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Part one is here. The question for part two is Will a Powerful Enough Computer Result in Unerring Predictions?

Annnnnd ... The answer is NO. No, it's not possible to amass enough information to make unerring predictions. It's like the problem of Glinda's record book in the Oz series. Glinda's record book was supposed to list everything that ever happened anywhere in the world, the problem being that to capture every single thing, you'd need a book the size of the universe (that's not even going into the recursive problems of describing the updating going on in the book). Data-based predictions have an added problem, because they assume you understand cause and effect. I'd argue that humanity's propensity for seeing relationships and patterns means that we're actually quite bad at correctly assigning cause and effect--if it's even possible. I sometimes wonder if beyond certain basic physical rules cause and effect might not be illusion. Meaning-creating illusion, but illusion all the same. BUT NOW I'VE SAID TOO MUCH.

Nevertheless, the notion that enough data will let you predict the future is a premise that has evergreen appeal for SF writers. You may remember it from such classics as the Foundation trilogy or The Minority Report. Tangentially, I think it's interesting that these days stories tend to support the premise that your fate is never fixed, whereas in lots of old stories, the opposite is true--like in ancient Greek stories, for example. If there's a prophecy, it will come true.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892505.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 28th, 2018 08:22 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering whether the characters' unquestioning belief in sets of predictions is actually a false belief - whether all these "rational" people, denied religion, have embraced a sort of numerology instead...

I'm halfway through The Will to Battle. I feel that I must finish it. But I also feel that I'm reading it for virtue rather than enjoyment.
Aug. 28th, 2018 08:42 pm (UTC)
This whole plot thread with the history-manipulating set-sets is only just introduced at the end of Too Like the Lightning, so I'm curious how it gets used in the next few books, but my initial reaction was that this is just an impossibility, and the set-sets themselves should realize it. But maybe they see enough advantage (that is, the action has the desired effect in enough cases) that they don't mind the margin of error.

Regarding your speculation about numerology, maybe so! I'm always leery of talking about religion as if it's embraced or discarded as a matter of practicality, because I don't think that's how it works, but I can easily see numbers themselves, and their predictive power, seeming near-divine.

Off topic, but it bothers me, and now's as good a time as any to bring it up... do any of the cities or societies in sub-Saharan Africa ever get a mention in the later books? Their absence is glaring.
Aug. 29th, 2018 10:00 am (UTC)
...do any of the cities or societies in sub-Saharan Africa ever get a mention in the later books? Their absence is glaring.

I can't say for definite - my memory of book two is already a bit hazy. But I haven't come across any mentions yet in book three. If anything, the Mediterranean focus becomes tighter, as the plot starts to take on Classical echoes.

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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