December 7, 2012
Asimov's Foundation novels grounded my economics : The fantastical tale offers a still-inspiring dream of a social science that could save civilisation (Paul Krugman, 12/04/12, guardian.co.uk)
There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy's life. For some, it's Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; for others it's Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says, the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books can warp a young man's character forever; the other book is about orcs. But for me, of course, it was neither. My Book - the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades - is Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation. [...][T]he way Asimov's invented societies recapitulate historical models, goes right along with his underlying conceit: the possibility of a rigorous, mathematical social science that understands society, can predict how it changes, and can be used to shape those changes.
Isn't the only difference between the two sorts of fans that a Randian thinks he's so special that no one should be allowed to impinge on his life in any fashion and a Foundation-geek thinks himself capable of impinging on every living being's life for the better?
Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2012 5:00 PM