16 thoughts on “That Would Explain Much”

  1. Unfortunately he is still wedded to the outdated early 20th Century economic models instead of the emerging 21st Century model based on Complexity Theories and Evolutionary Systems Theory. Asimov and Seldon would both be disappointed 🙂

  2. Thomas, forget complexity theory. Krugman is stuck on Keynes and hasn’t even moved on to Hayek or Friedman.

  3. Is it worth pointing out that in the novels of Asimov’s old age, even Hari Seldon didn’t think he was Hari Seldon?

  4. The “psychohistory” of the Foundation novels is thinly disguised Marxism.

    Marx had the delusion that his dialectical materialism allowed him to easily predict the certain course of human history. The similarity with psychohistory is obvious.

  5. The “psychohistory” of the Foundation novels is thinly disguised Marxism.

    Not surprising, given that Asimov was a collectivist, and a deathist.

    But he still wrote great stuff, both fiction and non. Like Stephen Jay Gould, an avowed Marxist.

  6. Historicism seems to be one of the defining beliefs of the modern, academic intellectual.

    On my less charitable days, I think that it is because they look around, see how utterly dispensable they are and conclude that everyone throughout all of history must have been equally dispensable – that history has a flow independent of outstanding individual accomplishment.

    That if it hadn’t been George Washington, it would have been someone else but the end result would be the same.

    If I ever feel charity towards a modern intellectual, I’ll have an alternate explanation of why qualitative psycho-history is so popular among that class.

  7. I think Asimov’s admittedly leftist politics never went so far as his stories did. He’d come up with an idea–the Three Laws, psychohistory, massive overpopulation, etc.–and play with it in different ways. In the Baley novels, there’s more than one point where it seems that Asimov preferred some aspects of Spacer society, which was at least in part libertarian. I think the occasional statement you see about Asimov saying he’d like the Cities was about his claustrophilia, not his politics.

    As a man with scientific training, I have no doubt he was tempted by the idea of scientists or science running everything, but I do doubt that he thought that was practical in the real world. Psychohistory is an interesting idea though an appalling one (it allows for an awful lot of manipulation without any check on the manipulators–Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?).

  8. He was an attendee at the world Science Fiction Convention this weekend, where he said the same thing, but without the journalistic spin – in that when he was a kid he wanted to be a Psycho-historian and in fact started with History not economics.

    In fact he mentioned it twice. The first time in a “fireside chat” with Charles Stross, of whom he is a HUGE fan, and then again, the next day in his own talk.

    The problem with taking out of context statements created by journos and reported by other Bloggers to make points is you’re usually wrong.

  9. Try as I might I was never able to get to far into the Foundation series…might try again as it has been 15 years or so since my last attempt…

    I do remember enjoying the Robot series…my first adult sci-fi book was CAVES OF STEEL…

  10. “Psychohistory is an interesting idea though an appalling one (it allows for an awful lot of manipulation without any check on the manipulators–Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?).”

    Without giving away all of the plot, Foundation’s Edge deals with this question of power granted to the manipulators (governing elites), and the main character being put in the situation of having to choose which faction.

    I take Foundation’s Edge as a model for the post-August Health Care debate. The Empire (the cobbled together system of government and private health care) is in ruins. The Foundation, the Second Foundation, and the Gaia planet have three different visions of the final Health Care bill. Our hero is a lone Blue Dog Democrat Senator who has to make a free-will choice among the competing plans. In the end he “punts the ball” by making the decision on what postpones the point-of-no-return beyond the next two election cycles.

  11. 20th Century economics had much in common with the 19th Century physics that influenced it’s development including a belief that you could forecast the future with great accuracy if only your measurements were accurate enough. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle broke that idea in physics and the recent application of complexity theory to economics showed a similar fallacy in being able to predict long term economic performance. Under the new economic paradigm the key is to set initial conditions so that the maximum number of options are available for the market to select the optimum one.

    BTW if anyone is interested in a good book that provides an overview of Complexity Economics I highly recommend “The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics” by Eric D. Beinhocker. Dr. Beinhocker is a VP of McKinsey and Company.

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