Aquinas's Commentary On The Metaphysics

#166- Asimov’s Foundation Part 1

This week, the duo tackles Karl’s pick— the first novel in Isaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction masterpiece.

Largely regarded as a launch pad for space-age science fiction, Foundation is a collection of five short stories which were first published together as a book by Gnome Press in 1951. The series tells the story of the Foundation, an institute founded by psychohistorian Hari Seldon to preserve the best of galactic civilization after the collapse of the Galactic Empire.

Scott says, “Asimov and all that stuff from this era is one of the reasons the boomers are the way they are. They were inculcated with a worldview that is out of fiction. They think everything is always going to improve, that science has the answer, and they see that history and the scope of time is a character and acts in and of itself so they don’t have a responsibility.”

Tune in to hear Part One of the duo’s conversation and learn why Karl calls this “a good bad book.” Brought to you by onlinegreatbooks.com.

Transcript

Scott Hambrick 0:09
Welcome to the online great books podcast brought to you by onlinegreatbooks.com where we talk about the good life, the great books, a great conversation and great ideas

Brett Veinotte 0:30
Hello, dear listener, this is Brett and welcome back to the online great books podcast today Scott and Karl will begin a discussion of Isaac Asimov’s 1951 novel Foundation, and because they really hit the ground running in this one I just wanted to do an overview of what foundation is before we get started here. So I’ve gone to info galactic.com And I’m just going to read to you for a little bit as it is quite possible many of you may never have read this foundation is the first novel and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy later expanded into the foundation series Foundation is a cycle of five interrelated short stories first published as a single book by Noam pres in 1951. Collectively, they tell the story of the foundation and Institute to preserve the best of galactic civilization after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. I feel like this introduction is worth our time here because you could get 10 minutes into the show, expecting a far off in the future space adventure. And you might find yourself going wait a minute, I think this show is just about tobacco use and chickens now here on Earth. So a majority of the discussion is spent on the first of these interrelated short stories. It is called the psycho historians I’m gonna read a little bit more set in the year zero F e foundation era, the cycle historians opens on 10 toward the capital of the 12,000 year old Galactic Empire. Though the Empire appears stable and powerful, it is slowly decaying in ways that parallel the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Harry Selden, a mathematician and psychologist has developed psycho history, a new field of science and psychology that equates all possibilities in large societies to mathematics, allowing for the prediction of future events. Using psycho history Selden has discovered the declining nature of the empire, angering the aristocratic members of the Committee of Public Safety, the de facto rulers of the Empire. The committee considers Seldon views and statements treasonous. Oh, I’m not going to give too much away. So, that sets the stage. So make sure you check back next week for more conversation about Foundation. Thank you for listening. Thank you, as always, for your time and attention. Here we go.

Scott Hambrick 2:51
I’m Scott Hambrick.

Karl Schudt 2:54
I’m Karl Schudt.

Scott Hambrick 2:55
And now you know what we sound like. This voice is Scott’s voice. That other one must be Karl’s. This is Karl. Yeah, we’re gonna talk some weirdo fiction today.

Karl Schudt 3:08
Yes, science fiction.

Scott Hambrick 3:10
It’s a crying shame that I had. We have to do this because the weather is nice. There’s a cloud cover. There’s a little bit of a breeze the humidity is under 90%. I mean, the last few days it just desiccated me, man killing hot. Have you enjoyed it? It’s been

Karl Schudt 3:27
100 degrees. Yeah, I’d dug a big ditch and then I filled it in.

Scott Hambrick 3:32
Like Cool Hand Luke had.

Karl Schudt 3:36
No, I put something in there for sure. But then,

Scott Hambrick 3:38
what’s your dirt do it in Melissa’s ditch.

Karl Schudt 3:45
It’s covering up a power line. I sure hope works. Oh,

Scott Hambrick 3:49
they buried it. It’ll work

Karl Schudt 3:52
I was taking off was another skill I need to learn today. So I was removing a license plate and putting a new license plate on and there are four bolts holding the license plate on the screws, I guess. And they’re stuck. They’re rusted and they’re stuck. And three of them snapped off. Just snapped off in the hole. Yeah. So I hear that there’s tools to get these things out. So I have to go drive an illegal car. Go by the tool. I could just hang it on there with one bolt.

Scott Hambrick 4:27
Yeah. If you were a native that’s what you would do. Maybe duct tape it to the back window.

Karl Schudt 4:36
Oh, gosh. Just so rusty because where I used to live there salt on the road half the year. Yeah. I think it’s like a drill bit that you screw in and then that you drill in and then you go the other way and it takes the bolt out.

Scott Hambrick 4:51
There’s a thing that’s an easy out. You’ll take a drill bit and drill a hole, a small hole in the hole The fastener that’s stuck in the car. And then you’ll take the easy out, which has a left hand twist, and put it in that little hole. And when you turn it counterclockwise, it will get tighter and tighter in that hole and grip that broken stud harder and harder. And then hopefully you can back that thing out of there. Get yourself a can of penetrating oil to don’t get in a hurry, shoot it with a little penetrating oil and go eat a sandwich, and then shoot it with a penetrating oil again, and then go eat another sandwich. And hopefully we’ll come right on out of there.

Karl Schudt 5:37
Yeah, duct tape. Sounds better.

Scott Hambrick 5:39
Yep.

Karl Schudt 5:40
So anyway, so that’s the adventures of me. So what

Scott Hambrick 5:46
are we reading this week? One, Isaac Asimov. Russian invader, wrote this book called Foundation. And Karl said we needed to read it. And I read it, I read it. I don’t know. 1986 or something like that. Maybe before? Been a long, long time. I enjoyed it. But I don’t know what all the to do is about.

Karl Schudt 6:15
The reason I picked it because I think it is a very, it’s a good bad book.

Scott Hambrick 6:21
I’ve heard you say that. So it’s like, it’s worldview is bad. But he does. He does a good job of presenting that. Is that what you’re saying?

Karl Schudt 6:30
Well, it’s enjoyable and breezy. And I love that everybody smokes in the future. Yeah, I do too. It doesn’t occur to him that there won’t be smoking in the year 50,000.

Scott Hambrick 6:41
There’ll be more of course, people smoke. There’s no space travel without smoking.

Karl Schudt 6:45
Right? Without smoking. You’re just content to plant beans and sit in the longhouse. Right? Right.

Scott Hambrick 6:52
And you watch all those guys that the flat tops and the white shirt with the black tie, you know, mission control, like 68 No 69 They’re just burning those Pall Malls man. They’re operating their slide rule with their nicotine stained fingers. Drink and Folgers

Karl Schudt 7:13
Stephen Ambrose makes a comment about that on in his book about D Day the English had to stop for tea. They didn’t make it as far on the first day as the Americans did who are fueled by cigarettes and coffee

Scott Hambrick 7:25
right? Yeah, I used to when I had to do calculus homework or or whatever. Shoot a little red man golden blend. The nicotine is mighty

Karl Schudt 7:35
Alright, dear listener, I do not currently smoke I very rarely smoke which doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. But you know it’s like every four years but that that Redman is like cocaine. Oh yeah, I have done it twice in my life. And that was enough. Did it once then had to try it again. Daddy to see if it really did to me what it did to me. And it did and

Scott Hambrick 7:59
he did some Redman. Well, I got to ask what you did? Did you chop it up on the like a lid of a toilet tank and snort it and what did you do? Exactly?

Karl Schudt 8:11
No, it was my my friend from here for Hereford, Texas. Harford he had some Herford Yeah, just chewing gum, right? Yeah. Spit it out into a cup. Yeah, is bad.

Scott Hambrick 8:29
It’s really it’s really great. Yeah, that’s good. See time? Yeah, you’re the tip, your nose vibrates. And stuff is pretty awesome. It’s cold, or it’s cold. It’s hot. It’s cooler today. Last Saturday, we put our meat chickens out on the pasture. They were babies, you know, I weighed them today, they’re way behind. They’re way behind. It’s just so hot. They don’t want to do anything. They’re in the shade. They’re as comfortable as you can be, as the chicken can be. But man, it’s just it’s just so hot. They’re eating about half of their scheduled ration. And they’re drinking much less water than they were. They don’t have the same kind of digestive system we do. They need a lot of water to process all that grain, you know when they’re eating. So they’re just drinking enough to get to overcome the evaporation from panting but they’re they’re way behind. I’m very concerned about the average daily weight gain and my chickens

Karl Schudt 9:29
grow. I don’t know it. Maybe if you averaged out the first batch, then, like who gained weight so quickly. And then the next batch which isn’t? Maybe it’d be okay.

Scott Hambrick 9:39
I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ve been taking feed off of them at night. I think I’m gonna swap it. I think I want to take the feed off during the day and see if they meet. They’ll eat more at night. I don’t know. So this book, I don’t know. You say it’s a bad book and you don’t want to tell people why it’s bad. But I think you need to tell us why it’s bad.

Karl Schudt 10:00
We’ll get to it. It’s it’s this seductive book of the glories and possibilities of science. And it suckered me in when I was a kid. Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I think it’s dangerous. So if you look at Do you have a paper copy

Scott Hambrick 10:19
now I have a Kindle FIDE version of the Bantam paperback.

Karl Schudt 10:26
Well, alright, so this is on page one or page three. Harry Selden, born in the 11th 1,980/8 year of the Galactic era died 12,069 The date some more commonly? Yeah, he’s born to. I like again with the tobacco. Born in middle class parents on Helicon Arcturus sector where his father in a legend of doubtful authenticity was a tobacco grower in the hydroponic plants of the planet. He early showed an amazing ability in mathematics. Okay, so that the hero is a mathematician, undoubtedly, his greatest contributions were in the field of psycho history. Selden found the field little more than a set of vague axioms he left at a profound statistical science. Okay, so we have this thing, this is the, the thing that that’s driving the plot, psycho history. Okay, psycho history is psychology and history. But it’s not a study of history, it can be used to predict movements in the future. And what it can do, it can’t do it on the individual level, if you’re sitting across from, I don’t know, salvor Hardin, you’re not going to be able to predict what he’s going to do. But if there’s a million of them, you can in the aggregate, they become more and more predictable.

Scott Hambrick 12:02
Do you believe this? Do I believe this yet? Not that you know, Asimov style. But uh, do you think that the behavior of large groups of people is understandable and predictable?

Karl Schudt 12:15
Do I think it? Yeah, probably. But it maybe shouldn’t be predicted. Yeah. So what you can do. So if you get enough people, and you average out their activities, you can achieve scientific certainty about what they’re going to do. So Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics says that ethics is an it is a science, but it is not like math. Because it says things that are true for the most part, in general, and for the most part, something like that. Well, Harry Selden in the novel, takes it and makes it predictable. 100%, if you have a galaxy empire with, I forget how many people he says are in it, say it’s 50 trillion. If you have 50 trillion people, some ridiculous number, then you could predict what they would do. The more and more humans you have, the more they act like atoms are an ideal gas. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, that’s what’s gonna be behind the story. It’s an interesting idea. And it was very interesting to me as a young man, we can wait a little bit, I don’t know, we get in the story, and then see how maybe it’s dangerous. So the story is the Galactic Empire is failing. It’s falling, it was about time. Do you think there were accelerationist?

Scott Hambrick 13:42
Oh, I’m sure that’s proper. You know, if you’ve got 50 trillion people, then it would be a necessity that there would be accelerationist.

Karl Schudt 13:55
Yeah, they’re probably there’s probably a formula, the rate of acceleration of acceleration nests over time, as a function of population density. Yeah. You get too many people, you’re gonna get this many people who want to burn it all down. But then you could predict it, and then you could counteract them, because he would know where the acceleration is are going to happen. I think we ought to get some of the story. And I think, dear listener, you’re going to be thinking already of some things. You’re going to be thinking of Facebook, mining your data. You’re going to be thinking of Google, sending you knowing all of your browsing habits and sending you certain things tailored especially for you. Because you see, they can predict you in the aggregate.

Scott Hambrick 14:46
Yeah. In that case, are they predicting you? Or are they putting you in a Selden box where the number of choices presented to you are narrowed and then they later claim that they predicted your behavior but the truth is they put you in a pipe and there’s like, you know, it empties out over there and that’s that’s where you’re gonna go.

Karl Schudt 15:13
Yeah, so you say a Selden What do you call it a Selden box A Selden box. All right, well, okay, so Harry Selden. Harry Selden is the guy behind the scenes the guy who comes up with this science the action opens with a young psycho historian coming to see him gal Dornach the names are ridiculous, but coming to Tranter the, the capital of the universe, which is this planet where there is no sky, there is no grass, there is nothing, Gotham. Yeah, it’s just the urbanization taken to its extreme, where the only place that there’s grass on transfers where the Emperor lives, it reminds me of the naked son. The other novel that we read one of the other novels you read by asthma as much as we’ve done two of his or three of his naked says the only one we did. So if you look at in my book on page 19, it’s right before the chapter for this description of psycho history. Psycho history is that branch of mathematics which deals with reactions of human good conglomerates to fix the social and economic stimuli. Implicit in all these definitions is the assumption that the human conglomerate being dealt with is sufficiently large for valid statistical treatment. The necessary size of such conglomerate may be determined by seldom strikes fear Him, a further necessary assumption is that the human conglomerate be itself unaware of psycho historic analysis in order that its reactions be truly random. Okay, so there’s another bit about psycho history. If people know that you’re predicting them according to mathematical methods, they’ll screw with you.

Scott Hambrick 16:58
If they know they’re being measured,

Karl Schudt 16:59
if Twitter shows me ads, you know, I might start doing perverse things and screwing with Twitter, liking strange posts. Like I think there was a an onion story a while back about somebody about the Pandora engineers being very upset trying to figure out this one guy who would just dislike everything they serve right? In every bit of music, and

Scott Hambrick 17:27
that’s because they were serving up slop.

Karl Schudt 17:29
Now, the key is you have to dislike the good stuff, too. So you mess with their prediction algorithm.

Scott Hambrick 17:34
People are trying to do this, right? We have predictive models, the CDC has run its model, and we believe that the blah, blah, blah, right? There are people that people that try to create these simulations and models and try to figure out what’s going to happen to interest rates or transmission rates of the viruses or whatever, like we’re trying to do this.

Karl Schudt 18:03
Yeah, and the idea that the subjects can’t know what’s being said to them, or it won’t work. Our own beloved head of the what was the the head of the NIH? No, yeah, claims that he said all the things he said about if I talk about this, this podcast will get down downgraded and banned, won’t it?

Scott Hambrick 18:27
That’s fine, who cares?

Karl Schudt 18:30
So there was some medical intervention that I’m gonna call this guy smell Qi. That smell. He said that would work but didn’t actually work. And smell he admitted that he moved the goalposts, the goalposts because he was trying to influence the population to do behaviors. And they could not know that what he was saying was false, because then it wouldn’t influence their behavior isn’t the right way.

Scott Hambrick 18:56
Or is that? Yeah. I think that’s probably the most noble lie. Well, wait a minute. Yeah, it’s his attempt at it. He can’t be he can’t do anything noble. He doesn’t know what the good is.

Karl Schudt 19:12
Smart. She’s kind of a bath house. I mean, it’s only five foot two, right? There’s limits to how far he can go. Yeah, so people do try to do it. I don’t know if they got the idea from from this or if this rises out of the idea out of the idea itself. So gal Dornach, whatever his name is meets with Harry Selden, speech 21. Before you’re done with a young man, you’ll learn to apply psychohistory to all problems as a matter of course, all problems can be investigated. In other words, in terms of this new science, or everything can be predicted. Selden says well, there’s a 1.7% chance that I will be executed. Even he’s got it all worked out. Well, okay, so the the Empire is going to fall and it’s either going to be 50,000 year is a darkness of unenlightened barbarians or it’ll only be 1000 years. And so the great Harry Selden says Page 33 Okay, so he’s being investigated by the government, you quibble Dr. Selden, can the overall history of the human history of the human race be changed? Yes, easily know, with great difficulty. Why the psycho historic trend of a planet full of people contains a huge inertia to be changed that must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. So, if you’re going to change the trend of the Empire falling,

Scott Hambrick 20:40
well, you can do you can just kind of deflect where it falls, you know, and how it evolves.

Karl Schudt 20:46
Right? You’re falling off the horse, you’re gonna fall on your neck, on your head, or on something else.

Scott Hambrick 20:54
Yeah, he’s trying to get civilization to tuck and roll.

Karl Schudt 20:58
So he engineers getting himself exiled to a planet called terminus, way, way on the outside of the galaxy. And he’s going to take a bunch of people ostensibly to make an Cyclopedia.

Scott Hambrick 21:12
Yeah. Very clever. Do you think that Asimov saw the end of an empire as well? And that’s what prompted him to write this? Or is this just a laboratory he I read in the introduction that he had read Gibbon a couple of times. It was inspired to write this after reading history of the Fallen decline of the Roman Empire.

Karl Schudt 21:37
I think that’s reasonable. He’s not a boomer, but it’s Boomer sci fi,

Scott Hambrick 21:41
he influenced him better living through science, all that, you know. quackery is in here.

Karl Schudt 21:48
Yeah, shorten the Dark Ages, the so called Dark Ages. make things better? Yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s based on given I think his understanding of religion, which we’ll get to, is given us

Scott Hambrick 22:02
he uses the word Imperium. Yeah. Karl like that. When Karl adopted that after reading Gibbon, just like ask them if you guys are soulmates?

Karl Schudt 22:10
I don’t doubt it. That’s a problem, though.

Scott Hambrick 22:12
You share a spiritual nature with us. I’m off.

Karl Schudt 22:15
I know, I’ve read a bunch of his stuff. I don’t share his sideburns. Good.

Scott Hambrick 22:22
He wrote so much stuff.

Karl Schudt 22:23
My dad had a bunch of his books, you know, it was a it’s what you read. Alright, so if you’re living in the end of the empire, what do you care about the dark ages to come?

Scott Hambrick 22:36
Well, is this a hypothetical yours? This me?

Karl Schudt 22:42
It’s a hypothetical you but it could also be Yeah,

Scott Hambrick 22:45
well, I think for Asimov, and so many people that have an affinity for what they see as progress. They fear not having these things that they see as conveniences or comforts. I did an interview with a guy the other day, for his podcasts named Timothy, Kenny, you can go find it. It’s like four hours. We talked for, like four hours. He’s, he’s from Boston. And I’m not I mean, he might as well been from the Ukraine, or I mean, we’re from different worlds. He can’t understand why that I would want to go and do the things I’m doing right now. Yeah, I mean, he wants to live in his megalopolis, and, you know, get it on his phone and have Uber Eats, bring him a sandwich and have the telescreen put stuff in front of him, like he, you know, to do something different. They just can’t imagine it. I think that I think it’s fear, not me, I sort of welcome the Dark Ages. So I understand, I believe, the so called dark age that we had, you know, after the fall of Rome wasn’t all that dark. And I don’t think it will be again, well, wait a minute, that’s not necessarily true. Everything that we have is either an agricultural product, or a refined mining product, you know, and all of the iron ore and the gold nuggets and all that stuff that you could find when you’re walking around or with a shovel, all that stuff’s been taken and used, you know, we screw it up this time. And we not may not be able to make the machinery necessary to get deep enough to get the ores you need to resurrect it. You know, there was 10 that can be mined in England and or in Britain, you know, that the Romans could use and they could mine it with a shovel. That’s all been used up. So you know, you, you lose some technologies and you drop the ball this time. Probably Probably won’t get back. There’ll be some enterprising people that find a landfill and tunnel down in there and get some stuff out of it and you know, and re refine it and use it, but I think it’s going to be tougher, but That’s okay. I don’t really care. I was at in that interview that I was kind of I didn’t say the words, but I was advocating for some sort of a distributed just agrarian system. And the interviewer Timothy, who was who was a great discussion partner. You know, he, I think he sees that as impoverishing everyone. I think they would have less legal tender, but you know, they’re still gonna have food, they’re gonna have shelter, there’s going to have less disposable income, and we’ll have everything that’s pretty good. So there but you know, if Asimov wants his disposable income, if he wants his there is ease. If he wants what he sees as conveniences and is ignoring the knock on effects from those things, then those people will fear a dark age.

Karl Schudt 25:51
Well, it’s how you measure wealth. Having a mortgage, you can leverage that you can do reverse mortgages on you know, are you really wealthy? Do you have money? No, you can you can have velocity of money in your accounts.

Scott Hambrick 26:05
You know, everybody’s worried.

Karl Schudt 26:07
Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t think, you know, it’s like, it’s the old joke, leave, quit show business and leave all of them.

Scott Hambrick 26:14
Right. I like it. Yeah, it’s a focus on like, the fear of a recession is kind of the same thing. You know, on a smaller scale, you know, you should only fear a recession, if you’re levered up and you’re afraid you can’t make your payments. You know, if everything’s paid for and stuff slows down, as long as you can get groceries. You know, who cares? Who cares? It’s the leverage. It’s the falsehood. It’s the, you know, it’s the fake money. It’s the fake wealth. It’s the you know, it’s the sham wealth that gets affected by the recession. So I don’t you know, I don’t care. Really. It shakes all the pretenders out. Yeah,

Karl Schudt 26:57
I want to read what however, Harry Selden says this is on page 40 of my edition. It’s in. It’s like, eight paragraphs in book one. Chapter Seven. says none of the quadrillions, quadrillions that’s more than trillions. None of the quadrillions living now among all the stars of the galaxy will be living a century from now. Why then should we concern ourselves with events of three centuries distance? I shall not be alive half a decade hence, said Selden, and yet it is of overpowering concern to me, call it idealism, call it an identification of myself with that mystical generalization to which we refer by the term humanity. I’m more marked that I thought, well, that that’s awfully interesting. And identification with that mystical generalization, which we refer by the term humanity, you know, what is the the motive of the action of the book must serve humanity. It’s better for humanity, that there’ll be a galactic empire than that there not be. It’s not better for Bob and Jim and Sally, necessarily, but it’s better for humanity.

Scott Hambrick 28:14
Yeah, I’ve gotten irritated about you get the difference there. Yeah, there is no such thing as humanity or society. You know, I, I gripe about that a lot. No such thing as society stupid.

Karl Schudt 28:27
Well, but in the aggregate, Scott, there is humanity, right? The people that will act in a certain way to stimuli, and

Scott Hambrick 28:36
this is that all utilitarian, soft shoe stuff, you know, you know, like, you know, how do we help people on aggregate, you know, and that people in aggregate, and we will, we will call humanity? I understand, I understand, but meanwhile, you know, I know exactly who we are and what we need around here. And then our managerial overlords are over there, figuring out what’s best for humanity and telling us we’ll own nothing, and we’ll be happy. And it’s great, super dangerous, you know, when they when when these people who want to do things for humanity, don’t know what the good is, oh, gosh, you know, what a disaster. What a disaster. Now, unlike this, the sort of central planners that we have now, by the way, we have the most tightly controlled, centrally planned economy that has ever existed. With the Federal Reserve. They fixed the price of every single thing in our economy by controlling the interest rate and printing money at will. This is a centrally planned government economy. This is a communist economy more than

Karl Schudt 29:48
no Scott capitalism, whatever. They told me that we’re capitalist

Scott Hambrick 29:54
for intelligence world he thinks that there are these forces that are You know, that kind of push the I don’t know, the stream of history around, and that if you understand the forces, you can figure out where the stream is going to go. But heat Miss Selden doesn’t really try to manipulate events too much, though. He just, he’s just put a few things in motion that will but make these key people at important times of times in history, you know, make make good decisions, or actually no decision. And most of the time, that’s not what we have now. The people that try to manage everything,

Karl Schudt 30:40
if we had actual psycho historians in charge, they wouldn’t impose an interest rate increase on you know, you wouldn’t see it coming, there would just be no more choice. But to do this certain thing, right. We have to do it, you know that. But I think they do. They do things like that in rhetoric. You know, that’s the rhetoric of the politicians. We have to do this. We have to support the current thing. We have no choice. You know, you have to, okay, so your gas bills are going to be higher and you’re not going to have any food because there’s going to be food shortage, food shortages, but we had no choice. We had to do this thing. The economy. Yeah. If Selden were actually running things you wouldn’t know. They wouldn’t tell you that you had to do things. That would just be

Scott Hambrick 31:30
that sounds good.

Karl Schudt 31:33
What that you have settled in in charge? Yeah. I

Scott Hambrick 31:37
mean, Selden is in charge anyway. But you don’t know what not knowing would be better.

Karl Schudt 31:41
Yeah. And they’ve just been. Yeah. So he says, this interesting. I have some quotes marked, I have notes. Because, you know, I take notes. This is in on page 43 of the Bantam edition. Chen, who’s the Emperor, or at least who’s in charge? Chen knew I spoke the truth. He’s a very clever politician and politicians, by the very nature of their work must have an instinctive feeling for the truths of psycho history. I actually think that’s, that’s right. And I think that’s okay. That when you read, you know, what’s the book that comes after the Nicomachean? Ethics? politics? Politics? Yeah, Aristotle says, politicians need to study the soul. Psyche. I buy that, so that you can know how, how to influence people, that you can steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain. Just another way Aristotle talks. I suppose the difference with Selden is the goal. I mean, what’s the goal to which for which he’s steering them?

Scott Hambrick 32:51
He’s trying to preserve it, this isn’t said, but he’s trying to preserve maybe technical know how maybe that, meanwhile, trying to not get everyone killed?

Karl Schudt 33:03
Yeah, so it’s kind of a negative telos. We need to have small scale nuclear Yonyx, right, that people can use, you know, washing machines and stuff. So I was thinking as I got to page 46. So you’re gonna establish two foundations, one at one end of the galaxy and others the other end, you have to read further along to see the other foundation, there will be successors. And they will be able to apply the final touch in the scheme and instigate the revolts on an Aquarian at the right time and in the right manner. So there’s going to be people plotting and doing things. And what it made me think of was Edward Bernays propaganda, where he says at the beginning of that book that without a doubt, the more intelligent must rule, the less intelligent and the way that they do this is by unseen methods. And propaganda is one of these methods

Scott Hambrick 34:10
I talked to

Karl Schudt 34:13
just killing you is this book too much? No,

Scott Hambrick 34:15
I enjoyed it. I talked to seminar great at three last night and we talked a little bit about Aristotle’s natural slave. One of the things about his arguments about the natural slave. Number one, he’s right. Number one, he’s right, number two, him being right. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. So for the listener who might not know what he says about this, it’s just it’s on page two of his book politics book one page to Aristotle’s Politics. It says there are these people that are really good at managing things he talks about husband men and You know, they’re good at marshaling resources, they’re good at making decisions, they’re good at managing things. And then there are people that aren’t good at managing things, then he says they might not be good at it for a whole bunch of different reasons. Maybe they’re not very smart. Maybe they don’t want to maybe it’s just not in their nature, they don’t like it, it’s, it doesn’t come natural to them, whatever. But if you’ve got two different kinds of people simply mean to simplify, you’ve got a group of people that are good at managing things and making decisions for to an end. And then a group of people that aren’t good at that. That has a political consequence. So it seems clear to me that there are people that are good at making decisions and people who are bad at making decisions. So now we have to come up with a political system. The people who are bad at making decisions probably shouldn’t get to vote. But remember, some of the people that are bad at making decisions, don’t even want to they don’t care, they won’t get out of bed for it, they won’t read up on the issues, they don’t turn up at the polls anyway. Right. So those people are clearly natural slaves, they are going to be governed, they don’t do. They don’t they don’t even vote. That’s me, by the way, they don’t even vote. So, you know, no matter how you turn it, whether you like it, what he says or not, the consequences is there is a class of people that ends up being governed and having no say, in the direction of, you know, the macro direction of their lives. And Sultan’s world, Sultan’s world is nothing but natural slaves. Except for you know, every now and then there’s one guy, you know, at the vertex of history, that can stage a little bloodless coup and, you know, and, you know, at one of these Seldon events, and, you know, take the correct fork in the road or whatever, the natural slave

Karl Schudt 36:59
Yeah, you could translate that different ways, the natural servant, the natural employee, which is not to argue for I mean, you can do your lesson or you can go read it yourself and decide how mad you want to be at Aristotle for telling you something that’s true. That doesn’t mean that one ought to have chattel slavery, say in 1855, Alabama, that doesn’t mean that it just means that, you know, there’s people that aren’t going to, that would be better for them, if somebody else were making their decisions,

Scott Hambrick 37:29
like four year olds. I don’t understand why the concept is so upsetting to people. But anyway, for ask them off, you know, actually, we don’t know what to ask them. Oh, boy, he’s right. He’s, he’s writing this stuff out. I don’t know what he believes. But if for the purpose of this book, almost every single person is an actual slave. Even the people who are pretenders to power, you know, these these weird barbarian kings or regions and so on, even though even they don’t really get to make decisions that seem right.

Karl Schudt 38:02
Well, the decisions Yeah, well, the decisions had been constrained by the master, the genius for 1000 years previously. I liked the description. So we get to part two, the encyclopedias. I like the description of the fall of the Empire, and it starts cracking in the periphery. It’s minutes straight out of gibbon. As soon as you can’t count on the Legion showing up. You may still say something about the Emperor, but it’s done. Things quit working, they lose nuclear power, because they don’t

Scott Hambrick 38:37
have anybody. Are you in Texas still boiling your water? Are they under a boil order? Yep. Some of them were.

Karl Schudt 38:44
I hadn’t? I hadn’t heard yet. Yeah, things just stop working. And there aren’t the people around, you can fix it. And eventually, they forget that it’s even possible to fix it. And it’s just, uh, you know, we have these things that our ancestors gave us and eventually they’ll run down. And, you know, nobody knows nuclear physics. What’s that? That would be awesome. Like, I’m continually amazed by the fact that the Romans had concrete, Marcia was saying in the notice they had underwater concrete. And then it was last, who was the last person in the empire that knew how to do concrete?

Scott Hambrick 39:25
Some kind in haste

Karl Schudt 39:31
that’s, it’s like, in Chicago, there were these these buildings with these wonderful plaster? ceilings, intricate, you couldn’t find anyone to do it. Yeah. Nobody knows how to do that. Most art, you’d have to rediscover it. And so it’s not necessarily the the weirdness of the Emperor’s that makes empires fall. It’s just that people don’t learn the crafts that they needed to learn. And they just forget how to do stuff.

Scott Hambrick 40:01
Yeah, there’s a I’m having a house built right now, I know something about that. I’m not a complete novice in terms of construction whatsoever. So I’m out there on the job site stomping around and looking at stuff and, you know, these framers, they don’t follow the nailing schedule, they don’t look at the framing details and you know, execute according to the plans. They’re doing what they’ve been shown how to do. Until Hambrick goes out there and tells him to take it apart and do it like the plan, say, and follow the nailing schedule. You know, if I’m not there on the job site, that’s not what you’re gonna get. You know, if you buy a tract house, they’re gonna put together a facsimile of a house, then you’ll walk in, and you’ll think it’s a house, but it’s not. It’s a temporary shelter that they built new paid a lot of money for. And it’s not good. You know, there are these houses, you could buy kids from Sears and Roebuck and they would put the kid on a flat car on a train and send it to your town and you’d go to the train station and pick up this kit. And there was a book that came with it. And you could build yourself a Sears craftsman house. And those houses are highly sought after still still to this day. No one is going to be paying premium prices for a 2022 tract house. In 100 years, they won’t even be there. They won’t even be there. So we’re there is what I’m saying. Too long. Don’t read. We’re there.

Karl Schudt 41:48
So we need to set up a foundation somewhere

Scott Hambrick 41:50
now. Let it go, you know.

Karl Schudt 41:53
So you got a character. We have a mayor. So it turns out the encyclopedia set that was just a ruse to get things started. Nobody cares about the encyclopedia. And the mayor of Terminus takes over the foundation. He has this interesting name salver harden. What is it like savior? Tough guy?

Scott Hambrick 42:13
Yeah, that’s funny.

Karl Schudt 42:14
But so there’s this description of the Fallen Empire. This is on page 67. I like their curses. One of the characters in this book actually says great Galloping galaxies. Yeah. Since 1950, science fiction, it’s fantastic. Great space hardened felt annoyed. What is this every once in a while great space. someone mentions emperor or Empire as if it were a magic word. The Emperor is 1000s of parsecs away. And I doubt whether he gives a damn about us. And if he does, what can you do? What there was at the Imperial Navy in these regions is in the hands of the four kingdoms now and inaccurate has a chair. So you’ll know things are really bad when laws are not enforced. You Yeah. pass all the laws you want, but nobody’s going to enforce it. As my little adventure when my car got hit by an uninsured motorist, nothing happened to him. Right? He got away with it. The fine is less than what he would have paid. He’s doing it right. At the end of empire. I’m the guy that screwing up by being insured and following all the

Scott Hambrick 43:27
laws. Right? That’s true. And whenever

Karl Schudt 43:31
when enough people figure that out, that playing by the rules is stupid. Then it’s done. It’s happening. I still fill out the forms. Job. Yeah, so silver harden has his motto, which I forgot was Asimov’s I think I’ve heard it in other places. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, which I’m not sure if it’s true, but that’s the way the foundation works. They never do anything directly. They never fight any wars. It’s all sneaky.

You keep saying Huh, huh. Which means I want to pause and let you dilate upon your

Scott Hambrick 44:20
Well, it’s the neocon playbook. Now, people will say, Oh, but they get us in these shooting wars and whatever, they never really go all in, they never actually fight them themselves. They’re all proxies. They won’t take on anything head on. And for the last I don’t know, since 1941, none of that stuff has actually come home. You know, it just it just weighs on the sort of lower lower class folks who, you know, have loved ones in the military. So, you know, whatever, but it’s just, you know, it’s just Kissinger real politic. You know, sleazy shit. And we’re getting where we’re at. We’re seeing a couple of other cultures that are on this globe that don’t do politics that way. We’re getting ready to run a little lab experiment here and see which politic is proper. And I already know the answer to that.

Karl Schudt 45:13
Yeah. Well, that’s why I am where I am at the moment.

Scott Hambrick 45:17
Violence is what is his saying? Violence is the last resort. Hussein’s Asimov’s violence is

Karl Schudt 45:24
violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, right.

Scott Hambrick 45:30
Unless, Hambrick is really competent, and he’s somewhere dangerous, and he realizes that if he doesn’t sucker punch that guy right now and break his nose, he’s gonna get curb stomped.

Karl Schudt 45:42
Well, the theory would be that you getting yourself in that situation is your incompetence.

Scott Hambrick 45:47
Well, right. But that that assumes that, you know, that we get to choose the situations we’re in, right, under which

Karl Schudt 45:55
the foundation does or what Harry Selden had got to do is to pick all the situations and tilt them so that you could just wait it out and do non violent trickery stuff.

Scott Hambrick 46:06
Right? Right. So you got a bunch of people at the RAND Corporation like Wargaming, these things get through, you know, they’re, yeah, they’re War Gaming, you know, they’re trying to figure out doing tabletop gaming, trying to figure out what will happen if we do this, what will they do, et cetera, et cetera, are trying to put themselves in a position to wield power without actually using power. You know, there’s a lot of talk right now about kind of on the write, about, like information war, and about soft power, and how Russia hasn’t won the information war. And I’m like, You guys are fucking retarded. They don’t care about the information wars, they’re destroying their enemy’s ability to fight. They don’t care about information, they want to apply force where they want it. And they’re able to do that. So this idea that we’ve got,

Karl Schudt 46:59
yeah, well, winning the information war, winning the information, we’re losing the fertilizer war,

Scott Hambrick 47:05
right? It’s ridiculous. Well, the people on the right are like that all the time. You know, as much as I enjoy our memes, it doesn’t do anything to the opposition. They’re like, Oh, ridicule them, they don’t care. You know, people on the left will say things to me that they think are clever would, you know, somehow, you know, make me think less of myself, but I don’t care what they say. And they don’t care what we say the memes don’t work. They might be good for our own morale, but they they don’t do anything to the opposition. Like, you have to actually apply force. And, you know, there are certain circumstances where information has some force or can be used as a weapon. But you know, not if your opponent’s not on the same banking system as you or not if they’re not on the same internet as you are, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Whatever. Well, I don’t know. I can’t even read the books anymore. I just think drives me crazy.

Karl Schudt 48:02
Can’t read this book anymore?

Scott Hambrick 48:03
I can’t really read anything anymore.

Karl Schudt 48:08
I’m sorry. That’s a that’s a problem. Maybe we ought to just read poetry.

Scott Hambrick 48:12
Oh, I certainly can’t read that stuff. He’s got time for that.

Karl Schudt 48:17
Okay, then maybe what should we read?

Scott Hambrick 48:19
Oh, it’s old stuff. Man. I gotta read the old old stuff. You know,

Karl Schudt 48:24
Thomas Aquinas and the handbook of selecting IBM’s for proper loads or something like that?

Scott Hambrick 48:29
Yeah. Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, that kind of thing.

Karl Schudt 48:36
Well, all of the reasons that I think this is a bad book, a good bad book, are things that Isaac could have figured out had he read older stuff and realize that this doesn’t make any sense without a TELUS I mean, what’s the point of re establishing the Galactic Empire it’s kind of a joke later in the book The traitors so the way they do it first, they create a religion the foundation religion complete with priests and holy food, you know, it’s a mockery of Christianity. Believe later on when the traders come into power. They’re establishing influenced by selling nuclear powered appliances to housewives. As if this is the good you know, the the point the whole point of progress is scientific progress, which is a circle. The point of progress is progress. That’s no good. So the foundation is kinda like It recalls to me the monasteries. That would preserve learning after the Legions wouldn’t come anymore but they the monasteries had an idea they thought of the telos of life. And they

Scott Hambrick 50:04
didn’t have to be tricked into preserving the information.

Karl Schudt 50:08
Unless they were unless religion is all a sham figured out by the foundationist. Right?

Scott Hambrick 50:14
Okay. Fair enough.

Karl Schudt 50:16
We were a monastery last Sunday, and they don’t care. You know, they’ve got a vision of the good life. And that vision requires what that they that they have adequate time to pray all day that they have food that they part of their mission is to provide spiritual benefits to the visitors who come visit. But it’s an awfully long drive to go visit across roads flooded by springs. They’re not doing it to save the world, in a conventional progressive sense.

Scott Hambrick 50:53
Nor I

Karl Schudt 50:57
but they are selling cheese and it was excellent.

Scott Hambrick 51:00
To get that, that cheese with the caraway seeds in it, they sell.

Karl Schudt 51:05
We got Gouda, and we have a fennel Gouda, we haven’t tried, the Gouda was gone, we went to a swimming hole after after the monastery and that cheese was pretty much gone. By the time we got there. It’s this good. Very good $6 chunk of cheese, but you got to drive an hour and 10 minutes to get it. It’s worth it. So this is like the foundation is like a secular fake monastery. Set to bring the goods of science to the galaxy that needs it. And I’m just saying, Isaac, why are they doing this? Who cares if there’s a bunch of petty kingdoms in the galaxy? How does this make life better to have it unified in one political organization? That’s the big gaping flaw that for me the seductive idea psychohistory as a smart aleck 12 year old whenever I read this book, probably read it in 1978. I wasn’t told them that I was precocious. And having this Oh, math can predict everything. Everything’s predictable. Well, if everything you know what’s not predictable person’s the idea of a human person versus the idea of a predictable conglomerate. These are contradictory things. And so if you start to get seduced by this idea, the first problematic the first, the first problem in this book is psycho history. The second problem is why are they doing it? The third problem is, even in the way the story is told, it takes exceptional men who can’t be predicted. To make everything happen, you needed Hoeber whatever his name is over Mallow and Salford hard and so I don’t think it works. But as the young man you start thinking, you look at other people and you see math equations. I mean, this is a way to to sociopathy.

Scott Hambrick 53:15
This is written in 4151 51,

Karl Schudt 53:17
published in 1951.

Scott Hambrick 53:21
You know, the Austrians. The Economist have already been talking about their rational market theory and efficient market theory, you know, rational market theory that markets are rational that they do things for specific reasons. And it’s explicable in the efficient market theory says that that prices reflect all available information that’s relevant to that asset or service. They proceed from there, right? They make two assumptions that the price is meaningful, meaningful of everything, and that people will make rational decisions based on that price. And then they go from there. And chaos ensues. Right, then you end up with fiscal policy. Right, then you end up with tax policy. And people, you know, our managerial class makes decisions to try to get us to behave the way they want us to behave using incentives. And, yeah, we just never stopped with this stuff. I swear I can hardly read any of it. It’s not science fiction.

Karl Schudt 54:38
Yeah, so what were my three problems that was the first problem was like your history makes you a psychopath. sociopath. What’s the difference?

Scott Hambrick 54:48
I think the psychopath cannot understand emotional states of other people or maybe is does not care about the other. So emotional state, sociopath. s just does not adhere to social conventions. I believe this a difference.

Karl Schudt 55:06
Oh, okay, so psychopath, probably what is psychohistory psychopaths? So, you know, everybody is a collection of stimuluses and responses that you can engineer and you probably do care about their emotional state, but only because you know which levers to push.

Scott Hambrick 55:25
This website I’m on right now says in a clinical setting, there is no actual difference between sociopathy and psychopathy, sociopathy. Those sociopaths may have little empathy and a habit of rationalizing their actions but they do know the difference between right and wrong. psychopathy involves no sense of morality or empathy.

Karl Schudt 55:44
So anyway, they have the Selden vaults, they have the Harry Selden vault, I don’t know if he’s buried in it, but it’s this thing that they built on Terminus. And every now and then, Harry Selden pops up, even though he’s dead, with recorded messages that, you know, confirm or tell them things that they need to know in order to keep the plan moving. It’s a later and one of the later books applaud is that they get out of sync. The predictions go wrong, and so they have to fix everything and get back on Satan’s plan. And he says, so they had been established as an encyclopedia, we’re gonna go make an encyclopedia, you know, like, was it st. Isidore? In 800 or 700 made encyclopedia to preserve knowledge. But Selden says the encyclopedia foundation to begin with is a fraud and always has been a fraud. It’s a fraud in the sense that neither I nor my colleagues care at all whether a single volume of the encyclopedia is ever published. To serve its purpose since by it we extracted an imperial charter from the Emperor but we attracted the 100,000 Humans necessary necessary for our scheme and by it we managed to keep them preoccupied while event shaped themselves till it was too late for any of them to draw back. Alright, so we were reading this in seminar which we wouldn’t it’s not that good. I would say is very seldom the good guy or a bad guy because what he’s admitted here is we lied to you. We got you to move across the galaxy. And we kept lying to you until it was too late for you to do anything else.

Scott Hambrick 57:33
Let’s see it good guy. I don’t know. You know, do you believe in the noble lie? Can you lie is it okay? I

Karl Schudt 57:40
mean I’m I believe in the noble lie of the noble goal was high enough

you know, you’re you’re riding your you’re driving your, your truck through the Badlands, and there’s bandits on the horizon, and you turn around and you tell your kid who’s crying. It’ll be okay. Well, that’s a noble lie. Or maybe it’s a noble hope. But you want the kid to calm down so that you can drive them out of there. But it’s Mad Max time, it’s probably not going to be all right. So in a noble end could make a line Noble or maybe make it not even be alive but so is the noble end of shortening the galactic collapse enough to take 100,000 People lie to them? You know, this is where psychohistory leads to psychopathy. If you think people are functions whose inputs you can manipulate, even in the aggregate, then they’re people you can manipulate Yep. I thought very interesting on page 95. About not stopping the galactic fall Selden says We do not wish to for Imperial culture has lost whatever virility and worth it once had. And I’m thinking, Oh, well, there would be an end if he had it. I know people out there saying you’re over reading Asimov. It’s just science fiction fun. But, you know, it’s what I do. And it’s a real popular series. It’s very influential. I think Amazon is even making a series for it.

Scott Hambrick 59:28
No, ask them off. And in all the science fiction magazines, and radio shows, like x minus one and all that stuff from this era are one of the reasons the boomers are the way they are.

Karl Schudt 59:44
Yeah, probably me too. I read all their stuff.

Scott Hambrick 59:47
Yeah, they were they were inculcated are with a with a worldview that is out of fiction. They think that everything is always going to improve prove that I think that science has the answer. And they see that that sort of history or the scope of time is a character, an X in and of itself. So they don’t have a responsibility. Right? Like, I don’t have to do this, I don’t have to take action, I don’t have to preserve this. I don’t have to. I don’t have to do anything. Because progress is going to fix it. And it’s all going to be okay. So I’ll go buy my RV, and spend the kids inheritance. And, you know, whatever.

Karl Schudt 1:00:41
What if you what if you bought land and an RV and parked it there? And then occasionally took the RV to the lake? Would that be okay?

Scott Hambrick 1:00:50
Well, that, okay, that might be called, that might be called thrift. But see, the boomer would buy the land, somewhere around 2000 miles from where all their kids and grandkids are. And they would go there, just in the winter, Christmas. Right? And then they would come back every now and then and park in the driveway, have, you know, one of the kids and just you know, be an interloper for a week. So that’s not what they do. But, you know, they don’t really have a responsibility because, you know, science and the scope of history is going to take care of things. And this is one of the reasons why you hear from the modern person. Well, you know, they’re gonna be on the wrong side of history. Well, how does that fucking happen?

Karl Schudt 1:01:37
What does that mean? How does history have a side? Yeah, what

Scott Hambrick 1:01:40
are you talking about? What does that mean? Well, it’s

Karl Schudt 1:01:43
like see, Scott, it’s the Hague alien dialectic as the working out of the freedom of the human through thesis, antithesis and synthesis to be instantiated in the Prussian state of the 1800s. Yeah, you’re right. It just, it naturally happens. It’s the working out of freedom over history. You can’t stop it. You can only be on its side or not on its side. Right history has a side

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