Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ROBERT J SAWYER ON QUANTUM NIGHT, HIS NOVEL ON PSYCHOPATHY AND POSSIBLY HIS LAST NOVEL OF ALL (MF GALAXY 068)



DO PSYCHOPATHS COMPRISE 2/7 OF HUMANITY? DO THE MENTALLY-DEAD COMPRISE 4/7? IS INTELLIGENCE A QUANTUM EFFECT? IS ERADICATION OF THE  WORLD AS WE KNOW IT THE ONLY SOLUTION?

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The word “psychopath” strikes terror. While most people imagine psychopaths to be extremely rare serial killers, in fact, most psychopaths are not murderers, but exploitative and terrorising managers, bosses, politicians, drug dealers, pharmaceutical CEOs, family members, clergy, atheists, police, teachers, and others we’ve met and under whom we’ve suffered.

The Canadian researcher Robert Hare is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of psychopathy; he developed a screening test called the Psychopathic Check List (Revised) or PCL-R, and estimates that approximately one percent of people, or around 70 million humans, are psychopaths.

But Robert J. Sawyer thinks otherwise. Sawyer is one of Canada’s most celebrated novelists with endless awards and accolades. His carefully-researched science fiction novels have earned acclaim across the globe. And his latest novel, Quantum Night, theorises that psychopaths aren’t one percent of humanity, but two-sevenths—that is, about two billion people.

And wait: it gets worse. That another four billion people are not figuratively, but
literally talking Sawyer’s latest novel—which I regard as his best ever—is as intellectually provocative as it is chilling, and as he revealed to me before any other media source, it may be his final one. The book is about a Canadian psychologist, Jim Marchuk, who realises that psychopathy may be a quantum mechanical event that will end the world—unless he can end it first.

Rob Sawyer spoke with me by Skype from his home outside Toronto on February 23, 2016. We discussed:

  • Why, if humanity is two-sevenths psychopathic, the world isn’t in even worse shape
  • What rights the mentally-dead should have, if any, if they actually exist, and
  • How the model for Jim Marchuk—contemporary philosopher Peter Singer—advocates against eating animals but for abortion and infanticide.
Along the way, I cite the DSM-V, or the fifth edition of the North American “bible” of psychological diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

We began by discussing the novel’s fascinating and disturbing central idea: that psychopathy and intelligence itself arises from a quantum-mechanical setting in the microtubules of neurons.

Full disclosure: Rob Sawyer and I have been friends for over a decade.

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