Peter could delay any desire as long as he needed to; he could conceal any emotion. And so Valentine knew that he would never hurt her in a fit of rage. He would only do it if the advantages outweighed the risks…. He always, always acted out of intelligent self-interest.1

Ender himself represents the social actor who plays games with a combination of calculation and intuition, more in line with the notion of game theory embraced by today’s behavioral game theorists:

“Every time, I’ve won because I could understand the way my enemy thought. From what they did. I could tell what they thought I was doing, how they wanted the battle to take shape. And I played off of that. I’m very good at that. Understanding how other people think.”2

That is, after all, what the modern science of game theory is all about—understanding how other people think. And consequently being able to figure out what they will choose to do. It is also what Isaac Asimov’s fictional psychohistory was all about, and what the centuries-long quest by social scientists has been all about—discerning the drumbeat to which society dances. Discovering the Code of Nature.

The modern search for a Code of Nature began in the century following Newton’s Principia, which established the laws of motion and gravity as the rational underpinning of physical reality. Philosophers and political economists such as David Hume and Adam Smith sought a science of human behavior in the image of Newtonian physics, pursuing the dream that people could be described as precisely as planets. That dream persisted through the 19th century into the 20th, from Adolphe Quetelet’s desire to describe society with numbers to Sigmund Freud’s quest for a deterministic physics of the brain. Along the way, though, the physics model on which the dream was based itself changed, morphing from the rigid determinism of Newton into the statistical descriptions of Maxwell—the same sorts of statistics used, by Quetelet and his followers, to quantify society. By the end of the 20th century, the quest for a Code of Nature was taken up by physicists who wanted to use those statistics to bring the sciences of society



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement