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The First Steps Towards Asimov's Psychohistory?

CowboyNeal posted more than 11 years ago | from the formulaic-relationships dept.

Science 293

lawrencekhoo writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article about the Gottman Institute's (a.k.a. the love lab) work on modeling the dynamics of marital conversations. These models are described in John Gottman et. al.'s recent book The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models (MIT Press). Should be an interesting read for anyone who ever wondered if human interactions could be mathematically modeled."

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You know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805754)

Asimov sucked cock.
I wonder if that's a prerequisite?

Re:You know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805780)

Asimov sucked cock.
/me add Anonymous Coward to his enemie list

toeuch my butt!!!1134efgdftgqe4tdf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805755)

because the cum on my face is tasty!

I don't have money (0, Offtopic)

benna (614220) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805762)

This sounds interesting but I can't afford a subscription to that site. :(

The married life (5, Funny)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805769)

"...modeling the dynamics of marital conversations.."

Most marital conversations I witness involve ditching the kids, how much the man drank with his buddies last night, why the hell is he always looking at her bimbo sister with big boobs, and for what reason did the woman decide that it would be a good idea to pay $100 for that purse.

Re:The married life (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805781)

You sound like a man hater. Most people on slashdot LOVE men!

Re:The married life (3, Funny)

jumpingfred (244629) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805833)

Only $100 for a purse? I should be so lucky.

If it was only $100... (3, Funny)

TibbonZero (571809) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805853)

on the purse...
(Never let her find a Gucci store in the area)
j/k

Re:The married life (1)

Silent_E (592458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805892)

wow,

I've only seen that much bullshit in the movies. I guess life does imitate art.

Re:The married life (5, Funny)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805954)

Unmarried huh? You almost got it.

What she says:

1. How do we ditch the kids?

2. Why do you pay more attention to your buddies than me?

3. Why do you pay more attention to that computer than me?

4. Do you think that woman's attractive?

5. I can pay $100 for a new purse, but you can't pay $49.95 for a new game (see #3)

6. You don't care about my feelings.

7. You're not sensitive to my needs.

8. Why don't you do something constructive.

9. Rub my feet.

10. Do we have to do that again? Why can't we just cuddle?

What I say:

1. How do we ditch the kids?

2. Would you please stop grooming me!

3. Would you please stop parking in the dead center of the garage!

4. Would you please stop falling asleep in the dead center of the bed!

5. Not everything is cooked on 10.

6. For the last time, here's how to use the tivo.

Re:The married life (2, Funny)

oaf357 (661305) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805968)

Hmm... this sounds SOOOO familiar.

try this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5806063)

Okay honey, love of my life, you have your wish. We're going to go shopping today. You pick out anything you want. In fact, get a shopping cart. Clothes, jewelery, perfume, small appliances, you name it.

(go shopping .. follow her everwhere .. encourage her)

That's it honey.

Sure, you can put that in your cart.

That looks great on you! Sure, put that in too.

Oh I can't decide either. Get them both!

(at the cash register)

Okay honey, now we have to put it all back. No, I don't really feel like buying it right now. I just wanted you to HOLD it for a while.

You have to understand my unique masculine needs.

(okay you'll never play hide-the-weenie again but it will be worth it)

Re:The married life (1, Interesting)

bigberk (547360) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806076)

How do we ditch the kids?
I don't understand what's the deal with this. In my family we don't talk of ditching kids, we talk of helping kids become strong, useful members of society.

If the kids are such a problem, it's because you made them a problem. Or do you not raise your own kids?

In a lot of countries (Japan comes to mind) children and their education are highly valued. Young people are respected and grow up respecting the rest of their family. As a result, they take care of their parents when they get older and everyone doesn't selfishly "ditch each other".

Re:The married life (2, Informative)

plalonde2 (527372) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806252)

More like ditch the kids so we can get some "us" time

Slashdot bachelors might not understand this concept.

Re:The married life (1)

reiggin (646111) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806257)

The author of that statement, for the uninformed, thick-skulled, is saying, "How can we sneak off to have sex once and a while without Timmy asking for a drink of water everytime I make a move on you?" Jeez. Don't over analyze. And if in your family, you don't speak of ditching kids, you're not making them stronger -- you're scaring them for life with images of your bare rump pumping against your middle aged wife.

non-register link (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805770)

Here [chronicle.com] .

Re:non-register link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805775)

Thank you!!!

Re:non-register link (2, Insightful)

Marijuana al-Shehi (609113) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805821)

Yes, thank you for the link. I skimmed through the article looking for the functions. The juicy stuff is towards the end of the article. The basic thesis of the article turns out to be that <obvious>the marriage is likely to be successful if the partners have similar functions</obvious>.

Reminds me of some wisdom I once gleaned from /usr/games/fortune:

After decades of research, a consensus has been reached in the field of Sociology: Some do; Some don't.

Basically these researchers are admitting that social scientists generally understand the dynamics of the object of their study, but can't offer us poor saps any predictive formulae. All I can offer is this: flip a quarter.

Re:non-register link (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805838)

1.Mine Relationship Data
2.Create a formula that seems to fit the equation
3. ????
4.Profit

Useless (0, Flamebait)

gsutter (41875) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805772)

A subscription-only site link and an Amazon store URL. Thanks for all the content.

Re:Useless...WHY EDITORS WHY! (0, Offtopic)

I-R-Baboon (140733) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805963)

I gotta put this on the floor...

Why the HELL do /. editors combing through stories post a story with a freaking link to register to read a story?!?!?!!!

SCROO THAT!

Now...mod this into the background

Here's what it says (3, Funny)

stendec (582696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805777)

Well I can't seem to log into the article, so I'll give a guess as to what it says...

Researcher1: Is there anything to marital conversations other than shouting at the spouse?

Researcher2: NEVER! There's only one way to win a conversation: shout, shout, and shout again!!

Researcher1: You don't think that understanding and compromise have anything to do with it?

Researcher2: NO! It's all down to shouting. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHH!!!

Re:Here's what it says [credit where credit's due] (1)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806201)

This is a paraphrased conversation between The Duke of Wellington and Blackadder dressed as the Prince Regent in the BBC comedy series, Blackadder [bbcamerica.com] . Specifically, it is from series III, episode Duel and Duality [lineone.net] .

Finally! (4, Funny)

still_sick (585332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805778)

"Should be an interesting read for anyone who ever wondered if human interactions could be mathematically modeled."

Finally, an answer to the question that has kept me awake at night tossing and turning for the past 17 years!

The SIMS (5, Funny)

kermyt (99494) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805779)

Mathmatical modeling of human relationships?
I thought that was the Sims!

movie ever in the making for the Foundation Series (1, Interesting)

StarsEnd (640288) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805783)

Speaking of Psychohistory, I would love to see the book series turned into a movie. What do you think?...

Re:movie ever in the making for the Foundation Ser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805815)

If you see Peter Jackson going anywhere near it, have him shot. That's what I think.

Honestly, I'd rather not. It would just be ruined. It is ill-suited for a 2-hour format. A cheapo TV series what just turn it into Kilgore Trout style gutter-fiction, like all those crap shows you /.ers watch on "Sci-Fi" channel. Ugh, those shows are so terrible. I would celebrate every cancellation, except I know and even dumber show is in the works.

Re:movie ever in the making for the Foundation Ser (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805843)

Speaking of Psychohistory, I think you are a really big sci fi nerd.

Re:movie ever in the making for the Foundation Ser (0, Offtopic)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805862)

Absolutely - it could be incredible. On the other hand, the movie version of Nightfall (an Asimov collaboration with Robert Silverberg) was just dreadful. I'd be especially interested in the Mule - that would be a really neat character if done right.

LAME Moderators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805881)

Moderated you as Offtopic.

Re:LAME Moderators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805972)

Right on brother!

psychohistory, iirc... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805786)

only worked on a planetary leve.

damn typoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805948)

*level*

I don't think so (0)

m0i (192134) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805787)

humans are far too complicated to emulate IMHO. Biological factors have so much incidence on our emotions and feelings, plus the random part of it (food, weather, you name it). A rough emulation, maybe, but a true simulation.. good luck! Next step, find a match for your computer ;)

Re:I don't think so (1)

adamruck (638131) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805825)

I was thinking the same thing, but maybe when we develop AI this sort of thing could become a reality

NAN might agree. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805863)

User NAN [slashdot.org] might agree that he can not be reduced to statistics, but he has not posted enough lately for me to derive useful statistics. I'll get back to you on that one.

For now the behavior of Alice bots is difficult enough.

Re:I don't think so (1)

Sayten241 (592677) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805931)

Perhaps, by today's standards. However, in the future, who knows? Think of how incomprehensible the computers that we have today were 30 years ago. I think that eventually, we will have a computer that is capable of making all the complex-calculations necessary to emulate a human. Infact, the randomness probably makes it easier to emulate because no one can say exactly how a human would behave in that situation.

Psychohistory? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805793)

Didn't Asimov's psychohistory require are certain minimum population (like 8 billion or something) before the methods were effective? IIRC knowledge of psychohistory was also supposed to affect the outcome in unpredictable ways.

Just goes to show how research dollars are being wasted these days. How about asking the couples why they split up. Or better yet, face the truth: Our overpaid, spoiled population has unreastic expectations about marriage and life, and they'll continue to be miserable, materialistics wretches until the day they drop dead while choking on a cheeseburger.

Fourth Post!

Re:Psychohistory? (5, Informative)

gonzo_bozo (652898) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805823)

Yep. Here's what the master said:

"Psychohistory dealt not with man, but with man-masses. It was the science of mobs; mobs in their billions. It could forecast reactions to stimuli with something of the accuracy that a lesser science could bring to the forecast of a rebound of a billiard ball. The reaction of one man could be forecast by no known mathematics; the reaction of a billion is something else again."

Correct! (2, Informative)

Trillan (597339) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805887)

Asimov's psychohistory was the study of mob mechanics.

Pyschohistory is better explained in the tail of the Robot series and the prequels to the Foundation series than in the "main" Foundation series itself.

Re:Psychohistory? (3, Insightful)

sasami (158671) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806129)

How about asking the couples why they split up.

You're kidding, right? If people had the faintest ability to accurately answer that kind of questions, they wouldn't have the problem in the first place.

---
Dum de dum.

Re:Psychohistory? (2, Funny)

reiggin (646111) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806228)

Um. I know why we broke up. Because she was an insufferable bitch.

How would that knowledge have kept us from having the problem in the first place?

Refresh my memory.... (1)

Recoil_42 (665710) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805795)

psychohistory is from Foundation, right? the whole Hari Seldon (or whatever his name was) thing?

Re:Refresh my memory.... (1)

program21 (469995) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805894)

Yep.

The Geek continuum... (2, Interesting)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805797)

I suspect that it will mostly be a series of conditional probabilities. I knew him at the U. of Illinois, when I was starting out as a grad student. I first met him when he was trying to get an IBM XT working for my advisor (who was the ultimate anti-geek). Neither Gottman nor his grad student could access the hard disk to load any software. He recommended my advisor return the thing because "the hard disk was broke." My advisor asked me to look at it. I'd never used IBM/DOS before, just my trusty Apple II, so I RTFM. I got it running in a couple of minutes and Gottman asked me, "How did you do that?" Um, I read the instructions... He's hard-core math geeky, but not too computer geeky.

You left out the ending (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805913)

After he thanked me, I stood up to leave. Then Gottman said "your fly is open". As I looked down, he pulled my waistband and poured a bowl of HOT GRITS down the front of my pants. It was sticky and warm...

Junk Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805804)

What would the mathematics of relationships tell you anyway? Grumpiness is the inverse of pleasantness? I'm surprised to see MIT Press associate itself with such gibberish.

Useless (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805806)

Thanks for nothing...then again, judging from the average slashdot post, there will still be plenty of comments since no one ever reads the articles anyway...

hmm (1)

adamruck (638131) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805807)

perhaps this area of mathamatics should be left alone, I would rather think I have a girlfriend becuase we love each other then our equations match or something.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805848)

Why? Because it scares you that you might not have any free will whatsoever?

Perhaps we should stop space exploration. The fear of alien invasion is on the minds of many. (Sadly, I realize.)

Or perhaps we should ditch automobiles. I know plenty of people who are afraid they're going to be horribly massacred on the highway.

Planes? There's my vote. I'm deathly afraid of flying. Though, that's a poor example - it isn't because I'm some backwards-thinking dolt who believes man wasn't 'meant to fly'. Rather, I don't like the idea of being thousands of feet in the air, supported by decades-old metal. :p

I can sum up the entire line of fearing progress with one word: Stupid. Feel free to append a variety of adjectives on to that one.

However, I leave you with a quote. "Nothing surpasses the complexity of the human mind."

Fear not for the sacred cow of 'love' - If, after centuries, head shrinkers still haven't gotten anywhere near being able to explain human actions and reactions, a bunch of mathemeticians won't, either.

At least, not in your lifetime.

Re:hmm (1)

adamruck (638131) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805910)

its not a matter of fear, its would I would prefer.

a) a world where every action is calculated/planned/predicted

b) a world where we feel that we make our own choices, based on our own free will

what would technology like that do to religion? what about government, will political races be decided by whos got the bigger computer?

if it comes to a, so be it.. but I would prefer b

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805941)

I don't think it actually means that you don't love each other. I think it might mean that certain pairs of people are more likely to fall in love and have successful marriage. And love is definitely more selective than just 50%. If something rejects about 50% of population, it doesn't decide about pretty much anything. If that was selective to 0.0001% of population - then yes - you might start wondering about it. Average person knows around 200 people at one moment. That circle usually changes with time, so you select your mate from at least 1000 people. I can reject 500 without even reading that article...

Re:hmm (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805959)

Knowing the equations to the choices you would make, does not make those choices any less an expression of free will. The math doesn't cause your actions, it only describes them. For example, if you know how fast you are driving, you can calculate how far you will go in two hours. However, the ability to calculate your travel in no way causes you to travel - that is still controlled by your free will. Imagine the fuel savings if this was possible though!

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

sixdotoh (584811) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805932)

this is really a deep issue, because if one believes as I do, that God exists and that human beings have souls, I do not believe such things like true love could be explained by numbers.

Re:hmm (1)

sixdotoh (584811) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805940)

let me rephrase that
I do not believe that such things like true love could be explained by humans with numbers.

but then again, numbers may be the only hope a geek has with true love . . .

Re:hmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5806042)

Yeah, but you're a moron so really, who cares what you think. There's a giant invisible man in the sky who's magic. Yeah right dipshit.

*BSD is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805813)

It is official; Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be a Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying

Bad link -- use this one (0, Redundant)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805814)

Trying the supplied link [chronicle.com] , you get:
Login Failed

Access to much of this site is restricted to registered Chronicle subscribers.
Did anyone check that it works?

HOWEVER, if you follow the "free" links on the site, you can read it, here. [chronicle.com]

Erm. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805818)

I can't see the article since it's registered users only, but if I recall correctly didn't Asimov's idea involve mathematics applied to the behavior of LARGE numbers of people? How does this apply?

Interestingly enough, I sort of think such a system might be developed, at least enough to make rough approximations about future trends, but there are limiting factors:

1. The population under study must remain unaware of the analysis, or the analysis itself has an influence. Think of it as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in human interactions. Asimov used this as a basic premis in his Foundation series. Whether people would make the prediction self furfilling truth or deliberately do the opposite - who's to say. The stock market is certainly an example of the former at times - everyone says the market will go up/down, and if enough people say that it will become true just because of the prediction, at least in the short term.

2. For this to work, the large part of the group under study must exercise some control over how events will be shaped, with most people having similar control. If a few individuals have all the power in a society it then becomes almost impossible to predict the directions it will take, since individual tastes/insanities/whatever are magnified in the society. (There are the usual ones about power, greed and corruption of course, but that's probably not what this is about.) Democracies are the closest thing we have to this, and even they aren't all that close (money talks, special interest groups, etc.) Dictatorships, forget it. You might be able to do some rough approximations, but both systems are rather difficult to predict.

And since we, the population under study, can't know anything about the study for it to be effective, we can't make use of it anyway! So it winds up being a fairly interesting but useless exercise.

This sounds different than such a system, but frankly I'm happier not knowing how people's minds work. They're scary enough as it is.

Re:Erm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805945)

Yeah, erm. It mainly applies by being related to REALITY, and not some (IMHO)
second-rate,fictionalised notion of mass-psychology.

Though, I have to admit, the idea of short men with big curly hair and 'taches in the second book had me laughing for days! Mini-marios!

Re:Erm. (1)

fanatic (86657) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805992)

I can't see the article since it's registered users only, but if I recall correctly didn't Asimov's idea involve mathematics applied to the behavior of LARGE numbers of people? How does this apply?

It applies because the guys that post stories at Slashdot don't give a flying fuck whether they get any part of it right.

Time for some Metaphysics (5, Interesting)

Michael's a Jerk! (668185) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805826)

Here is An Interesting Essay [objectivethought.com] on Psychohistory, discussing how it could be achieved.

Psychohistory was terrible science (5, Insightful)

seldolivaw (179178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805851)

And even Asimov admitted it. The theory was as follows: although individuals and small groups of people are impossible to predict, large groups of people will, statistically, behave in a predictable way to the given conditions. Thus, by modelling the influences on large groups of people, you can predict their reactions, and thus predict the future course of social history.

This has a lot of intuitive weight. A few weirdos may do unusual things, but the society does seem fairly predictable. However, there's loads of things it doesn't take into account.

Most important is statistical probability. Even if you base all your decisions on 95% probability results, the probability of you being right every time gets lower as you go along. In fact, after just 14 decisions like that, the probability is less than 50%. In the Foundation saga, Hari Seldon (a favourite of mine, obviously) uses psychohistory to predict events hundreds of years into the future -- which couldn't happen, even with only 1 decision to predict per year. In the books, Asimov resolves this using the Second Foundation, who (secretly) guide the progress of society to make sure everything goes to plan.

The second is, simply, new ideas. You can base a model of future history on populations and variables if they are known; but with the future there are too many unknowns. What if someone invents a new weapon? Or faster ships, meaning planets get colonised faster than you expected? Or new medicines come out, increasing life expectancies enormously? Or conversely, what if we lose some of the technologies we have now? The kind of prediction in psychohistory only works in a stagnant model.

Again, you can fix this using the Second Foundation bodge, so the books are believable. But the science itself is just not rational.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (1)

buyo-kun (664999) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805900)

Actually, theorically, the science is possible, the only problem being that you'd have to know every single thing thats happened in the universe at one point to have the perfect model. The problem facing the science isn't that we couldn't predict everything based on something before it, but that we don't know what was before. We'd need a starting point, and that starting point would need to incorpate everything thing in the universe.

Hari Seldon in one of the prequels says something to the effect (to lazy to look up exact quote.) To make a perfect model of the universe we'd have to make another universe just as complex to the smallest detail.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (2, Interesting)

Azethoth666 (658652) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805978)

You need to get out of your Euclidian thinking and at least join the last century: Even if you could somehow "know" everything, and Heizenberg's prevents that, you still face the possibility that quantum events are not pre-determined but in fact random in which case your predictions / or two universes start to diverge dramatically beginning a very short time interval after you made your magical recording of "everything".

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (3, Interesting)

abhinavnath (157483) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806030)

That's a rather Newtonian viewpoint; it was already 50 years out of date by the time Asimov wrote Foundation.

A quantum-mechanical universe precludes being able to observe or predict the universe in infinite detail. However we can still make useful predictions about the universe (and smaller systems).

We do this by estimating probabilities that a quantum mechanical system will enter one of a number of states, and using a sample size large enough that essentially the most likely outcome always happens.

This hand-waving lets us make rigorous mathematical predictions about substances and objects that can be verified - such as "At 100 Celsius and atmospheric pressure, water will boil." And by George, it works!

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (4, Insightful)

Frostalicious (657235) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805901)

Most important is statistical probability. Even if you base all your decisions on 95% probability results, the probability of you being right every time gets lower as you go along. In fact, after just 14 decisions like that, the probability is less than 50%.

You don't have to be right every time to predict trends. If we are flipping a coin, I have only a 50% of predicting the next flip. But I can be quite confident saying that after 200 flips, you are going to get about 100 heads. More repetitions work in my favor, and I can predict more accurately.

Statistics supports your first statement, it doesn't detract from it.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (4, Informative)

buyo-kun (664999) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805929)

Statistics supports your first statement, it doesn't detract from it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure you're wrong, the thing is, when you're flipping a coin the past results don't effect the future results. In psychohistory, the past effects the future, so if you predict a city falling, and a new city coming into existence and making a war fleet and the city never falls, just by chance, it messes up your results causing your plans to mess up.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (1)

Frostalicious (657235) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806004)

In psychohistory, the past effects the future, so if you predict a city falling,

A point, but it's more complex than this. The world is a jumble of dependent and independent events, and it's often hard to tell the difference. My principle can be applied to some.

My coin principle doesn't help me if I want to predict when will city X fall. It will help me if I want to estimate how many cities will fall in the next 100 years.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5806099)

You don't have to be right every time to predict trends. If we are flipping a coin, I have only a 50% of predicting the next flip. But I can be quite confident saying that after 200 flips, you are going to get about 100 heads. More repetitions work in my favor, and I can predict more accurate

You're mixing events which are independant (flipping a coin) with events that are dependants on each others (evolution of a mass). If you're wrong about prediting that a war will happen, you'll be wrong on a lot of following results.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805921)

It's been a while since I read the series, but it seems to me that at a certain point, Seldon's predictions failed precisely because of the probabilities involved. I never saw the second foundation as a "bodge" however. It seems pretty intuitive to me that when a science is developed, people will continue to work on it - hasn't that been the case with most things? And the idea that the second foundation should be secret is really just a manifestation that knowledge of an observer changes behavior. And last, why couldn't it account for future technological advances? What is Moore's law? Think of psychohistory as much more advanced equation for predicting a wider range of the future.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (1)

schnitzi (243781) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805923)

Spot on. And in addition, chance accidents and natural occurrences can have significant effects on the direction that societal progress takes. Faulty O-rings or chunks of ice can delay or put an end to space programs. New viruses like SARS springing up can depress economies and change people's migration patterns. Hanging chads can lead to countries being invaded. Etc. etc. etc. They say that you should never say something can't be done, but I'm sorry, trying to predict the future this way is a lost cause. Psychohistory is psychobabble.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (2, Interesting)

reiggin (646111) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806190)

You're agreement with the other post proves you lack an understanding or even an appreciation for abstract science. I liked the comparison one person made to thermodynamics. Quantum physics works well, also, for a comparison. You can call psychohistory a lost cause all you want but I'm glad men like Newton, Carnot, Einstein, Young, Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg, Watson, Crick, Hawking, and Asimov don't think in terms of "lost causes." Not everything is cut and dry and can be proved as "babble" because the world strikes you as utterly chaotic. The chaos sometimes even holds the answers to its own problems.

Finally, I believe it is men like Asimov that push determined people onward and upward to stretch the possibilities and absolutely amaze people like yourself who claim that some things are a "lost cause."

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805964)

See also: reality. A small group of electrons behaves in unpredictable ways (or at least darned complicated ways), but a large group of electrons follow simple paths, like V=IR.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (4, Insightful)

abhinavnath (157483) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806013)

Psychohistory was intended to be exactly analogous to thermodynamics. Both sciences study particles whose individual behavior cannot be predicted, and both are inherently based on statistical mechanics.

Now thermodynamics only works because the number of particles in any real-world system is so mindnumbingly large. If we tried to predict the behavior of only (!) a million or a billion particles, you're right, the errors would add up pretty quickly. But by using a sufficiently large sample size, we give the system so many states that deviations from the average become essentially neglible.

When Asimov conceived of psychohistory, one of the most important characteristics of the science was that the sample size needed to be inconceivably large - quadrillions of people spread over half a million worlds. IIRC, this was in fact one of Hari Seldon's first postulates. (The second was that the people in the system could not be allowed to learn that their actions were predictable.)

Also consider that psychohistory was not used primarily to predict the actions of the Foundation: the sample size was too small and the Foundationers knew they were being tampered with. Psychohistory was used instead to analyze the future of the Empire in general and the barbarian kingdoms of the periphery in particular.

As you might have guessed I'm a big fan of the books and all of Asimov's writings. His writing style was not what you would call sublime, but you can't beat his production of great ideas and well-conceived universes.

Re:Psychohistory was terrible science (4, Insightful)

quantaman (517394) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806144)

Even if you ignore the declining probability it still doesn't work. The problem is that is works with mob phsycology but forgets that mobs are usually led.

What would of happened if Hitler was killed in WWI?
The rise of Nazis easily may not of happened if Hitler wasn't there or if the Nazi's had a leader who was a little more sane they may of won the war.

What if the Soviet leader didn't yield during the Cuban missle Crisis?
Maybe nuclear was.

What if Napolean or Genghis Khan never existed?
Would their nations still have fought the wars they did? What if Napolean got more sleep band made some better military decisions?

What if Washington was a nutcase and the US was a third world nation today? (assume Canada didn't conquer them ;)

Heck what if somebody if Florida knew how to design a ballot and Bush wasn't elected?
How different would the current world situation be, maybe Iraq wouldn't of been invaded, maybe even 9/11 wouldn't have happened.

When it comes down to it the path of society is decided by individuals. Sure for things to occur some pre-existing social conditions have to be there (government in complete disorder in Germany and county broke). But a HUGE amount depends on the whims of powerful individuals. I can't see psycohistory working.

On the other hand some general rules on crowd control and being able to control some powerful people could be very useful.. Conspiracy theory anyone?

Can someone who's rtfa answer my question? (3, Funny)

jspoon (585173) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805866)

What kind of slide rule did they use?

Math and Marriage (1)

malia8888 (646496) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805868)

both take the starch outta my pajamas.

Anything can be mathematically modelled... (3, Interesting)

djeaux (620938) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805870)

...if human interactions could be mathematically modeled...
Given enough data, computing type & grant funding, 99 monkeys can develop an empirical mathematical model for almost anything. The words "dynamic" & "nonlinear" suggest to me that Gottman's model isn't particularly elegant, just a mishmash to make the data fit a formulaic format.

Lies! Damned lies! Statistics!

Or to quote Jimmy Buffett, "I don't want that much organization in my life! I want Junior Mints!"

From the article... (4, Funny)

gusnz (455113) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805875)

(BTW: a working link [chronicle.com] )

scoring each sentence and facial expression on such measures as disgust (-3), affection (+4), whining (-1), and contempt (-4).

Aargh! They've discovered the Slashcode 3.0 moderation system! Someone stop them before it's too late!

marital moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5806046)

I just wanna know how many karma points I need to get regular head like when we were engaged. Sigh.

Psychohistory will never work (3, Insightful)

dsplat (73054) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805877)

It simply isn't possible to nail down all of the variables in advance, or even as events occur. Either economics or chaos theory will demonstrate that pretty clearly. The problem is that we can forecast general trends into the near future. The fewer variables we introduce and the shorter the time frame, the more accurate we can be. Marital conversations are quite predictable in many cases. The reasons are trivially obvious. Some marriages have unresolved issues that keep coming up. But even a good marriage without baggage involves two people dealing with day-to-day life, which involves tackling the same questions repeatedly:

"So, should we go to the beach for our vacation this year?"

"Yes, and don't forget to schedule enough time at Thanksgiving to visit both of our families."

not only that... (5, Funny)

Hubert_Shrump (256081) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805880)

This will kick open the doors for plenty of old-school D&D action!

Wife attacks! You are wounded in the (rolls die) pride.

Don drunkenness.

Roll die for level of drunkenness.

7

Your wounds' severity subsides.

Go out in shop, try to put lawnmower back together.

Wife follows! She is on the phone with your sister! Sister attacks!

Re:not only that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805988)

You manage to start and wield lawnmower.
You attack your wife with your blessed rusty +4 lawnmower named Wifetrasher.
You miss.
Your wife spits in your general direction.
Your lawnmower named Wifetrasher rusts a little bit more.
Your wife curses you.
Your lawnmower glows with a purple light.
Your wife curses you.
Your lawnmower glows with a black light.
You attack your wife with your cursed very rusty +4 lawnmower named Wifetrasher.
Your lawnmower named Wifetrasher cannot stand such a rude treatment and crumbles to dust.
You write in the dust "Elbereth".
...

Proof that the Seldon plan is not so far fetched: (2, Funny)

timothy (36799) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805886)

GNOME.

KDE.

Each seemingly (at times) at odds, each carefully planned by a shadowy and secret originator to ensure that the job each thinks is its own will (we hope) be done.

But marital conversations? No. That's just too far out.

i feel so, so sorry (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805903)

for gottman's wife

The Calculus of the Girlfriend (4, Insightful)

ArmorFiend (151674) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805936)

I do apply a semi-algorithmic approach to dealing with my girlfriend. I find it works very well.

Sometimes she tries to step in and run my life. Sometimes she assumes her priorities should override my priorities. When that happens I express what is important to me, and stick to my guns.

Other times, and frankly more often, I don't have priorities of my own, and I'm happy to let her have her way.

Still other times, I try to get her to prioritize my concerns above her own. When that happens, she usually tells me to get bent. This is good.

When there are attempts to control some issue, I try to quantify how important it is to me, and how important it is to her, and let that be my guide. Its important to rely on one's own internal assessment of priority, because of course if you ask her how important something is, its typically infinity. ; )

God and/or monkeys created each of us to live OUR OWN LIVES. I see many people screw up their lives because they try to live for someone else (or worse yet, something else). This results in lost years and stunted freaky damage. Ya gots to get out there and defend yo turf, man.

Obligitory Simpsons quote (1)

helix400 (558178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805946)

So...would analyzing marriage conversations be like this?

Lyndsey Nagle: Why not both, then everybody's happy.
CBG: Oh yeah, everyone's real happy then.
Lyndsey Nagle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
Professor Frink: (With sarcasm detector) Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts mm-hai.
(Sarcasm detector explodes)
Courtesy of The Simpsons Archive [snpp.com]

First Step? (3, Interesting)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805947)

Psychohistory is essentially Econometric Modeling, I took an undergrad course on that. The prof even mentioned that it was the same idea as Asimov's Psychohistory.

Even if Econometrics is much less precise or sophisticated, it is still a lot more than a first step towards it, and compared to Econometrics, the article is nothing.

Jason
ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]

but woman are not logical (3, Funny)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805961)

You can not know how they think logically or mathmatically. They are an unkown.

Of course they are responsible for %100 of the problems in a relationship. Since men are perfect and think rationally the problem can not be with us. We all know the truth here.

I think the mathmatically answer is easy. If a+ rand(time(0))!=b then a=b. Or let A live alone and use porn to cure sexual fustration.

What is it really modeling? (3, Interesting)

Silent_E (592458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805973)

I tend to be sceptical of modeling subjective things like emotions. But there are lots of behaviors that are actually modelable, like voting, for example. I wonder if what it is really modeling is gender programming?

What I mean by that is at our least thoughtful, we all have fairly typical reactions that are culturally received. I can't think of a single time that the "toilet seat" conversation ("Why did you/ do men leave the toilet seat up/ why do men always.../why do women always complain about...") doesn't degenerate into a whole list of wrongs that each sex has done to the other, even when people of the same sex are having the conversation. I suspect that conversations like that, that tend to follow fairly typical patterns are easily modeled. And since psychology can alrady model aspects of emotional display fairly acurately, it isn't that far to modeling culturally patterned converstations.

Scoring System (1)

oaf357 (661305) | more than 11 years ago | (#5805979)

Slashdot for Marriages is what their scoring system sounds like to me.

My wife turned me into a mule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5805995)

Stubborn and sterile

Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5806003)

Anything can be mathematically modeled.

Spice it up (1)

Azethoth666 (658652) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806011)

Having just watched the emminently entertaining Children of Dune on SciFi I am reminded that this psycho-babble-history really can work as long as you have the God-Emperor and his Wormy offspring chugging back enough spice of life to Make It So on the Golden Yellow Brick Path to the future ;-) -- Mmm, apparently there really are only 7 plots to stories, or something. Note to self: stick with day job and forget writing next big novel.

Subtext of every conversation in a marriage. (3, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806012)

Here's the key to writing married people:

Everything the man says revolves around wanting more and better sex, justifying his choice of woman.

Everything the woman says revolves around wanting more money and security, justifying her choice of man.

There may be digressions to an Umberto Eco degree, but thematically, this is what it's about.

If love is maths... (2, Funny)

Rui del-Negro (531098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806055)

...then women are irrational numbers. ;-)

RMN
~~~

Re:If love is maths... (2, Funny)

hsuwh (262614) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806236)

Strange attractors, n'est-ce pas?

(Sorry, had to say that. What do I owe the pun fund?

Hmmm (1)

Hobobo (231526) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806212)

Is this in Pseudoscience Weekly?

the primary equation (2, Funny)

bestguruever (666273) | more than 11 years ago | (#5806229)

I actually worked out the primary equation years ago:
happiness = 1 / ( 7 - years of marriage )

Thankfully I only have six more months before the whole equation is undefined

wow, I just notice that putting whitespace around operators is now automatic.
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