The Fabric of Reality : 24 years later

The Fabric Of Reality, the first book by David Deutsch, was written back in 1997. It have been twenty four years since then and it is interesting to see how the book feels to be read in 2021. Yes, you are right 24 years has passed since then. Even though this was the first book David Deutsch wrote, the first book I read was his second. It was The Beginning of Infinity that I read and found it very insightful that caused me to check other books David Deutsch wrote.

The Fabric of Reality describes four strands:

the quantum physics of the multiverse, Popperian epistemology, the Darwin-Dawkins theory of evolution and a strengthened version of Turing’s theory of universal computation.

The Fabric of Reality, p. 366

It provides a unified approach of how the world could be explained and apprehended. The book uses the Popperian explanation based approach to scientific understanding of the world. The first chapters of the book provide a reader with a gentle introduction why the Inductivism is a dead end as a scientific approach and then transitions to showing the benefits of using explanation based view of scientific discovery.

Since, I first read The Beginning of Infinity which was written in 2011 it was nice to know that it builds on the previous book and expands on some of its topics, literary, that science is about providing explanations to why things are the way they are, instead of claiming that science is about inferring theories from data observed in experiments.

In my opinion, two of the more interesting parts were about the objective existence of the multiverse, which is the only feasible explanation of the interference of particles in two slit experiment, and the universal image generator and universal virtual-reality generator. Back in 1997 computers were quite slow in comparison to what we got nowadays. Graphical Processing Units (GPU) as we know them now were non-existent, but nevertheless David Deutsch described his thoughts on the subject of virtual realty in such a way that it is still refreshing to read it when Oculus Rift – VR Headset and Microsoft HoloLense are here.

David Deutsch’s take on that mathematics is not some abstract subject detached from reality, but to the contrary a filed of study that is about physically existing entities at first sounds daring. But if you think about it you’ll see that we and mathematicians live in a physical world, and think using physically existing brains that are responsible for us to have thoughts and intuitions about mathematical objects, and imagination in general.

The book is not that easy to read, especially the chapters about spacetime and time travel, which were quite convoluted at times. Nevertheless, the book is worth reading, since it provides ample food for thoughts and have some daring unification of theories that on the surface seem not connected.

If you follow David Deutsch’s activities you could have known that some theories described in the book made it into Constructor Theory that David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto developing for about a decade. Particularly, the chapter about The Nature of Mathematics talks about a proof being a physical process or a type of computation.

Constructor theory expresses physical laws exclusively in terms of what physical transformations, or tasks, are possible versus which are impossible, and why. By allowing such counterfactual statements into fundamental physics, it allows new physical laws to be expressed, for instance those of the constructor theory of information.

Wikipedia

All in all, The Fabric of Realty book still feels like a contemporary book. Its content is still fresh and worth reading. The book is quite independent from its successor The Beginning of Infinity, but both are sources for interesting and insightful ideas and worth your time.

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