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Sticks
2005-Feb-13, 08:20 AM
I dug this up the other day from Assimov's famous Foundation series.

See this link for a definition (http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=2mtlble8bjs42?tname=psychohisto ry-fictional&sbid=lc02b)

Could you match up history, psychology and statistical probability theory to create such a science and see where humanity is headed ? :-?

Ilya
2005-Feb-13, 01:54 PM
No. First, too much of future human history depends on ideas, discoveries, inventions and external forces not yet known -- and hence unavailable for psychohistory. Asimov himself realized it, and intorduced a cheat -- Second Foundation, which surreptitiously guided human race "back on track" after its course was derailed by The Mule. The Mule was an unpredictable factor, as was developement of mental shield in "Foundation's Edge". Existence of Gaia in "Foundation's Edge" was an even bigger unpredictable factor, and one which ultimately put an end to Hari Seldon's grand plan.

Second, there is a strong evidence that human history is inherently chaotic -- small initial changes lead to large effects down the road. That alone dooms anything like psychohistory right away, but in 1940's and 50's, when Asimov wrote "Foundation" trilogy, the concept of chaotic systems was not yet defined. Even so, Asimov had an inkling of it, and that's why he made his Galactic Empire so large -- he felt that population measured in quadrillions (at least) is necessary to "damp down" the effects of small changes, and to effectively apply laws of statistics. Alas, chaos theory demonstrates that no matter how large the system is, it remains unpredictable. Small-scale changes throughout the system do not "damp down" -- instead, they interact with each other and produce large-scale changes.

Makgraf
2005-Feb-13, 07:58 PM
This guy claims that pyschohistory never worked (http://www.zompist.com/psihist.html).

Enzp
2005-Feb-14, 05:58 AM
All too often in his fiction, Assimov used the device of the genius with all the answers to both inform the reader and push along the plot. But to have all the answers you have to know all the questions. We don't.

To predict human nature isn't so hard, but when we can't even predict the weather with certainty, how can we expect to predict something with the complexity of the human mind, and apply it to a system with 6 billion of them? ANd at that we need to anticipate every innovation and circumstance in advance.

For it to work we need a stable system - it isn't - in a predictable environment.

Argos
2005-Feb-14, 01:40 PM
Also, psychohistory is a form of tyranny, since mankind is never free to "pursue happiness". In Asimovīs conception, thereīs always a psychohistorian (i.e. a member of an elite) getting in the way to mold the world according to his will. Decisions about reality changes are taken by a single individual.

Disinfo Agent
2005-Feb-14, 08:08 PM
Also, psychohistory is a form of tyranny, since mankind is never free to "pursue happiness".
But have we ever been? :)


In Asimovīs conception, thereīs always a psychohistorian (i.e. a member of an elite) getting in the way to mold the world according to his will. Decisions about reality changes are taken by a single individual.
In the earlier parts of the Foundation series, psychohistorians just made predictions and acted according to those predictions. I would agree that they molded history directly in Second Foundation, but, then again, the Mule was also an "interference"...

Argos
2005-Feb-15, 11:31 AM
Also, psychohistory is a form of tyranny, since mankind is never free to "pursue happiness".
But have we ever been? :)

Well, weīve always had the illusion of the vote and representative systems of government.


In the earlier parts of the Foundation series, psychohistorians just made predictions and acted according to those predictions. I would agree that they molded history directly in Second Foundation, but, then again, the Mule was also an "interference"...

Yes, youīre right. Interesting though is how psychology relate to tyrannies, both in fiction and in reality. Asimov was clearly attracted by psychology. He was a tyrant. Heīs created a tyrannical universe in his fiction, with all those empires. Even when he circumscribe his stories within republican and federative contexts you feel like those regimes are rather authoritarian.

But thatīs another story... :)

Disinfo Agent
2005-Feb-15, 11:55 AM
Well, weīve always had the illusion of the vote and representative systems of government.
Voting under representative systems of government is a fairly recent development in our history, you know? :)

But even the most efficient of democracies is subject to economic and social pressures beyond anyone's control, I think.


Interesting though is how psychology relate to tyrannies, both in fiction and in reality. Asimov was clearly attracted by psychology. He was a tyrant. Heīs created a tyrannical universe in his fiction, with all those empires. Even when he circumscribe his stories within republican and federative contexts you feel like those regimes are rather authoritarian.

But thatīs another story... :)
Have you ever read Popper's Open Society and its Enemies? I think you might like it.

Argos
2005-Feb-15, 12:07 PM
Have you ever read Popper's Open Society and its Enemies? I think you might like it.

No, I never had the opportunity, though Iīve heard of it a lot. Thatīs a nice suggestion for my next reading. Thank you! :)