Monday, 23 September 2013

The Science Of Man

In Poul Anderson's Planet Of No Return (London, 1971), when Avery the psychomed remarks that applied psychodynamics often involves conformal mapping in several dimensions with non-Cartesian coordinates, Lorenzen the astronomer remembers that the modern science of human behaviour "...used more para-mathematical symbols than his own" (p. 39), and asks how precise a science it is, adding that popular articles are unhelpfully vague.

We might learn something about this science from Avery's response.

(i) It has been rigorously proved that, in the new science, the observer effect is an uncertainty principle preventing the precision of the physical sciences.

(ii) There have been advances in neurology, known to biologists.

(iii) The military used games theory before World War III.

(iv) Big computers provided theoretical analyses of complex phenomena like business, thus generating some understanding of economics.

(v) Communications theory is applicable to symbolizing animals.

(vi) "'The least effort axiom was useful.'" (p. 40) (When I googled "least effort axiom," only two things came up: this Anderson passage and a definition - people try to get difficult and boring tasks over with as soon as possible.)

(vii) Elements of a mathematical and paramathematical system correspond to observable phenomena, enabling the derivation of theorems.

(viii) Data confirm present theories, e. g., economic cycles are often predicted with high precision.

(ix) On the other hand, conditions in the Solar System remain confused after wars and tyrannies and, of course, controlled experiments are impossible.

(x) Earlier propagandists and admen were so primitive that they often provoked a reaction against them while commissars were ideologically blinkered.

(xi) The warlords of the Interregnum had psychomilitary analysts, with original work done in Brazil.

(xii) The first politicomathematical analyses were performed under the theocracy when research was encouraged in response to the challenge of the Mongku Empire.

(xiii) When Venus took over, thorough research began, leading to formulated psychodynamics with the field and tensor approach.

(xiv) The completed science was used to initiate the Mars-Venus war and to unify the Solar System.

(xv) Although the science is still being developed, its results already include:

control of the economic cycle;
the most efficient distribution of cities;
currency stabilization;
the beginning of an advance from barbarism towards a mature civilization of sane individuals (it is claimed).

Summarizing the development of this science has required references to several stages of an implicit future history:

World Wars III and IV;
Mongku Empire versus American theocracy;
Venerian takeover;
Solar unification.

Although the implicit future history of Planet Of No Return is thematically similar to Anderson's Psychotechnic History, I do not think that this novel can be fitted into the Chronology of that History.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As to (vi), I think the least effort axiom means that people attempt to gratify their desires with the least exertion, which is useful in real-life economics. (It is also open to some dispute, and leads to arguments over questions like, "But what if people want to run triathlons?")

I agree with your final paragraph, and I have a vague notion that Anderson said that Planet of No Return did not fit into his Psychotechnic future, despite some resemblances, but if he actually said that, I don't know where.

Best Regards,