Why Psychohistory?

The first question that people ask me about my blog is:
“Why is it called Psychohistory?”

This is, of course, a great question, and I think it ties closely to the first question that I had to ask myself when I decided to start blogging again: “What am I going to blog about?”

I’ve been fortunate enough in my academic and professional careers to have had exposure to a wide variety of subjects and businesses. However, I’ve realized in the past decade that my primary interest has always been the intersection of the rational (technology & economics) with the irrational (people).

As a software engineer, my primary interest was in human-computer interaction and the recognition that technology is useless without significant thought given to how people perceive and interact with it. As my interests shifted to the study of economics, I developed a deep fascination with the study of behavioral finance and the recognition that classic economic models fail to predict activity in many cases because people are often not rational actors.

These insights are fascinating to me because I firmly believe that in fact, there is a method to the madness. People are irrational in many situations, but in many cases predictably so. In my recent professional roles in early stage venture capital and product management, I have been repeatedly astounded with the level of value generated from insights into human behavior with technology and economics.

When I was in junior high school, I voraciously read the works of Isaac Asimov, and to this date I remain a fan of his intellect and insight. In his “Foundation” series, he introduced a fictional science called Psychohistory, which was based on the idea that even though individual humans were not statistically predictable, large groups of humans were. This was a direct analogy to the growing awareness of the impacts and contradictions inherent in quantum mechanics: there is uncertainty when evaluating the velocity and position of a single particle, but yet we can still accurately predict where a large mass of them (a baseball) will go when dropped.

When I think about the topics I will blog about here, I know since it’s a personal blog that there will be a fair share of “books I’ve read” and “baby/puppy/family” posts. But in the end, my guess is that the relatively unique theme to most of what I share here will lie somewhere in the intersection of my passions for technology and economics and my fascination with people and their motivations. This means common topics will likely include:

  • Personal finance
  • Economics
  • Venture Capital
  • Product Design & Product Management
  • Silicon Valley
  • Software
  • Science Fiction & Future Technology
  • Video Games

As a result, I decided that Isaac Asimov’s simplistic vision was probably the best title to capture the essence of my personal blog.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be experimenting with a new post to this blog every day for the next 30 days. We’ll see how close my guesswork here comes to the actual topics I post to this blog.

Thanks for reading.

BTW I do realize that there is now an actual field of study called psychohistory which is defined as the study of the psychological motivations of historical events. Obviously, I think that this is unfortunate nomenclature, and I’m siding with Asimov on this one.

8 thoughts on “Why Psychohistory?

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  7. Back in 1970 when I entered Harvard, the university introduced a “Freshman Seminar” program where up to ten freshman met weekly with a senior faculty member to study and discuss a subject outside the normal set of academic disciplines. I joined a seminar on “Psychohistory,” about psychological influences on human events. In addition to the Foundation series, we read Freud’s “New Introduction to Psychoanalysis” and “The Interpretation of Dreams”; Anna Freud’s “Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense”; Bruno Bettelheim’s “Children of the Dream”; George & George’s “Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study”, and lots of other stuff I’ve now forgotten. It’s still one of the most influential courses of study I undertook.

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