Re: Other roots of memetics

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 31 Mar 2003 - 03:33:33 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Other roots of memetics"

    At 09:21 PM 30/03/03 -0500, Scott wrote:

    >>From: "Bruce Howlett" <>
    >>To: <>
    >>Subject: Re: Other roots of memetics
    >>Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003 07:33:33 +1000
    >>Hi Keith.
    >>I hate being the "nay" sayer, but predictive is out of reach, almost by
    >>definition. I say "almost" because I do accept the "egg already falling"
    >>short term possibility, but still with some reservations. The one good
    >>predictive tool we have is demographical statistics. But psychohistory
    >>is still science fiction. If I have time over the next few days I will
    >>expand my comments, as I think that the sooner we stop trying to turn
    >>memetics into some sort of magical social engineering tool, and
    >>concentrate on the benefits it delivers to ethnographic and cultural
    >>anthropology work, the better.
    >The psychohistory I've been reading about recently is more like a hybrid
    >of history and psychoanalysis than science fiction. I'm not familiar with
    >Asimov's spin in the Foundation series.

    Try "psychohistory Asimov" in Google

    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 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.

    The web site also discusses the psychoanalytic psychohistory. I don't want to turn this into a thread about Asimov, his Foundation novels, or Loewenberg's kind of psychohistory because none of them, especially the last, relate that strongly to memetics. But if you want to research background, there is a ton of it on the web.

    Keith Henson

    PS, a posting of mine replying to Bruce is sitting in my sent messages file but has not come through here yet. Well resend in the morning if it has not come through.

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