Tag Archives: tipping point

Does Asimov’s Foundation trilogy hold wisdom about the current crisis?

Asimov's Foundation Trilogy in SpanishMartin 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]