"We can never re-create the human mind through AI, but we can re-create the whole empirical world through VR," the author makes such a radical yet convincingly justified claim.
Is Virtual Reality merely a video game that totally consumes and distracts the player immersed in its simulations? Or is VR an immaterial world rich with meaning that beckons humanity to migrate into a better future world held inside computers? Philip Zhai tackles this contemporary question with keen logical analysis and concludes by advocating a standpoint that transcends these two opposing views of Virtual Reality.
According to Zhai, the combination of the three technologies -- digital simulation, sensory immersion, and functional teleoperation-- in a well-coordinated manner amounts to a Re- Creation of the whole empirically perceived universe. This is not a mere metaphor of Trinity. Virtual Reality could literally replace the actual reality if we choose to live in this newly-created world. Zhai in this book provides an ontological proof based on astounding yet carefully crafted thought experiments and cogent philosophical reasoning. He leads us to realize that: 1) whatever reasons we have for justifying the materiality of the actual world will have the equal validity for justifying the materiality of the virtual world once we are immersed in it; 2) whatever reasons we have for calling perceived objects in the virtual world illusory are equally applicable for calling those in the actual world illusory; 3) whatever functions we need to perform in the actual world for our survival and prosperity, including production and procreation, can also be performed in the virtual world. The danger lies, however, in the possibility of a total reality blackout when the Reality Engine breaks down, which is comparable to a natural disaster on the cosmic level in the actual world.
Zhai also provides a rigorous analysis of why strong AI as proposed by Daniel Dennett and other believers is impossible and why John Searle's criticism is off the mark and also fallacious. He shows how the parallelism between the virtual and the actual world must hinge upon the unity of the human mind as the center of perception, which is the pre-condition for the spatial locality of the empirical world.
Later chapters deal with the normative issue of the desirability of Virtual Reality. The discussion is based on the author's highly original concept of Humanitude developed in his previously published book. He draws on various classical philosophers and also argues with contemporary thinkers through masterful logical analyses and lively phenomenological descriptions. According to him, the only important difference between the actual and the virtual world is that we are co-creators of the latter: Gods 'R Us.
As Michael Heim -- internationally known as "the philosopher of cyberspace" -- says, "Zhai's book is a must-read for anyone interested in the implications of simulation and immersion technology." The thought experiments presented here are as mind- boggling and entertaining as any plots in a science fiction story, yet they are able to put you into alternating states of excitement and enlightenment. If you are a seasoned philosopher, chapters on VR's implications for philosophy of mind and other metaphysical issues will very likely challenge you to re-examine the starting point of philosophical reasoning; if you are a beginner, this book will lead you from the ground up to the frontier of the philosophical enterprise. If you work in a technical field of VR or information industry at large, this book will help you form a clear vision about the future possibilities of electronic revolution. In general, anybody with a decent educational background will benefit a great deal from reading this eye-opening and groundbreaking book.
Philip Zhai holds a Bachelor's degree in engineering and a Ph.D. in philosophy. He is the author of the book, The Radical Choice and Moral Theory, and numerous articles. He also plays musical instruments and composes music. He has taught philosophy at Univ. of Kentucky, Muhlenberg College, Millsaps College, Moravian College. He has also been invited to deliver lectures around the world on various occasions. He is now spending most of his time on designing and writing software programs, while continuing to write philosophy books. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or see his picture by clicking here.
Acknowledgements Preface Chapter 1. How to Go "behind" Physical Space §1. Playing the Game: Get Wired to Go Weird Shootout in Cyberspace Immersed in the Game and Never to Return? §2. What If Now ... Imagination Gone Wild Yet Intellect Disciplined Totally Lost in Disney's Space Odyssey Reality Unreal or What? See the Sound and Hear the Color Summary: Equally Ignorant §3. Cross-Communication Situations Mis-Located Bodies Adam and Bob Messed Up A Fundamental Ambiguity What Is the Catch? Teleportation with a Helmet A Smart Brain That Knows Not §4. Interpersonal-Telepresence: I Am Here! Brain Switch without Surgery Self-Identity versus Other-Identity John Locke Is Locked Out Summary: A Person Is Nowhere §5. The Community of Interpersonal-Telepresence Go Places at Will The Body Goes Public The Survivor of a Fatal Accident Again I Am Nowhere What Is Colored but Shapeless? You Are Now behind the Space! Summary: Personal Identity without Space §6. The Principle of Reciprocity From the One Seeing Many Where Is Virtual Reality? Jaron Calls It an Illusion Natural versus Artificial Don't Worry But Watch Out Chapter 2. The Causal and the Digital under the Virtual §1. The Four Sources of Virtual Reality Input Get Immersed Input in the Opposite Direction §2. Manipulation of the Physical Process from Cyberspace Survive and Prosper in Cyberspace You Are an Agent Efficiency Matters and... §3. Cybersex and Reproduction The Explosive Paul and the Implosive Mary Copulating and Procreating The Erotic Ontology A Dangerous Idea §4. The Expansion beyond Necessity Get Rich by Doing the Impossible Simulations Don't Count Optional Local Continuity and David Hume A Hypothesis to Be Tested by Psychologists Space Further Re-Configured The Economy of Inside-Out Control Gods 'R Us §5. Interaction among Participants Jump and Get Real Let Your Partner Paint Your Body Or Whatever Back to CCS §6. The Final Decision That Is Irreversible: Alert! VR for Today Build a VR Museum Right Now Please But Should We Do It? Chapter 3. The Parallelism between the Virtual and the Actual §1. Deconstructing Rules for the "Real" and the "Illusory" Cookies Are Served The Gunman Wants My Rolex Robots Are Taking Over! Summary: Seven T-Rules Gone in Order Rotating the Fork §2. Communicative Rationality as the Final Rule Bishop Berkeley Says Thusly The Final Rule: Relativism Prevented Foundational Part of VR No Less Real But Is the Gunman Real? §3. How Phenomenological Descriptions Are the Same Throughout Two Evaporating "Hard Facts" Optional Reality Is Fake The Myth of Singularity Summary: Three Principles of Reflexivity §4. Fundamental Philosophical Questions Remain Lao Tzu Debating Berkeley The Quarrelsome Rationalists A New Turn of the Mind No Expiration Date New Creation Story? Chapter 4. All Are Optional Except the Mind §1. John Searle's False Notion of Body Image in the Brain Temporality Inherent in the Mind The Amputee and John Searle's Confusion The Whole Universe in My Brain? The Credit Searle Deserves But More Disastrous... A Pain with an Index A Real Pain Which Is Nowhere Daniel Dennett Wrong in the Same Way The Cart and the Horse Zhai or Dennett Summary: Back to the First-Person §2. The Fallacy of Unity Projection No Dualism Quantum Mechanics Don't Be Self-Defeating Hofstdater and Tipler Also Guilty Brain Discredited Why Mind Is Not a Computer Is a Stone Also Conscious? Hello Mr. Stapp Einstein's Brain §3. The One-ness of Consciousness, Brain, and Quantum Mechanics Emperor Penrose's Mind Dare to Dream Back to the Future? The Split Self Why Care about Your Future Pain? §4. A Conjecture: The Square Root of -1 as the Psy-Factor Theoretical Physicists Are Invited Verifying Claims Made by Mystics Chapter 5. The Meaning of Life and Virtual Reality §1. Recapitulation and Anticipation Reciprocity Virtually Do It All Really Illusory Ontology of the Mind §2. Meaning as Different from Happiness Orgy-Porgy The Right to Be Unhappy Optimism from the Frontier The Lawnmower Man Zombie or Pure Spirit? §3. Meaning and the Creator Is God's Life Meaningless? Gods 'R Us again Creatures and Dirt To Believe or Not to Believe §4. Significant Difference vs. Real Difference Fake Mona Lisa etc. Another Sense of the Real Real but Irrelevant The Meaningful as the Central Concern An Unsuccessful Rich Man He Is Happy But He Has Failed A Homeless Millionaire In What Way Am I Morally Responsible? Try More by Yourself Meaning of Life Right Under Your Eyelashes §5. Three Modes of Subjectivity and Intentionality Subjective but Fair Logical Positivism and Its Discontent Be Proud of Subjectivity Does a Hole Exist? The Trinity of Subjectivity The Conative Mode The Communicative Mode Schlick's Concern The Constitutive Mode Back to Virtual Reality Intentionality not Cultural Relativity The Meaning of "Meaning" §6. Meaning, Ideality, and Humanitude Humanitude versus Human Nature How Can We Understand Each Other? Leave Human Nature and Go Home Materiality Discredited Again §7. Virtual Reality: The Way Home Ethics of Intentional Reality The Merge of the Experiential and the Meaningful The Good and the Virtual Should We Erase the Boundary? Chapter 6. VR and the Destiny of Humankind §1. The Fragility of Technological Civilization The "Dark Side" of Cyberspace Don't Abandon this World! No Hero in the Wife's Eye Nothing Is Thick Biologically Mortal §2. The Question of Death Meaningfully Immortal Death Never Experienced §3. Transcendence of Personhood and Immortality Little Anthony's Dying Wish The Little Boy's Immortal Personhood My Grand-Grandchildren and Beth's Step Father Pleasing yet Worthless Life Human Soul Refurbished Humanitude Re-Visited §4. What Could Happen Soon No Hype Take a Virtual Shower Shopping on the Web VR Conferencing Making Love while Continents Apart Walk through... Educational VR and Virtual Art §5. Virtual Reality and the Ontological Re-Creation Let's Swim in the Sea of Meaning The Media That Shape Our Being The Metaphysical Maturity of Civilization Note: "Humanitude" is a concept This author developed in his book previously published, The Radical Choice and Moral Theory, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994. Appendix: Jaron Lanier's Virtual Realty Interview Bibliography Glossary Index
See the section on Cybersex and Human Reproduction
Read his poems in Chinese here!
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