We Grow Closer to Establishing Asimov’s Foundation

Posted by on February 8th, 2012
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The Foundation is a sprawling series of novels by Issac Asimov revolving around one core conceit. In the future, a brilliant man cracks the source code of the universe. He boils down the seemingly random emotions and decisions of billions into mathematical certainty.

He understands that civilizations will rise and fall and rise again only to again break down and rebuild.

So, he makes a choice for the betterment of humanity. He creates a society, far away from the hub of humanity, where a core group will curate the whole of human knowledge. The idea being, if he cannot stop the universe from descending into chaos he can certainly help it rebuild faster.

Today, we live in a world where that source code gets clearer every day. In a report published this week, we’ve begun to find mathematical patterns in seemingly random group decision making.

In the Jan. 29 Nature, for example, a team led by Scheffer reported success using one mathematical test of an approaching tipping point. Theory says that when a shift is coming, a system exhibits what scientists call a critical slowing down. Normally, a really stable system quickly recovers after being perturbed. But when everything is about to come unglued, the recovery time from even a small perturbation becomes slower and slower.

But the question remains, as we get better at this, how do we handle the knowledge? If we know outcomes won’t we become determined to change them? Doesn’t this effect the calculus? It is ironic that Asimov saw all this coming? Or was he truly the Seldon of our age?

[Science News]

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