11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Highly readable, unorthodox description of physical reality,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Fabric of Reality: Towards a Theory of Everything (Paperback)
Combining Karl Popper's epistemology; the Many Worlds-interpretation of quantum phenomena; biological (and otherwise) evolution; and the mathematical theory of computability into one single world-view may seem like quite a mouthful. However, Deutsch actually succeeds not only in presenting a convincing argument for a somewhat disturbing picture of reality; but does so in quite a readable and accessible style.
The individual constituents of the world-view are not really new (as the book's dedication to sir Karl, Hugh Everett, Alan Turing and Richard Dawkins clearly indicates); but as a synthesis it makes some unexpected connections between them. To name one example: for a computer scientist such as myself, the statement that the Church-Turing hypothesis should be regarded as a physical fact had quite a goggle-factor!
From the beginning, with its introduction to the two-slit experiment, Deutsch firmly avoids the usual Copenhagen-inspired descriptions, instead brazenly arguing that the results can support no other interpretation than the many-worlds. The descriptions of Popper's epistemology and Dawkins' selfish-gene evolution are less revolutionary, but integrate nicely. Applying a computational perspective on physical reality (or a physical perspective on computation!) is not unique to Deutsch, but making such far-ranging connections to epistemology and evolution is, as far as I know.
To balance the critique, arguing from virtual reality seem a bit hypish (to coin a word); although one may suppose that Gedankenexperimenten should keep up with current concepts and technologies. Some of the conclusions could have benefited from more discussion and analysis (what makes parallel universes different from temporally sequential ones? what unifies them? is there a problem of induction here?).
This is not a book one finishes in one sitting; neither is it one to be read only once. I do not think that one needs be familiar with QM, epistemology, computation or evolution even at a pop-science level to enjoy reading this book; but knowing the Copenhagen interpretation should certainly make you sit up straight and pay attention -- otherwise, you may simply be convinced that Deutsch's explanation is the only one possible!