Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Talk:Psychohistory (fictional)

Similarities to CommunismEdit

I think psychohistory is somewhat similar to communism,not in idealogy, but in its historical analysis, I dont know if anyone has found any source to back this up but both Hegel/Marx historical theory hold that through certain scientific laws history can be understood the way chemistry and physics are. Lenininism is kind of like Sheldon's prject supposing that a dedeicated cadre of individuals can through that knowledge make history turn out better than its naturally scientifically supposed to. If you read the constitution of the communist party it almosts sounds like their the encyclopedists! --Gary123 06:55, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

What "constitution of the communist party" (which Communist Party?) are you referring to? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:18, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

The article states the following:

As a precursor to Asimov's psychohistory, one of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, a character describes the possibility of forecasting the behaviour of society using mathematical means.

So ... what Sherlock Homles novel is it?

My copy of the Holmesian canon is currently under some socks in my closet (moving can be a pain and often results in high entropy). Until I dig it out, I can't be sure, but I believe some relevant passages may be near the beginning of A Study in Scarlet.
Anville 16:42, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Well in "A study in Scarlet" I found "The writer claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch of a muscle, or a glance of an, eye to fathom a man's inmost thoughts.... His conclusions were as infallible as so many propositions of Euclid." My italics. Is that the quote you were thinking of? Seems a stretch to link this to psychohistory since this very much on individuals. Or is there a better quote that I missed?

--Cje 20:36, 12 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Understand that I didn't make the Sherlock Holmes claim in the first case, so I have no agenda to protect. ;) That may well be the quote which popped into my memory, so if there's nothing better, I say we should nix the passage in question.
Anville 15:17, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Understood. I would agree with nixing unless either a) someone can provide an Asimov quote specifically mentioning Sherlock Holmes or b) someone can find a more relevant quote than the one I found. I could imagine Conan Doyle putting such a sentiment in Holme's mouth. BTW I hope that the local entropy is decreasing in your closet.

--Cje 09:16, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hari Seldon's Psychohistory a Ruse?Edit

Personally, I always got the extremely strong impression that psychohistory was non-existant: I indistinctly remember Seldon informing R. Daneel Olivaw that he now thought psychohistory was an impossibility, with R. Daneel telling Seldon something along the lines of: 'But the emperor doesn't have to know that.'

I remember getting the impression from that exchange that psychohistory was simply a ruse to convince humanity to go in a particular direction, and not an actual 'science' within Asimov's universe, or that it was an impossibility to ever complete it enough to actually work. I think that it was at least two thirds of the way towards the end of whatever empire or foundation novel I was reading at the time. Could someone please confirm if my memory is off, or not? -- 18:42, 12 December 2005 (UTC)

You read Prelude to Foundation, which has a couple of scenes with Seldon losing confidence on the science or his ability to develop it. Although if you think psychohistory is a ruse to sell more books, well, I tend to agree. -- Perfecto 19:57, 12 December 2005 (UTC)
Ruse to sell more books in the Empire?? MartinGugino 01:47, 14 April 2006 (UTC)
Psychohistory is known in actuality as Sociophysics. It's relatively new compared to some fields, and is progressing similarly like Mathematical Biology did. There has been published work on the topic. If you check Arxiv for works by Dietrich Stauffer, you will see quite a number of Sociophysical Monte Carlo simulations. --2ltben 23:07, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
By "in actuality", you mean in the "real" world. This article is about Asimov's world, not the "real" world, so that that this discussion should be moved to the 'other' article, or deleted. (MartinGugino 01:47, 14 April 2006 (UTC))
Isn't it rather that the people working on sociophysics use Asimov as a cheap metaphor to explain what they try to do? If so it has little in common with this article. Pavel Vozenilek 23:41, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
To answer the question, in Prelude to Foundation, the story revolved around Hari Seldon developing psychohistory as a concept, and proving it was practical. In Forward the Foundation, psychohistory is perfected and becomes the tool of scientific prediction that it was in the original Foundation Trilogy. --Pyro
Agreed. My understanding was that pshchohistory was perfected, and advice was sent to the future to help with a few critical decisions. MartinGugino 01:48, 14 April 2006 (UTC)
But see: [[1]] (MartinGugino 01:55, 14 April 2006 (UTC)) for more discussion.
Me again. That reference just above is quite logical and compelling. If Asmiov's world is rational, then I think that its analysis is correct. MartinGugino 03:14, 12 August 2006 (UTC)
I do not understand the title. What else does the Prime Radiant contain, if not psychohistory?Hillgentleman 20:43, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
Pavel, I have not heard of social-physics before reading this article. I think it is an interesting link.Hillgentleman 20:46, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
Isn't the name psycho"history" a misnomer - it is a prediction of the future, and nothing to do with the past. Furthermore isn't the science illogical - the more the people the more the variables, not less! (talk) 00:58, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

Origin of the term 'psychohistory'Edit

According to the article psychohistory "combined history, psychology and mathematical statistics". I remember that in one interview Asimov once told that originally he used the term 'sociology' instead of 'psychohistory'. (Unfortunately I can't locate the interview anymore.) - Does anyone recollect such an interview?

At that time sociology was quite young human/social science and it had only recently adapted statistical methods. It was as if sociology was promising to deliver a modern, statistical science of society and that seemed to inspire Asimov. However, he then decided to replace the term in order to create more science-fictional imaginery (i.e. not to use a well-known term 'sociology'). The result was 'psychohistory'.

The first Foundation story, the one which became the "Encyclopedists" chapter, refers to Seldon as a "psychologist". (Just a data point for your consideration.)
Anville 16:43, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Yes, I remember Asimov saying that he thought about psychosociology but decided that psychohistory sounded better. It may be in one of the standard interview collections of his.Hillgentleman 06:34, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Crucial points for this fictional scienceEdit

In the later sequels to the Foundation series, Asimov addressed two crucial key points:

(A) Psychohistory literally could not work during most of our history; changing technology kept on introducing unexpected changes which had social and political implications. Thus, psychohistorical predictions could only be made during a period of technological plateau; an era in which no major new technologies were developing.

(B) Secondly, this science could not work if outside and unpredictable influences were added - therefore the entire system would crumble the moment we met an intelligent alien life. (Though presumably in the far future after first contact, a revised form of psychohistory might be possible.) But how could it be that there were no intelligent alient lifeforms in the entire galaxy? (And there were none in Asimov's Foundation universe.) As I recall - and I need a reference, folks - there was a revelation that had to do with robots moving all of manking through the multiverse, to a universe in which mankind was the only intelligent form of life in our galaxy. Does this ring a bell with anyone? RK 03:10, Jun 11, 2004 (UTC)

Neither I nor Ausir have read the Second Foundation series, so if those are the "later foundation series" novels to which you refer, you are probably out of luck. As to 'A' - I remember no such discussion during the any of Asimov's Foundation novels. For 'B', you would not require a revised form of pschohistory. You have to take into account all factors when making a psychohistorical calculation - therefore, introducing an alien species does not destoy the science, just the particular calculation. Do a recalculation with the aliens, and you are fine. Now, bobots moving mankind between universes - that's *definetely* not an asimov thing. →Raul654 08:00, Jun 11, 2004 (UTC)
Actually, it is (not robots, though). It's a reference to End of Eternity in one of the Foundation books, but it's probably an in-joke. Ausir 08:04, 11 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Ahh. "Asimov placed a hint in Foundation's Edge that the Eternals might have been responsible for the all-human galaxy of the Foundation Series, but that interpretation is disputed." -- End of Eternity.
The second Foundation series (the three books not writen by Asimov) does mention the terraforming robots from Aurora during the robot wars that destroyed all intelligent life in the galaxy.—Preceding unsigned comment added by [[User:{{{1}}}|{{{1}}}]] ([[User talk:{{{1}}}|talk]] • [[Special:Contributions/{{{1}}}|contribs]])
  • About the applicability of psychohistory: History goes in cycles, I would say. In an age of sudden technological advance, the psychohistorical analysis may be too complicated even for the Second Foundationers. But there may be eras where it works. I mean, the history of the Roman Empire may serve to advise the decision makers of the USA.Hillgentleman 05:43, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Raul, Psychohistory predicts the reactions of human masses to stimuli. Introducing aliens would require a drastic revision of the entire subject.Hillgentleman 05:47, 30 August 2006 (UTC)


The repeated insertion of reference to the historical theories of Karl Marx are inappropriate, I think, particularly as they come from a user with a long (and I do mean long) history of left-wing POV revert-warring. My complaint isn't with the POV (see my support of El C's RfA), but rather with the POV-pushing and the obstinate revert-warring. Absent a published text regarding actual similarities between psychohistory and dialectical materialism (and, aside from ostensibly predicting the future, there are few), I find said addition inappropriate and borderline vandalism. Mackensen (talk) 04:31, 28 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Mackensen, At the climax of Foundation's Edge, Asimov summarised First Foundation, Second Foundation and Gaia as follows:
       First Foundation:  Free Will
       Second Foundation:  Peace and Guidance
       Gaia:              Life
and his decription of each very much reminds one of USA, USSR and something better.Hillgentleman 05:54, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
"Reminds one" seems to equal Original Research, as it is based on opinion and not citeable publications. Conflict between major powers/empires/hegemonies is a recurring feature throughout history (Athens/Sparta, Greece/Persia, etc.) and those living through such conflicts often envision a better and sometimes integrated future. Noclevername 17:24, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

R. Giskard Reventlov devised psychohistoryEdit

From The Robots of Dawn, ISBN 0553299492, 1983:

Baley said curiously, "Do you see the future?"
"No sir, but studying minds as I do, I can tell dimly that there are laws that govern human behaviour as the Three Laws of Robotics govern robotic behaviour; and with these it may be that the future will be dealt with, after a fashion, someday. The human laws are far more complicated than the Laws of Robotics are and I do not have any idea as to how they may be organised. They may be statistical in nature, so that they might not be fruitfully expressed except when dealing with huge populations. They may be very loosely binding, so that they might not make sense unless those huge populations are unaware of the operation of those laws"
"Tell me, Giskard, is this what Dr. Fastolfe refers to as the future science of psychohistory?"
"Yes, sir. I have gently inserted it into his mind, in order that the process of working it out begin...
--Perfecto 02:10, 7 September 2005 (UTC)

Terry GrossEdit

The article mentions New York Times reporter Terry Gross. Has Terry Gross ever worked for the NY Times? As far as I know, she's always been with NPR. Can anyone back this up? Osprey39 23:47, 13 October 2005 (UTC)

I looked into it and the interview was, in fact, for NPR. So I've changed it.--Osprey39 01:09, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Seldon invalidates psychohistory?Edit

Since psychohistory depends on the assumption that one man cannot change the course of the entire galaxy, wouldn't Hari Seldon's attempt to do exactly this invalidate his entire analysis? --Zemylat 18:44, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Seldon had inspiration from R. Daneel Olivaw, who was in turn created by Falstofe, and so on and so forth, so there was a long chain of events that lead to Hari Seldon developing Psychohistory. It can be interpreted in a number of ways.-- 06:18, 22 December 2006 (UTC) (2ltben, not logged in)

(Anonym) Well, it wasn't just Seldon's work. He may have triggered the whole process, but there were a huge amount of mathematicians and non-mathematicians(50 and 100000) who helped him. He said it in the very beggining of the first book, that it is the collectiv work of a population mass that can change the future. Seldon alone have done nothing. The Seldon Project accomplished it all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:40, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Where is the Definition?Edit

As psychohistory is an area of applied mathematics, I would like to see definitions. All I see are people talking about it, but nobody says what it is. What do I expect? It should start like:

Psychohistory is the science of predicting the reactions of masses of human beings under external stimuli, with the assumption that these masses of human beings do not know that they are being observed and predicted...

Hillgentleman 05:29, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

As it is fictional, a formal definition like that may not be appropriate, and certainly not appropriate to begin the article. What it is is a literary device in fiction of Isaac Asimov, a fictional area of applied mathematics. Beyond that, the scope of the article can encompass what roles it plays in Asimov's stories as well as what verifiable external sources have written about it, but not assigning a definition (unless one can be quoted directly from Asimov).--ragesoss 15:55, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
Ragesoss, It is appropriate. What is an encyclopedia? You want to know what something is, and an encyclopedia tells you what it is. At present this entry is does not. My suggested definition comes from my own rewording from descriptions in the novels.
RageSoss,Your it is different from my it. Your it lives in Asimov's head. My it is in Seldon's head. I do not see how one is more appropriate than the other, in an article titled fictional. Since there are the entries sociophysics and macroeconomics in the ==see also column, the readers should know more about psychohistory than that it started as a literary device invented by Issac Asimov.Hillgentleman 20:28, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (writing about fiction)--ragesoss 22:54, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
In the book Die Foundation-Trilogie by Heyne-Verlag (printed in Germany 2004, ISBN 3-453-16417-2) there is published an addendum (appendix, attachment) with the title Einführung in die Psychohistorik (Copyright Michael F. Flynn, 1988) in which are described coherences between Asimov s fictive science of psychohistory and facts about cycles in the historical growth of some human societies (at example the frequency of wars in an eight hundred years cycle of wars per five years in China). But I don t know in which edition of Asimov s books that addendum is published in the English language. Jahn 10:22, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
Sir Isaac Newton knew the properties of gravity, yet he did not really know what gravity really was.--2ltben 06:20, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

Connection to Reed RichardsEdit

In Fantastic Four #542 (Februrary 2007), Reed Richards explains to Mad Thinker that he was inspired by Asimov's Psychohistory to subsequently invented the field itself. This is revealed to be his motivation to support Marvel's controversial registration act in their Civil War event for 2006-2007. Is this worth mentioning?Theimplord 09:23, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

I believe so. It goes to show the influence of the theory on writers from different genres. In addition, Reed Richard is a significant character in Marvel and the Civil War is a significant event both in the Marvel Universe and in the real world, having been mentioned in multiple magazines (even in Maxim, of all places). Also, the Civil War culminated in the killing of Captain America, which garnered national attention. All this was made possible by Reed Richard's reliance on Asimov's idea to form a working theory.
Perhaps if more references to the theory outside Asimov's works and outside sci-phy are added, the inclusion jump out less. But it should definetely be included in my opinion. (RossF18 04:29, 9 March 2007 (UTC))

Proper NameEdit

I think Aismov suggested a better name for the science in one of his works, but I forget what it is. This name made sense form the basis that it was the study of populations and the future ratehr than the mind and the past.

and then, Chaos TheoryEdit

I recall hearing at some point 10 to 20 years ago that the popular acceptance of Chaos Theory pretty much meant the end of popular acceptance of new hard-SF featuring anything along the lines of psychohistory, mainly due to the fact that it is completely, utterly incompatible with the butterfly effect.. basically, the observation that even if we knew almost everything almost precisely, down to the rough locations of the atoms everywhere in the universe including the charges on every neuron in every persons brain, and had exact and precise understanding about the workings of the human brain and every cell in the body... it still wouldn't ever be good enough to predict the outcome of an election even a mere 4 years from now. Except, whatever it was I read in review was phrased a whole lot more elegantly than that. Anyways, if anyone else knows of this material, a cite from it would make an excellent addition to the article.Zaphraud (talk) 02:29, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

However, even if atoms are totally random in their movement, can't chemistry sitll predict the outcome of a reaction? Yes, tiny events may cause or effect seriously larger events, but still, if we know what happened in the past based on certain stimuli, we should be able to predict what will happen in the future. This is the same reason why Sheldon's psychohistory shouldn't be able to predict a person's future, but given enough people, it becomes an exercise in probabilities. From my understanding of psychohistory, it involves an understanding not of what people are, but in how they react to certain stimuli. (Chswolflax17 (talk) 06:03, 3 August 2008 (UTC))


Ok, after reading Michael Flynn's In the Country of the Blind, it would seem that cliology is extremely similar to psychohistory (in the back of the book, Flynn even mentions how psychology took the use of psychohistory, which is why he uses the term cliology). Would a discussion of cliiology as the scientific study of history, in order to predict trends and future happenings, be best as a subsection of Asimov's psychohistory, or would it be best in its own section? Currently, I have cliology redirecting to this page. (Chswolflax17 (talk) 06:03, 3 August 2008 (UTC))

Psychohistory of Wikipedia ;)Edit

I know this doesn't have a place here, but I can't help myself: I started a discussion at Wikipedia talk:List of Wikipedians by number of edits#Calculating your rank regarding a simple formula that relates the rank of an editor and his number of edits.   Fictional, eh? ;) Wnt (talk) 01:30, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

A Victorian era Hari SeldonEdit

...IMHO [2]

Randroide (talk) 19:01, 11 May 2010 (UTC)

Asimov's Legacy of InspirationEdit

Asimov's and his concept of Psychohistory inspired more than one economist (evidenced by joint mention in blogs by economists) to pursue their discipline in general. I believe that Behavioral Economics may be the ungrateful child of inspiration spawned from Asimov's idea of predictive economics he called Psychohistory. Pointedly Asimov divided the herd between the pragmatists (Rational) and the esoterically oriented (Irrational). Behavioral Economics may be the most functional economic models to describe and predict "Irrational Self-interest" as most neoclassical economic theory remained tethered to the idea of "Rational Self-interest" largely because "Irrational" is difficult to characterize except with enormous sample points and the capacity to process the data that modern machine leveraged statistical analysis now provides. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:34, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

What the Prime Radiant wasEdit

It's been nearly 50 years but I believe the § on this may be in gross error. The device that projected the image of the Prime Radiant I think had another or perhaps no given name. Also this article conflates, the critical path of the Seldon Plan or by generalization mathematical optimization of culture, with its depiction via the device. Through the original trilogy it was more or less commonly used in the former sense. Lycurgus (talk) 04:34, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Beyond fiction — also beyond OREdit

The section Beyond fiction reads like a haphazard collection of research fields that may have same similarity to psychohistory. But what should be the inclusion criterion here? It is not enough that some editor sees the similarity, however evident it may appear to them. That amounts to OR. We should only include things here that are explicitly linked to Asimov's concept of psychohistory by reliable sources.  --Lambiam 02:36, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Extrapotential logicEdit

There's an Asimov (I think) short story that predates the Foundation trilogy, and which concerns the capture and imprisonment of an expert in extrapotential logic, which might be precursor of psychohistory in Asimov's thought.

Does anyone know the story? Without wanting to stray into OR, if we can source that factoid it might be an interesting one to document. Andrewa (talk) 15:29, 21 August 2016 (UTC)

External links modifiedEdit

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Psychohistory (fictional). Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 18:12, 11 December 2017 (UTC)

Return to "Psychohistory (fictional)" page.