Martin Börjesson has just been re-reading Asimov’s famous Foundation Trilogy, and found himself wondering whether the books are any use as a way of reframing the current global situation with regard to economics and geopolitics.
Here it is worth noting that the main inspiration too this novel, which started as a series of short stories by a 22 year old Asimov, published from 1942 and forward, came from Gibbon’s famous work “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. When I see it in this perspective I can’t avoid thinking of the role of the monasteries which worked as knowledge capsules during the dark ages.
What does Dr Seldon say about what causes the fall of the Empire:
- a rising bureaucracy
- a receding initiative
- a freezing of caste
- a damming of curiosity
- …a hundred other factors
And the effects will be:
- its accumulated knowledge will decay
- the order it has imposed will vanish
- interstellar wars will be endless
- interstellar trade will decay
- population will decline
- worlds will lose touch with the main body of the Galaxy
- …and so matters will remain
Do these bullets sound familiar?
Well, of course they do; the ways that big systems collapse are well-known to historians and science fiction writers alike; it’s the political types and economists who seem to have the wilful blind spot in this case.
Can books like Foundation help us see things more clearly? Sure – if you’re the sort of person who’s willing to look for those analogies and think them through for yourself. As a tool to bring the message to the masses, though, I doubt they’re of any greater utility than a celebrity cook-book. [image by draXus]
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Suggested reading on secular cloisters: Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
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