(Note: this info was given to Jim on completion of his Psychohistory badge, but never published in game.)
The study and practice of Psychohistory covers two basic
understandings. First, the algorithmic prediction of politics and
social change. Second, a set of methods by which to influence and
direct politics and society through careful application of individual
actors and events.
Any number of variables and algorithms can be added to a mathematical
model of a society over time, but the minimum necessary to be
functional without becoming unwieldy include:
That's the tools. The psychohistory skill lets you understand how to
use the tools, both to model and predict how things will happen, and
to understand how to use Levers and Seminal Events to change how
they'll happen. You can never perfectly predict the future, because
even if you try to keep it on target with your own work, unpredicted
Seminal Events will happen. A sun might go nova. The Tarn might
invade. The Flames might hit. None of these things are covered in an
analytical model except as Seminal Events, and thus they cannot be
predicted. (Some Seminal Events can be predicted --- an increase in
terrorism will likely cause some sort of terrorist attack, though the
details are not easily predicted. Others cannot be.)
- Population States. In short, a group of people who resemble each
other. Each Population State could better be described as an object
rather than a variable, because it will contain a number of
variables (age, sex, wealth, education, location, and so on), each
of them a matrix of values based on the composition of the group. A
Population State can be most easily tracked when its variables are
more homogenous, but using too many Population States makes the
simulation unwieldy. Balance is required between the two extremes.
- Trend Vectors. These describe the directions in which Population
States change, and are always describable and quantifiable effects.
Also built out of a set of variables, Trend Vectors will act on all
Population States based on their variable composition. For example,
a Trend Vector of an increased tax on Citizens would highly affect a
Population State with the appropriate wealth and location
compositions, and be transparent (to a first-order effect) to
- Levers. Levers are people who have a transfiguring effect on the
people around them. Frequently charismatic, frequently publically
visible (though not always), the importance of a Lever is the
effect they wield in directions orthogonal to the directions of
their localized Population States or public persona.
For example, a sports celebrity is a very effective Lever to sell
soda, or to serve as a spokesman for victims of a rare children's
disease. He is not a very effective lever to change the rules of
his sport. Purity of direction is important for a Lever ---
someone who supports a large number of unrelated causes will find
his effectiveness diluted. Levers who are trained in psychohistory
are, of course, particularly and uniquely effective.
- Seminal Events. These are obvious --- events which catch the
public's attention and change the course of events in reaction to
them. They spawn Trend Vectors in many and opposed directions.
- Inverse Linkages. These are more mysterious, and must often be
derived empirically and algorithmically, though there are sometimes
logical chains of correlation. Others seem irrelevant. Hemlines
getting shorter tracks the stock market going up. An increase in
babies named after flowers signifies a decrease in the number of
pages in the federal budget. A shift in the percentages on Joyous
Gard affects the price of aluminium on Tinara.
- Damping Effects. Otherwise known as negative feedback. People beat
on the scourge. Earning more money moves you into a higher tax
bracket. Fighting a war causes the population to become tired of
fighting. These will decrease the magnitude of Trend Vectors the
longer they are in effect.
- Enhancing Effect. The opposite: positive feedback. Planting more
fields gives you more grain, which gives you more seed to plant next
year. Conquering one system gives you a larger military base to
conquer the next. These will increase the magnitude of Trend
Vectors the longer they are in effect.
- Pendulum Effect. Seasonal effects and correlated feedback effects.
An increase in rabbits gives you an increase in foxes, which
decreases the number of rabbits again, which starves the foxes until
their number decreases. Control of a democracy oscillates between
parties as the voters throw the old rascals out, and vote in new
blood --- which then becomes, over time, old rascals. This will
generally cause one or more Trend Vectors to orbit a particular
Some things which fall out of an understanding of psychohistory (some
as part of modeling, some after a more extended period of playing with
- People of different groups are different, especially when considered
in aggregate. Rich people behave differently than poor people. Men
and women, boys and girls, behave differently. Individuals may
behave completely differently from each other (even when in the same
group), but as a group more inferences can be drawn. For example,
any individual woman is impossible to model with psychohistory, and
may behave completely orthogonally to what the equations predict.
But ``college coeds'', as a group, can be reliably predicted to react
in a certain way to political stimuli.
- Levers work best when they're applied in an orthogonal direction to
the public persona. Being a Sparky Cola spokesman gives you a vast
amount of direction, because nearly everything is orthogonal to
Sparky Cola. Politicians are the only people truly unable to reform
the government. In the past, Scouts would graduate from Scouting
and go off to do something else, and then act as Levers in
pro-Scouting ways. This worked well, because they had stopped being
Scouts. The bigger and more long-term you make Scouts, the harder
it will be to also have them be a secret force for moving society
- Freedom breeds Chaos. The more ``good'' a society is, the more
liberty is allowed to the enemies of that society. The more evil
and oppressive a society is, the more it can squash out its enemies
before they can become a significant threat. The Hegemony, by its
very nature, could not survive; the Well, on the other hand, could
last forever. The view of the Scouts has been that it is better to
have a good society for some of the time, than to have an evil
society for all of the time. (Note that a society which is strongly
oppressed by the environment, such as Vircus or the rabbits of
Craterrock, can also plausibly survive without Chaos.)
- Psychohistory is the study of Human society and social evolution.
Non-humans such as the Tinoori and the Brochoah are modelled as
environmental factors: the causes of Trend Vectors, Inverse
Linkages, Effects, and Seminal Events. For example, the Brochoah
coming out of hiding was a large Seminal Event. Non-humans can be
Levers (though frequently not very effective ones, except in
secret). It is conceivable that a non-human society, or a society
principally controlled by non-humans (as the Tarn Alliance may have
been) would be immune to Chaos --- or it might be much more prone to
it. No one has developed enough skill in non-human psychohistory to
model non-human society properly.
Back to Jim's page!