The Future as Past


I do not say now that we can prevent the fall. But it is not yet too late to shorten the interregnum which will follow. It is possible, gentlemen, to reduce the duration of anarchy to a single millennium, if my group is allowed to act now. We are at a delicate moment in history. The huge, onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little, – just a little – It cannot be much, but it may be enough to remove twenty-nine thousand years of misery from human history. (19)

Within Asmiov’s Foundation, Seldon can fairly accurately predict future events through his psychohistory, yet fails to find original methods for evading these events. As seen in the above passage, Seldon claims that the fall can indeed be reduced in time and optimistically asserts that much distress will then be avoided. Ironically, his plan of an Encyclopedia Galactica relies on the Empire’s fundamental component of organization—valuing a whole entity over its individual parts. Thus, history is depicted within the text as the influence of past occurrences on future events; there is no way of freeing oneself from the past trends regardless of any quantitative predictions. The definition of psychohistory (which Phoenix Helix also quotes below), is “a branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli”. The word conglomerates, though defined as “parts that are grouped together to create a whole but remain distinct”, is also problematic because often times grouping individuals together can strip them of their subjectivity. Ultimately, even within a Science fiction text as Foundation, which imagines highly innovative methods for predicting the future, the future is represented as imprisoned within the constraints of the past and unable to offer viable alternatives to the problem of empire.

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