HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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reedwolfonJuly 10, 2020

>Apple, Quibi, Amazon are trying to plan the perfect breakout show.

Apple is making a series out of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books. [0] :-D

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgbPSA94Rqg

colomononSep 9, 2011

Was just thinking that, no matter how George Lucas messes up Star Wars, it can never compare to the damage done to the original Foundation books by Asimov's ham-fisted tying together of everything.

simanyayonOct 12, 2009

Everytime I read a very good fiction book (or series) like Asimov's Foundation, Simmons' Hyperion Cantos or (currently reading) Stephenson's Cryptonomicon I think 'hey, this one is going to be my favorite'.

SynaesthesiaonFeb 16, 2011

It's a reference to the robot laws from the Foundation series by Asimov, not the laws of thermodynamics ;)

metatronscubeonMay 6, 2009

Yeah the only books of his I have read are the Foundation series...kept meaning to dig more into his works. I think I will now :)

VenitaPowellonAug 20, 2015

1. Bootstrap,2. Foundation by ZURB,3. Semantic UI,4. Pure by Yahoo!,5. UIkit by YOOtheme.This is important and a deciding factor for many.


jamestomasinoonDec 19, 2017

Push on for books 2-4. They're great but take a longer investment. 5 & 6 fast-forward thousands of years, so I'd only recommend them if you enjoy things like the Foundation series where the setting and cultural movements are more important than individuals.

willy1234x1onMar 11, 2012

Foundation by ZURB is another awesome framework, then there's Blueprint, YAML and can't forget 960gs. Personally I use none of them, I developed my own framework that I've dubbed Frankenwork as it's a culmination of the things I like from each of the well-known frameworks.

thefringthingonApr 8, 2020

This perspective helps a bit with the Foundation trilogy too, honestly. Asimov was not a good character writer.

jberrymanonJune 18, 2011

This is beautiful, wonderful, hopeful, and sad all at once. Stuff like this, the voyager probes... I dont know, really get to me.

I was also reminded of reading Asimov's Foundation novels in middle school.

And how about that solar synchronization mechanism. I mean Jesus, how amazing.

kedizonJune 9, 2020

If you like the Foundation series, you would probably like the three body problem trilogy. The scale(both in space and time) of the story is as big if not bigger than Foundation and the story is equally fascinating. Really good read!

e-masteronApr 19, 2021

Asimov’s Foundation series is pretty much what you’re talking about.

cllunsfordonApr 19, 2012

I enjoy reading Ben Horowitz (http://bhorowitz.com/), Steve Blank (steveblank.com), and Fred Wilson (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/)

Also, not a blog but Kevin Rose's Foundation videos are great: http://revision3.com/foundation

triceratopsonMar 30, 2020

Lol nvm. I thought you were talking about the Foundation series. I've never read the trilogy you're talking about. Thanks for the thoughtful answer though. Hope others find it interesting.

simon20121116onNov 24, 2012

My favorite: 6. Foundation (1942) - Isaac Asimov invents psychohistory and cements science fiction as the genre of the technocrat. Image by Michael Whelan

The worst: Tron - The hockey helmets always ruin it for me.

hinkleyonAug 31, 2020

This talk of permanent batteries reminds me of the little power spheres in the final Foundation series by Asimov et al.

simplyinfinityonJuly 28, 2013

Can i recommend Foundation by Zurb, it's like bootstrap but better IMHO. It allows you to download and use the parts you ned and nothing more.

throaway1990onFeb 7, 2020

This is just sad, I thought the regression of civilization described in Foundation by Issac Asimov was far fetched BS.

How wrong I was! This is the exact example he uses in his books.

joshfinnieonOct 2, 2014

Read: Dune by Frank Herbert

Reading: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I have been trying to get back to science fiction after leaving it for so long. It's great so far!

sgtonFeb 8, 2021

I've worked through the Foundation series and my favorite is by far the Foundation's Edge. Perhaps because it is more modern and mature than the previous books. I haven't even started looking at other novels written by Asimov. Do you have any recommendations?

noir_lordonJuly 10, 2019

Robot series is good, Foundation series by him is brilliant.

Also check out The Culture novels by Iain M Banks (he was the closest recent author to be a great the equal of Wells, Huxley or Orwell (imo) just a phenomenal writer).

The Polity series by Neal Asher are well imagined and he world builds brilliantly.

cwbrandsmaonMay 22, 2015

Better are books that can be read on their own...and are part of an expansive series

* Foundation
* Dune
* Discworld
* Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
* Hyperion

Even worse are 5 book sets (Belgarion and Eddings novels)

kumarharshonFeb 7, 2019

I think most of them later had positronic brains, especially in the short stories and Foundation saga.

sp332onFeb 16, 2018

Asimov is an incredibly broad writer. He has some stuff aimed at younger readers, but still managed to be uncomfortably sexist with the Norby novels. Robots of Dawn involves sex with robots. I'm not that familiar with the Foundation series but I've heard Foundation's Edge uses sex to drive the plot.

me_smithonJune 9, 2020

The Hobbit - Tolkien
Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth Book 1) - Goodkind
Faith of the Fallen (Sword of Truth Book 6) - Goodkind
Ender's Game - Card
1984 - Orwell

I'm looking to read Asimov's Foundation series again. Maybe spend more time with Hyperion.

rvenseonOct 10, 2020

I read the first few chapters of Foundation and had to stop. It read like a synopsis of a really interesting story, but it was just delivered in the most artless way.

MaysonLonJan 2, 2013

Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury: imagine a wearable computer, brain interfaced, that you grow up with. Now imagine it being taken away, and destroyed, and relearning to read, with your eyes and animal brain. A non-authorized sequel to Asimov's Foundation series. Better (imho) than the original.

MalcolmDiggsonSep 4, 2014

Foundation by Zurb is probably the biggest head-on competitor.

On the lighter side (codebase wise) getskeleton.com is useful. It handles the responsive stuff without adding much other styling.

Google recently put out Web Starter kit as well: developers.google.com/web/starter-kit/

selimthegrimonApr 10, 2020

In Asimov's Foundation series you see similar references to housewives having "nuclear knives" for slicing meat like in a deli, as well as washing machines I think

biotechonApr 5, 2009

I'm curious why you think the Foundation Trilogy aged badly? I recently re-read Foundation; it's still one of my favorites. It takes a completely unique perspective on the future of human civilization.

tunesmithonNov 29, 2016

Haha this sounds straight out of Asimov's Foundation novels where a civilization was driven to innovate miniaturized nuclear power.

lazyantonMar 19, 2019

In the Foundation series, at least the first books, people were smoking, using newspapers (as in physical paper) and coins; there are many things out of place in that universe.

sampoonOct 30, 2017

> Hari Seldon, hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, was deliberately put into a wide variety of situations

This refers to the books Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993).

manigandhamonOct 18, 2017

CockroachDB is also built on a key/value layer using a Spanner type design. MemSQL is OLAP that does OLTP well, and Citus can make Postgres handle OLAP pretty well too (as used at Heap).

The article you're referring to is about Foundation DB written by John Hugg of VoltDB: https://www.voltdb.com/blog/2015/04/01/foundationdbs-lesson-...

The database world is rapidly changing and we're seeing new technologies that are enabling a lot more than we could do before. Just looking at some of the SQL on X engines alone shows massive improvements.

rgovostesonFeb 29, 2020

This is an element of Asimov’s later Foundation series books. I wonder if even then the idea was not original.

pogoonOct 15, 2013

On a larger scale, this sounds like the premise behind Asimov's Foundation books. In essence, a visionary mathematician predicts a 30,000 year dark age descending on the Galactic Empire. In response, he creates the Foundation, a remote galactic repository of human knowledge to assist in the reboot.

kj01aonNov 7, 2016

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

A few different sections in the D&D 5ed DMG and PHB

A couple of comic books.

hugh3onSep 29, 2010

I think there was such a planet mentioned in one of Asimov's Foundation books. It was a pleasant resort planet, as I recall, with the settlements around the habitable ring having constantly perfect weather.

edit: I looked it up: Radole, in Second Foundation. Asimov coined the term "ribbon world" to describe planets like this where the habitable zone forms a ribbon.

gdyonMay 20, 2019

I've read a lot of Azimov, including the Foundation series, and nearly all books by the Strugatsky brothers. And I too loved Harry Harrisons's Deathworld when I was a schoolboy :)
Reading Chekhov makes me genuinely sad, maybe I take the lives of his heroes too close to heart.

I am not sure about top 3, but if I had to reread something I've read before, I'd start with Dostoevsky's 'Idiot', continue with "За миллиард лет до конца света" by Strugatsky brothers, and maybe I'll reread the Permutation City by Greg Egan.

As for the Three Body Problem, I find it unique in that it realisticly represents the humanity's place in the galaxy (a fly on the wind shield). Lui Cixin's cosmic sociology [0] rings true to me too. The idea of laws of physics being the result of the activity of advanced civilizations, while not original (see Lem's “The New Cosmogony”), is fascinating nonetheless. The story of how 'right' moral choices in the context of that world lead to the end of humanity is another original bit.

[0] https://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/11/11/the-big-idea-liu-cixi...

specialistonJan 27, 2021

For space opera stuff, I really liked Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword https://annleckie.com/novel/ancillary-justice/ series and Corey's The Expanse stuff (I read the books after watching the series).

For transhuman stuff, Brin's Kiln People, Morgan's Altered Carbon, and Scalzi's Old Man's War were fun.

Along the lines of epics like Asimov's Foundation and Banks' Culture, nothing springs to mind. Sadness. That's probably my favorite genre.

GeneralMaximusonDec 6, 2010

I must say I'm not enjoying Foundation and Empire as much as the original Foundation. Foundation had me pausing every few pages to think, but I found the second book lacking in those viewpoint-altering ideas. Anyway, I'm only halfway through the second one. I hope it gets better towards the end.

aswansononJan 24, 2015

Interesting. Krugman has said that he got interested in economics because it was the closest thing in reality to psychohistory as described in Asimov's Foundation series. Of course, any society capable of interstellar trade would be beyond scarcity and hence economics as we know it. But fun, nonetheless.

fractallyteonJune 24, 2021

Reminds me of Asimov's "Foundation" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_series).

The (first) Foundation was set up on a small, insignificant planet, surrounded by belligerent powers. Its continued existence was made possible only by playing those powers off against one another.

And the Foundation itself: highly advanced technology that those very powers came to rely on...

momo-reinaonDec 27, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
Orion series by Ben Bova
Stranger in a Stange Land, Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein

castle-bravoonAug 27, 2017

Programming is hard, but progress is being made. For example: I think Haskell is an order of magnitude easier to write than C++. It seems to me that programming languages are evolving to give programmers access to ever higher levels of abstraction.

The holy grail, I think, would be a kind of unification of programming language and mathematical notation, the kind of language in which the models of the Prime Radiant (fom Isaac Asimov's Foundation series) would be expressed. So far, I haven't seen a language that comes close to this ideal, but I think there are lots of people who have a similar vision and have tried to approach it in various ways. Haskell is capable of posessing some small fraction of the terseness and beauty of mathematical expressions, Gerald J Sussman's work in Scheme captures symbolic mathematics and physics beautifully and succinctly, and Stephen Wolfram has elegantly organized an incredible volume of mathematical knowlege in his Mathematica package.

I don't think we can completely eliminate the impedance mismatch between human creativity and computation, but certainly we're working on narrowing that chasm. I can't offer you any suggestions, but if you feel very passionate about it, there may be a project (possibly a thesis project) out there that you could get involved in.

mattmanseronMay 29, 2010

I have read amazing books with boring stories. I have read amazing stories with poor writing. Both are good for very different reasons.

Tolkien still stands out in my mind as one of the best story tellers I have ever read. He was such a good story teller that people are retelling them in every way they can imagine in books, films, role play games, computer games, all sorts of media. D and D, warcraft, Diablo, all Tolkien rip-offs. Even Harry Potter.

The awe inspiring bit is the ambiguity, the hints of all the other stories untold, the heroes with bit parts, mentioned in passing. He didn't just write a story, he wrote a whole universe. What he did is rare, I can think of only a handful of other works that pull off the immersion convincingly, Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Ian M. Bank's Culture, Lucas' Star Wars (if they'd have just left it at 4-6) and Herbert's Dune (just). And none of them quite touch the awesomeness of middle earth.

He wasn't just good, he was amazing. Pure fluke perhaps, as the article hints at, but what a great one.

waterhouseonSep 15, 2013

Isaac Asimov's robot series (start with "I, Robot" and "The Caves of Steel") is good, as is his Foundation series. Ender's Game is also good; I've heard other people complain about the other novels in that universe (Speaker for the Dead and sequels, Ender's Shadow and sequels), but I liked them fine. Cryptonomicon is rich, fascinating, and entertaining. Dune is rich and pretty fascinating. Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Time Enough for Love" are somewhat scandalous, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Outside science fiction: P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novels, as well as what of his other books I've read, are hilarious and brilliant; I would suggest "Right Ho, Jeeves" as a starting point.

fsiefkenonMar 23, 2016

Who could be the real author if it's fiction? This Robin Sloan might certainly have the means and the motive. Either it is fiction, with a plot which is not to far fetched as any company with these kinds of databases can exploit it in the prediction market. "Information is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit" Billy Idol once said. It's also an important element in Asimov's Foundation series: extrapolating history through psychohistory.

Or it's not entirely fiction or perhaps even factious. I remember Rupert Sheldrake mention in one of his mindboggling talks that he wanted to investigate potential psi effects on a much larger scale and was in talks with Google. If there were 'results' pertaining to precognition (or AI enhanced precognition of the crowd) would the public get to know about it?

vforissionDec 30, 2019

- Hpmor, from Yudkowsky the guy who created the ML Research Institute, simply one of the funniest and smartest book I ever read.

- Martin Eden, a great tragic adventure from the late 19th century about a poor smart guy from the slums who tries to make his riches as a writer

- The Moon is Harsh Mistress, Elon’s favorite sci-fi books

- Foundation by Asimov

- Homo Deus by Harari

- Principles by Ray Dalio

tjradcliffeonAug 1, 2014

The diffusion of ideas is difficult to track and rarely do ideas have unique sources. So Asimov may have been influenced by Richardson as well as others, or come to similar conclusions on his own. John von Neuman believed that automated computation would allow something like Asimov's psychohistory, and there were other people thinking along similar lines.

In the modern world (shameless plug) my own novel deals with the problem of war from the point of view of computational biology (although, like Richardson, I am a physicist): http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Theorem-TJ-Radcliffe-ebook/dp/...

One of the internal debates I had while writing it was whether to reference Asimov, but eventually decided not to, as the route by which I'd arrived at the ideas in the book had nothing to do with reading Foundation at the age of 13 many years ago (at least not so far as I could tell.)

outworlderonMar 31, 2016

If you like that, and without spoiling too much, read the last book in the Foundation series.

webmavenonOct 10, 2020

> I read the first few chapters of Foundation and had to stop. It read like a synopsis of a really interesting story, but it was just delivered in the most artless way.

I wonder if that's more a function of the length of contemporary SF novels, which sometimes seem to me to spend an inordinate amount of time doing scene-setting without advancing the plot. Space opera seems particularly prone to this, with blow-by-blow accounts of battles, interspersed with thoughtful analysis of how one side's technological superiority vs. the other side's numerical superiority affects tactical considerations.

And the ham-handed foreshadowing. Ugh. If one side has a competent but arrogant commander with a subordinate who is worried that they might have missed something, or just has a feeling that something isn't right... you can be pretty sure that they and their fleet are about to have their asses kicked by... Oh No! A Surprise Plot Twist where the other side reveals a hitherto unknown capability (which is now described in loving technical, tactical, and strategic detail before getting on with describing the battle)! Also, said arrogant commander + worried subordinate have a 50-50 chance of simply being vaporized in the opening salvo with a surprised look on their face (good thing we've never seen them before so aren't invested in them as characters). <eyeroll/>

pmoriartyonOct 11, 2014

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was a minor work of Philip K Dick. The movie inspired by it, "Blade Runner" (the original version, not the director's cuts) was far, far better.

"Minority Report" was also a pretty forgettable short story, and this time the movie made of it was mediocre.

"A Scanner Darkly" was yet another minor PKD work that was made in to yet another movie. It seems this list of scifi books if partial towards books made in to movies. But just because they've been made in to movies doesn't make the original book good, much less great.

As far as PKD books go (which is quite far, as he is one of my favorite authors), I would recommend "Ubik", "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch", and "Martian Time Slip".

And of his short stories, I'd recommend "Beyond Lies the Wub" and "Woof".

Gibson's "Neuromancer" is alright, but "Count Zero" is better. Avoid the rest of his work.

"Brave New World" is an incredibly overrated, heavy-handed propaganda novel, written without a shred of talent. Avoid.

"Dune" is great, though I prefer the last few books of the original (Frank Herbert) series: "God Emperor", "Heretics", and "Chapterhouse". Definitely skip "Children" and "Messiah".

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is utterly brilliant, and is deserving of a place on a top-10 scifi novels list.

I enjoyed "Foundation" and "I Robot" as a kid. Not sure if I'd still like them now, decades later. Likewise for "Farenheit 451" and "Ender's Game".

I haven't read "Atlas Shrugged", but I did read "The Fountainhead", which amounted to a very long-winded statement of Ayn Rand's philosophy with two-dimentional characters serving as mouthpieces for it. It could have easily been stated in 30 pages, but instead was stretched out over 600.

internautonNov 11, 2016

There is a little bit of similarity, but to be honest the complexity is completely different.

Gene Wolfe is several orders of complexity higher than the Foundation series. Its threads are tied together in ways that will blow your mind. You need to be totally, totally awake to understand what you are reading. You don't get 'clues'. You get one chance to grasp something Wolfe is telling you. It is extremely rewarding as well as intellectual.

I cannot count the number of times I had a "holy fuck" moment, Wolfe is unbelievably smart.

You know how people on Reddit and 4chan look for 'mindfuck' movies.

This book, The Book of the New Sun, is on another level. My mind changed its frame of reference about a dozen times reading it. Normally a good author manages to accomplish that once.

There is basically no way I can ruin this book for you by hyping your expectations. It is just that good.

Also; I must beg a favour so I can return one to you. You must read the book (there's two volumes of 4 books total) while listening to a piece of 'music'. The Voyager Recordings.

This is not actually music. It is what the sensors picked up on the spacecraft as they pointed their arrays at the different planets.

If you listen to this while you read the book, it'll make it much more immersive.

I know this sounds dumb as hell, but it is hard to explain. Just do it, you'll thank me later.

P.S. Your initials won't happen to be N.D would they? Foundation is his favorite book also. If so I won't hold it against you, I'm not that kind of guy, but do read and listen. It is rewarding, and important, I think. I know I somehow changed after doing this, it was as if the world had deeper textures and certain things just clicked or something. Maybe I'm a strange person on the internet, but it is worth taking a risk to find out.

bawolffonJune 14, 2021

> Foundation series is a must read

I love the foundation series, but it was written in a very different time. Don't expect well developed characters.

I haven't read Seveneves, but other stephenson novels tend to be him nerding out on some really big idea. If you like that sort of thing (and are ok with the author really going into the tech side of the idea) greg egan is really good.

Science fiction is a pretty broad field, with lots of different types of books that concentrate on different things, so its going to vary depending on what you like. At the same time, without more to go on, this thread will probably just be a list of every famous sci-fi novel ever (if that's what you're looking for, may i suggest picking some novels at random off the nebula award winners list? There are some exceptions, but most are quite good and its a little bit of everything)

mattmanseronDec 16, 2014

I'm reading Snow Crash at the moment for the first time.

The beginning is actually really tough going as a completely new reader today. It's just so ridiculous. I can see where he was coming from, as I grew up in that era, but it's actually pretty bizarre now given the reality is nation states, religion and banks turned out to be so much more powerful than corporations.

Which is one of the perils of predictions in ageing sci-fi.

I've been on a sci-fi kick recently of all the classics I never read (William Gibson, Ender's Game, The Mars Trilogy, Forever War, Starship Troopers, A Canticle For Leibowitz, Philip K. Dick, Hyperion Cantos, Ringworld) and re-reading some I've not read for a long time (Foundation Series).

I personally found that Snow Crash is by far the most dated book. Even Ringworld and the foundation series were better.

ncarrollonFeb 5, 2019

Can't recommend Foundation for Emails highly enough for rendering html. I found it super easy to use (Moustache templates) and very flexible for managing multiple versions (translations) of a newsletter.

The assignment I had was to write, coordinate translations, produce and send a quarterly newsletter with anywhere between 20 and 35 translations per issue + optional separate content to be included on a country-to-country basis. Production time from drafted newsletter to final send was about 2 weeks.

The Foundation tool felt to me a little like jekyll for email. I had a a lot of fun with it.


Disclaimer: I have no connection to Foundation. Just a delighted user.

nabla9onJan 24, 2015

Krugman loves science fiction. He said that he wanted to stydy psycohistory described in the Foundation series, but chose economics because it was the closest thing you can actually study.


ohaideredevsonMay 19, 2019

I read through your posts because I was wondering who you are, just heads up. Anyway, I actually don't know of too many books that deal with that scale, maybe Asimov's Foundation series, but I am guessing you read that already. I find it hard to compare the TBD problem to anything because I just thought it was utter tripe, on the level of Brandon Sanderson's / Roger Zelazny's books - a lot of content, very little substance (with the exception of "This Immortal" by Zelazny, which is supposedly the inspiration for Planescape: Torment, which I can wholeheartedly recommend to any teenager).

Of course, you might also enjoy Piknik na Obochine, Trudno Bit Bogom, and Neukratimaya Planeta, as people of your particular background tend to do ;^)

Though that last one didn't really age well as I grew up. Oh, and Chekov is amazing when compared to the other famous Russian authors imo.

Your turn for some recommendations, i.e. your top 3, since I am looking for stuff to read. Not necessarily in this genre.

mindcrimeonJuly 10, 2010

Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand

Foundation Trilogy -Isaac Asimov

The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society of Pickup Artists - Neil Strauss

The Law - Frédéric Bastiat

Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress - Robert Heinlein

Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier - Katie Hafner & John Markoff

It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World's Best Selling Book - Paul Arden

Are ones that stand out. I'm sure a lot of other books helped shape my worldview though, especially ones I read as a kid. The "Tom Swift Jr." adventures, the "Three Investigators" stories, the "Nancy Drew" and "The Hardy Boys" ones, and those "Encyclopedia Brown" books all stand out in my memory as probably being influential. And later in life, I'd say Dean Koontz' work has had something of an impact.

orfonMar 17, 2018

For those here that love Civilization as I do, I recommend checking out Stellaris from Paradox (who make some.other popular strategy games).

Imagine Civilization, but in space, and maybe crossed with the Foundation series by Asimov. It's really really good, and the new patch (2.0) makes it much more enjoyable (in true Civil fashion, where you wait for the mature DLC or big balancing summer patch to really bring the game into its stride).

idDrivenonFeb 16, 2019

I would start with the Foundation trilogy first (Foundation,
Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation). Foundation for me was a perfect book. I don't remember if I finished the robot series though, and the books looking at Wiki, have a ton of content continuing on the original universe. I mean if I started at episode I of Star Wars I never would have made it to episode IV.
One of my favorite things about Asimov in general is that he is overall optimistic about the future, some of his short stories are really good too, a time-traveling Shakespeare one stuck out for me.

DigitalSeaonSep 14, 2014

In my opinion, the only great thing about Bootstrap is the grid system and form styling, the rest is just useless cruft. As a front-end developer, I see the value in Bootstrap and I have used it before, but when installing it as a Bower component, it makes it harder to filter out the crap you don't need like button styling, header styling and other stuff Bootstrap includes that just bloats your CSS. To me, I find Bootstrap TOO opinionated, I spend a lot of my time overriding styles than I do setting them. In the real world unless it is your own project, you are being given designs and fitting the style of a PSD file into Bootstrap can be more trouble than it is worth.

These days I actually use Foundation by Zurb which I think is arguably one of the best front-end CSS libraries out there, it allows greater control and offers some awesome Javascript components. Not only that, it has a great grid system like Bootstrap, but it is by far, the least opinionated and most powerful front-end library out there.

Cudos for trimming the fat and offering an alternative for those who use Bootstrap. My only nitpick is those bevelled buttons don't look very nice and the classes for the grid system using fractions might be a little confusion for some who are bad at maths and fractions (like me). I prefer having the option of putting the number in the class like in Bootstrap: col-md-6 as opposed to using a class called "half"

anatolyonOct 15, 2013

Can you explain what do you mean about other books being patronizing to young readers? In what way are they patronizing?

Sure, there're many SF books that may be too complex for many young readers, but there's also lots of classic SF that people loved as kids. Take, I dunno, Azimov's I,Robot stories or his Foundation novels. Are those patronizing to young readers?

JkolonMar 29, 2020

Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, aka Three Body Problem. Explored existential topics in a way I've never encountered anywhere else. I truly believe that decades from now this series will be viewed as the LOTR of our time.

I've recently been reading the Foundation series, and have found the concept of The Mule character to be incredibly eye opening. I can't say directly it's had a positive impact on my life but it's definitely changing my outlook and I feel its expanded my horizons.

EpsilonWrangleronJuly 30, 2017

I don't know if this was taken into account, but in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, "terminus" was very much a proper noun, being the name of the very planet where most of the plot takes place.

I wonder if he named it that because he liked the word so much, or if the word became his "favourite" after using it that way? It would be cool to see how author's usages of these words changed over time.

narratoronMar 14, 2017

Asimov was fascinated by psychology, so much so that he made it the ultimate technology in his Foundation trilogy. I think this stemmed from the common fascination among elitists with methods and technologies to get the people they perceive to be their inferiors to do what they want them to. "A Cult of Ignorance" is an excuse and a lament that their methods and technologies weren't effective.

drannexonMar 30, 2020

Foundation by Isaac Asimov — that book has reignited my passion and intrigue for life every time I read it and had a fundamental impact on how I view my existence.

T-AonNov 1, 2016

It's been a long time since I read Foundation, but I'm pretty sure Asimov was too smart to explain how those "ultrawave relays" worked. As a reader I am therefore free to assume that they are based on future physics discoveries (maybe involving wormholes?). That's fine as long as there is no obvious contradiction of known physics.

The really hard way though is to do what Robert Forward did in "Flight of the Dragonfly [1]: it includes 30+ pages and 12 figures with technical details. He worked it all out at the level of a real mission proposal.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocheworld

MaysonLonFeb 21, 2020

This topic was explored in the science fiction novel Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury, an unauthorized sequel to Asimov's Foundation series.

javajoshonJuly 5, 2018

Yes, I can. Actually Herbert himself did have a good (taboo) thought in Dune with his Golden Path idea, that to save humanity it must endure a tyrant for thousands of years. Asimov's Foundation series had a lot to say about the natural ebb and flow of civilization on a long time scale, a very Buddhist view. He also had a lot to say about the nature of general AI, and the relationship to such beings with humans, in his Robot novels (I'm most familiar with the Daniel R Olivaw novels, e.g. Caves of Steel). Of course, when it comes to society, politics, and technology, Neal Stephenson, in both Snowcrash and The Diamond Age, has a lot of great philosophical ideas. Like a good author he shows, and doesn't tell us about his ideas. The character Raven in Snowcrash, for example, expresses the now pretty common understanding that individuals, armed with technology, can challenge states (e.g. bin Laden). There are lots and lots of other authors and ideas.

bkruseonMar 29, 2012

^^ Well worth the read. Foundation book.

johnorourkeonOct 30, 2017

Software Quality or Fintech. Don't waste a good team on something like a Kale Smoothie Delivery Service For Beardy Hipsters. Software Quality is a huge, growing issue - we have more and more young/new coders arriving, massively increasing demand for code, and yet no government enforced standards (such as those found in Law, Architecture and Accounting). The industry is suffering the exact same issues that Fred Brooks wrote about 50 years ago, despite all our modern frameworks and IDEs, because we're just doing more stuff with fewer people. Starting points: The Open Group (and TOGAF), ITIL, MinistryofTesting.com

Hari Seldon, hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, was deliberately put into a wide variety of situations and experiences to inspire his imagination and fuel his emotional responses. Get out of starbucks, do crazy shit and get uncomfortable - allow it to fuse emotion and desire for change, because that's where motivation comes from. (related: read Think and Grow Rich if you haven't already)

Read 'The E-myth revisited' and 'The Lean Startup'

bostikonJuly 15, 2018

Asimov's original "Foundation" - it's effectively a collection of 4,5 short stories. I recommend to remain at a discreet distance from the rest of the series. While good within the universe, they are ... different.

"Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" by O.S.Card. (Do not touch Xenocide without a hazmat suit. And if you do, burn it before reading.)

"Snow Crash" by Neil Stephenson.

"Rendez-vouz with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke.

If you're up for some thought-provoking stuff, "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Heinlein. Not the easiest read but your carve-out basically rules out "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

"Embassytown" by China Mieville.

EDIT: I forgot "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons.

52-6F-62onMay 6, 2019

I really like the article, but I have a different point of view when it comes to the ideal "future book".

They seem to carry on the assumption that a book didn't already exist in an ideal format. I'd posit that what we've learned is too many features is actually a bug.

Reading can be a silent, remote activity that coerces you into reflection without the distraction of immediately commenting and joining a community to battle out barely-set thoughts.

A younger me might have said "well a future book according to this person is a web page—capable of almost anything". Now, however, I think a plain transmission in static form (whether read or dictated) is an ideal form unto itself.

Such a static transmission must be worked on, edited, scrutinized. If it isn't, it won't be well-regarded and it can't just go away.

I really like having my collection of paper books. I also really like my Kindle (and I'm so glad there's no community or comment option).

Just to stamp some book-nerd credentials on the end of this—I'm currently working on software in publishing, took a "Book History" course at U of T (Why?), and I'm rarely gifted things, but my sister bought me a first edition of 1984 for a birthday and for some reason my girlfriend decided to buy me an old box set of Azimov's Foundation series (well, the first three) just last week. So there!

crohonMar 18, 2020

This always amuses me.

> FWIW, the foundation of it all is the act of making a distinction.

Agree. Distinctin is more like creating a new pattern, giving rise to dualism. But new term itself is a relative to old one. So old is always part of new if you compare else it is always complete if you don't. Douglas Hofstadter has done very good job with self-referential systesm in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Many easter philosophies particulary Indian advaita philosophy is an indeed great piece of work in this regard. But current model of science/mathematics is not much capable to describe abstract things and labled any such attempt as pseudo science. What I fear sometimes, science has become another RELIGION of new world as mentioned by Asimov in Foundation series. The beauty of science is not only knowledge but scientific approach and pursuing truth regardless of situation. We need to focus on developing these qualities in education else schools will become another religious institutes.

Philosophy of Mathematics is another interesting topic related to this.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mathematics

- https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philosophy-mathematics/

hawktheslayeronApr 15, 2018

Reading about what Predata was trying to do reminds me of the field of Psychohistory in Asimov's Foundation series.


aswansononAug 12, 2007


Meant no disrespect to the post, like I said before about 94 percent seem to be good. I am just suffering from a case of google fatigue and am tired of hearing/reading about that company.

You are right, as an outsider it probably would be good to read about eboys. I just think that the VCs during that era don't deserve much veneration or ink because they just seemed to pump money into almost any half-baked idea.

I have been sort of schizophrenic in my reading habits lately, trying to make it through "The Road To Reality" (Penrose), Foundation (Rand), and Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (Cassirer). I also intend to read most of the books on the list you posted.

maksaonJuly 20, 2018

Foundation (Isaac Asimov), Hyperion (Dan Simmons) and Three Body Problem (Liu Cixin) stand out from all the SF I've read, and I've read a ton.

ses1984onJan 10, 2020

How can you know which book is best until you read both?

I don't want to read scifi all the time. So when I do read a scifi book, I have tons of good ones to pick from.

I actually recently read Foundation by Asimov and I don't see what all the big deal is about. It presupposes faster than light travel but not the spread of ideas. Also his sexist attitudes are apparent. He basically states that the entire female population planet of the foundation planet isn't important.

That's probably the last Asimov work I will read in my lifetime, based purely on the quality of the work, and nothing to do with his character.

adrianNonOct 9, 2017

The oldest occurence of this idea that I know of is in Asimov's Foundation series, where a class of priests preserves knowledge about nuclear technology and robots.

tarkin2onJan 31, 2010

  "I'm not trying to make anyone paranoid[...]"

You're doing a good job at it, however! Your scenario reminds me of Issac Asimov's Foundation series, particularly where the Foundation had the ability to disable its enemies' technological, nuclear in this case, infrastructure, as their enemies little understood it themselves.

Coming back to reality, it's not the case that Adobe, et al, poorly understand their own software, simply that only they could see its potential problems, being as it's closed-source. I'm somewhat biased, but in your scenario it would be much better to give the souce code a larger audience, via open sourcing it, to negate, albeit not entirely, the prevalence of such government-researched 0-day exploits.

lukejduncanonOct 4, 2011

I always find myself thinking back to the Foundation series. In one of the novels he envisions a world where the populous can all instantly communicate by thinking, including with rocks and trees. He describes how the civilizations memories are stored in the rocks themselves.

I'm always struck by how that doesn't actually sound far fetched to me, but how crazy it must have sounded then.

kfrzcodeonFeb 15, 2018

Also a towel, and copies of Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

peckrobonAug 8, 2016

I read a lot of Science Fiction for fun. These are a few of my favorites that I've given to other people:

1. Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. When I think of epic hard science fiction, the Xeelee Sequence books spring to mind. With a story line that spans millions of years (and a few dozen books), this collection of short stories is a good introduction to one of the best and most underrated sci-fi series out there. Baxter's Manifold trilogy (Manifold: Space, Manifold: Time and Manifold: Origin) are also fantastic.

2. Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The whole Foundation series is wonderful, but this book is a landmark of sci-fi that should be on any fan's bookcase.

3. The Martian by Andy Weir. This book is what I've been giving the last couple years to people who don't think they like sci-fi. Everyone I've given it to has loved it.

4. Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Another hard sci-fi staple. The rest of the Rama books he "co-wrote" with Gentry Lee are decent but become more space opera than hard sci-fi. I enjoyed them but many sci-fi fans find them polarizing.

5. Silver Tower by Dale Brown. More of a military thriller than sci-fi (Flight of the Old Dog is another favorite of mine by him) and terribly dated by modern standards (it was written when the Soviet Union was still a thing). But it's the first "adult" sci-fi book I ever read as a kid, so it'll always have a special place for me.

EDIT: Another one:

6. Coyote by Allen Steele. I love stories like this one: primitive, longshot interstellar exploration and primitive, first generation colonization. Especially for desperate reasons. The first two Coyote books were good, but I just can't get into any of the subsequent ones.

lokimedesonMay 28, 2019

It feels like something out of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. A telltale sign of a civilization in decline when the most advanced energy form accessible to mankind is being replaced by wood burning and windmills. Meanwhile people delusion themselves with arguments that renewable is more advanced. Our first energy source was renewable, but the energy density of wood is pitiful compared to nuclear.

I Want my future back.

jimmyjimonApr 23, 2012

Foundation by Zurb - http://foundation.zurb.com/ (which I think preceded Bootstrap's existence in time) is very polished, and really is a serious contender.

I recall someone earlier describing it as the preferred choice for those who want to go a few extra steps to retrofitting the framework to their own liking.

BlakestronSep 30, 2019

Shogun by James Clavelle is one of the best "culture shock" historical epics available. You will learn some japanese too.

Pillars of Earth, read by John Lee, is another one, simply about building a cathedral in medieval europe. Great characters, a villain you love to hate.

If you haven't, you cannot claim to be a fan of science if you haven't listen to Foundation by Issac Asimov.

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss, read by Nick Podehl. It's Harry Potter but for grownups. Fantastic story.

Edit - I'm adding this because I doubt anyone will mention it - there is an audio production company called Graphic Audio, their tagline is "a movie in your mind."

The absolute BEST story I have ever heard, in my entire life, is the Stormlight Archives Series - Way of Kings & Words of Radiance books. These are written by Brandon Sanderson. I don't actually read much fantasy when I read fiction it tends to be scifi or historically based. But this series, with the voice actors and the properly timed music/sfx, is absolutely fantastic. I know OP mentioned audible and Graphic Audio isn't available there, and they are very expensive. But if you can afford it, you won't get a better experience. There are some "jump out of your chair and fist pump" moments in these books.

BzomakonFeb 16, 2015

Some which I have re-read recently and still enjoyed:

  William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy

Frank Herbert's Dune series

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series

Frederik Pohl's "Gateway"

Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a harsh Mistress"

Some which I remember liking when I read them many years ago as a teenager:

  E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman series

David Brin's Uplift series

Peter F. Hamilton's Greg Mandel trilogy and The Night's

Dawn trilogy

  Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game"

George R. Dickson's "Dorsai!"

solipsismonMar 1, 2016

This shallowness is my biggest pet peeve about science fiction. It irks me especially in novels, because in that format the author has room to flesh things out.

I find older science fiction especially to seem to be made from cardboard cutouts. I couldn't make it through the first book of Asimov's Foundation series for that reason. A masterpiece in the estimation of many, but unbearably simplistic and shallow to me. A story stretching across a galaxy and hundreds of years, and nothing seems to be happening in that galaxy except the minor events driving the main characters forward.

MaysonLonOct 6, 2014

If you like Asimov's Foundation series, you should look up Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis.

wikwocketonJan 10, 2014

The idea of a massive, extremely long "dark age" in the future is one of the premises of Asimov's Foundation series. One of the early protagonists had an interesting approach to solving it, a sort of covert galactic Library of Alexandria.

I highly recommend the series if you find this idea interesting, enjoy Asimovian science fiction, or are a living human being.

coldteaonJan 21, 2016

>I just (like two days ago :) finished reading the Foundation series. Psychohistory loses some of its magic for twenty-first century readers in the face of chaos theory and black swans.

Chaos theory might be good for the weather (or the stock market and other such micro/fast events) but it might not apply that well to human societies in long term trends (which are not that chaotic and unpredictable, most of history reads like a continuous narrative with cause and effects quite very much at play).

He also predicted the possibility of "black swans" ruining psychohistories predictions and had an agency (let's call it a "second foundation") to influence things and handle those situations.

That said, there were rumors of a Foundation based tv series. I wonder how that's going...



WorldMakeronDec 10, 2019

Arguably the best science isn't making predictions about the future simply because even our best social sciences (anthropology, sociology) typically refrain from that sort of predictive modelling simply because humans in aggregate and in long enough term scales are wildly unpredictable. (The magic of Asimov's psychohistory remains that we don't seem likely of actually developing something like it in the real world.)

Apocalyptic views are both the best and worst prediction right now simply because they are the easiest prediction in how human civilizations react to great external threat/change. (The other draw to Asimov's Foundation novels being that they include several relative apocalypses, of course, which were unavoidable even when predictively modelling them, with the bonus optimism that maybe smart people could help make such situations at least somewhat better and more bearable through preparation.)

Ultimately it seems like the only predictive thing science can tell us about how apocalyptic things will get has a lot less to do with the raw facts of climate models and a lot more with the heavy open questions about how civilization and society intends to react, and that has so many strange and open questions about people and future leadership.

babeshonOct 26, 2016

His older novels such as the later Foundation series were crap. Fad idea of the day (Gaia) instead of exploring a topic a bit more in depth (advantages of large populations in combating stasis). His best work was his early short stories (three laws of robotics, ultimate question). IMHO, his quality gradually went down before falling off a cliff. Traded quantity for quality?

eesmithonFeb 16, 2018

"His science fiction in general wasn't particularly that good"

I think you have to consider it in context, and compare it to other SF at the time.

There's a reason why he was one of the "Big Three" of that time, and why Foundation series and his Nightfall novelette were acclaimed so highly.

I can't stand reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I can tell that SF fans in the early to mid-20th century thought he was great. I think Dune is simplistic in how it portrays ecosystems and economies, but I recognize that it was the book which really got people to start taking those ideas serious when writing SF.

You'll note that both have been turned into movies, as have several of Asimov's works, so it's not like he's mediocre.

But yes, Asimov wrote with a mid-20th century viewpoint, which dates the material. (Just like early Niven has such a 1970s/Los Angeles viewpoint.[0]) And here we are, post-New Wave, post-cyperpunk, even post-space-opera-revival. Our views have changed, and we now have different expectations and higher standards.

In his non-fiction works, I quite enjoyed the broad coverage in "Asimov's Guide to Science".

[0] Consider that "Puppeteers" comes because on the human ship which met them there was "a camp revival of the ancient Time for Beany TV show featuring Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent." Compare to Cordwainer Smith, whose works, I think, are not so easily dated.

bjpirtonNov 21, 2018

I love threads like this as I always end up discovering a new gem. I'm just going to post some of the things I've read recently in case you haven't - it doesn't really matter if a book is recent if you haven't read it I guess.

This definitely doesn't fit the category of recent, but I've been really enjoying working my way through some Asimov classics. If you haven't read Asimov I'd highly recommend him.

Give the Elijah Baley series a try first:
- Caves of Steel
- Naked Sun
- Robots of Dawn

and then move right on to the Foundation series.

I'd second the other recommendation for Three Body Problem, though the third book went a little crazy at the end for me :-)

I've also been really enjoying reading some Verner Vinge novels:
- A fire upon the deep
- A deepness in the sky
- The Children of the Sky

phreezaonMar 15, 2014

Reminds me a bit of the psychohistorians in Asimov's Foundation series.

cpetersoonMay 3, 2014

Or the Encyclopedia Galactica in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.

crdbonAug 8, 2016

It's tough finding books that don't send a message to the receiver. I particularly remember a colleague expressing disappointment at whichever secret Santa gave him The Fountainhead at the office Christmas party (he was pretty left wing).

The four I remember gifting were Asimov's entire Foundation series, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, The Phantom Major by Virginia Cowles and See you in November by Peter Stiff.

vitovitoonJan 3, 2013

Thank you! Do I have to have read Foundation to understand it, or does it stand alone?

dorian-graphonApr 24, 2012

Provoking people is never good. I'm a little 'weird' too and I too have to watch what I say and do. I've given a good deal of thought to this 'weirdness' and have my own conclusions about true normal which partly align with this article.

Now, some things people do, say and are actually are a bit odd and perhaps not good. We need to change. Labelling one's self as weird isn't a pass to do whatever the hell you want. I've learnt that. If we excuse ourselves we then have to allow others to excuse themselves resulting in wonderfully horrible circles of selfishness, everywhere. Everyone needs to improve—to see what's bad and change for, again, there are things that simply are bad. The good things, improve them too.

The selfish relativity of the modern island is a sham that's going to collapse on the heads of those followers soon enough. We people seek to understand others, that is when things change. Unfortunately, like how Asimov wrote in his Foundation novels that there only really ever was one person who understood this (Hari Seldon), it doesn't happen often.

I was talking with a friend, a girl, in the car after we did some shopping and I made an effort to open the door for her. She said that someone had once said to her to never bother with someone who didn't do that and that person was quite vehement in his advice. I suggested perhaps not to disregard that person forever but perhaps to view it as a wonderful opportunity to teach and help someone.

speederonFeb 11, 2013

Good question...

First, you will understand lots of things easier if you read at least the first book of the Isaac Asimov "Foundation" series.

Then, I've been researching this for a looooong time.

Also you will waddle through lots of crazy stuff, trying to find the gems.

I only started to find out, what information matters, and what don't, what is real and what is just nutjob ideas, after I met some particular people in real life.

Also there are deep religious issues on this, and some fringe stuff (for example: the ex-wife and some more people related to a known member of Group A claimed that he rose to power in his country using black magic).

But a good start, is research about what is Thelema (and its followers), who is Antonio Gramsci, what is Frankfurt School, what is Muslim Brotherhood, the islamic plans for gold standard, Colonel Gadaffi push for gold standard, Punks, Cyberpunks and Cypherpunks, Saddam Hussein push for oil be sold for Euro (instead of USD), Sunni vs Shia wars, pro-Assad christians.

These are the stuff I remember where real facts are easier to find.

Other things that I would mention here are too bizarre and hard to understand, and filled with misinformation.

Also if you decide to research this stuff, caution to who you talk, you might get dragged into the thing (and let me tell you, it is not pretty, I had two serious close calls recently).

Of course, like the OP, you might get dragged into it anyway.

It may sound cliche, but fiddling with that stuff, that I learned how serious the phrase "And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you" is dead serious.

enraonSep 14, 2013

After reading Game of Thrones I wanted to read more book series, so went with science fiction ones:

  Started with: Dune, by Frank Herbert (+ 5 books in the series)
Continued to: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (+ 3 sequels)
Now reading: Foundation by Isaac Asimov (+ 5 books)

All those are pretty great in sense of that they take set in span of thousands of years, and touch bit different ideas around society, myths, religion, morals, physical and mental technologies.

Other than that, been been enjoying some classic literature, Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, James Clavell, Haruki Murakami and books about Richard Feynman.

pjc50onMay 23, 2016

XCOM2 has a slightly controversial "randomness compensator": repeatedly missing increases your chance to hit, and being hit repeatedly by the aliens lowers their hit chance.

Various games (L4D is the first prominent example, there may be others before it) include "AI directors" that try to keep the player involved through balancing exiting events and periods of tension. This makes it a lot harder to have a "boring" game, or one where you get "unfairly" hammered by the randomness.

In fiction I'd trace this to Asimov's Foundation series, which is premised on "psychohistory" being a sort of fully deterministic fusion of economics and psychology enabling the development of future society to be predicted. Until a few books into the series where the "mule" is introduced, who is an individual powerful and unpredictable enough to throw off the determinism of historical inevitability.

naragonSep 3, 2018

In Asimov's Foundation book series, after ten thousands years Humanity loses all memories of Earth, even its location, after it was abandoned because it became radioactive. The theme of History volatility is recurring: some key events in the multi-century plot get also forgotten. The loss causes a feeling of sadness, but at the same time --and I guess this was his intention-- remarks that human spirit, the ideas of freedom and fraternity, is the important thing and what deserves to endure.

I'm sorry to hear the news but let me keep this bit: "As of writing, no deaths or injuries have been reported."

wwortizonDec 27, 2010

Snow Crash and The Diamond Age are good books, especially for just starting to read again.

Ubik is my favorite PKD book followed closely by Electric Sheep.

The His Dark Materials isn't really sci-fi so much as fantasy but it is quite a good read (though if you didn't have a kindle it might be embarrassing buying them from the young adult section, they are quite adult though).

I think a huge thing missing from your list is the Foundation series from Asimov (I recommend going in order of publishing, start with Foundation move onto Foundation and Empire then Second Foundation and more if you are into it).

My 2 cents.

throwaway1979onAug 2, 2012

To give HN skimmers some context: Hari Seldon is a key character in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. He develops a new science called "psychohistory", which enables accurate prediction of the behavior of extremely large (galactic scale) groups of people.

When I read the first book of the series, an idea that resonated with me was the marginalization of scientists. I kept seeing aspects of current society reflected in his work. What I wonder is if scientists felt the same way at the time Asimov wrote the series?

P.S. It is a fantastic series of books. I encountered them my chance in the last few years. Highly recommended!

mhdonDec 27, 2010

Snow Crash is great. Generally I'd recommend some "classics", just to see who treaded some ground first, i.e. who gets copied by everyone.

Isaac Asimov - Foundation (and the rest of the trilogy)

Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land / Starship Troopers / The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man / The Stars My Destination

Jack Vance - The Dying Earth

Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / The Man in the High Castle

Larry Niven - Ringworld

etc. etc.

A list of Hugo Award winners[1] might come in helpful.

Another advantage of having read "the greats" is that if some critic says that new author X writes "in the style of Y" you have a slightly better idea if you might like it.

Tastes vary, of course. Personally I never got what's supposed to be so great about Ender's Game. Teen Mary Sue geek power fantasy with questionable morals. Then again, lots of people said similar things about Heinlein…

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel

macnsonOct 11, 2016

Somehow this reminded me of "psychohistory" in Isaac Asimov's Foundation:

Science fiction author and scientist/science writer Isaac Asimov popularized the term in his famous Foundation series of novels, though in his works the term psychohistory is used fictionally for a mathematical discipline that can be used to predict the general course of future history.

podpersononFeb 27, 2013

It's funny how various folk cite Alan Kay's Dynabook "vision" but plenty of people had this "vision" (witness the "prior art" for the iPad in 2001 or Hari Seldon's electronic notepad in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation"). Steve Jobs was designing notebooks and tablets on a sketchpad when the Mac was being developed. Bill Atkinson had a similar "vision" which led to his developing HyperCard (because it could be done at the time).

qbrassonJan 27, 2018

It was a plot point in Asimov's Foundation series.


"Every nuclear power station refurbished by the Foundation became a Temple of Scientism with a hierarchy of priests dispensing technical and medical assistance disguised as benedictions from the Galactic Spirit. The brightest natives of the Four Kingdoms were brought to Terminus to receive indoctrination into Scientism at the Temple School, then sent back out to the Four Kingdoms to serve as the Church's Lower Hierarchy (the Upper Hierarchy being reserved for native Foundationers who understood the theoretical underpinnings of the Church's miraculous technology). Any priestly novitiates who were intelligent enough to see through the elaborate, meaningless rituals promulgated by the Church remained on Terminus to become research students (and naturalized citizens of Terminus)."

technofiendonApr 20, 2017

It can be about politics - See Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series and Foundation by Asimov for two classic works with that as the center theme. But you're painting with too broad of a brush when you label all sci-fi as primarily about politics. There still plenty of other aspects of humanity and society to explore.

jakobdaboonDec 5, 2015

@lprubin reminded us about Asimov's Foundation series, so here is a quote from Wikipedia which is related to your question:

"With the Galactic Empire in fatal decline, Hari Seldon, inventor of the science of psychohistory, predicted a 30,000 year interregnum of barbaric Dark Ages until the rise of a New Empire. So Seldon created a plan to shorten this interregnum from 30,000 years to 1,000 years."

snowwrestleronMay 31, 2021

A bunch of classic “golden era” science fiction novels feature characters with unexplained mental powers, like Asimov’s Foundation series, Dune, Niven’s Known Space series, etc.

Those seem like obvious fantasy now, but from about the 1950s through the 1970s, a lot of serious people believed that there were undiscovered powers of the human mind that science was on the verge of discovering or confirming. Mental powers are therefore a common anachronism of sci fi from that era.

Most science fiction stories are going to feature some elements that are essentially unexplained and therefore act like magic in the story. I think most folks would consider 2001 to be science fiction but the powers of the monolith are at least as crazy and unexplained as what the Jedi can do.

ktizoonJune 14, 2012

The 'nothing to hide' arguments almost always seem to focus on the individual, but the full power of mass surveillance is not really about the control of specific individuals, but rather about control of the group. Just as in the measurement of temperature, where the motion of individual atoms is unimportant compared to the average, so the information gathered about single people is unimportant compared to the ability to accurately measure the group. If you want to hunt down single actors you do not need cameras everywhere, you just need to infiltrate their social circle. But to influence entire societies and to learn how to steer them is something that requires a ton of hard data on as wide a range of people as possible. Kafka's The Trial might be the perceived effect on the individual, but Asimov's Foundation series would seem the ultimate political aim of these kind of policies.

RobotbeatonJune 25, 2019

A small prototype of this technology already flew in the glovebox of the Tesla Roadster launched to deep space on the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch (third launch just succeeded this morning):


...it (appropriately) contained Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

> The Arch library that was included on the Falcon Heavy today was created using a new technology, 5D optical storage in quartz, developed by our advisor Dr. Peter Kazansky and his team, at the University of Southampton, Optoelectronics Research Centre.

dunstadonMay 28, 2015

I wasn't aware this was an actual field of study. I fully expected to be directed to the article in the disambiguation at the top, about Asimov's Foundation series.

They make an interesting pair, with this real life version focused on the motivations of an individual and how they shaped our world, and the fictional version focused on the motivations of large groups, and how they will shape the world to come.

podpersononFeb 28, 2013

Go read "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov and note the description of Hari Seldon's notepad. I believed it was written in the 50s, but Wikipedia says 1942. (Maybe 1942 refers to a short story that became part of it.)

In WWII Douglas Engelbart was trained as a radar operator. After WWII he is exposed to computers (driven by punchcards and tape, and emitting printed output) and immediately thinks "these should interact via cathode ray tubes".

It seems to me that anyone with imagination who could grok what a computer was immediately imagined the computer being embedded in any information device they could think of -- whether it's a watch, a notepad, a telephone, or the human brain.

The "light pen" was invented in 1952. Do you think the inventor's "vision" was that it be part of a monstrously big, complex, and expensive piece of hardware? (Do you think he/she hadn't read "Foundation"?)


Alan Kay has done many amazing things, we don't need to fight about this specific thing.

brudgersonOct 11, 2014

Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle is definitely worth a read. Valis [or is it VALIS?] is also an interesting read...in the psychotropic sense of "interesting".

I found Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep worth a read for the way in which it differs from the movie...the importance as status symbols of synthetic animals in the novella and its implications in regard to synthetic human lives a more compelling theme than the straightforward human rights theme of Blade Runner [or Alien from the same period in film].

What's funny is that I consider God Emperor and beyond to be the Dune series books worth skipping, but that's probably because they came out after I had read the first three...at the time, trilogies were the thing due to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Assimov's Foundation series [later to also be extended like Herbert's epic opus].

mjevansonJan 4, 2017

His speeches had a /lot/ of barking, and very little in the way of actually saying how he'd bite (tackle the issue).

Trump as a politicization reminds me of one of the Foundation series books that Azimov wrote. A politician of sorts visited the foundation, and after someone there actually took the time to look at everything he'd said they realized that effectively only puffery and no actual promises had been made.

egypturnashonOct 21, 2014

From a ways down the Wikipedia article on "psychohistory":

"Science fiction author and scientist/science writer Isaac Asimov popularized the term in his famous Foundation series of novels, though in his works the term psychohistory is used fictionally for a mathematical discipline that can be used to predict the general course of future flow."

So the humor lies mostly in the second line about how Asimov is not applying the discipline of psychohistory to his thinking about the future, when he wrote an entire fictional trilogy about people using said discipline. The comment you're confused by is written from the perspective of someone who lives in that fictional world.

If you have read this trilogy (which is one of the early classics of science fiction), there may be an additional layer of irony, as much of the story concerns the grand plans based on psychohistorical predictions going horribly awry due to not accounting for a wild card that comes up.

MrRageonMar 12, 2010

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is a sci-fi story that's also considered real literature. It's mostly set in the 20th century.

I don't like terms like "real literature". I would say the Foundation series despite its weaknesses is worth reading for anyone who wants to be well rounded in his/her book choices.

nemeth88onApr 20, 2015

I think this will have a lot of difficulty remaining faithful to spirit of the original book series.

The original Foundation Trilogy stories take place across quite a few time periods. This would require a different cast for each story within the books. The stories are also focused on dialogue and characterization plays a minor role. Even the space battles are barely described at all, as the main focus of the book is on the broad plot lines created by the concept of psychohistory. There are few female characters and I don't recall any sex in the original series at all (though there was some in the weaker 4th and 5th novels written decades later).

If they are going to try to make this into a typical HBO show I'd expect the main focus to be on the Mule plotline from book 2, the second foundation plotline from book 3, and then the Trevize plot from books 4 and 5 which seems most amenable to TV adaptation.

swombatonApr 5, 2009

Well, it was my impression. It seemed to me that the language and concepts seemed really old, in a way that furiously contradicted its sci-fi nature... When I read Dickens, for example, I don't get a feeling that its thinking is old-fashioned. Although written centuries ago, the thoughts are still fresh and powerful.

When I last re-read parts of the Foundation series (I didn't get through the whole of it), there were so many things there which seemed... passé. Part of it was the language, and part of it was, I guess, the technology.

I think this is the curse of science fiction. Because it gambles on predicting the future, and predicting the future is so damn hard, it invariably diverges from the real future more and more as time passes. And the more it diverges, the more the science seems pointless and outdated.

I shudder to think how "hard sf" novels like "Red Mars" will read in 30 years, when another bunch of major technological revolutions will have come to pass...

snowwrestleronMar 9, 2015

I would also highly recommend James Gleick's biography of Newton, which spends quite a bit of time on his alchemical work.

The short story is that we can look back with the filter of 200+ years of science to appreciate Newton's role in the founding of what we know as science today, so we focus on his work in math and physics. But Newton did not have that perspective; he was discovering then, for himself, what we now take for granted. Some of his work produced lasting results, some did not.

A much more recent example of a similar effect is the high levels of interest in ESP and mental powers in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Enormous numbers of very serious and educated scientifically minded people believed that it was possible that we would discover latent powers of the mind. We never did, and today that stuff is largely a punchline among the scientifically minded.

To get a sense of this, read "golden age" sci-fi from these decades and see how often mental powers are included. Asimov's Foundation series, Larry Niven's Known Space series, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, and of course Herbert's Dune series are just a few examples.

standupstanduponNov 24, 2017

A lot of people derive enormous comfort and security from the belief that there's a social class who can predict the future. In the past they were shamans and oracles reading goose entrails, nowadays they're analysts and economists reading Excel entrails. In the Foundation trilogy they were psychohistorians, basically economists on steroids.

I think it takes a certain amount of bravery to accept that there are no "experts" when it comes to predicting the future.

coldteaonOct 26, 2016

>His older novels such as the later Foundation series were crap. Fad idea of the day (Gaia) instead of exploring a topic a bit more in depth (advantages of large populations in combating stasis).

While the writing was a little pulpy (then again, it always has been), the ideas were worth exploring. Doesn't matter if it was based on a "fad idea of the day", it was still a concept worth exploring in the context of the series. Besides sci-fi writers have done the Gaia idea dozens of times, way before it became a fad. His classic "robot" stories, on the other hand, I always found ho-hum.

In any case, the second foundation series is no worse in writing than the "Pebble in the Sky" -- and that was his very first novel, after tons of short stories.

derwikionDec 24, 2020

The translations are widely regarded as well done. I’ve heard this series described as a “philosophical fiction” (like Asimov’s Foundation series) where you don’t specifically follow characters and their development; but rather the characters just exist to advance the overall story. It’s offputting to many because it seems simple and lacking character development.

dudeinhawaiionJuly 15, 2021

For what it's worth, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series was written this way with the Foundation or the concept of it being an "organization" spanning hundreds of years. It might provide some useful ways to handle this though in general I think his solution was "jump forward 20yrs and introduce a new character while brining up the former's legacy".

nostrademonsonOct 12, 2007

Anyone else reminded of Asimov's Foundation series? The whole (fictional) science of psychohistory was based upon game theory and rational choice - the idea that, given enough humans in the universe, all the irrational bits would cancel out and human action would be completely predictable by mathematical equations.

jogjayronJune 5, 2017

> I picked up a Foundation novel in a thrift store a few months ago in a moment of nostalgia and found myself cringing so much that it was a relief to reach the end.

Leaving out the tacky technology (nuclear-powered kitchen knives? really?) and society seemingly in a 1950s stasis, what did you find cringeworthy, if you don't mind me asking? I re-read Foundation last year and nothing else obviously bad popped out.

blrgeekonOct 3, 2010

Want to blow your mind?

Keep an open mind, and a sense of wonder when you read these for max effect!

Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy. I was hooked at "The big yellow ships hung in the air just the way bricks don't."

Dune - what does scarcity do to a society?

Isaac Asimov - Robot series. Foundation series. All of his short stories, esp. The Last Question, Nightfall.

A.C. Clarke - 2001 - series, Childhood's End, The Fountains of Paradise

The Little Prince, The Count of Monte Cristo, Catch-22, Siddhartha, Ender's Game, Sundiver, Wodehouse.

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