Psychohistory

Hari Seldon lives!

Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy involved a futuristic science named psychohistory, which enabled one to predict the future history (economics, wars, mass migrations, societal rise and collapse) of large aggregates of people. (Hmm, that reminds me of my earlier post regarding anomalous synchronous behavior of large aggregates of the hominid H. sapiens.)

Well, here’s a report from Science Daily about the development of technology to “forecast humanity’s needs.”

And here’s the paper that prompted the Science Daily report: Vespignani A., Predicting the behavior of techno-social systems, Science. 2009 Jul 24;325(5939):425-8.


The Institute of Psychohistory (makes me think of the Second Foundation?)


Addendum (08/20/09): Can Game Theory Predict When Iran Will Get the Bomb? (New York Times)

The spreadsheet included almost 90 players. Some were people, like the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; others were groups, like the U.N. Security Council and Iran’s “religious radicals.” Next to each player, a number represented one variable in Bueno de Mesquita’s model: the extent to which a player wanted Iran to have the ability to make nuclear weapons. The scale went from 0 to 200, with 0 being “no nuclear capacity at all” and 200 representing a test of a nuclear missile. … But as the computer model ran forward in time, through 2009 and into 2010, positions shifted. … Amid the thousands of rows on the spreadsheet, there’s one called Forecast. It consists of a single number that represents the most likely consensus of all the players. It begins at 160 — bomb-making territory — but by next year settles at 118, where it doesn’t move much. “That’s the outcome,” Bueno de Mesquita said confidently, tapping the screen.

That’s absolutely fascinating. Here’s a forth-coming book that Dr. De Mesquita has written; I have pre-ordered it.

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