Sunday, July 8, 2012

Economist Paul Krugman talks Asimov, Death Stars, and other sci-fi influences

From the Verge:  Economist Paul Krugman talks Asimov, Death Stars, and other sci-fi influences

IT's 4 pages long and I suggest you read it all.

I share only the initial bit about Asimov.

Wired: You’ve said that you recently agreed to write a new introduction to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. What will you be talking about in your introduction?

Paul Krugman: The background story is, I read Foundation back when I was in high school, when I was a teenager, and thought about the psychohistorians, who save galactic civilization through their understanding of the laws of society, and said “I want to be one of those guys.” And economics was as close as I could get. Those are pretty unique novels — they really are structured nothing like even the great bulk of science fiction, because they are about how social science can be used to save humanity.

Wired: In recent years you seem to have a very good track record of predicting what’s going to happen. Do you ever feel like in some way you’ve achieved your dream of becoming a psychohistorian?

Krugman: Well, no. I mean, a little bit, fine. But two things. One is, it’s a pretty limited domain. I don’t think I’ve had any great success in predicting politics or social change, nor have I really tried. In economics we do have some … you know, we don’t exactly have the laws of psychohistory, but we do have some pretty good guidelines. The other thing, of course, is in Foundation, Hari Seldon is able to put together his long term plan and actually nudge history in the direction he wants it to go, and so far I’m feeling not like Hari Seldon but like Cassandra. I keep on predicting bad things, no one will believe me, and then they happen.

Wired: Is science fiction something that a lot of economists are into?

Krugman: I think it’s fairly common. Not everyone, obviously, but social scientists in general … I have friends, political scientists, sociologists, who all share an interest at least in certain kinds of science fiction. It’s speculative, we’re thinking about what society could be like. Never mind the gadgets, although they create the alternative worlds, but a lot of it is thinking about society.


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