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Playing with Reality

By: Kelly Clancy
Narrated by: Patty Nieman
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Brought to you by Penguin.

A sweeping intellectual history of games and their importance to human progress.

We play games to learn about the world, to understand our minds and the minds of others, and to make predictions about the future. They're also a lot of fun. But what happens when we mistake games for reality?

PLAYING WITH REALITY explores the riveting history of games since the Enlightenment, weaving an unexpected path through military theory, biology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and the future of democracy. As neuroscientist and physicist Kelly Clancy shows us, games have been deeply intertwined with the arc of history. War games shaped the outcomes of real wars in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. Game theory warped our understanding of human behavior and brought us to the brink of annihilation--yet still underlies basic assumptions in economics, politics, and technology. We used games to teach computers how to learn for themselves, and now we are designing games that will determine the shape of society and future of democracy.

Lucid, thought-provoking, and masterfully told, PLAYING WITH REALITY makes the bold argument that the human fascination with games is the key to understanding our nature.

©2024 Kelly Clancy (P)2024 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

With the blazing mind of a scientist and the keen eye of a poet, Clancy emerges as one of the most important new writers of her generation (David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford, NYT bestselling author INCOGNITO and LIVEWIRED)
A book to get the neurons firing. As a passionate game player I loved reading a neuroscientist’s perspective on the role games have played in humanity’s attempts to navigate the game of life. A dopamine hit on every page (Marcus du Sautoy)
PLAYING WITH REALITY is the critical history of games I've been waiting for. Fast-paced and enjoyable, you'll never look at a pair of dice — or your smartphone — the same again (Malcolm Harris)
A gripping narrative that reveals why games matter and just how powerful they can be. It should be required reading for anyone who develops games and everyone who plays them (Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, Inc.)
Playing With Reality is as surprising, and as delightful, as the many games it analyzes. From ancient games of chance to the latest advances in AI, Kelly Clancy has written the definitive account of how we—as individuals and as a society—learn through play (Steven Johnson, author of EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU and WONDERLAND)

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