“You are the observer. You create the universe every day, every hour, every nano-second. Everything that can exist, will exist, somewhere, including your beloved dead. They can once again be alive, walking around, solid as the chair you sit in now, solid as this book you hold in your hand.”
In the new science fiction novel ‘Observer’ – written by an actual scientist and a sci-fi writer – the mindblowing implications of quantum mechanics are taken to the next level.
The scientist is Robert Lanza, who in 2009 published his masterpiece ‘Biocentrism’, a non-fiction book about his theory based solely on science that concludes that life and consciousness create the universe, not the other way around. The writer is American science fiction author Nancy Kress, who won several awards for her work, which includes ‘After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall’ and ‘Fountain of Age’.
In ‘Biocentrism’, and its sequels ‘Beyond Biocentrism’ and ‘The Grand Biocentric Design’, Lanza explained how observers (humans and other animals) create physical reality. Without observers, the universe (spacetime and matter) would remain in a state of superposition. Being alive means you are collapsing wavefunctions and you are transforming a cloud of probabilities into one manifest reality.
The premise of ‘Observer’ is that this is indeed how reality works, and a group of scientists has developed new technology which changes the algorithms by which the brain processes information. This enables the characters to create alternative branches of the universe in which their deceased loved ones can once again be alive.
It happens often that new scientific views are communicated to the general public through popular culture. ‘Biocentrism’ has not yet transformed the mainstream scientific view that sees the universe as a huge space filled with marbles that accidentally also contains life and consciousness. ‘Observer’ is a solid attempt to translate the ideas of ‘Biocentrism’ into a compelling science fiction story. It was a smart move to team up with a writer because it has believable characters and reads like a bullet train.
One of the characters is physicist George Weigert who is basically a fictionalized version of Lanza himself. It is he who has developed the biocentric theory which he calls ‘the primacy of the observer’. His main motivation to do it is to see his dead wife Rose again. The main character is surgeon Caroline Soames-Walkins who joins the team on Cayman Brac to perform the operations needed to install the brain-chips that participants need in order to create other branches of the universe. She remains in doubt the whole time about the project and suspects that what the participants see is just an elaborate hallucination. What could convince her of the truth?
The book contains many of the same explanations that ‘Biocentrism’ first pioneered about the true nature of space, time and reality. Sometimes, they have characters explain these concepts in a way that’s not entirely believable. It is obviously Lanza talking. But this is a minor critique. What ‘Observer’ does very well is explaining real, revolutionary science in an understandable way. This doesn’t mean it becomes easy, because as Lanza has pointed out many times; language is a limited tool when it comes to explaining fundamental truths like the illusion of time.
Luckily, you don’t have to fully understand all the science to enjoy the story. If observers indeed create reality, this opens up many staggering possibilities. Some of these are explored in this book, but the writers didn’t overdo it. There is definitely a sequel suspended in superposition in which the future possibilities are explored further. Perhaps ‘Creator’ is a suitable title for this sequel?
– Thinking, Fast & Slow; Dialogues on Reality (1)
– Sunday Morning, 9 A.M.; Dialogues on Reality (2)