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on 30 March 2004
I have read innumerable books and science magazine articles on quantum theory, relativity, astrophysics, astrononmy, string theory, etc, as well as a great deal of more generally related science.
I am not a trained scientist, simple a well informed non-specialist with an interest in these areas, and I would have to say that this is the best written book of its type I have come across. It deals with extremely deep concepts across an enormous range of different but related areas of study, and I found myself at times almost shocked at the superb skill with which the author is able to deliver new concepts and arguments so cleanly and simply. The chapter that deals with quantum theory and the many-worlds hypothesis alone stands out as a masterpiece of elegance and simplicity when compared with many other works that attempt to deal with this issue.
Rather than delighting and wallowing in the apparent paradoxes that quantum theory implies for the macroscopic world (as so many authors do), Deutsch simply points out that irrespective of our inability to understand and resolve those paradoxes, the conclusions at least are clear and unarguable, and this is where he starts the real work of philosophical integration that is the books theme.
The rate at which new ideas in this book are delivered can leave one stunned at times, and I must recommend this book without any hesitation at all.
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on 3 October 2016
I'm a well qualified scientist and in addition to my core interests I've read shed loads of books on cosmology, quantum theory, astronomy, string theory etc. I'm not going to repeat criticism of this book which other reviewers have done more eloquently and at length but I found this book boring boring boring. Quantum theory is weird but to invoke "shadow photons" to explain the single photon double slit effect is plain bonkers. There is a far more logical explanation for this.
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on 28 February 2017
It hasn't got off my reading pile yet but just commenting that the quality of the paper it's printed on is poor - flabby and awkward to turn pages etc. So it's disappointing in that respect. I'd never thought about it before but assume there must be some accepted standard of paper quality for a normal paperback and this has gone below it. Re the content, I got this having read David Deutsch's more recent "Beginning of Infinity" which is one of the most interesting and profound books I've read. I've bought half a dozen copies for friends and tell everyone to read it. Looking forward to this one.
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on 9 July 2016
...Some day I'll get through this.
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on 11 January 2016
Best book ever read on the subject.
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on 1 June 2017
The first chapter is an investigation into the classic double slit experiment, used as an argument for Deutsch's pet theory, the quantum multiverse. Anybody with even A level physics will find the explanation oversimplistic. Deutsch pretends that individual photons behave deterministically, almost classically like particles. His explanation for the diffusion as they pass through a single slit is that 'maybe they interact with the edges of the slit somehow'. He skirts over the difference between the interaction of photons that interfere (in nearby universes?) and those that do not, for example in a universe that has the slits in a different place. I am sure that Deutsch knows quantum mechanics better than he pretends in this chapter, but his approach does not make for a convincing argument.

Which is a shame, because throughout the rest of the book he refers to the multiverse as if it were a done deal.

There are some clever (?) arguments where Deutsch applies the multiverse to some long-standing philosophical questions. For example, the multiverse contains all possible futures depending on decisions you may choose to take. Free will emerges as the path that you (number 567821) take rather than you (number 567822), though both paths and both versions of you exist in different universes. I somehow cannot see philosophers who take free will seriously being convinced by this.

But there are good things here too. The chapters on time travel and virtual reality are worth reading carefully, and I like the way Deutsch's presentation of Goedel's theorem leaves no space for the type of argument that says that conscious minds can somehow bypass the maths.

This book is not a match for Goedel, Esher, Bach, whatever the blurb says, but it still merits five stars. Deutsch is a clever and original thinker. But please, could we have a presentation of the multiverse that is not oversimplified into meaninglessness.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 December 2017
This rating is for the publisher.

I wanted to read this but the print is tiny. For such an important but to be given to such a cheap publisher is an insult to books.
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on 20 September 2012
Most people believe that a good philosopher is someone who agrees with them, but a good philosopher is someone who makes you think, which probably means they present a point of view you have not previously considered. Such is the case with David Deutsch. In The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch presents his `4 strands' of reality: quantum mechanics, epistemology (theory of knowledge), evolution and computation. In expanding on these themes, he explores topics such as virtual reality, Turing's principle, Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, quantum computers, DNA, the nature of time and even time travel. Deutsch has developed an entire world view on the premise that `reality' is not the `classical' physics of Einstein's `spacetime', but a quantum mechanical multiverse. Using the multiverse as the explanatory tool for everything from computation to time, Deutsch claims that our commonsensical view of the world is effectively an illusion. Whether you agree with him or not after reading his book, it's guaranteed to make you think. Elvene
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on 7 September 2011
I read this book after reading the author's article in a recent book "Many Worlds?--Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality (2010)." The author's reference to the present book was the motivation of my reading.
The author seems to subscribe to most (but not all) of Karl Popper's philosophy of physics written in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" and its "The Postscript." I appreciate that the author is trying to show his innovative idea for the understanding of the Fabric of Reality, but his idea is still very plastic and difficult to grasp a concrete image of it, at least for me. And, because of my being a non-materialist, my I say that he seems to be a typical reductionist materialist.
I would like to mention only a few points regarding the quantum multiverse, which is only one of the author's "four strands" which comprise the fabric of reality:
(1) The author spends many pages to criticize modern Idealism in defense of Realism. Karl Popper also criticized modern Idealism, referring to Dr. Samuel Johnson's alleged refutation (by kicking a rock) of Berkeley's Idealism. Dr. Johnson's name appears many times in the present book, which implies the author's uncomfortableness with the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. The author is an advocate of the Many-Worlds Interpretation or the idea of quantum multiverse. Karl Popper critically refers to Heisenberg's crying of "objective reality has evaporated" due to the advent of quantum mechanics.
(2) So Popper tried to exorcise "the Observer" from quantum mechanics (see Popper's "Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics"). The present author Deutsch seems to solve this Observer problem accepting the idea of quantum multiverse, which includes the Observer in the quantum system. However, the Observer is still a subjective one and hence the quantum multiverse is still a subjective multiverse. This is my understanding reading the present book; hence, subjective aspect of the theory still remains in it, like a ghost of Berkeley! Maybe this is why Dr. Johnson appears many times in this book.
(3) Popper pointed out in his 1982 preface to the above book a few critical points of Everett's Many-Worlds Interpretation, saying no advocate of the Everett's idea mentions the following: (1) violation of the law of conservation of energy in the breeding of infinitely many worlds, (2) apparent difficulty when considering the time reversal of breeding many worlds. Actually, as far as I read the book, Deutsch never mentions point (1), though he writes in the last chapter 14 (p. 345) that "It [the Turing principle] is on a par with the principle of the conservation of energy and the other laws of thermodynamics: that is, it is a constraint that, to the best of our knowledge, all other theories conform to." Someone may say that the probability condition (the Born rule) in the breeding guarantees the conservation law. However, if one sticks to the probability condition, energy of each universe of the multiverse diminishes to zero, to non-existence, or am I wrong in saying so?
(4) Finally, I would like to refer to the problem of "free will" or "human freedom" (in Popper's term). Popper expounds scientific indeterminism in his book "The Open Universe." He says, however, that "Indeterminism is not enough" to guarantee human freedom, and he proposed his idea of Worlds 1, 2, and 3. He became a dualist in companion with J.C. Eccles in the book "The Self and Its Brain."
(5) How does Deutsch deal with "free will" problem? He discusses this problem in chapter 13, in particular, on the basis of multiverse idea. The author explains this problem as follows (pp. 338-339):
(a) In classical spacetime physics, "Even if what will happen is unpredictable, it is already there, on the appropriate cross-section of spacetime. Spacetime does not change, therefore one cannot, within spacetime physics, conceive of causes, effects, the openness of the future or free will." [If I correctly understand the author, this means that our conscious free will actions in everyday life are already fatally included in the framework of classical spacetime (if we stick to classical physics), although no physicist has ever tried to simulate human psychological behaviors based on physical laws.]
(b) "What we think of as our free actions are not those that are random or undetermined but those that are largely determined by who we are, and what we think, and what is at issue."
(c) If I correctly understand the author, his explanation is as follows (as expressed in Table 13.1): Suppose that, according to my free consideration, I have three feasible options X, Y, and Z to choose at a certain point of my life experience. And I decided to choose X as the best option after my careful thought. Of course I could have chosen otherwise. Other copies of me in the multiverse chose otherwise. However, my choice was the right decision. Representations of the moral or aesthetic values that are reflected in my choice of option X are repeated much more widely in the multiverse than representations of rival values. The copies of me who chose X, and who chose rightly in other such situations, greatly outnumber those who did not. And these free-will-actions are possible, the author says, only in the framework of quantum multiverse!
(6) However, we consciously know that we need to choose one option out of many choices in everyday life, without consciously knowing that we are living in the quantum multiverse; hence, the author's argument is not at all persuasive. Now so far, there explicitly appears no interference between the copies of me in this decision making, like the one between the photon and its shadow photons appeared in explaining the interference experiment with two or three slits in chapter 2: Shadows. Maybe the author says that the outnumbering of right decision copies in the multiverse is the results of the interference effect??

It appears to me that this author is, in a sense, very much open-minded in thinking phenomena we perceive in our experiences in this physical dimension. Despite all of this, the author bites Brian Josephson at his long-time opinion that "This development [in quantum theory] may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within the conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research" (as expressed in 2001). That is, the author David Deutsch declares "It is utter rubbish. Telepathy simply does not exist. The Royal Mail has let itself be hoodwinked into supporting ideas that are complete nonsense" [as quoted in the article "Brian Josephson" in Wikipedia].

(7) Regarding the free will problem, I would like to introduce a tale below, wondering how Deutsch may explain it on the basis of multiverse model (though he may declare "it is utter rubbish"):
Certain psychical knowledge mentioned the problem of free will, for example, in the following:
Predictions [of future events as a paranormal phenomenon], per se, do not contradict the theory of free will, though free will is dependent upon much more than any freedom of the ego alone. If the ego were allowed to make all the choices, with no veto power from other layers of the self, you would all be in a sad position indeed. (Roberts, 1999a:290'291, Session 234 on February 16, 1966)
Ref: Roberts, J. (1999a). The Early Sessions: Book 5 of The Seth Material. Manhasset, NY: New Awareness Network.

Regarding the "veto power from other layers of the self" appearing in the paragraph above, there is a good example of it from the facts collected by psychical research, which was referred to by Bergson (2006:120'121). In this case, a lady escaped in a hotel from a fatal fall into an empty shaft from an upper floor lift whose door was open without the lift in malfunction. According to the report, when the lady tried to enter the supposed lift from the landing, she felt being flung backward on to the landing by a man entrusted with the working of the lift; at this point she emerged from her fit of abstraction and was amazed to see that neither man nor lift were there; a miraculous hallucination had saved her life. Bergson explained this event based on the reasoning that the instinctive or somnambulistic self, who underlies the reasoning self, came into action to save her from the danger, at the same time inducing in a flash the fictitious, hallucinatory perception the best fitted to evoke and explain the apparently unjustified movement. Psychologist Flournoy would use the term "teleological automatism" in his explanation, which is equivalent to Bergson's, while the psychical knowledge says it is a veto from other layers of the self (i.e., subconscious self) against the free will of conscious ego for the sake of the ego. There are many examples of this category (e.g., see Flournoy, 1911:chap. IV).
Refs:
Bergson, H. L. (2006). The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (pp. 298'317). Audra, A. and Brereton, C. with the assistance of Carter, H. (trans.) Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Flournoy, T. G. (1911). Spiritism and Psychology. Carrington, H. (Trans.) New York & London: Harper & Brothers.

The author Deutsch might explain this event as follows:
When a copy of the mentioned lady in one of the multiverse tried to enter the lift from the landing without knowing the impending danger, another copy of the lady in another one of the multiverse who perceived the danger, interfered the former lady to save her from the potential fatal danger, though the latter copy, basically, need not to worry about a possible fatal fall of the former because the latter herself survives without such a danger in her multiverse.

(8) So I wonder how the multiverse model deals with such phenomena compiled by the traditional psychical research since 1882. Are they utter rubbish?
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on 9 December 1997
As a rule of thumb, when someone claims to have solved everything from the interpretation of quantum mechanics to the problem of induction in less than 400 pages, that person probably makes a habit of sniffing glue, and the treatise in question is very unlikely to deliver. And although it is exceedingly unlikely that David Deutsch abuses any substance, his latest book - The Fabric of Reality - does indeed fail to deliver.
For example, those who are following the debate over the interpretation of quantum mechanics know that it shows no sign of slowing down. Interpretations abound, yet Deutsch never even mentions consistent histories, GRW, many-minds, or the modal interpretation, for example. There was barely a nod to Bohm's theory, and as a quick "proof" of the inferiority of Bohm, a note that the pilot wave would cause particles to behave in just the way they would if "shadow" particles existed. But one may just as easily turn Deutsch on his head and say that since the many-worlds interpretation would "just" cause things to behave the way they would if they were governed by a Bohmian quantum potential, many-worlds is in fact inferior to Bohm.
None of this is to allege that many-worlds is dead, or even that the counterargument I just offered to Deutsch is definitive - quite the contrary, in fact; but whether his position ultimately turns out correct or not, Deutsch needs to do more work in the here and now before proclaiming victory the way he appears to in his book. One does not - should not - dismiss decades of thought about the foundations of quantum mechanics so lightly. And this last warning could be repeated (with appropriate alterations) with respect to almost every issue Deutsch tackles in his book.
To attempt to make progress in multiple areas of inquiry is commendable, and quite frankly I am encouraged that someone as unquestionably intelligent as Deutsch is interested enough to try. But please - tread carefully, and be fair to the true scope and rigor of the debates at hand.
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