Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
Life As Virtual Reality
David Deutsch views the technology of virtual reality (the ability of a computer to simulate a world) as the very technology of life. Virtual reality is a "physical embodiment of theories about an environment". So defined, virtual reality is an important property of nature: it is life itself. Genes embody knowledge about their ecological niche. An organism is merely the immediate environment which copies the replicators (the organism's genes). The genes, on the other hand, represent the survival of knowledge, knowledge about the environment. An organism is a virtual-reality rendering of the genes. Therefore, living processes and virtual-reality rendering are the same kind of process. Thus virtual reality is not only a property of computers but a general property of nature, the very essence of life itself.
Science after the Cartesian revolution has employed a reductionist paradigm. The strongest opposition to the reductionist paradigm came from the Catholic Church, not from scientists. Artificial Intelligence is one of the first scientific disciplines that has been forced to resurrect the holistic methods to analyze problems and systems. The heuristics of knowledge-based systems, the genetic algorithms and the neural networks are all cases in which the whole is not analyzed as the sum of its parts but as a whole.
Reductionism assumes that one can produce a mathematical model of the system, and that one can divide a problem into subproblems in order to reduce its complexity. Artificial Intelligence is, de facto, a philosophical alternative to the program of reductionism There is no model of the system. The holistic methods (trial and error, pattern recognition, etc) are model-free. The US system theorist Kirstie Bellman ("New Architectures for Constructed Complex Systems", 1999) and the US philosopher Stephen Kercel believe that holistic methods are more suitable for "bizarre systems", i.e. systems that do not lend themselves to a mathematical model (e.g., human language, medicine, consciousness).
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