Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Institute And The Order

The Psychotechnic Institute applies a science for the good of mankind and advises government. The Order of Planetary Engineers applies science for the good of mankind and sells its services, having become independent of government. If we express it like this, then the difference of function between the two organizations can be reduced to the inclusion or exclusion of a single letter, the indefinite article. Notionally, therefore, the Order could have incorporated the Institute?

On the other hand, they apply qualitatively different kinds of "sciences." Engineering a physical environment is a different proposition from engineering a social environment. Moreover, the Institute was founded eighty years earlier than the Corps that became the Order and their histories differed, with the Institute outlawed in 2170 but the Order surviving until some time after 2270.

They are a bit like secular equivalents of churches but not rival churches, orthodox and reformed, more like two attempts to found the church on different bases in the first place. They might also be a bit like Isaac Asimov's First and Second Foundations except that their activities are not coordinated.

The Snows Of Ganymede summarizes the account of the development of a science of society that was given in Anderson's Planet Of No Return. Statistics in the nineteenth century were the first application of scientific method to social processes. The twentieth century contributed:

games theory;
communication theory;
general semantics;
"...the principle of last effort..." (p. 48) - least?;
generalized epistemology.

The Institute, absorbing all similar groups, formulated fundamental equations about human relations with a field dynamics approach, made discoveries about individual psychometrics and brought about economic recovery through:

strengthened world government;
withering of nationalism;
education fitting the needs of the individual and society;
population decline;
conservation;
rational economics;
sane penology;
psychiatry;
critical thinking.

However, progress broke down because of:

Asiatic cultural resistance to technology;
general human resistance to rationality;
mass unemployment;
failure of the field equations to offer any solution.

This passage parallels Anderson's account in Mirkheim of the decline of the Polesotechnic League. The Snows Of Ganymede even also uses the phrase "Technic civilization" (p. 51).

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