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The Case Against Reality

When we create virtual worlds, we set parameters by which these worlds function. Often the interaction rules and objects of these worlds are based on our own experiences in reality. This is an apple. The apple is red. Our interactions with virtual objects are represented and effect the environment as though they were “real” through a series of if/then sequences. If I throw the apple, we expect the proper rules of physics to be applied so that it travels similar to if I had thrown an apple in reality. If I “eat” the apple in a game, my energy levels go up. But what if an actual “apple” isn’t anything like we perceive it to be?

Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman’s studies combining perception, AI, evolutionary game theory, and the brain suggested in an article in The Atlantic magazine that the world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. His attempts to create a mathematical formula for an observer are in search of finding a reality behind the illusion of physical things.
In short, his structure of consciousness for all modes of observation goes like this:
“-space X of experiences
– space G of actions
– algorithm D that lets me choose a new action given my experiences
– a W for a world, which is also a probability space.
– Somehow the world affects my perceptions, so there’s a perception map from the world to my experiences, and
when I act, I change the world, so there’s a map from the space of actions to the world.”

In VR, this is quite exciting to think about. If indeed, as Hoffman theorizes, an interaction is determined by mental representations rather than actual objects, then why confine ourselves to “real world” representations in VR? And perhaps his structure of consciousness is an organic yet mathematical way to move beyond choose your own adventure story structures and reality itself. If it even exists.

Here’s Hoffman explaining it in his own words in a very Matrix-like video:

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