So I never read it personally, but I recall hearing about a story set in the future in which it's discovered that as observation collapses quantum states, it's possible to - through cybernetic brain alterations - actively choose which way you want it to collapse, generally to make matters of odds turn out slightly in your favour/slight reality-altering powers.

As it turns out, humans' observational powers are unique, and other races in the galaxy are being gravely endangered as humanity makes observations regarding the rest of the universe that conflict with what they necessarily need to survive/exist. To remedy the situation, the aliens are apparently erecting a massive opaque sphere around the solar system.

I believe the plot proper has to do with someone trying to investigate the rise of some kind of virus capable of hijacking a person's will and directly controlling their observational powers, with the intent of using the collective observational power of millions to massively warp reality - I think just for anarchic reasons.

That's about all I can think of at the moment, I'd really appreciate it if anyone's heard of this.

And I am 99.999% certain this is not The Quantum Thief...

  • Voting to re-open; this is the best one – Stormblessed Jul 12 '19 at 4:33

This is Quarantine, by Greg Egan

From the Wiki description:

In the novel a physical process in the human brain is responsible for collapsing quantum wavefunctions representing systems into particular eigenstates. Human observations of the universe were reducing its diversity and potentiality (for instance, by rendering it uninhabitable to beings that relied on stars being something other than the enormous nuclear fusion-powered furnaces human astronomers have observed them to be). Hence it is suggested that the Bubble was constructed to prevent humanity from wreaking massive destruction on the rest of the universe through the process of mere observation.

In the course of the novel, the situation is further complicated when human researchers discover a way of modifying the brain to provide conscious control over the process, allowing people to suspend wavefunction collapse at will, and to choose which state the wavefunction will collapse to. This allows a person to choose how any nondeterministic event (such as flipping a coin) will turn out, provided that he is not being observed by anyone who is still involuntarily collapsing wavefunctions. This is used to perform a variety of low-probability tricks, such as tunneling through locked doors or getting past guards who happen to all be looking the other way as the person passes.

And the mind-control plot as well:

He is put under the control of the Ensemble by the forced installation of a "loyalty mod" in his brain which makes loyal support for the organization his highest goal.

  • 1
    Perfect, thanks a heap. – Reuben Jurott Jan 6 '17 at 5:37
  • 1
    Oh, bugger! I suppose it can't be helped, and this just isn't my lucky day, but that's two spoilers for me in as many minutes. This is an excellent site, but perhaps it's too good, I may have to consider not using it any more! (I don't see how either the question or the answer could be changed, so I'm just letting off steam.) – user46249 Jan 6 '17 at 17:04

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