Opinion | Opinie 11/01/2010

I’m hoping to find time to write more about global warming (AGW to be precise), meanwhile I’ll just state my opinion:

Global warming will not be prevented, the Earth will warm up; and we will not even be able to limit the increase to 2 degrees.

So we’d better start to cope. In my darker (more sensible?) moments I’m thinking that I should put my money where my mouth is and 1) move to a country that will benefit from global warming or where the effects will be minimal and 2) find a job in a company that will make shitloads of money from global warming.

On to what I really want to write today; I recently read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation – great little book, looking forward to reading the rest of the series – and was struck by some of what Asimov wrote in the earlier parts. I think they sum up quite well why I think “AGW” is unstoppable.

(very short background: the “messenger” of the bad news (i.e. the predicted fall of the empire), Dr Seldon, is taken to court for high treason; this is the interrogation in court. Questioning is the advocate for the state, Answering is Dr Seldon)

Q (…) Would you repeat, Dr Seldon, your thoughts concerning the future of Trantor?

A. I have said, and I say again, that Trantor will lie in ruins within the next five centuries.

Q. You do not consider your statement a disloyal one?

A. No sir. Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.

Q. You are sure that your statement represents scientific truth?

A. I am.

Q. On what basis?

A. On the basis of the mathematics of psychohistory.

Q. Can you prove that this mathematics is valid?

A. Only to another mathematician.

Q. (…) Your claim then, is that your truth is of so esoteric a nature that it is beyond the understanding of a plain man. It seems to me that truth should be clearer than that, less mysterious, more open to the mind.

A. It presents no difficulties to some minds. The physics of energy transfer, which we know as thermodynamics, has been clear and true through all the history of mankind since the mythical ages, yet there may be people present who would find it impossible to design a power engine.


Q. Let us assume that you have made your point. Let me suggest to you that your predictions of disaster might be intended to destroy public confidence in the Imperial Government for purposes of your own.

A. That is not so.

Q. Let me suggest that you intend to claim that a period of time preceding the so-called ruin of Trantor will be filled with unrest of various types.

A. That is correct.

Q. And that by the mere prediction thereof, you hope to bring it about, and to have an army of a hundred thousand available.

A. In the first place, that is not so. And if it were, investigation will show you that barely ten thousand are men of military age, and none of these has training in arms.

Q. Are you acting as an agent for another?

A. I am not in the pay of any man, Mr. Advocate.

Q. You are entirely disinterested? You are serving science?

A. I am.

Q. Then let us see how. (…) Can the overall history of the human race be changed?

A. Yes.

Q. Easily?

A. No. With great difficulty.

Q. Why?

A. The psychohistoric trend of a planetful of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many people must be concerned, or if the number of people be relatively small, enormous time for change must be allowed. Do you understand?

Q. I think I do. Trantor need not be ruined, if a great many people decide to act so that it will not.

A. That is right.

Q. As many as a hundred thousand people?

A. No, sir. That is far too few.

Q. You are sure?

A. Consider that Trantor has a population of over forty billions. Consider further that the trend leading to ruin does not belong to Trantor alone but to the Empire as a whole and the Empire contains nearly a quintillion human beings.

Q. I see. Then perhaps a hundred thousand people can change the trend if they and their descendants labour for five hundred years.

A. I’m afraid not. Five hundred years is too short a time.

Q. Ah! In that case, Dr Seldon, we are left with this deduction to be made from your statements. You have gathered a hundred thousand people within the confines of your project. These are insufficient to change the history of Trantor within five hundred years. In other words, they cannot prevent the destruction of Trantor no matter what they do.

A. You are unfortunately correct.

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