll either grow into a tumor or healthy, new tissue.

As we know, VR is already being used in unhealthy ways. The entertainment and pornography industries are running with it, and Facebook recently invested $2 billion in Oculus, one of the hottest tech companies in the field today.

From a pedagogical view, virtual reality has a lot to offer. When it comes to how we absorb and remember information, the education researcher Edgar Dale has said that we retain roughly 10 percent of what we read; 20 percent of what we hear; 30 percent of what we see; and up to 90 percent of what we do .

There is a strong relationship between virtual reality and lucid dreaming, which is when you realize you are dreaming as it’s happening. It’s a fundamental Buddhist teaching that we have a delusional experience of the world around us, and to study the nighttime dream is to look head-on at a delusion inside of that even larger delusion.

In these vivid 3D systems, you begin to see the dream-like nature of alternate realities and can start to break them down. By extension, we can train ourselves to de-reify this reality. To borrow the language of dream yoga—the practice of using sleeping hours for spiritual development—you can bring insights of lucidity back into the primary delusion, back into this .

When I first did VR, the most transformative and lingering aspect came when I removed the headset. I looked around and thought to myself, Wow, look at the resolution here. What a remarkable app design this is . When the headset comes off, you realize how hung up you get in the “display.”

<LINK TO COMPLETE INTERVIEW>

Anyway, I’m off to the Sundance New Frontier [VR/AR] festival, which has some very interesting pieces scheduled this year.

~ArthurG

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Arthur, I’m so grateful for your in depth response. I don’t have personal experience with VR, my opinions are definitely from an outsider point of view. You raise good points about positive and negative, and how it’s definitely how it’s used (like all things).

Very interesting about Andrew’s take on VR. I will have to check out the interview.

I hope you’ll share any musings of your time at the festival too.

  • Chantal
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The most remarkable piece I’ve experienced so far is:

ON THE MORNING YOU WAKE (TO THE END OF THE WORLD)

This powerful virtual reality documentary series allows audiences to experience the alarming events of January 13, 2018, in Hawai‘i. This first chapter opens on an ordinary Saturday morning, when the entire population of Hawai‘i received a startling text message from the state Emergency Management Agency: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAI‘I. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” As cellular communication networks collapsed and panic took hold of the population, 1.4 million people — as well as their friends and relatives across the globe — came to understand the real, growing, and urgent nature of today’s nuclear threat.

I remember reading about this in text form and thinking how terrible it must have been for the people. But experiencing it represented in virtual reality, with people recounting their experiences that morning affected me deeply. I was crying in my headset and felt quite shaken.

The aesthetic of the imagery was a kind of pointillistic minimalism for the most part, with some people and objects represented more realistically. I found it beautiful and eerie, quite evocative. At one point they depicted the nuclear detonation that would have occurred had it been really happening.

All those people spent about 15 minutes thinking they were about to be nuked. Talk about a lesson in impermanence!

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Last night I saw another piece that I loved:

THEY DREAM IN MY BONES - INSEMNOPEDY II

“How many dreams are there in me? How many genders are there in me? I used to be a man and a woman, before being born, so who am I? I used to be a pikaia, a bacteria, so, how many species are there in me?” —Roderick Norman

They Dream in My Bones - Insemnopedy II is a transfixing meditation and a stirring experiential proposition that explores what fabric might bind the physical and metaphysical, and how to extract dreams from an unknown skeleton. This fictional circumstance tells the story of Roderick Norman, a researcher in onirogenetics — the science he founded — and opens up the intersection of the physical and the dreamworld, of gender and biology, and of an individual body and a symbiotic microbiome.

A dreamy, minimalist scientific fable rendered in black and white, They Dream in My Bones incorporates the viscerality of textile dynamics with 3D drawings and images shot with a traditional camera. The resulting virtual reality film allows us to explore the metamorphosis of a skeleton at the frontier of gender and the human.

It’s inspired by Virginia Wolfe’s novel Orlando. It had a great nonbinary vibe that I found pleasing, and the imagery was very evocative.

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“For example, when we remember, imagine, or dream about a sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch, the object of our cognition is an idea or mental representation of the corresponding sense object. This mental representation is already a concept, already a full-fledged construct that we are generating with our minds. However, a bare mental perception is a nonconceptual mental aspect created through the apparatus of our mind/brain. This means that when an image appears in our mind, for an instant we have a valid mental perception of that image. Then we quickly conceptualize it and grasp onto it, thereby making our perception invalid.”

For me this is yet another way of interpreting the question: “Is this a dream?”: conceptualized perception - either in waking or dreaming state - being our regular mode of perception is always a tainted conceptual vision of a supposed reality - just like in a dream.

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