I tweeted this earlier today, but it bears repeating here because so many of Snarkmarket’s much-neglected subscribers will enjoy it: Nick Denton had a chat with io9 readers about… nope, not blogs! Not internet media. Not commenting systems. It was about Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.
So the subject is a surprise, and so is the content. There is some subtle thinking here, and some provocative thinking too. This is my favorite answer—it’s now been simmering in my brain all day:
My father was an economist and I was always interested in history, not the history of great men, but the remorseless tide of history, a history without obvious actors, like Braudel’s Mediterranean. But I say “obvious actors.” The person who writes the books, solves the economic equation, or invents psychohistory: that is an actor. They may be less recognized; but they can have much more influence, they can make a much bigger dent in the world.
I’d contend that an early Nokia engineer — with no good intentions in mind — has done more to alleviate poverty in Africa than an aid worker committed to that end. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; the road to heaven with indifference or entire selfish motivation.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: there’s no point in doing the obvious. You may in fact be doing harm. But with a long enough lever and an understanding of the way the world works, you can move the world.
That’s Seldon’s central idea: that by moving a few thousand scientists to the end of the spiral he can nudge the galaxy onto a different path. And the lever is so long that nobody will even realize what he’s doing. In the modern world, those levers are held by creators (whether they’re writers or entrepreneurs) and not by politicians or even philanthropists.
But there’s plenty more worth reading. Do take a look.