18 December 2012

Paul Krugman: “Asimov’s Foundation novels grounded my economics”

A non-nerdy concern – or anyway, a less nerdy concern – would be this: Now that I'm a social scientist myself, or at least as close to being one as we manage to get in these early days of human civilisation, what do I think of Asimov's belief that we can, indeed, conquer that final frontier – that we can develop a social science that gives its acolytes a unique ability to understand and perhaps shape human destiny? Paul Krugman

A good review of one of the most famous series in science-fiction, Asimov’s Foundation trilogy; also a testimony to the influence and power of inspiration coming from good sci-fi ideas. As for the actual science behind the fictional ‘psychohistory’, it’s unlikely to ever become reality; chaotic fluctuations and interactions will pretty much ensure predictions will start diverging widely from reality in just a couple of years. I’m not sure if I read this somewhere, but psychohistory is more-or-less equivalent to thermodynamics: the motion of a single gas molecule is impossible to predict among billion other, nevertheless the properties of the gas as a whole are well described by a single theory.

Post a Comment