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I read a book back in the mid to late 1990s which I have been unable to recall the title or locate through Google.

My recollection of the plot involves an artificial intelligence that has hired a group of people to travel to the United States and find out why the country has gone dark (no people or communications coming out of it). The hired people travel there and they don't find any sign of adults, alive or dead, however, the remains of infants and pets were found.
In this world quantum computers have supplanted traditional binary computers, being used in all electronic devices. These quantum computers had a side effect of moving the user to another quantum reality. While most reality moves would be very small and the changes not noticeable, occasionally people would be moved to a reality where their fortunes would be greatly changed (for good or ill).
The United States of the reality where the story takes place had created something like a Department of Happiness and the AI in charge of it determined that the best way to make all of the people happy was to keep everyone jumping between realities, hoping for one where they are much better off. As pets and infants didn't use computers they got left behind and starved.

There was a section towards the end where a couple of the main characters wind up living digitized inside of a computer for a few years for some reason. I don't recall how this tied into the main story.

  • Might there have been a subplot involving American ex-pats / exiles in New Zealand? – Politank-Z Aug 28 '15 at 22:04
  • @Politank-Z It's possible although I don't recall one way or the other. Is there a story you're thinking of? I can check it out and see if it looks right. – Xantec Aug 28 '15 at 22:10
  • Finity by John Barnes if my Google-fu is up to snuff today. Published in 1999, I would have read it circa 2000, so my memory and YMMV. – Politank-Z Aug 28 '15 at 22:17
  • @Politank-Z That book certainly seems to have elements which may align with what I remember. but I can't tell for sure if it is the book I'm remembering from the few synopses I can find while at work. If you want to post this as an answer I'll try to pick up a copy of it this weekend to confirm. – Xantec Aug 28 '15 at 22:25
  • William Barton's The Transmigration of Souls has the America-going-dark thing (sorta - they close the borders and withdraw from most contact with the rest of the world) as well as the multiverse angle, but nothing else matches. – Joe L. Aug 28 '15 at 23:13
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Finity by John Barnes seems like a likely match. It contains quantum computer induced multiversal shifts, at a minimum.

Here's a quote from Part Four: The Pursuit of Happiness, near the end of the book:

There was a desiccated cat on the floor, clearly mummified in the dry indoors, but that wasn’t it. Near the cat was a crib, and in the crib there was a scattered tumble of bones. “You see?” Jesús said. “They must have vanished with no time at all. They left their baby behind. And then after a while, the cat was hungry, the baby had probably already starved ...” He shuddered and crossed himself.

  • @JoeL. Good edit, thanks. Is that via Google Books? – Politank-Z Aug 28 '15 at 23:41
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    No, openlibrary.org – Joe L. Aug 28 '15 at 23:43
  • Although I haven't found copy of the book yet, the quote is very familiar. Should this turn out to not be the book I'm remembering I'll update in the future. – Xantec Aug 31 '15 at 3:10

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