In a controversial book, Peter Turchin outlines mathematical formulae for history’s grandest narratives: the rise and fall of great civilisations. Philip Ball investigates
With the science of psychohistory we can predict the future. We can map out the next thousand years in detail, and the next 30,000 in outline. Equipped with mathematical models of mass behaviour, psychohistorians such as Hari Seldon of Streeling University can predict the fate of nations.
But neither psychohistory nor Hari Seldon are real: they were invented by Isaac Asimov in his famous Foundation series, which describes the fluctuating fortunes of the Galactic Empire.
Now, however, a real-life Hari Seldon has developed his own form of psychohistory….