Sidharth Vardhan

Asimov’s Foundation – a review

Foundation Isaac Asimov SIdharth Vardhan review analysis
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future -- to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire -- both scientists and scholars -- and brings them to a bleak planet at the…

(A review by Sidharth Vardhan
Of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
First written on November 26, 2015)

“PSYCHOHISTORY–...Gaal Dornick, using nonmathematical concepts, has defined psychohistory to be that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli..”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

Psychohistory is interesting but not as interesting as robo-psychology (which is subject of 'I, The Robot').

One of the reasons I love reading Asimov is that he is one of the few science fiction writers who does not make scientists look like fools. Most science fiction I’ve read or seen is about scientists releasing some kind of problem on the world – zombies created by T-virus, monsters created using parts of dead bodies, artificial intelligence gone mad and looking to destroy the world, time machines taking people to 10000 B. C. and so on. You could expect them to know better. ” such folly smacks of genius. A lesser mind would be incapable of it."

Now Asimov is different. Here, scientists are rather cool people often solving problems even before they arise. That is what made psychohistory so interesting – it gave them the ability to foresee future problems.

“Any fool can tell a crisis when it arrives. The real service to the state is to detect it in embryo.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

It was so in ‘I, Robot’ – where robots were seen to be simply incapable of causing harm; it is more so here where scientists are actually saving the world from chaos.

In fact, the real problem creators in Asimov’s world are, as IRL, conservatives or power-holders – religious orthodoxies, government bureaucracies and so on. And he often creates laughs at their expense:

“ There's something about a pious man such as he. He will cheerfully cut your throat if it suits him, but he will hesitate to endanger the welfare of your immaterial and problematical soul. It's just a piece of empirical psychology.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

The reason why Foundation was successful is that that old management was always giving way to newer methods.

” they were scientists enough to admit that they were wrong.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

Even the problems created by above mentioned trouble-makers are solved by tact. That is another thing that sets Asimov apart from much of other science fiction – an almost absolute lack of violence:

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

(not that I am averse to violence, on the contrary – just look at my DP) His lead characters are humorous even in face of trouble and use diplomacy to resolve their disputes, even when guns are pointed at them and are successful each time – a bit like Doctor Who. Even if there is violence, it happens off-screen. There are no dishum-dishum fights, shootouts or chases to be found.

Another thing I like about Asimov is his innovation with swearing. By Proust, I love it.

One thing that can bother some people is lack of women in Foundation. In ‘I, Robot’ there was a woman in lead character and there were a couple of minor female characters. In Foundation, there are to be seen three lead characters, each of them having one assistant – and none of six is a woman. No woman of the foundation is to be seen. The only two women who show up are a servant and a queen married by her father for political reasons – and both are there to try a jewelry-gadget. I can understand if some people do not like that (for one thing, presence of women can make everything more interesting) –especially since Foundation is about a world millenniums into the future and Asimov is talking about predicting future of society.

Otherwise, he is cool.

More Quotes:

“I, as Mayor of Terminus City, have just enough power to blow my own nose and perhaps to sneeze if you countersign an order giving me permission. “

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

“There's no merit in discipline under ideal circumstances.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

“Since when does prejudice follow any law but its own.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

“Custom is higher than law, at times.”

Isaac Asimov (Foundation)

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