That may have been a bit of a backdrop with all the iOS, ARMS, and other tech issues regarding Apple’s operating systems, but for sci-fi fans the icing on the cake. of WWDC 2020 was the trailer for the new Apple TV + Series based on the “Foundation” book series by Isaac Asimov. This historic saga It’s been trying to adapt for decades, but Apple TV + finally seems to have paid off., with a production to be released in 2011.
The trailer promises the visual ambition typical of Apple TV + productions, and which has already been demonstrated in series such as “See” or “For All Mankind”. And you will also have to put it into practice in the story, because The complete saga of the “Foundation” extends its history over several millennia of human evolution. Its ambition is only comparable to its status as the undisputed classic of the genre. But… having been originally published in 1951 (although the short novels that compose it date back to the early 1940s), does it retain all its strength today?
A … fundamental saga
For almost thirty years (and this is perhaps what inspires the Apple series), “Fundación” was a trilogy, consisting of the books “Fundación” (1951), “Fundación e Imperio” (1952) and “Segunda Fundación” (1953). In fact, it was this trilogy that won the Hugo award for “best series of all time” in 1966, when its author was already an undeniable myth of the genre. In the 1980s, Asimov himself added the payments “The Limits of the Foundation” (1982), “Foundation and Earth” (1986), the prequel “Prelude to the Foundation” (1988) and, finally, “To the Foundation ”(1993), another prequel published posthumously. In this second batch of books, it was hinted that Asimov’s other most popular saga, that of robots (and, with it, his mythical robotics laws) was part of the same universe as the Foundation.
The original saga tells how In the twilight of the Galactic Empire, mathematician Hari Sheldon developed the mathematical theory of psychohistory, which statistically is able to predict the future on a large scale: it’s so integrated into the plot that it’s actually almost the only specific detail mentioned in the trailer. Seldon sees the fall of the Empire, as well as a dark age that will last for thirty thousand years. Seldon’s plan, unable to prevent the collapse, is to slow the disaster down and delay it for a few thousand years. To do this, he will form two groups of scientists and technicians that he will send to opposite ends of the ground covered by the Foundation.
At only twenty-three years old, the young Asimov wrote an influential work, very typical of his approach to science fiction, already in the middle of the golden age of science fiction (that is to say at the time of the genre’s emergence, 1939 and 1946). Either not particularly cerebral or abstract, but also by distancing itself from the style thighs intergalactic adventures from a decade before, where action and strong emotions reign. In fact, there’s only one space battle in the entire trilogy, and the trailer seems to indicate that the series inherited that chatty sci-fi tone from the books.
Asimov had a conception of opéra spatial partly classic with its space empires and travels across the cosmos, but he traced everything between long dialogues and risky abstract concepts of science, economics and sociology. A rhythm which, for a few decades, while the loud echo of “Star Wars” was still noticeable in any film or series of the genre, was inconceivable (that is, when New Line tried to put on his feet as a trilogy before focusing on “The Lord of the Rings”). But times have changed and now you can find space on TV.
What can the “Foundation” bring us today?
The “Fundación” has aged so well, mainly because it was not born overly attached to the fashions or styles of a specific era. And that at that time, it was easy to fall into temptation, with the political situation so unique that the world lived and with which science fiction would soon be steeped in. however “Foundation”, although it develops in the distant future (and yes, we have ships, empires and other planets), it is timeless. Its political and social dramas could belong to any era. The concerns of its protagonists are universal, they have nothing to do with the specific technology that Asimov could then imagine (and which today would inevitably have been outdated).
In other words, in the Empire you can find some clear elements (and not just in the name) of the Roman Empire, an inspiration Asimov openly admitted. The capital of the Trantor Empire is reminiscent of several modern cities of Asimov, slightly modernized. Everything goes inside the author’s theory, arguably the most relevant today, that social movements can be predicted with mathematics and statistics. In other words, it makes sense that the evolution of the Foundation is coupled with different social models that humanity has gone through throughout its history.
This idea of different models of society, different challenges that the Foundation faces and which are resolved thanks to the predictions of psychohistory, in reality it is very modern. Each short novel (or chapters in the books) introduces the Foundation at different times, and we’re told how the psychohistoric plans always go well (until the middle of the trilogy and the appearance of the Mule, or so). At the end of each novel, a projection into the future of Sheldon corroborates how his system works. That is, an almost “televisual” way of putting it (and we don’t know if Apple will have respected it, maybe not).
There are a few ideas that may not coincide with the public’s view of futuristic fiction today, and it will be interesting to see how it is “modernized” by Apple. On the one hand, the idea that everything obeys a mysterious plan – almost magical, despite being approved by science -, and that no matter how mathematical it is, you have to believe it. Derived from him, the morality that human beings are at the center of the cosmos, and their intelligence, ingenuity and emotions will lead us to new times of prosperity.
In other words, something quite a far cry from the more cynical and dystopian style of the stylized genre today. But Asimov was like that in all of his work, even in the darkest ones like ‘The End of Eternity’ (possibly his masterpiece): An ardent defender of the human condition, speaking of people or robots. Because what are the laws of robotics if not the confirmation that a human creation can be animated by perfect and immutable laws.
Today, Movies like ‘Star Wars’ and series like ‘Star Trek’, to say two very obvious steps, would not exist without ‘Foundation’, despite the fact that in both cases the adventure prevailed over the gossip and the futuristic sociological theorizing. But the idea that science and knowledge can shape the future of mankind on epic, brainless brute force is still needed in these times. Will this message get through this time?