‘The Case Against Reality’ by Donald Hoffman

‘What’s Real? What’s Not?’

Score: 5/5

This is a fascinating book about the nature of reality. The main thesis is: what we experience of reality isn’t reality itself but an interpretation of reality that we have learned (through evolution) that will best guide us in the right direction.

When we taste an apple, it tastes sweet. ‘Sweet’ doesn’t really have an objective reality, it’s just a signal from a fitness function in our tastebuds that - in general - sweet things are better for humanity in a resource-scarce environment so eating an apple is a Good Thing.

That’s sensible enough.

The twist this book brings is: it’s not just the sweetness of the apple that is a fitness function interpretation, but the smell of the apple, the feel of the apple, the visibility of the apple... Everything we experience about the apple, as interpreted via our senses, is guided by evolution-driven fitness functions. In short: the apple doesn’t exist - something exists, but it’s not really an apple.

And not just apples. Spoons, trains, everything we experience. We don’t experience reality. We don’t see a ‘train’ as such, but evolution has taught us that when we experience seeing a train we’d better get out of its way.

The theoretical underpinnings of this theory are interesting, and I’m interested to see what comes from it in the future.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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