On the Relationship of Virtual Reality and Physical Reality

But, if we let go of that, you know, and ask “what is a better way to think of virtual reality’s relationship to physical reality”, I think we indeed are helped. For if we develop and understand more cohesive systems of language, we can go further in our studies of life.

So, a good point was made on the GAMER chat yesterday: VR is a combination of factors. What makes something “VR” is a bunch of things. For instance, some features VR can have: 3D, 360° viewing, positional tracking, tracked controllers, positional audio, etc. But, as was pointed out, you can lay in bed with one eye open and earplugs in, completely still, and it would still be “reality”, so does that mean VR isn’t reality, if it is lacking in features like in that example?

And then, though, you could say a flat game has a lot of those VR features, or even a book does. So it seems more of a continuum than a bit that flips, perhaps.

But thinking about the book, then, you quickly realize how intertwined this whole “reality” thing is with “virtual reality”. The book exists in reality, physically, but does not the information exist _outside of it_? It’s a philosophical point that some may not concur with, but let’s GM it (use Gödelian mathematical thinking to legitimately justify something) and see where it leads.

I really think this hits on something deep about the nature of reality and awareness. Instead of thinking about a book as “in” reality, think of the information of the book, which is accessible through that physical instantiation, as existing “outside” of the physical world.

Some may not agree with this philosophical idea of information existing without the need for a physical structure to “hold” it; what of that idea? What of the counter; what of the GM’d explanation?

So, establish the question first; drawing boundaries helps frame ideas and tease apart distinctions. Ultimately the idea we are trying to justify is that there is information outside of physical reality that is not dependent upon _any_ physical instantiations in order to exist. Where would such non-physical information be stored? Can it be?

Ah, and so returns my dearest friend, Mathematics. Such beauty. And indeed, using simple Gödel numbering, information can be directly coded in prime numbers, and thus can legitimately be said to exist _outside_ of physical reality.

An alien civilization could discover the same abstract mathematics and could be affected in the same way, and so this information can truly be said to exist outside of space and time.

But is the information of a random book the same as outpourings of abstract number theory which an alien civilization could be working on, searching through? I think yes, but how?

It’s one thing to say that a series of words can be represented by 1 Gödel number; it may be another to say that that number can be decoded by a second pattern, with no interaction with the first.

Ah, and there’s the solution, perhaps! If we start with the assumption that this world is a mathematical world, then all locations, not matter how distant, are tied to this one. “You are nature, all of it“, and all that. And thus a deterministic mathematical world _has links_ with all; a book encoded by a Gödel number _here_ has direct relations to everything _everywhere else_.

So, to quickly restate: when you read a book you are using a physical instantiation of abstract information in order to “access” that abstract information. When you use VR tech you are “accessing” an abstract world. It is not created _by_ that technology; the abstract world exists _outside_ time and space.

So, if the world is mathematical, these are effects of that being the case.

And what of writing a book, what of developing a work? Is it “created”? Is it being “accessed” ? Perhaps the work is pulling itself from naught; it is memories connecting with each other such that when a fragment is called, the whole assembles. This can again work via prime numbers.

Specific patterns can “call” other patterns, which can call patterns, and so self-reinforces. Given a necessity of time, which can perhaps occurFrom/beRepresentedBy prime number functions which call other prime number functions, to the self-aware memory (that’s you, dear perceiver), it might perhaps feel as if a work is being “created”; in truth the work pre-exists as an inevitability of the math, and the feeling of creating is simply a joining of memories of having already been created.

That is, it feels like you’re creating, when really what’s happening is that all these pre-existing memories are finally being linked to the main self-aware memory (you, dear perceiver).

I can feel it even as I pen these words, truth be told; I don’t feel like I’m _doing_ anything more than writing down thoughts as they link to each other, as they pull themselves together.

So, one way to look at it is that the numbers are moving forward, the mathematics is continuing onward, and you’re not _doing_ the creating so much as _being_ an inevitable linking of memory-with-memory, uniting information with information. You are a process, not a part, dear perceiver.

So, using VR tech is less like “going into” a world, perhaps, and more like “accessing” a world that exists outside of physical reality, a world which transcends physical reality.

With VR tech you’re not going into a virtual world; you’re accessing a mathematical world that exists beyond the physical world.

Kindest regards,


  1. Travis

    I’m not mathematically inclined, unfortunately, so following some of your logic was challenging for me, and had to take it on faith that what you know about Godel’s concepts applies accurately to your assertions. With that being said, do Godel and you factor in the uncertainty principles described in quantum mechanics (not just Heisenberg’s)?

    I have no doubts about the power of mathematics to describe our human level perceptions of the universe (or potential multiverse), but I am not so convinced we have sufficient data of how other minds might perceive the same phenomenon, if they even are able to describe the same things at all, or that we are not mathematically describing the nature of our own minds’ perceptions more than we are describing the universe as it is on its own.

    I’m not even so sure what the point the gamer is trying to make about closing one eye? Is he noting the you lose the 3D stereoscopic effect in VR but not reality? If so, is he (you) factoring in time and movement? If we are to take a “mental snapshot” of one moment in one fixed focus, how would that differ from a 2D photo in a book?

    Anyway, interesting topic and investigations.

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