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#25095 - 03/11/08 05:53 PM Psychohistory
Kevat Shah Offline
Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 37
Loc: Grenada
Do you think that predicting the general future of mankind simply using equations is possible (like psychohistory from the Foundation novels written by Isaac Asimov)? Do you think ecnomics, politics and psychology can be broken down into equations which, with the help of supercomputers, can help predict when certain "big" events will happen (like a stock market crash, revolution, etc.)
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Of Interest?
#25105 - 03/12/08 08:49 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: Kevat Shah]
redewenur Offline
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Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1811
Yet another interesting question.

I suppose we can agree that it's possible to identify trends in society that suggest the probability of certain almost imminent 'big' events. I think we humans are often quite good at this in view of our lifetime of participation in human affairs and first hand knowledge of human psychology. We also have a tendency to recognise the most significant information, just as a chess player does. A good chess player knows, from a great accumulation of data, i.e., experience, that most available options are 'bad' moves, and unconsciously ignores them, focusing instead on the moves most likely to win the game. A computer programmed to play chess cannot identify good moves in the same way. It examines all the outcomes of all the permutations of available moves for a number of moves ahead.

Knowing almost nothing of maths, I wouldn't presume to discuss with authority the possibility of equations of Asimov's 'psychohistory' type; but from a layman's vantage point: it seems that psychohistory is very improbable. Events become 'chaotic' too rapidly, thanks to the 'butterfly effect'. Predicting the weather a few years hence, though practically impossible, would seem to be a relatively simple task - all you might need would be an almost infinite number of sensors, and an almost infinitely powerful computer - whereas the complexity of 10 billion human minds is another story. Furthermore, passing on the relevant data to a computer would be difficult, to say the least.

Still, many things once considered impossible are now reality, so I don't close my mind to the possibility, whatever the improbability. Perhaps those nanotech massively parallel neural networks would provide a breakthrough...

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#25106 - 03/12/08 08:56 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: redewenur]
Kevat Shah Offline
Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 37
Loc: Grenada
Thanks for the reply red. I hope I'm not bothering people with all the "sci-fi" type questions on a science website, but sometimes its good to take a step back and look at all we've accomplished from a philosophical perspective. It often opens new paradigms and raises new questions.
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#25107 - 03/12/08 09:08 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: Kevat Shah]
redewenur Offline
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Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1811
I doubt very much that you're bothering anyone. If people aren't interested, they have no obligation to respond. Personally, I think such questions provide an opportunity to highlight and review fascinating aspects of current scientific knowledge.
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#25190 - 03/26/08 04:47 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: redewenur]
big fat pig Offline
Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 97
in order to do that, the super-supercomputer would have to have access to ALL possible knowledge, is that possible?

...assuming that all events in reality are purely dependent on the immediate previous state of reality, all of it being just a complex rube goldberg machine... cause and effect - are you willing to believe this?
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#25192 - 03/26/08 10:52 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: big fat pig]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
Posts: 1474
Loc: Australia
I agree with bfp. Not only would the computer have to have all the knowledge that is possible but also all the variables of that knowledge and all the results of the relationships of that knowledge to the other knowledge as well as the unknown and as yet undiscovered knowledge--- STOP---- it is just too big and I doubt that it would ever be possible with any computer. And as bfp says would you want to?

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#25194 - 03/27/08 11:54 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: Ellis]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 1940
Loc: http://thefalliblefiend.blogsp...
"Do you think that predicting the general future of mankind simply using equations is possible "

No. However, I do think that we will be able to use computers to model society in broad and useful ways. If a person does not know how to solve differential equations, he can still plot slopes and get a feel for the shape of the solution even without the exact solution. There are scientists today who think this is not very far off.

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#25362 - 04/10/08 07:48 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
Kate Offline

Senior Member

Registered: 10/16/04
Posts: 332
I think that this is quite interesting;

"A melding of The Sims and SimCity - using real-world data. The real power of the Leeds team's software is that it can pull together otherwise disparate publicly and privately stored data - things like car ownership, health records, real estate prices, transport, recreation facilities and education - into the simulation."

http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/reality_city.shtml



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#25366 - 04/11/08 09:23 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: Kate]
redewenur Offline
Megastar

Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1811
My first take on RealityCity: It tells planners where we are, not where we will be.

The Leeds project looks set to provide city planners with a very helpful tool, good for assessing requirements based on current data. But with regard to prediction, the weakness is 'current data'. However much data is included in the program, it would need to be updated constantly, making long term prediction impossible. I imagine that existing plans might often become obsolete before they leave the drawing board. Take, for example, car ownership, mentioned in the article: many factors may come into play, such as fuel prices, alternative fuels, anti-pollution legislation, and mass transport developments. Then there are those hi-tech developments that create gross social change: agriculture, antibiotics, phones, TVs, airplanes, nuclear weapons. What's next? We can but guess.

As a tool for city planners to meet current requirements: 9/10
As a tool for predicting the status of future society: 0/10

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#25372 - 04/11/08 04:17 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: redewenur]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
Megastar

Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 1940
Loc: http://thefalliblefiend.blogsp...
It's not a matter of "prediction," per se. It's about understanding the "landscape," i.e. the range of probabilities. Take this one step further:

Don't run a single instantiation of SimCityX. Instead, produce an evolving population of game rule-sets (a rule-set is a genome of rules) instantiations. This is the starting point that Dr. David Davis mentioned in his talk at the Smithsonian a few months back. That link is no longer active on the web, but you can read a little about him here: http://www.vgoassociates.com/page8.html
and a paper he wrote here:
http://www.worldtrademag.com/CDA/Articles/Feature_Article/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000142247

We are quickly approaching a time (according to Dave) when we will be able to understand the consequences of public policies before we enact them.




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#25378 - 04/12/08 06:55 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
redewenur Offline
Megastar

Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1811
Yes, TFF, I can quite see how such an insight might arise from knowledge of the probabilities with regard to the immanent implementation of public policies. Without a doubt, very useful, being why I rate it 9/10 as a tool for assessing current requirements and perhaps finding the best solutions to existing problems. But as you say, that's not prediction, and predictions of mathematically accuracy would be required for Asimov's psychohistory to become reality. The use of probabilities to determine the future status of society would be unreliable, as those very probabilities would, with time, recede into unpredictability. Hence the 0/10 rating.

Re your second link (Genetic Evolution as a Foundation for Supply Chain Optimization) - I'll have to digest that!

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#26390 - 06/04/08 01:55 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: redewenur]
MikeBinOK Offline
Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 67
Loc: Oklahoma
I recall reading a science fiction novel several years ago where the protagonist discovered a secret society that had been trying to direct the course of human history for almost 150 years using equations similar to these, and computing equipment (starting with Babbage's calculating engines!) to run the equations. This never worked quite as expected. In the course of the novel, the hero learned that there were actually numerous different secret societies out there, all working independently to control events, and frustrated because their predictions never quite worked out--Because the efforts of the other secret societies provided unforeseen effects that buggered things up! :-) Now I can't remember the name of the darned thing, have to see if I can find it....
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#26391 - 06/04/08 04:14 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: MikeBinOK]
redewenur Offline
Megastar

Registered: 02/14/07
Posts: 1811
Originally Posted By: MikeBinOK
...their predictions never quite worked out--Because the efforts of the other secret societies provided unforeseen effects that buggered things up!

grin Sounds like a good read. I imagine a similar thing could happen with attempts at weather control.
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Redshift: - the faster you drive toward a green light, the more likely it is to turn red - Murphy

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#26398 - 06/04/08 06:49 PM Re: Psychohistory [Re: redewenur]
MikeBinOK Offline
Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 67
Loc: Oklahoma
I can't find my copy, but did work out the name of the book. "In the Country of the Blind" by Michael Flynn. It was a good read if you like a psychohistorical detective adventure science fiction conspiracy thriller....Hee hee. Oh, and it also included the first description of a computer virus I'd ever read (when it came out in 1990--Heard far too much about them since, though....).

http://www.amazon.com/Country-Blind-Mich...3200&sr=8-2
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Mike B in OKlahoma

"Never confuse with malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."


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#30024 - 03/30/09 11:48 AM Re: Psychohistory [Re: MikeBinOK]
worldmaker Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 5
Loc: Manchester, UK
No.

Any application of rules suggest predictability and you always have problems with silly little things like people.

What if someone does something that can't be predicted within the limitations of your rules.

What if you have a major event, such as, for example an economic recession brought on by the behaviour of a limited number of idiots in banks.

What if you have an unpredictable cosmic event such as a supernova burst in your Galactic Empire.

Asimov's phychohistory might be accepted as a fictional device if you assume it lays down general pattern-based rules for a very large mass environment - tens of thousands of worlds over thousands of years of history. In that case you may have a limited success in some forms of prediction.

Until chaos throws a spanner in the works.

Again.
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