Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id EAA17199 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Wed, 13 Feb 2002 04:22:54 GMT Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> X-Sender: email@example.com X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.1 Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 23:19:37 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Keith Henson <email@example.com> Subject: Science fiction roots of memetics (was Words and memes) In-Reply-To: <20020212225148.503521FD47@camail.harvard.edu> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
At 05:52 PM 12/02/02 -0500, Wade wrote:
>Hi Lawrence DeBivort -
> >the Foundation structure the closest we might come to finding an answer to
> >these issues? I don't know, and would very much welcome your thoughts on
Hey guys! Foundation was a *story device.* Neither Seldon nor Asimov
developed "psycho history" or anything close to it. There was another
author, Flynn, I think, whose stories more recently had a well developed
science of memetics guiding history. That too was a literary device.
Heinlein in Mathuselah's Children (Good lord, it originally came out in
1941!) both discussed "psychometrics" or at least its practitioners are
called "psychometricians. He also used "social psychodynamics" and in
another place Slayton Ford referrers to them as "psychographers."
Heinlein mentioned in passing what I think is a fundamental problem. Today
would say social dynamics is chaotic, that is the state of the system in
the future depends critically on the initial conditions. The discussion in
the first 15 pages of the book goes into detail about how the protagonists
were led astray in their analysis. Then in describing the problem they
faced, the psychometrician says:
" . . . There is a similar tendency on the part of the short-lived to envy
the long-lived. We assumed that this expected reaction would be of no
social importance in most people once it was made clear that we owe our
peculiarity to our genes-no fault nor virtue of our own, just good luck in
"This was mere wishful thinking. By hindsight it is easy to see that
correct application of mathematical analysis to the data would have given a
different answer, would have spotlighted the false analogy. I do not defend
the misjudgment, no defense is possible. We were led astray by our hopes.
"What actually happened was this: we showed our shortlived cousins the
greatest boon it is possible for a man to imagine . . . then we told them
it could never be theirs. This faced them with an unsolvable dilemma. They
have rejected the unbearable facts, they refuse to believe us. Their envy
now turns to hate, with an emotional conviction that we are depriving them
of their rights . . . deliberately, maliciously.
"That rising hate has now swelled into a flood which threatens the welfare
and even the lines of all our revealed brethren . . . and which is
potentially as dangerous to the rest of us. The danger is very great and
very pressing." He sat down abruptly.
They took it calmly, with the unhurried habit of years. Presently a female
delegate stood up. "Eve Barstow, for the Cooper Family. Ralph Schultz, I am
a hundred and nineteen years old, older, I believe, than you are. I do not
have your talent for mathematics and human behavior but I have known a lot
of people. Human beings are inherently good and gentle and kind. Oh, they
have their weaknesses but most of them are decent enough if you give them
half a chance. I cannot believe that they would hate me and destroy me
simply because I have lived a long time. What have you to go on? You admit
one mistake-why not two?"
Schultz looked at her soberly and smoothed his kilt. "You're right, Eve. I
could easily be wrong again. That's the trouble with psychology; it is a
subject so terribly complex, so many unknowns, such involved relationships,
that our best efforts sometimes look silly in the bleak light of later
facts." He stood up again, faced the others, and again spoke with flat
authority. "But I am not making a long-range prediction this time; I am
talking about facts, no guesses, not wishful thinking-and with those facts
a prediction so short-range that it is like predicting that an egg will
break when you see it already on its way to the floor. But Eve is right . .
... as far as she went. Individuals are kind and decent . . . as individuals
and to other individuals. Eve is in no danger from her neighhors and
friends, and I am in do danger from mine. But she is in danger from my
neighbors and friends and I from hers. Mass psychology is not simply a
summation of individual psychologies; that is a prime theorem of social
psychodynamics--not just my opinion no exception has ever been found to
this theorem. It is the social mass-action rule, the mob-hysteria law,
known and used by militia political, and religious leaders, by advertising
men and prophets and propagandists, by rabble rousers and actors and gang
leaders, for generations before it was formulated in mathematical symbols.
It works. It is working now.
"My colleagues and I began to suspect that a mob-hysteria trend was
building up against us several years ago. We did not bring our suspicions
to the council for action because we could not prove anything. What we
observed then could have been simply the mutterings of the crackpot
minority present even the healthiest society. The trend was at first so
minor that we could not be sure it existed, for all social trends are
intermixed with other social trends, snarled together like plate of
spaghetti-worse than that, for it takes an abstract topological space of
many dimensions (ten or twelve are not uncommon and hardly adequate) to
describe mathematically the interplay of social forces. I cannot
overemphasize the complexity of the problem.
"So we waited and worried. and tried statistical sampling setting up our
statistical universes with great care.
"By the time we were sure, it was almost too late. Sociopsychological
trends grow or die by a `yeast growth' law complex power law. We continued
to hope that other favorable factors would reverse the trend-Nelson's work
symbiotics, our own contributions to geriatrics, the great public interest
in the opening of the Jovian satellites to human migration. Any major
break-through offering longer life and greater hope to the short-lived
could end the smouldering resentment against us.
"Instead the smouldering has burst into flame, into an controlled forest
fire. As nearly as we can measure it, rate has doubled in the past
thirty-seven days and the rate itself is accelerated. I can't guess how far
or how fast it will go-and that's why we asked for this emergency sew,
Because we can expect trouble at any moment." He sat do. hard, looking tired.
(Almost 2 pages brought to you by the marvels of OCR)
The book form I have came out in 1958. Isaac Asimov's foundation was
published in 1951.
I found a wealth of related material on this subject while I was trying to
get a handle on how much Heinlein revised Mathuselah's Children for the
book. I will put it on a followup posting because this one is long enough!
>May we live in interesting times.
Heh heh. Keith
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