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Psychohistory: Hari Seldon’s dead hand? Or is it Adam Smith's dead Hand?

The purpose here? Provide some insight into what happened to Isaac Asimov's PSYCHOHISTORY concept. As time progresses, more details will be added. If you have some thoughts regarding the matter, please do communicate these. Eventually, we'll discuss a serious theory based on the principles hinted at by IA.

Some definitions (on the web and beyond):

Psychohistory: The idea of a mathematical "Laws of Humanics" parallelling the Laws of Robotics was first posited on Aurora by Giskard Reventlov and Han Fastolfe, though both realised that it was well beyond existing knowledge. It did not resurface until the Galactic Empire was in decline when, at the Decennial Convention on Trantor, Hari Seldon presented a paper of the theoretical potential of psychohistory as a mathematics of social change, dealing with the reactions of very large human populations to social and economic stimuli. This was siezed upon by various factions as a means of furthering their own political ends, but it was Daneel Olivaw, then acting the role of Eto Demerzel, Chief of Staff to Cleon I, who encouraged Seldon to develop psychohistory as a means of securing a more humane galaxy after the inevitable fall of the Empire,...

Psychohistory had two fundamental axioms; that the number of people to whom it was being applied should be large enough for a statistical treatment of them to be valid, and that humanity should not know the results of the application of psychohistory before the results were achieved. It was not until after Golan Trevize had intuitively decided in favour of Galaxia, and met Daneel Olivaw, that he recognised the hitherto unknown inherent weakness of psychohistory, that it only held as long as there was only one intelligent species in the galaxy.

Psychohistory was also the name of a fictional science in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy universe, which combined history, psychology and mathematical statistics to create a (nearly) exact science of the behavior of very large populations of people, such as the Galactic Empire. Asimov used the analogy of a gas, where whilst the motion of a single molecule is very difficult to predict, the mass behavior of the gas can be predicted to a high level of accuracy.

Psychohistory, the science of historical motivation, combines the insights of psychotherapy with the research methodology of the social sciences to understand the emotional origin of the social and political behavior of groups and nations, past and present. The center of psychohistorical research around the globe is The Institute for Psychohistory, which is headquartered in New York City and has 18 branches in other countries. The Institute is chartered by the State of New York as a not-for-profit educational corporation, the Association for Psychohistory, Inc., and for the past 28 years has published The Journal of Psychohistory, various books by The Psychohistory Press, and has been affiliated with the International Psychohistorical Association, which holds an annual convention. Its director is Lloyd deMause, whose work (see below for full texts) is used in most college courses in psychohistory.

from: Organization, Volume 6(4): 591-608, 1999.

Learning from Foundation: Asimov’s Psychohistory and the Limits of Organization Theory
Nelson Phillips and Stelios Zyglidopoulos
McGill University and Erasmus University

a paper on on metanarratives and their applicability to organizational realities.

‘PSYCHOHISTORY  . . . Gaal Dornick, using non-mathematical concepts, has defined psychohistory to be that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli . . .  Implicit in all these definitions is the assumption that the human conglomerate being dealt with is sufficiently large for valid statistical treatment. The
necessary size of such a conglomerate may be determined by Sheldon’s First Theorem . . . A further necessary assumption is that the human conglomerate be itself unaware of psychohistoric analysis in order that its reactions be truly random . . . The basis of all valid psychohistory lies in the development of the Sheldon functions which exhibit properties congruent to those of such social and economic forces . . . ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA.’ (Asimov, 1967: 16)


 surprises  ....  We didn't find discussion or extensive references to one of the key (non Asimov) novels that uses Psychohistory  as its main tool ... This is of course In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn.

C. Ward, in an amazon review, writes "In the Country of the Blind is a tense, complex, exciting conspiracy thriller, highly recommended to all fans of suspense fiction, secret history, alternate history, and science fiction.

In the 19th century, the British scientist Charles Babbage designed an "analytical engine," a working computer that was never built--or so the world believes. Sarah Beaumont, an ex-reporter and real estate developer, is investigating a Victorian-era Denver property when she finds an ancient analytical engine. Sarah investigates her astonishing discovery and finds herself pursued by a secret society that has used Babbage computers to develop a new science, cliology, which allows its practitioners to predict history--and to control history for its own purposes. And it will stop at nothing to preserve its secret mastery of human destiny.

Michael Flynn is one of best and most interesting of the modern hard-SF writers, combining rigorous extrapolation with skilled prose and strong characterization. In the Country of the Blind is his first novel, but it was somewhat overlooked when it appeared in 1990, perhaps because it debuted as a paperback original. Now Tor has reissued the book in hardcover, the format it deserves. This edition has been slightly revised, and it includes, as an afterword, Flynn's essay "An Introduction to Cliology," which plausibly explains the intriguing science the author has created in this novel."


However -- Looking for CLIOLOGY yields this fascinating find ...  authored by Michael Beck

"AI-based nanosurviellance, which became the basis of an exact historical recordtaking, and later of simulation of conditions for which there were not any direct records

Cliology is the study of history taken to the next level. With the coming of nanotechnology, it became possible for the first time to truly surveil an entire populace and to store all the data gathered permanently. Public reaction and fears kept this from coming to pass, until the nanoswarms came. Constant surveillance was necessary to survive in the space colonies, where a tiny leak or nanotech outbreak could spell disaster. Even after the crisis passed, the fear remained and no one ever really disbanded the constant surveillance, which humanity carried with it throughout the First Federation Era and eventually to the stars.

With the coming of picotech AIs, it became possible to correlate all that stored data and to analyze it for trends, and cliology was born. Whereas history derives social trends and events from primary source documents and such things as diaries, cliology has a record of every single interaction that ever took place and can therefore make incredible analyses of events. The records do not always exist--many primitive worlds lost the technology, some religions such as the Universal Church don't like it, and you can't surveil the higher order AIs. All the same, cliology has transformed how people view their pasts."

The cliology discussion above of course is removed from both Asimov's and Flynn vision of psychohistory, but it is an interesting approach. Certainly it can stimulate some thinking.

Where do we see more discussion of psychohistory?   Another search yielded the following ... please note, the listing doesn't imply endorsement or non-endorsement ... simply that the site appeared in a metasearch tool.

Psychohistory Was Hari Seldon pulling our leg?  
Psychohistory: Was Hari Seldon pulling our leg? Note: This essay is based entirely on the first Foundation trilogy. The later books modify our picture of both psychohistory and certain key events in galactic history. But the original trilogy stood

Psychohistory - a game of life and death set in 1792.  
History, science, litreature and psychology combined in a free educational game. This is a major project for intelligent students (15+), and discerning adults. It also combines unique mysteries, lateral thinking, puzzles, role playing, literature an

Isaac Asimov   
Comprehensive collection of resources pertaining to Asimov.

Clio's Psyche   
quarterly publication which studies psychohistory.

SF Site Featured Review: Foundation's Fear  
A review by Steven Silver of the author's novel that takes place in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe.

Professor Howard Schwartz's Papers  
Anti-Feminist Psychohistory Papers.

Foundation and Chaos   
A review of the author's 1998 novel written in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe.

Psychohistory Information and Links's collection of Psychohistory sites and links.

Basic Conspiracism 101   
Public Eye web page from Political Research Associates provides in-depth information, analysis and news about Right Wing threats to democracy and

Allscifi Isaac Asimov Spotlight   
Critical reviews of Asimov's leading Foundation and Robot novels, including discussions of themes in his works.

Planetary Survival and Consciousness Evolution: Psychological Roots of Human Violence
ABSTRACT: The two most powerful psychological forces in human history have been without doubt violence and greed. However, the current global situation has amplified the consequences involved. More pe

Accidents waiting to happen  
An analysis of political events and psychological climate in the UK Government from April 1998 and forecast to September 2000, based on trauma or change in 6 policy areas.

William Gibson Bibliography / Mediagraphy   
Complete William Gibson bibliography; not just the books, but his articles, short stories, audio books, and related media

Psychohistory is the science of historical motivation -- no more, no less. It is my hope that this book will provide the theoretical foundations for the new science of psychohistory

HIST251 - World History: A Psychohistory of the Modern World   
Academic Year 2001/2002 World History: A Psychohistory of the Modern World HIST 251 SP In this lecture-discussion course, we will explore the

Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction   
An interdisciplinary center that practices "preventive medicine" in the widest sense, CSMHI studies large-group dynamics and issues such as ethnic tension, war, peace, and diplomacy. Recent and upcoming events, faculty, and history of group.

Encyclopedia Galactica - Psychohistory - Contents  
Tell me when this page is updated Psychohistory Definition Assumptions Psychohistorical Theorems Characters | Galactography | Robotics | Sociology | Space Travel | Timeline | Chimerical | Contents Copyright ©1997-9 Mike Carlin Last Modified:

David E. Stannard, Shrinking History  
Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi 53 Shrinking History On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory by David E. Stannard Oxford University Press, 1980 A Strange Illusion of the Recent Past Psychohistory --- the

Frontier Organizations on the Web   A major list of futuristic organizations in the areas of future studies, philosophy, personal and social liberation, and advanced technology.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychohistorische Forschung

The Unconscious: A Perspective from Sociohistorical Psychology   
Social psychologist specializing in cultural psychology, cross-cultural psychology, activity theory, Vygotsky, social science research methodology, qualitative methodology, cross-cultural counseling, psychobiology, psychological anthropology, social

In the same way that psychology was extended to cover groups, producing the science of mob psychology, the idea of psychohistory is to extend the idea even further to cover the sweeping changes in group psychology over time to try and use the past and the present to anticipate the general path of the future.

Psychohistory : how could it be done ?    
The modern science of psychohistory began as a literary invention of Isaac Asimov. He defined it as a branch of mathematics dealing with the overall reactions of large groups to given stimuli under given conditions : the prediction of social and political change.

Unit Nine Section Three p 1  
History - Unit 9 Section 3 Page 1/4 Topic: Psychohistory & Biography One approach to biography is to understand the psychology of the historical personage. This section will explore the idea that both explicit psychohistorical biographies and so-called regular biographies both attempt to understand the personality of the figure being studied. The section below discusses the field of psychohistory, by historian-psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg. The second section and third are explicit psychobiographies by Freud and Erikson. The final section is a highlight on the childhood of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro, that illustrates most writers do attempt some form of psychological analysis.

Thinking about the future?  Think about the recent book by Fukuyam ...

Our Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama is the latest by one of the more significant comtemporary thinkers.

COLIN McGINN in a recent New York Times Review writes:  "Today, however, we are faced with a new phase in the powers of human technology; we are on the verge of discovering and implementing an alternative to evolution itself -- direct intervention in the genetic process. This is one of the main subjects of Francis Fukuyama's ''Our Posthuman Future,'' a timely, thoughtful and well-argued contribution to an important subject. Fukuyama,...  discusses cloning, germ-line genetic engineering, stem cell research, neuropharmacology, anti-aging medicine. His basic concern is the potential for violations of human nature that spring from the new biotechnology. Here science, politics and philosophy intersect, as we try to negotiate the prospect of designer babies, strapping nonagenarians, interspecies hybrids and the like."

Scientific American states "Fukuyama contends that we need institutions with enforcement powers "that will discriminate between those technological advances that promote human flourishing, and those that pose a threat to human dignity and well-being." Apart from cloning, regulation is required for preimplantation diagnosis and screening, germ-line engineering, the creation of human chimeras and the production of new psychotropic drugs"

Clearly Fukuyama is one peering at Future's Edge ... he may well be onto a great many insights that could save us from some serious problems.  What do you think?

about Francis F.  ...  According to his own words, Francis Fukuyama is Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.   

His " The End of History and the Last Man ", was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over twenty foreign editions  His most recent book, Our Posthuman Future:  Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in April 2002.  Fukuyama received his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science, was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation, a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State, (ome of the most influential organizations at state) a Deputy Director for European political-military affairs, and a member of the US delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy.  He currently serves as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

Other areas to explore include:

Principles of Forecasting - A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners (International Series in Operations Research and Management Science, Volume 30) -- by J. Scott Armstrong (Editor); Hardcove

Understanding Psychohistory implies understanding personality and motivation, dominance, self-esteem and other personal psychologies. The master of the philosophy/psychology of motivation is Abraham Maslow.  It would  greatly benefit you to explore is pyramid / hierachy of needs leeding to self-actualization.