Walking the chilly streets of Antwerp this morning, I did not feel alone. Sure, my friends went bowling without me (such nerve!), but they teased me about it – which is almost as good as being there. 🙂
While some of those pals (you’ll have to guess which ones), may have still been roaring (like Fran, the Trader from Haven), “Who wants another drink? I mean, besides me?” I was waiting in line . . .
No, not for a rock concert, but to make an appointment (three weeks out!) to register my guest residency for the next nine months. The other day, Houda and Quetzal set me up for the Logic Test that would determine my placement for Dutch language lessons, with a delay of less than twenty-four hours! Quite efficient, those two. 🙂
I’m here during the elephant parade, which works for me (better than the cows that swept the artworld a few years back). I fancy myself a bit like Lathan Devers (who goes underground for The Foundation as a captive of The Empire), or Ambassador Spock, when he went underground to try and make peace with the Romulans. Although I do not mean to suggest that I am in enemy territory (the battlelines, as it were, are hardly so clear-cut), I would say that I am here in “the smallness . . . and the individuality; a relic of personal initiative in a Galaxy of mass life” (p. 107). Of course, in quoting Asimov I will also take issue with some of the claims infusing his representations. For instance, “relic” is not appropriate (at least not yet – don’t age me that quickly!). Asimov’s “psychohistory” is premised upon statistics as the base measure of truth and certainty. Without engaging the essential battle of qualitative vs quantitative research methodologies, let’s take his argument on its merit. Batya explains:
“The laws of history are as absolute as the laws of physics, and if the probabilities of error are greater, it is only because history does not deal with as many humans as physics does atoms, so that individual variations count for more…” (p. 112)
Work backwards with me according to this logic – Asimov’s mythical future involves quadrillions of human beings (maybe more, me and numerous zeros have little basis of understanding). Our relatively puny sample (current population of Earth) must be in some multiple of decimal points of a mere one percent, yes? In short, hardly enough to extrapolate much further than a few decades ahead, if even that, and only in terms of hugely broad trends – such as economic spits and backfires and, probably, worsening evidence of climate change. (No wonder the immediate occupies most people’s attention.) Again, I hope some of you with a better sense of scale will correct me if I’m way off here, but doesn’t this put us (as a mass) somewhere near the level of a quantum particle? Remember I’m operating within Asimov’s conjecture of the human conglomerate.
Which implies that the universe of possible futures is actually pretty wide open, eh?
Asimov would discount the machinations of individual efforts as “this wild threshing up of tiny ripples” (p. 96), however such ripples writ large compose the limits of such mathematical equations as he proposes may someday be possible. Just because we lack, as yet, the tools to turn our perceptions of these ripples into certain prediction, this hardly proves that the ripples, as such, are devoid of meaning or doomed to ineffectuality.
Most of what I sense, leaving Asimov for the moment, I am unable to articulate. For instance, there is a quality of sound – or lack therof – about this city that I cannot place. It must be in reference to the background noise of Amherst but what it is that is “missing” I cannot say. The cafes buzz (even if the vast majority lack internet, sigh), and music plays in most shops. There is a hum of traffic, too, although perhaps it is less consistent (no constant thrum of a major interstate nearby). The air is still – windy, yes (its bite precedes itself: a warning of fall and winter to come). Perhaps I project my own psychic state onto the environment, but the atmosphere gives a sense of suspension . . . as if there is action brewing, momentum building, some sweep of happenings either suppressed or swelling which will soon burst upon the scene.
Hmmm. A Seldon crisis? 🙂 Of course not, we’ve not reached the mass eligible for that kind of mapping. Perhaps, however, a problematic moment, or a confluence of them – crises on small enough scales to be permeable to group relations theory, predictable in terms of general knowledge concerning group dynamics, and thus indicative of “a new turning” (p. 112), as crisis directs us on.