Spoiler Alert: I’ve tried to reduce the spoilers as much as I can while making the content relevant. It’s however advisable to read the book then read this!
I stumbled upon a copy of the Foundation Series in one of the street vendors somewhere around the Nairobi CBD area. Buying this book has been one of the most rewarding things I have done this year. The Foundation series is a great piece written by Isaac Asimov- a pioneer of the sci-fi genre.
Enough talk about how I came across this book; Let’s talk about it. In the Foundation series, the author explores various facets of society. How a society falls, how another rises, several crises here and there, randomness[yes randomness ]; and finally, how to deal with growth(and sustain it).
How the author explores these various aspects of society is quite intriguing. You can’t help but relate to some of the so mentioned things. In book one of this series, we are introduced to Seldon, a psychohistorian, who foretells of the demise and fall of the Empire which he foresees through his science[or Mathematics] of PsychoHistory. He foresees a dark future of barbarism and he seeks to reduce the length of this dark period by setting up the Foundation which acts as some rescue mission for the whole of humanity.
Something interesting to think here is this: Why would an empire fall? For one, there is this element of stiffling bureaucracy which would impede it’s expansion. Another reason would be inherent greed within the ruling class, where everyone wants to be at the top[sounds like Kenyan politics]. We get some really insightful[and interesting] snippets here and there of reasons behind an Empire’s demise.
Also, in book one of this series, Asimov explores the problems that a young world experiences in the face of disaster. He goes further to devise solutions to these problems which have been labelled Seldon crises. I think that these solutions would work in our present society if cleverly employed. I explore these solutions further in this section.
1. In the face of war and conflict with external powers, Proper leadership might guarantee independence and a sense of direction. People tend to follow someone with a strong sense of direction. If the leader’s direction is in the right direction, it follows that the people will be led to a brighter future.
2. Religion can be used to control the masses in situations where these masses are not able to come to terms with reality, or in situations where empowering these masses with knowledge would make them dangerous. Here’s an interesting way to [maybe] frame this point: Is it wiser to show a country[assuming said country is backward technologically] how atomic bombs work and how to build one, or sell them them the idea of some supreme being that controls these bombs under the frame of some religion[or cult]? If you sold the latter idea to people, you could craftily weave with it a bunch of holy rules on how to use these bombs. You would have successfully crafted a means to regulate the use of powerful weapons. Interesting thought indeed.
3. Finally, the importance of trade and its inherent power is also explored. How trade can be used in economic warfare is interesting. Imposing economic sanctions on an enemy territory can cripple war. I mean, what would your enemy do if you don’t sell them the atomic reactors they use in their weaponry. Indeed savage!
The main theme of book 2[according to me] was the element of randomness. In our lives, we so very often make plans. Sometimes we are so sure of these plans that when something outside our plans occurs, we become destabilised mentally[and sometimes physically].
In book 2, everything went normally according to Seldon’s plan, which was following his psychohistory mathy stuff. Then a mutant comes along. One that can influence your emotions and stuff. This one [very sad] human changes alot. How does the Foundation deal with this? Well, they don’t. They get conquered. This kinda alludes to how our society is not aligned to dealing with random stuff. We cope with random stuff, take BREXIT and the Trump win for example[my stance is neutral on this political stuff so you know]. During this disarray with the mutant, we are introduced to the Second Foundation, a world of psychologists[people who deal with the mental sciences], which eventually does deal with this mutant. They accomplish this at no small cost, which was exposing themselves. They would have to somehow correct this later as their whole existence weirdly relied on secrecy.
Finally in book 3, there is a weird “mental” war of sorts between worlds. Those of the first foundation and the second foundation. What I can say is this: that shit is amazing! This “war” had some twists that were wicked wo0t! I honestly have nothing to add here. You’d have to read this for yourself.
All in all, I really like how Science plays a huge role in the writing of the Foundation Series. It’s definitely safe to say that developments in science will greatly grow a civilisation. I also appreciate how little romantic nonsense was prevalent in this book. The books were pleasantly short in addition to being well written. Some insights in this book were quite enlightening, moreso neatly weaved in the context of a story. An example seems to be called for here and one will be given: Is it possible to reach a stage of society where we use stuff, and not know how that stuff works, when the actual science of this stuff has been lost somewhere along the way? Well, we seem to be heading there with some of our technologies. For, one, there is a shrinking number of kernel developers in the world.
This trilogy has been a great read! It made me think more about our society.