I recently watched the FX-produced “limited series” Devs on Hulu. It stars Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from “Parks & Recreation“) as the “mad genius” and Sonoya Mizuno as the protagonist trying to uncover the secret behind her boyfriend’s sudden and inexplicable disappearance. I might add that Sonoya Mizuno may very well be my new favorite actress. If you’re not familiar with her work, watch this: The Rise of Sonoya Mizuno
The roughly 8 hour show (broken into 8 segments) is the brainchild of writer/director Alex Garland, who also wrote and directed Annihilation and Ex-Machina and wrote 28 Days Later. Garland has been on my radar for several years and has brought some of the most intriguing science fiction to both the big and little screens in recent years. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook after seeing Annihilation a couple years ago:
After being a little late to the game on Devs, and despite the fact that I had seen the name pop up as recommended by several friends…I never went digging enough to find it. I saw it once on Apple TV+ but it wanted me to buy it…then I realized it was on Hulu for free! So I binged all 8 episodes in about 2 Covid quarantine days.
The story goes like this: A russian-born software security developer working for a Silicon Valley tech giant gets recruited by the company’s Founder/CEO, Forest (Offerman), to join an elite team within the company called “Devs”. Shortly after he joins Devs, he disappears and his girlfriend, Lily (Mizuno) suspects foul play, leading her on a journey that weaves international espionage, high-tech, quantum computing, determinism and the concept of a multiverse.
The Multiverse theory is a very real theory that has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and basically postulates the multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes,” “other universes,” “alternate universes,” or “many worlds.”. The ideas of a Multiverse have been debated by physicists and philosophers alike, and has been the subject of many modern science fiction works, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Family Guy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicles of Narnia…and many, many more.
In Devs, the multiverse is explored as a predictive tool. If every action has a cause, say you drop a pen, the pen will fall to the floor. It’s predictable and quantifiable. Devs takes it a step further by saying that if the pen is already on the floor, you can calculate how it got there, essentially peering back in time to the initial drop. Once you can visualize it being dropped, in theory, you can continue predicting backwards (and forwards) further and further, using massive computing power to predict all possible scenarios and accurately visualize the most likely outcomes.
It very quickly gets sticky and mired in the ethics of this technology…and the concepts of “free will”, determinism and quantum physics are all blended nicely in the Devs Universe. Forest is driven to build this technology due to a great loss he suffered and hopes to use it to recapture what he lost. Lily works for the same company and uncovers the mystery of her boyfriend’s disappearance and the truth behind Devs but begins to question her own thoughts and reality along the way.
The series is visually stunning, filled with religious imagery and themes of death and rebirth. The Devs soundtrack is fantastic as well, with one notable episode starting and ending with a song called Congregation by Low. Every episode starts and ends with a unique song. It’s quite a fun watch, and I highly recommend it. But…could it happen for real??? Some physicists say perhaps.
Excerpts from the article “Physicists Have Reversed Time on The Smallest Scale Using a Quantum Computer“
“It’s easy to take time’s arrow for granted – but the gears of physics actually work just as smoothly in reverse. Maybe that time machine is possible after all?
“An experiment from 2019 shows just how much wiggle room we can expect when it comes to distinguishing the past from the future, at least on a quantum scale. It might not allow us to relive the 1960s, but it could help us better understand why not.”
“The second law of thermodynamics is less a hard rule and more of a guiding principle for the Universe. It says hot things get colder over time as energy transforms and spreads out from areas where it’s most intense.
“It’s a principle that explains why your coffee won’t stay hot in a cold room, why it’s easier to scramble an egg than unscramble it, and why nobody will ever let you patent a perpetual motion machine.
“It’s also the closest we can get to a rule that tells us why we can remember what we had for dinner last night, but have no memory of next Christmas.
“That law is closely related to the notion of the arrow of time that posits the one-way direction of time from the past to the future,” said quantum physicist Gordey Lesovik from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
“Virtually every other rule in physics can be flipped and still make sense. For example, you could zoom in on a game of pool, and a single collision between any two balls won’t look weird if you happened to see it in reverse.
“On the other hand, if you watched balls roll out of pockets and reform the starting pyramid, it would be a sobering experience. That’s the second law at work for you.
“On the macro scale of omelettes and games of pool, we shouldn’t expect a lot of give in the laws of thermodynamics. But as we focus in on the tiny gears of reality – in this case, solitary electrons – loopholes appear.
“Electrons aren’t like tiny billiard balls, they’re more akin to information that occupies a space. Their details are defined by something called the Schrödinger equation, which represents the possibilities of an electron’s characteristics as a wave of chance.