The reality illusion

The Case Against Reality

Donald Hoffman

Is reality how it appears? Or not as it seems? Professor of Cognitive Science and author of The Case Against Reality, Donald Hoffman, puts forward the radical suggestion that our perceptions fail to map onto reality.

  • donald finished
    Donald Hoffman

    Anti-reality theorist


About the Course


Ever since Darwin, we have simply accepted the idea that natural selection makes us stronger, smarter and more accurately aware of the world. But what if, instead, we have been evolving away from the truth? In this course, eminent cognitive and evolutionary psychologist Professor Donald Hoffman explains how our evolution has blinded us to reality and explores the idea that what we see is simply a virtual interface that allows us to navigate, but never actually see, the world. He compares the objects we see around us to the file icons on our computer desktops: while shaped like a small blue folder on our screens, the files themselves are in fact made of a series of ones and zeros. In a similar way, Hoffman argues, evolution has shaped our perceptions into simplistic illusions to help us navigate the world around us.

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

  • An overview of the mathematics of evolution
  • Why fitness is an evolutionary concept
  • What the fitness payoff function is
  • The difference between objective reality and the virtual interface Hoffman claims we experience
  • Hawking’s law of maximum information storage
  • The significance of split-brain experiments


As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning and discussion boards to have your say.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.


About the Instructor

  • Donald Hoffman

    Donald Hoffman is an American cognitive psychologist working at the University of California, Irvine. He is making waves with a new theory suggesting that, instead of presenting reality as it "really is", our perception is like a desktop interface enabling us to use reality effectively. 

    "One of the deepest and most original thinkers of his generation” – Steven Pinker

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Evolution and Reality
    Why might our perception be flawed? How could we be sure that it is? Hoffman argues that evolution has lead to systematic failings in the way we see the world.
  • Part Two: Consciousness and Reality
    What is the relationship between our biology and our experience? Hoffman explores a novel solution to the hard problem of consciousness.