ORIGINAL

The philosophy of virtual reality

5 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Spring chicken

10 minutes

Lake

5 minutes

Andy Clark: virtual immortality

13 minutes

King of Saxony: otherworldly calls

4 minutes

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New realities are imminent: how VR reframes big questions in philosophy

The virtual reality (VR) industry is currently in its infancy, but in just a few decades it’s possible that virtual environments will be nearly indistinguishable from reality. Along with transforming everyday life, a VR revolution could fundamentally change how we understand and define what is real. In this installment of Aeon In Sight, the renowned Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers considers how VR is reframing and shedding new light on some of philosophy’s most enduring questions about cognition, epistemology and the nature of reality.

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Interviewer: Nigel Warburton

Editor: Adam D’Arpino

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The 94-year-old Holocaust survivor who makes every Purim costume contest count

‘It’s important to have something that makes you laugh a little bit.’

At 94 years old, Anny Junek has a streak going: she’s the three-time winner of the Purim costume contest at her retirement home in Rehovot in Israel. As the Jewish holiday approaches again, she’s angling for a fourth win. How will she capture the prize? Don’t ask, it’s a surprise! As a young woman, Junek survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but lost her parents to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. After the trials and tragedies of her early years, Junek’s perseverance and humour have carried her through a life that included raising a family in Mexico before retiring to Israel. Now her indomitable spirit and sense of what makes for a good show have her hatching a new plan for Purim in this charming film by the US-born, Israel-based director Tamir Elterman.

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Come ice-fishing in the deep Canadian winter with an all-Indigenous, all-female crew

‘Indigenous labour is never just work. It’s cultural practice, our Indigenous knowledge. It’s how we are in the world,’ says the Cree filmmaker Alexandra Lazarowich, discussing her inspiration for her latest short documentary, Lake. Produced as part of the Five Feminist Minutes initiative of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), this observational short by an all-female, all-Indigenous crew follows Métis women on an ice-fishing outing at Lesser Slave Lake in central Alberta. The sweep of the landscape, the crunch of ice and snow, and the whipping wind evoke the sublime vastness and frigid temperatures of the deep Canadian winter. Within this frozen world, the women are masters of their craft, punching a hole in the ice, dropping their nets through, and eventually pulling their catch to the surface. A richly crafted testament to Indigenous expertise drawing on the style of verité documentaries of the 1960s and ’70s, the film is also an understated acknowledgement of the challenges that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples face in accessing fishing rights – rights that have long been subject to government encroachment.

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Your body is scanned, destroyed, then reproduced. Do ‘you’ live on the copy?

For centuries, philosophers – and more recently, science-fiction writers – have been concocting riffs and variations on a particular thought experiment: if every bit of your body could be perfectly scanned and replicated, in what ways would the replica still be ‘you’? In this interview from the PBS series Closer to Truth, Andy Clark, a professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, dissects a version of this experiment posed by the US philosopher Daniel Dennett, in which a body is scanned, destroyed, and replicated in a distant place. While science hasn’t yet brought us close to putting Dennett’s conundrum to the test, we can still grapple with the intriguing and perhaps troubling metaphysical questions it raises, questions that might become even more material as we careen further into the information age, including: would ‘you’ be dead, or would your sense of self perpetuate in the copy? And, if you were recreated several times, where exactly might you expect to find your embodied sense of self?

Video by Closer to Truth

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This bird-of-paradise in New Guinea sounds like something from another planet

Endemic to the mountain forests of New Guinea, the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) is best-known for the flamboyant, mate-attracting efforts of its males. The bird’s courtship displays – which often double as a means of keeping competitors at a comfortable distance – make use of bright yellow breast feathers, wildly waving head plumes and peppy dance manoeuvres capped off with an exceptionally outsized, almost otherworldly bit of squawking. This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a rare glimpse into the world of this idiosyncratic little bird, which has proven notoriously difficult to photograph in its rugged natural habitat.

Director: Tim Laman

Websites: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of Paradise Project

Aeon for Friends

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New realities are imminent: how VR reframes big questions in philosophy

The virtual reality (VR) industry is currently in its infancy, but in just a few decades it’s possible that virtual environments will be nearly indistinguishable from reality. Along with transforming everyday life, a VR revolution could fundamentally change how we understand and define what is real. In this installment of Aeon In Sight, the renowned Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers considers how VR is reframing and shedding new light on some of philosophy’s most enduring questions about cognition, epistemology and the nature of reality.

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Interviewer: Nigel Warburton

Editor: Adam D’Arpino

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