A mind-bending philosophical investigation that argues virtual worlds are just as real as anything else we experience

In the Wachowskis’ 1999 film The Matrix, the humdrum life of the central character Neo is revealed to be an illusion. His green-tinted reality is actually a digital simulation created by connecting human brains to a computer. When Neo swallows the red pill offered to him by Morpheus, his body is disconnected from the computer system and he is plunged into a new and frightening reality: for the first time he experiences the physical world.

But as philosopher David Chalmers points out, how does Neo know that this new reality is not just another convincing simulation? Or, as the Professor Cornel West (who played Councillor West of Zion in The Matrix Reloaded) puts it: “It’s illusions all the way down.” This is the mind-boggling philosophical rabbit hole into which Chalmers invites his reader to dive headlong: is this – to paraphrase Bohemian Rhapsody – the real world, or is it just fantasy?

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