Monday, 3 October 2016

Reasons For The Fall

Why does Isaac Asimov's Galactic Empire fall? Does anyone know? Why do Poul Anderson's Solar Commonwealth and, later, his Terran Empire fall? We know as well as if we had lived in them and had then read the subsequent histories:

Hord's Theory
Anderson On Hord's Theory
Flandry And Desai
Desai's Theory
Merseian Understanding Of Humanity
Desai's Predictions
Flandry's Theoretical Understanding
Valti, Desai And Seldon
Cartels And Chaos
Questions About Desai's Theory
Reflections On Desai's Theory
Hordian Theory And The Technic History
The Economy Of The Solar Commonwealth

- and searching the blog will reveal more posts addressing social processes in Anderson's future histories and other futuristic sf. 


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And as you know I found Hord's theories of why or how civilizations rise or fall far more convincing than I have done the speculations of others. Altho Spengler and Eric Voegelin also made useful insights, IMO. Alas, I've not managed to find a complete exposition of his thought by Hord himself--the best summaries I've found being Poul Anderson's article "Concerning Future Histories" and similar discussions in A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, A STONE IN HEAVEN, etc.

By contrast, a discussion of why the Galactic Empire was falling in FOUNDATION, Part I, Chapter 4 of "The Psychohistorians," was ultimately unconvincing to me. The quotation from the ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA at the beginning defines "psychohistory" " be that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli." A little later we see Hari Seldon saying: "Add to this the known probability of Imperial assassination, viceregal revolt, the contemporary recurrence of periods of economic depression, the declining rate of planetary explorations, the..." Ending up with Seldon claiming he could predict the total destruction of Trantor and the Empire within five centuries.

While this may have impressed me as a boy, I eventually came more and more to be distrustful and skeptical of such claims that mathematics can tell us how human societies will develop. And Poul Anderson also became skeptical, which was one reason he abandoned his Psychotechnic series--disbelief in Valti's theories of using mathematics for showing how civilizations rise and fall. Rather, Anderson came to believe Spengler, Voegelin, and most of all, John Hord, offered more accurate and likely analyses.


Paul Shackley said...

Seldon merely presents an arbitrary list of social issues with no apparent understanding of causation or process.