In Foundation, the Apple TV + series which begins September 24, Jared Harris plays the main character of Hari Seldon, a mathematician who predicts the fall of a galactic empire that has existed for more than 12,000 years. Naturally, the Empire is enraged and many of its subjects are in disbelief. Even though Seldon does this by developing a theory of psychohistory – a concept coined by Foundation author Isaac Asimov – who combines history, sociology and statistics. Seldon primarily uses math and science, but no one except his staunch supporters is interested. Harris thinks it’s not much different from how epidemiologists were ignored before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This fact is a truism that we continually ignore the advice of people who spend their lives studying something that they are then able to inform us about,” Harris told a group of reporters on a video conference last week. “And we make it very difficult for them to succeed. Well, I guess it is because we are afraid of this truth, and therefore we prefer to ignore it and hope that it will not come until it becomes impossible to ignore. I mean, I just feel like as a race of people we have this kind of 11th hour habit of waiting until the last possible moment to do something.
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Harris also acknowledged Seldon’s comparisons to his award-winning portrayal of Valery Legasov in Chernobyl, who warned of nuclear disasters long before the eponymous disaster. Harris said: “Unfortunately, [Seldon] is similar in this sense to Legasov, a long line of scientists who have made troublesome discoveries for the power structure who prefer to be silent or disappear. And it seems to be a familiar story in human stories. But Hari decided he more or less expected resistance to his proposal. And he has planned this, and he will try to build a bridge out of this impending catastrophe, with or without the help of the Empire.
But what does Harris think of Seldon’s use of psychohistory – how close are we to developing this area? The 60-year-old English actor thinks it’s happened before: “One of the things when I thought about how to deal with this idea, the psychohistory proposition, which made it very easy to accept, that is Cambridge Analytica did. I mean, they took massive sets of data and they analyzed it and they were able to predict or manipulate the behavior of individuals. So to me that doesn’t sound like such a giant leap as what Harry Selden offers. “
Foundation premieres September 24 on Apple TV + worldwide.