Quarantine by Greg Egan


I’ve just been reading Quarantine, a Science Fiction book by Greg Egan (1992). It was brilliant, I loved it! I’ll definitely be buying his other books.

— Warning – spoiler ahead! —

The first few chapters of the book introduce the idea that in the future earth has been quarantined by an extra-terrestrial species, but offers no explanation as to why. The quarantine manifests as a large bubble surrounding the solar system, somewhat akin to the event horizon of a black hole. The story follows Nick the protagonist’s exploits as a highly-trained, specialised security agent, with various neural modifications, working in a shadowy hi-tech corporation whose scientific employees are performing research and experiments. Though employed only as a security guard, he discovers the true nature of the research, specifically that humans are beginning to understand, manipulate and prevent the collapse of the quantum-mechanical wavefunction (which has been determined – in the near future setting of the novel – to occur in the human brain itself). The ability to prevent the collapse results in a delicious cornucopia of logical contradictions, many worlds scenarios and quantum metaphysical exploration during which Nick (and indeed the reader) try to retain some semblence of rational thought.

The story culminates in the corporation developing a neural mod which renders individuals unable to collapse the wavefunction and thus exist in the many-worlds plane – removing their observer qualities and *possibly* their free will. This means that they can select a ridiculously low probability eigenstate from their superposition – such as one in which they choose the correct factors of an extremely large number, or are able to throw a 1 on a fair die hundreds of times, repeatedly. In turn the reason behind the quarantine is revealed. (But I won’t give everything away). Tasty book – read it! It’s measurement-problem-tastic.

I like the idea of shadowy corporations doing QM research and messing about with the nature of reality. For some reason that appeals to me 🙂

One thought on “Quarantine by Greg Egan

  1. Albert says:

    I hope you have read “Permutation City”. It’s very stange.


    “The Universe may be stranger than we can imagine, but it’s going to have a tough time outdoing Egan.”
    (New Scientist)

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