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A quote from the book:

A society consists of human beings whose behavior as individuals is unpredictable. But if one takes enough of the basic units, then certain laws begin to appear – as was discovered long ago by life insurance companies.

That is very similar to how psychohistory is often described, even in Asimov's novels. Except, of course, for who discovered it. Childhood's End was published about two years after Foundation, and Foundation, of course, had humanity conquering the galaxy. Was Clarke teasing Asimov here?

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    I would say Clarke is not referring to Asimov. But instead, both Clarke and Asimov were using pre-existing ideas. (Such as actuarial tables used by life insurance companies.) – GEdgar Dec 18 '15 at 15:21
  • @GEdgar Yes, the paragraph goes on to talk about accurately predicting the number of deaths. 😅 It seems weird to take this completely at face value, though. Or perhaps, that's the effect of hindsight, given how important psychohistory became in Asimov's works. – muru Dec 18 '15 at 15:34
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    IA about Childhood's End: Many a young woman has said to me, "Oh, Dr. Asimov, I don't think your 'Childhood's End' was up to your usual standard." I always answer, "Well, dear, that's why I wrote it under a pseudonym." – Ubik Dec 18 '15 at 23:47
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Nothing but logical speculation (what else) from this source

Collectivism

Collectivism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the significance of groups—their identities, goals, rights, outcomes, etc.—and tends to analyze issues in those terms.

It appears both authors took a least a bit of credence from this idea.

"The Foundation series and the Robots stories, along with Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, will probably be remembered as the last great and most eloquent arguments put forth for the idea of collectivism in the literature of science fiction."

In fact later on Mr. Asimov appears to have borrowed from Mr. Clarke

Many years after Asimov created the Foundation Trilogy, he extended his Foundation stories to include the idea that telepathic robots were guiding humanity towards the formation of a vast group mind, Galaxia.

An interesting bit about Mr. Clarke in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly wrote "the narrative leaps about too much to develop characters, but Clarke has never been as interested in individuals as in humanity's ability to accept change as a species.

They are not the only ones, Frank Herbert's Dune is also a study in collectivism, wherein over huge swaths of time the story traces the pros and cons of treating all of humanity as a 'collection'.

  • I did wonder at Clarke taking around a hundred years to do what took Asimov at least 21 millennia. – muru Dec 18 '15 at 16:36

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