Q: What is real?
Let’s consult “The Fabric Of Reality” book by David Deutsch:
Although solipsism and related doctrines are logically self-consistent, they can be comprehensively refuted simply by taking them seriously as explanations. Although they all claim to be simplified world-views, such an analysis shows them to be indefensible over-elaborations of realism. Real entities behave in a complex and autonomous way, which can be taken as the criterion for reality: if something ‘kicks back’, it exists. Scientific reasoning, which uses observation not as a basis for extrapolation but to distinguish between otherwise equally good explanations, can give us genuine knowledge about reality.
Thus science and other forms of knowledge are made possible by a special self-similarity property of the physical world. Yet it was not physicists who first recognised and studied this property: it was mathematicians and computer theorists, and they called it the universality of computation.
Imagination is a straightforward form of virtual reality. What may not be so obvious is that our ‘direct’ experience of the world through our senses is virtual reality too. For our external experience1 is never direct; nor do we even experience the signals in our nerves directly — we would not know what to make of the streams of electrical crackles that they carry. What we experience directly is a virtual-reality rendering, conveniently generated for us by our unconscious minds from sensory data plus complex inborn and acquired theories (i.e. programs) about how to interpret them.
We realists take the view that reality is out there: objective, physical and independent of what we believe about it. But we never experience that reality directly. Every last scrap of our external experience is of virtual reality. And every last scrap of our knowledge — including our knowledge of the non-physical worlds of logic, mathematics and philosophy, and of imagination, fiction, art and fantasy — is encoded in the form of programs for the rendering of those worlds on our brain’s own virtual-reality generator.
So it is not just science — reasoning about the physical world — that involves virtual reality. All reasoning, all thinking and all external experience are forms of virtual reality. These things are physical processes which so far have been observed in only one place in the universe, namely the vicinity of the planet Earth. We shall see in Chapter 8 that all living processes involve virtual reality too, but human beings in particular have a special relationship with it. Biologically speaking, the virtual-reality rendering of their environment is the characteristic means by which human beings survive. In other words, it is the reason why human beings exist. The ecological niche that human beings occupy depends on virtual reality as directly and as absolutely as the ecological niche that koala bears occupy depends on eucalyptus leaves.
A: Any experience is virtual. You RTFM, didn’t you?
And here’s a virtual bonus of my creation!
An experience of something outside one’s own mind. ↩︎