Monday, May 26, 2014

Seldon’s Paradox

       Seldon’s Paradox

          Rebellious young psychohistorian is brought to see the emperor. The emperor says, “I know you hate me, everybody does, my psychohistorians tell me this is so. I don’t mind, people are as easy to control that way as any other. Just don’t try to do anything about it. And don’t think you can use psychohistory against me. You psychohistorians depend on me, for your training, your computer time, your funds and your lives. If any other psychohistorian catches you making trouble, then you will die. This empire is absolutely stable. History has reached its final state.”
          The young psychohistorian almost objects out that’s impossible, by Seldon’s Theorem; but a hunch warned him not to. Instead he blurts out, “Have you chosen your successor?” After a moment of breath-holding silence, the emperor says, “Yes of course, don’t ask stupid questions!”
          The psychohistorian leaves, thinking, “He’s wrong. History has no final state, that’s Seldon’s Paradox. Hasn’t he heard that theorem? And if he’s already reduced to threatening his own psychohistorians…!”
          “But he has a point. He does control psychohistory, or at least psychohistorians; so he can predict and prevent rebellions.”
          “It’s a double-bind. I can’t work against him because he controls psychohistory; he controls psychohistory because people like me can’t work against him. How to break free of this?”
          Musing thus, he runs into another psychohistorian, who says, “You’re new here. I see that you got the usual talking-to by His Majesty. You and I both know he’s wrong. Do you know why?”
          Warily, “What do you mean, wrong?”
          “Good, you’re cautious. After all, I could be one of his agent provocateurs. Yes, of course they exist, but don’t worry about them, they have their own problems. Here’s why he’s wrong; apply Seldon’s Paradox to equation 12-17.”
          “Yes, they don’t teach that in the schools, do they?”
          “It’s called a nonstandard operation.”
          “Like dividing by zero. But the differential calculus depends on something much like dividing by zero… what else do they call it?”
          The young psychohistorian says, light dawning, “An illegal manipulation.”
          “Have you ever tried that application of the Paradox?”
          “Of course not,” said the older psychohistorian. “And the next time you don’t do it, use Caldwell’s process instead of Thorbury’s.”
          “And consider this; he has a negative-alpha personality.”
          Our hero, suddenly nervous, says, “Who does?”
          Our hero rushes off.

          At home he doodled on his pad. Seldon’s Paradox; psychohistory cannot be consistently applied to a society in which psychohistory is known. Any prediction that it would make would change society in ways that nullify the prediction. Equation 12-17; the “personal intuition” parameter, which describes the average human’s personal ability to detect and harmonize with psychohistorical trends. According to his old school, the Paradox doesn’t apply to 12-17 because intuition isn’t strong enough to activate the antinomy; only intellect is.
          So said his old school; they had even proved it. But this very proof he had long distrusted. Is it proper for intellect to be the judge between intellect and intuition?
          More doodling. Lo and behold, with the use of Cladwell’s process, the paradox does apply to the equation. Quite nicely. In fact…
          He looks at his scratchpad, stunned. But this is astounding! Incredible!
          No, he realizes. More than incredible.

          Next day… he meets his friend. He says, “I tried what you suggested.”
          The older psychohistorian says, “What did you get?”
          “An amazing result. The intuition parameter equals the global function!”
          “Ah yes… and the paradoxes?”
          “Which ones? Internal or external?”
          “They’re identical too. What’s unknowable to the individual is the same as what is unpredictable for the psychohistorian measuring the society.”
          “A neat unity, that.”
          “Yes, and it means that the psychohistorian/psychohistory barrier doesn’t have to exist.”
          “You mean it’s possible to have a society of psychohistorians?”
          “I mean that everybody is a psychohistorian already. To the extent that psychohistory is possible at all.”
          “But what about the Tyranny Theorem?”
          “It’s no longer a theorem; actually it’s an assumption. If you accept the Paradox as an aspect of all parts of society, then the need to keep psychohistorical knowledge an elite secret vanishes. Psychohistorical rule becomes as unstable as any other sort of rule, once the Paradox and its implications sink in. So therefore…”
          He stops. Silence.
          Friend: “Yes?”
          More silence.
          Friend: “I see that an implication has sunken in.”
          “So tell me; if the Psychohistorical Tyranny Theorem is not a mathematical necessity, then what of the psychohistorical tyrant?”
          More silence.
          “By the way, I mentioned something about negative-alpha personalities. Include that in your calculations.”

          Next day.
          Friend: “You look tired.”
          “I was up all night. At three I got the answer. I tried to go to sleep afterwards.”
          “So what do you have?”
          “Revolution. It’s coming.”
          “When? Where? How?”
          “The equations give a … paradoxical answer. Quote. ‘Sooner than you think.’ Unquote. I don’t know what that means exactly…”
          Friend laughs. “Good old Seldon’s wise equations! And the present-time parameter?”
          “ ‘Later than you think’.”
          “Of course. Can this revolution be stopped?”
          “Come now. Any revolution can be stopped, with proper psychohistorical guidance.”
          “Yes… I should have said that it can be stopped,” he said, staring hard at his friend, “but it won’t be.”
          “Why not? The emperor has his psychohistorians. He has his army, his spies and his torturers. Why shouldn’t they give him correct guidance?”
          “Because to do so, someone would have to tell him what’s coming. Which will match up with his intuition all too well.”
          “Yes. And?”
          “He has a negative-alpha personality. He would kill anyone who would tell him that he’s doomed.”
          Friend: “That is correct. And not only his foolish informant, but anyone connected to him.”
          “So it’s kept a secret.”
          Friend says, “Only from him. Everyone else knows, or guesses.”
          “Everyone? His spies? His generals?”
          “Even he knows, intuitively; but he won’t listen to his intuition when what it says is uncomfortable.”
          “That’s negative-alpha for you.”
          “Yes. So nothing is mentioned, nothing is done, and nothing is prevented. The revolution brews underneath a calm surface.”
          “I see. So the situation suggested by the equations already exists. I’m surprised it’s gone so far so soon.”
          “Remember what the equations said; ‘sooner than you think’. We are well into the process. Our data says that it will be less than three decades until outbreak.”
          “How much sooner?”
          “Unpredictable; and the later, the better. Best to not set off the inevitable prematurely! And that can happen if some fool tells the emperor about it. This mustn’t happen.”
          “That’s obvious. Why are you telling me this?”
          “Because you’re new here, and the emperor always takes an interest in psychohistorians newly arrived from the Institute. He’s subconsciously trying to weasel out the truth from some unsuspecting youngster.”
          “And I’m it?”
          “For now. If you tell him the truth, you die. If you parrot Institute platitudes, he’ll lose interest in you.”
“I see.”
“So are you going to keep your mouth shut?”
“Of course.”

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