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Asimov's "Foundation" Trilogy

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 3 months ago to Books
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Fans of Ayn Rand find this compelling for several reasons. The stories themselves are good "bootleg" romanticism, typical of science fiction. The heroes are rational-realists, people of learning and intelligence who overcome barriers and obstacles. Many of them are are merchants. In fact, the society depicted evolves a government ruled by "merchant princes." The bad guys wield blasters, but the good guys have invisible energy shields.

On a deeper level, Asimov writes about free will versus determinism. In this series, the future has been mapped out by the mathematics of "psycho-history." Yet, in each case, the heroes can, do, and must succeed on their own, even as the larger events play out as predicted. Until they do not.

Not everything can be predicted. An anomaly is born, a Mule whose mental telepathy gives him the ability to control the emotions of others.

The wider context is that the Galactic Empire is collapsing, as was predicted by the mathematics of psycho-history. Systems and clusters are breaking away from the central authority. This leaves unprotected the Foundation which was created to gather all knowledge into The Encyclopedia Galactica. There, it can be preserved, thereby shortening the predicted dark age from 10,000 years to a mere one thousand.

In addition, there exists a Second Foundation, another center of learning, "at the opposite end of the Galaxy." The Encyclopedists and Merchant Princes know that much, but nothing more. No one knows where to find this Second Foundation. By the third book, we, the readers, finally learn the secret.

Whereas Isaac Asimov was a committed liberal of the New Deal and Adlai Stevenson, L. Neil Smith is a younger science fiction author whose works are unabashedly libertarian. Guns are prominent. His alternate worlds include timelines in which Washington was hanged as a Tory, Alexander Hamilton escaped to Prussia, and Albert Gallatin served a term as President. Smith wrote several Star Wars novels about Lando Calrissian. L. Neil Smith denies the validity of any mathematical psycho-history, calling it "Asimov's Fallacy." If you cannot predict the behavior of one person, multiplying that uncertainty by trillions and quadrillions gives even less, not more, certainty.

(The image here is from the London Harper Voyager, edition 2016. The original Trilogy is still sold by PenguinRandomHouse and retains its 1951 copyright. When this empire collapses, the Trilogy will be in the Encyclopedia.)


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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 3 months ago
    "Bootleg romaniticism"
    I like this phrase for the common element I like in AS and Foundation.
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    • Posted by  $  3 months ago
      Ayn Rand coined the phrase "bootleg romanticism." It is the title of a chapter in The Romantic Manifesto which explains her theory of art.

      Again a topic in its own right, Rand's aesthetics are often separated from politics. Romanticism is defined by values. Characters have them and act on them. Other schools from Shakespeare to Naturalism people are pushed about by fate. In Postmodernism, you get the anti-hero, the man with no values, not even evil. So, the good-vs-evil of science fiction (also westerns and detective fiction) is an example of the continuation of romanticism, though not specifically or consciously that.
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  • Posted by CTYankee 2 months, 4 weeks ago
    One of my favorites!

    With regards to: "L. Neil Smith denies the validity of any mathematical psycho-history, calling it "Asimov's Fallacy." If you cannot predict the behavior of one person, multiplying that uncertainty by trillions and quadrillions gives even less, not more, certainty."

    Oh how wrong Smith is in this statement! Asimov was more than just an author. He was a scientist. Having read a large fraction of Asimov's work during my lifetime, I place considerable 'faith' on his prediction of psycho-history! In fact I'm almost convinced that we are in fact in the middle of a Seldon Crisis and have been since Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic convention.

    But seriously, just as the laws of thermodynamics tell us nothing about the motion of individual gas particles, those LAWS make extremely reliable predictions about the behaviour of the gases as a whole. Just as Brownian Motion appears chaotic, and unpredictable, the diffusion of gases, liquids, and even solids is highly predictable and everything from razor blades to microchips utilizes the certainty of how large numbers of particles behave.

    And despite my unashamedly Libertarian political tendencies, I say shame on you for mentioning L.Neil Smith and Isaac Asimov in the same breath. ;^)
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    • Posted by  $  CBJ 2 months, 4 weeks ago
      Individual gas particles don't have free will. People do, and this makes them less predictable than gas particles. Each individual gas particle influences surrounding particles in a small and predictable manner. People vary wildly in their degree of influence over each other; a relatively few human 'particles' can dominate social outcomes, and unlike the case with Asimov's "mule", not all of these outcomes preserve the original overall predictions. Forecasting the trajectories of societies is like predicting the weather: accuracy erodes as the time frame is lengthened. Societies last longer than weather patterns, but predicting what human society will be like 10,000 years from now does not even rise to the level of guesswork.
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      • Posted by TheRealBill 2 months, 4 weeks ago
        But that is the thing, a key aspect of Psycho-History was its use to keep society with the bounds of its predictive capability. We can predict molecules in a contained space because we've bound them to what we can; we can't bound weather so we can't accurately predict it.

        But we can predict it well enough to generally know how to (un)dress for it, plan logistics around snow removal (we can, but that doesn't mean bureaucrats pay attention), or predict that a society on the path of accepting violence for political goals will, unless nudged or shoved in a different direction, become fascist. If we could actively push various weather patterns around, so to speak, we could predict weather more accurately on a longer scale. Contrary to progressive opinion, our abilities are tightly limited in that arena.

        Like both psychology and history, in order to understand the concept of psycho-history you need to have the full context. Trends and tendencies are reasonably predictive, but it means paying attention to them - which the society of today does not. The key to accurate predictions is keeping the parameters within known bounds. Figure out how to limit the bounds of large group behavior and it becomes a cake walk to predict what will happen in response to various stimuli.
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        • Posted by  $  CBJ 2 months, 4 weeks ago
          You cannot accurately predict how long today’s trends will continue.
          You cannot accurately predict what new trends will emerge, or when they will do so.
          You cannot accurately predict when “known bounds” will be violated. (Example: Trump.)
          You cannot accurately predict when “black swan” events will occur, or what they will be.
          You can limit the bounds of large group behavior only in a dictatorship, and only temporarily.
          You can predict what will happen in response to various stimuli, but you cannot make accurate long-range predictions of who will apply this stimuli, when it will be applied, what other stimuli will be applied by other people, and what outcome will result from the application of competing stimuli.

          Psycho-history is a pipe dream. You can pay attention all you want to trends and tendencies, but there is no way you can extrapolate 10,000 years of future history from them.
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          • Posted by TheRealBill 2 months, 4 weeks ago
            Whenever someone repeats straw man statements like that, I've found it pretty predictive of ignorance of the subject combined with personal bias. Perhaps that is the case here?

            "You cannot accurately predict how long today’s trends will continue."
            Irrelevant. First, you don't have to predict all trends, just the ones that carry significant influence. Second, in the made up world of the Foundation series, it takes place some 50,000 years into the future. We, today, have a very short history to work with. The vast majority of that history is poorly documented at best.

            Assuming non-total collapse, and the relative ease of preservation of the data, even a hundred years from now we will have a better picture of trends, attitudinal shifts, and events than we do for 20 years ago. While I do enjoy saying that never in history has doing so little been so well documented, the fact is that to an historian or a psychologist or sociologist (or indeed an anthropologist), that data can be mind blowing.

            In this postulated society of Asimov's mankind has hit a particular type of zenith. We have tens of thousands of years of history collected for quintillions of people. Science has reached a rather specific state, and in a sense devolved in a rather specific way. I won't give too much away because I don't want to spoil it for the potential new reader here. But if you have read both the Foundation and Robot series, do read them again with what I am saying here and you'll see what I mean.

            "You cannot accurately predict what new trends will emerge, or when they will do so."
            Again, there is historical and statistically based good reason to anticipate that with sufficient data size and population size we can predict trends - as we gain both today we gain more predictive power, there is nothing to indicate this will suddenly stop. It might, but where that point is is not something we can say given our infantile amount of data and population. Again, you don't have to predict a specific trend, or what it looks like exactly.

            "You cannot accurately predict when “known bounds” will be violated. (Example: Trump.)"

            Trump wasn't a violation of the known bounds. Many of us did predict Trump's victory, but before that we predicted the role Trump filled. Just because the self-serving mass media relied on self-serving polls, which are the basest of measures and barely qualify as scientifically reasonable let alone terribly accurate, and thus failed does not mean the rest of us are equally ignorant. But, once again, you don't have to predict a known bounds' violation.

            If you can predict the trend, and have access to the right levers, you can alter the course earlier and avoid it. This reduces the problem of bounds violation to a much smaller frequency. For example, Trump could have been avoided entirely by Romney beating Obama. The conditions needed for Trump's rise to power would not have come into play because they do require specific conditions. While Trump himself is not cognizant of them, a part of his "gut" knows this by his frequent flirtations with the idea having led to naught until this last cycle. He is, after all, primarily an damned good opportunist.

            "You cannot accurately predict when “black swan” events will occur, or what they will be."
            With our limited data set of a small population over a short span of time, you are correct. However, given fifty thousand years of data for quintillions of people in billions of scenarios, I think it would be foolish to insist that we would still be in the same state we are today. After all, that would be quite the prediction, no? More to the point, one could argue that Hari Seldon (the Raven) was a black swan event. Thus if you can't predict them (which is true but only for a limited window), then you can't say that a black swan event can't happen to realize the underlying causes of them. The assertions of your argument are self-contradictory.

            Many "unpredictable" things are obvious in hindsight, and it is precisely this hindsight feature of humanity (more broadly termed "experience") which produces our "gut feelings". If our hindsight covers say, only a hundred years and black swan events happen roughly every fifty years we do not have enough data on what produces them or indeed how frequently they occur. But over a thousand years of data could change that. Fifty thousand years even more so. These events are unpredictable because we don't have enough of them to analyze.

            "You can limit the bounds of large group behavior only in a dictatorship, and only temporarily."

            Shh, spoilers. That said to the broader point, you are incorrect. You are thinking of government action only. As someone else here mentioned, don't underestimate the power of controlling religion. And given it arises so early in the first book, it isn't giving away much to point out that this isn't an incidental comment but one specifically germane to the series at hand.

            And now for a brief, related aside. The U.S. Army knows how to recognize riots before they occur. It also knows how to prevent them with nobody but those moving the levers knowing what happened. This is a provable fact. Is it in the larger view a short term prediction and application of stimuli? Absolutely. But compared to the timeframe of the event and the population, it is actually remarkably over-capable. Nor does it require dictatorial actions, nor does it require the people undertaking the actions to know what is going on. Now extrapolate that ability forward.

            If you know how to prevent riots, and you have the means to control the levers to stop them, what power do you have? You have the power to dramatically alter the public perception with little effort. You have the power to set the stage for riots you want, while preventing the ones you do not want. That is a tremendous power to limit the bounds of the equation.

            To bring that into a modern context: the riots in Charlottesville (yeah, that was a riot) were specifically preventable. I've written elsewhere on some critical aspects that would have prevented it, but more to this point is that despite these there are still functional inflection points that have been determined through statistical analysis and observation of how riots form. The further from an event you are, the smaller a given action has to be to alter the course. The day of the riots the U.S. Army (functionally speaking; legality is separate) could have stepped in and prevented the riot. Indeed they could have done it without being obvious about it, or with general knowledge of the public.

            One could argue we are currently careening toward a violent conflict in this country, centered around authoritarianism, race, class, or some combination thereof. If one were to see this and organize action to prevent it, or to enhance it, one could do so through "riot management". You don't stop ones you think lead where you want, and you stop ones you think counterproductive. One could argue that to do so isn't predictive because you're actively controlling it, and semantically likely be correct. But that would be to ignore that the models used were actually predictive.

            "You can predict what will happen in response to various stimuli, but you cannot make accurate long-range predictions of who will apply this stimuli, when it will be applied, what other stimuli will be applied by other people, and what outcome will result from the application of competing stimuli."

            Again, given a limited data set, this is true. The accuracy of a given predictive model is founded by not only the methods, assumptions, and assertions, but also the quality and quantity of data being drawn upon. For our short known history humanity does indeed follow certain patterns, some to the point of annoying repetition. There is nothing at hand that says we would not do so in the future.

            "You can pay attention all you want to trends and tendencies, but there is no way you can extrapolate 10,000 years of future history from them."

            If I had 50,000+ years of actual history to analyze that would likely change. But, once more, you are assuming that it is only prediction. Again, while I do not wish to spoil the series for the new reader what I am about to say is in the very beginning of the first book: Asimov's fictional psycho-history wasn't solely predictive, it involved active alteration and management of the conditions. It was not ignorant of free-will, it specifically incorporated it by initiating action to specifically alter the trends of a future.

            Indeed if you recall the foundation of the story you would also recall the Empire had been in existence for over a millennia. I would assert that the likelihood that mankind had politically, sociologically, and economically "fallen" into a routine set of patterns in order to make that happen are pretty high. In the preceding millennia a Galactic Empire was able to be maintained absent psycho-history. That is not something that has ever happened in human history to this point. I think it quite likely that humanity would have to be rather narrowly limited in some fashion regarding politics, social interaction, and economics to accomplish that whether by conscious means or by relatively stable patterns evolving. In this fictional future it was not a result of a conscious control of humanity but a result of a mind bogglingly large collection of patterns, trends, and events. Frankly, I'd be disappointed in humanity if we couldn't look back at that and see the patterns using hindsight.

            Further, your throwing out of 10,000 is a rather disingenuous amount of straw given that right in the first book the predictions with specificity are for a mere 300 years into the future, with granularity decreasing beyond that. It seems rather short-sighted to think that with fifty millennia of history a prediction at a large scale of a few centuries is impossible; especially when actions are taken to influence the events.

            But nonetheless, to get back to the original discussion: L. Neil Smith has been proven incorrect on his assertion that because we can not accurately predict a given individual's action we can not predict group behavior. We have, in modern psychology, quite an array of tools that are quite predictive. The nihilistic postmodernists that currently occupy our intellectual strata and political positions certainly object to them, but that doesn't alter the effectiveness of them. To what degree we can do that at an even larger scale and with longer timeframes to analyze is open to debate. But to say that because we can not predict an individual we can thus not predict a group of humans has been thoroughly falsified both theoretically and empirically.

            Even historically and linguistically we can see this is false. Humans developed "labelling" or grouping of people because they serve as general predictors of behavior. Labels and groups are short cuts for thinking, but they exist because they were/are useful. Indeed, the inverse of what Smith asserted is true: that you can predict a group to behave a certain way does not mean you can predict the behavior of specific individuals in the group. It is in this aspect that current society is screwing itself over: the over-application of group labels to make conclusions about individuals that are (or are perceived to be) a member of that group.

            Now don't take any of this as an argument that we can "use psycho-history" today. As an astute reader would note, I actually argue the opposite: we lack the data to do so. Nor does that mean it is a given that development of psycho-history will happen (well, in a specific universe). I am merely pointing out that to say that in the world so envisioned it actually makes no sense, and that to say it is impossible given those conditions is folly.
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            • Posted by  $  CBJ 2 months, 4 weeks ago
              Re: “Whenever someone repeats straw man statements like that, I've found it pretty predictive of ignorance of the subject combined with personal bias. Perhaps that is the case here?”

              Whenever someone begins his or her argument with personal insults, I’ve found it pretty predictive of a disregard of what constitutes acceptable modes of discussion.

              Regarding ignorance, I read the Foundation series several decades ago and more than once. I also briefly corresponded with Asimov himself in the early 1960s. Regarding bias, I have a particular point of view and arguments to back it up. Bias is “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.” (dictionary . com) They’re not the same thing.

              Regarding prediction, see chaos theory and the “butterfly effect”, in which infinitesimal changes in initial conditions lead to massive changes in outcomes. Chaos theory explains why it’s impossible to predict the weather with any degree of accuracy (except for seasonal bounds) beyond a certain point, regardless of how much detail you have at your fingertips about the current weather across the world. As small an influence as someone crossing a street will affect weather patterns a year from now, which in turn will affect all subsequent weather patterns. Multiply this by seven billion people going about their daily activities, to say nothing of the actions of plants and animals (and volcanoes, earthquakes and meteors), and you have trillions of “butterfly effects” jointly helping to determine what the weather will be like several weeks, months and years from now.

              (Asimov wrote the original Foundation trilogy in the early 1950s, while chaos theory did not exist as a serious branch of study until the early 1960s.)

              People and groups are constantly “pushing levers” to influence or control the behavior of others. Predicting “future history” even a few hundred years ahead, regardless of the amount of historical data available, requires making assumptions on which groups will form and which will disappear, how these groups will interact with each other, what new technologies they will invent, which “levers” will be available to each group, and which group or groups will be dominant. Even without the presence of “black swan” events, there are enough “butterfly effects” operating within human society to render any long-range predictions useless.
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              • Posted by TheRealBill 2 months, 3 weeks ago
                Pointing out that one is being a logical fallacy is not an ad hominem. Suggesting that someone doing it repeatedly may be ignorant of the subject is not an ad hominem.

                "Regarding ignorance, I read the Foundation series several decades ago and more than once. I also briefly corresponded with Asimov himself in the early 1960s."

                So .. appeal to self as authority because you "corresponded" w/Asimov? That has no relevance to the things we've learned since the 1960s. Nor does it have any relevance to the discussion.

                "Regarding prediction, see chaos theory and the “butterfly effect”, in which infinitesimal changes in initial conditions lead to massive changes in outcomes. "

                Is this where I comment that I've not only conversed with several relevant theoreticians but read the material in depth? nah, that'd be the same logical fallacy repeated. Instead, I'll simply point out that the so-called "Butterfly Effect" is not, in fact a theory at all, but an explanation of the underlying principle we've known since at last Aristotle: sensitive dependence.

                Sensitive dependence does not assert that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause storms. What it does describe is how in a longer term vector, smaller changes can have more magnified effects earlier than they can at later times in the sequence. The underlying changes in a system of such description are, mathematically at least, trajectories and the resulting study of them is, again mathematically speaking, a study of how quickly and how far the possible trajectories diverge.

                One such home of divergent trajectories is in the aforementioned gas. Even if we assume you know the precise position, velocity, mass, and trajectory of each gas molecule, you can not predict with reasonable accuracy the end position of a specific molecule. This is because every collision has a multitude or trajectories, and each collision thus amplifies the possible trajectories. Note that this is equally applicable to, say, to billiard balls. This is an aspect of "chaos theory" that is often missed or ignored by the public and Hollywood - despite several prominent scientists illustrating it before Lorenz's work. Yet, despite the impossibility of predicting the location of a given gas molecule, we can predict the behavior of the gas in a given set of bounds.

                Chaos theory is not some bugaboo to be tossed around as a false authority to claim it means nothing is predictable. It has a very specific and well defined application context. Nor does chaos theory actually assert that less fine-grained predictions can not be made. Indeed, a significant chunk of the modern research on non-linear dynamical systems is in using the underpinnings of chaos theory to improve the predictive capability of the models.

                Indeed, more broadly, chaos theory is explicitly applicable only to unstable aperiodic mathematical models, not everything that sounds like it could be applied to "disprove" a fictional science in a fictional future is functionally impossible. A key aspect of applying chaos theory to complex systems is that chaos is specifically defined - and is separate from randomness. This is, I suspect, no small part of why the general public misunderstands chaos theory. One of the key findings of the field is that we actually find structure within what we call chaos. Chaos in distinguishable from randomness, though there is some disagreement about how much chaos actually affects predictability. The key distinction seems to generally lie along whether a given system's trajectories perpetually and rapidly (ie. exponentially or geometrically or greater) diverge, or if they converge and/or diverge then converge.

                One of the critical problems in identifying a system as "chaotic" is in fact, our limited temporal abilities. This can be reasonable summarized as: it all depends on when you stop the real-world system. That is key. I given system can be defined as chaotic if, in the real world, we ran it for say 1 year and found it to be unstable, predictable, aperiodic, and so on.

                However, that system may indeed become periodic, stable, or predictable if it ran for three years. This is why chaos theory is applicable to models, not so much to real world. There is significant disagreement as to if chaos theory is directly applicable to the real world or not - mostly because we lack the time and money to run real world systems as a long term experiment. And given the ahem dearth of theory and observation in the field, it isn't surprising that chaos theory has no laws, no axioms. and no deductive structures. In short, chaos theory is itself non-predictive.

                Finally, chaos theory applications on models are only applicable to "holistic" models - models that operate on the entire system rather than those which rely in inter-component laws or axioms. Indeed it is here where the findings of chaos theory are more supportive of the fictional science than detrimental. The question is essentially one of granularity. The work in chaos asserts that the whole can not predict the components, but that the behavior of the whole can be if we understand the behaviors of the components. The focus in "chaos explanations" is explicitly in categorizing wholes with similar or observable identical behaviors without regard to why they behaved that way. Chaos is not a causal oriented field, but an observability oriented one. This difference in the goal of understanding is rather crucial, and when expressed simply obvious in hindsight.

                This is reflected in the mathematics of fractals - the size is a scaling feature. This is why we can apply the mathematical features of chaos to the models to make them better. The closest we have to a real-world application of chaos models is at the quantum level, and that is tenable.

                It is important to know the bounds and the scope. Take a pair of billiard balls and a cue. Strike the first ball and there are a multitude of possible trajectories. While these trajectories are indeed divergent, and the ball striking the second one produces another such set in any precise model, the reality is that at the level of the balls a large number of those trajectories result in the same effective conclusion. In that case many trajectories are indistinguishable from each other in the real world. Thus, a person can play pool, and through experimentation learn to play it better - which consists of both becoming more predictive and developing finer physical control.

                Step back a level and with sufficient information about the players one can predict rather reasonably the outcome of the games. You don't have to be able to predict how much player A beats player B by - just reliably be able to predict player A will beat player B. This is one of the reasons that we've seen the rise of "spread" in sports gambling, rather than the old "bet on who wins". Predicting spread is a lot harder than predicting the result of the larger scale.

                This brings us to the pragmatist philosophy on what is true. Essentially the pragmatist philosophy is that a things is true enough if it is useful. A predictive model on, say lightning strikes, doesn't have to predict the location of a given lightning strike if it is enough to predict the likelihood and vicinity of one. In other words, it just has to be "true enough" to be useful.

                "People and groups are constantly “pushing levers” to influence or control the behavior of others. Predicting “future history” even a few hundred years ahead, regardless of the amount of historical data available, requires making assumptions on which groups will form and which will disappear, how these groups will interact with each other, what new technologies they will invent, which “levers” will be available to each group, and which group or groups will be dominant."

                Indeed, and in the scenario Asimov posited, we have literally tens of thousands of years of data available. You don't have to predict who forms or makes up a group, and you don't have to predict what technology is to be invented. What you have to do is model the behavior of the systems and components, and for that model to be "true enough" to be useful.

                "Even without the presence of “black swan” events, there are enough “butterfly effects” operating within human society to render any long-range predictions useless."

                Other than, of course, there are no "butterfly effects" and that assertion is unfounded and by your own argument untenable. Even Lorenz stated on the subject that what his work showed was that you actually could not prove a given butterfly caused a given storm or effect, and further that if you accept the proposition that a butterfly flapping its wings was capable of creating one, it was likewise capable of preventing one - thus cancelling itself or other butterflies.

                Humans, despite our seemingly infinite capacities are finite and reasonably predicted as a group, and a large portion of our infinite possibilities are reducible to far fewer based on their behaviors and characteristics. Absent a black swan or butterfly effect that fundamentally changes human capacities, we are limited in very specific contexts such as the working of our governments. It is just as likely that such an event would increase the predictability of said interactions as it is to decrease it. Add to that the fact that humans are also a self-organizing system and that these systems are likewise characterizable despite their chaotic features, and the notion that "chaos theory" "disproves" a fictional science is untenable.

                If despite these facts you wish to continue to raise men of straw, feel free. But I, predictably if you have enough data, do not see the point in continuing such an interaction with someone who insists on using logical fallacies and self-contradictory assertions to tilt at the windmill of a fictional universe and claim this applies thusly to our universe. Fundamentally you claim that predicting the future is impossible by explicitly predicting the future. You are free to believe, it, and I am free to ignore any further such nonsense. So with that, I bid you adieu and take my leave of this thread.
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                • Posted by  $  CBJ 2 months, 3 weeks ago
                  I never said a thing about ad hominem attacks, I merely pointed out that personal insults are not an acceptable mode of discussion. And I was not appealing to self as authority, I was simply and properly refuting your claims of my ignorance. I agree with you that continuing this discussion is pointless.
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    • Posted by  $  2 months, 4 weeks ago
      We are not going to reveal many truths by arguing science fiction theories as if one author's time travel offers a unified field theory than another author's warp drive does not. I just noted Smith's objection because, indeed, the "mathematics of psycho-history" is an improved Marxist teleology that appeals to some fans of science fiction.

      As science fiction - like FTL, first contact with aliens, terraforming planets, and John Galt's motor - the Amazing New Idea is necessary to the plot.
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    • Posted by  $  jlc 2 months, 4 weeks ago
      I agree that a statistical analysis of large groups of individually unpredictable items may reveal predictable patterns.

      You have used thermodynamics as an example, but insurance tables functionally predict how large groups of people behave and while the weather next year is unpredictable, the major cycles of ice ages do fall into a pattern. So I think that we could develop the ability to predict large historical cycles.

      While I enjoy Asimov's Foundation books (and his I Robot books even more), I think that we currently lack the tools to fit where our modern society is in relation to a 'cultural life cycle'. We need to develop them (and probably not from Asimov's books).

      Jan
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  • Posted by  $  AJAshinoff 3 months ago
    Absolutely my favorite Sci-Fi novel series. I've owned the paperbacks for decades and recently picked up a leather hardcover. His robot series was the beginning of the Foundation series, its all connected. Amazing vision- I disagree with his conclusion but not his logic getting there.

    also, do not under sell or omit the strategic use of religion. :)
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  • Posted by ArtIficiarius 2 months, 4 weeks ago
    He denied it, but I would indicate to you the tools of psycho-history that exist today, by Prof. Dr. Rudolf Starkermann (may he rest in peace). The tools for dealing with dynamics in the large follow from Josiah Willard Gibbs and those following.
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  • Posted by  $  jimslag 2 months, 4 weeks ago
    Growing up, I was fascinated with science fiction. I read Foundation, sometime back in the 70's and I still probably have them in a box out in my garage. I seem to never get rid of books, I am like President Jefferson on that respect and I have a vast library of the different things I have been interested in over the last 45 years or so. College text books, chemistry, physics, electronics, math, science fiction, especially Hugo winner collections, Foundation, Perry Rhodan series, Thomas Covenant Chronicles, Arthur C. Clarke and many, many more, even an Encylopedia Britanica.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 2 months, 4 weeks ago
    Asimov was one of my reasons for reading fiction
    when I was growing up, waaay back in 1946.
    Recently re-read some. Still holds up, gets the
    brain oiled and working. Made my early book reports actual fun.
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