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Galaxia will be defeated by a memetic hazard.
There are hostile non-human aliens in another galaxy. Their scientists have developed the mental equivalent of a computer virus: a simple thought that can destroy any mind it is introduced in. The aliens are now patiently waiting for all humans to be telepathically linked together. When the great offensive is launched, humanity will go extinct in a couple of minutes. Only the Solarians will survive, having shielded themselves from telepathic fields. Good job, Trevize!

The Second Seldon Crisis did come early, but it was not Hardin's fault.
In The Mayors, Salvor Hardin worries that the internal crisis - a group demanding action and hostile to him personally taking control of the Council - and the external crisis - the most powerful of the Four Kingdoms attacking - were supposed to come close to one another, but the external crisis is very likely to come months earlier. The thing is, the main flaw with psychohistory is that it accounts for human masses, and by nature cannot account for freak incidents - the larger the population, the less important that becomes, but at that point in time, the effective 'universe' to the Foundation was Terminus and the Four Kingdoms, and a chance discovery of an old Imperial cruiser had been made: the foreign incident caused by that chance discovery threw the calculations off, not enough to make the Seldon Plan fail, but enough that there was a risk of it failing without sufficiently capable individual leadership on the Foundation's side. Salvor Hardin's slight foresight might even have helped him put things back as they should be!

The Second Foundation's main Plan-disturbing problem in the years after the Kalgan War is a feature of the Plan.
We are told - and shown - that one of the points of the First Foundation was to maintain a vibrant technical scientific tradition that it would build upon. The problem is that while trends in research might be predicatable from aggreggate human behaviour - the early Foundation having a heavy bias towards miniaturisation and efficiency, for example - specific discoveries are not, and sometimes science throws up something that radically changes things (indeed, psychohistory itself is proof of that). Hari Seldon could not predict if the First Foundation around the middle-mark would develop, say, a technology that would drastically cut interplanetary and interstellar travel-times, so the Second Foundation has to step in and ensure that any such discoveries does not throw the Plan off/incorporate the discovery into the Plan.

The Seldon Plan failed, but it doesn't matter.
The conquests of the Mule brought order spread modern technology throughout most of the Galaxy. Even after his death, the Galaxy doesn't revert to the chaos and barbarism of the pre-Mule era, and the Foundation is no longer the sole centre of science and technology. The Galaxy will eventually be reunified, but not by any one power. Instead, it will develop into a loose confederation of major powers, of which the Foundation will be only one. Given that Foundation is a retelling of the fall of the Roman Empire IN SPACE!, this would parallel the development of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. No one European power could replace the Roman Empire, but that didn't mean an end to stability and culture.
  • Technically, the Mule's conquests didn't spread modern technology throughout most of the Galaxy - it is clearly established that he not yet conquered half the Galaxy when he was stopped. The Encyclopedia Galactica's entries, on the other hand, is not quite implication to the contrary of this WMG - yes, they imply that the Foundation continues on a path roughly similar to that shown in Foundation's Edge, but the Encyclopedia is a Foundation project...
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  • The Mule's conquest was transitory (he started in his 20's and died in his 30's), so there would not have been time for technological knowledge to spread throughout the galaxy. There is a difference between merely possessing samples of advanced technology and understanding it, as was amply demonstrated by the post-Empire kingdoms in Foundation. What tech had been spread around would mostly have been incomprehensible to those who got their hands on it. Meanwhile, the First Foundation continued to advance. In Foundation and Earth the people of Comporellon want to seize Golan Trevize's ship because it represents advanced Foundation technology far beyond anything they have and they aspire to rebel against the rule of Terminus, which would be impossible with their own inferior technology. They were hoping to reverse-engineer the ship so that they could develop comparable ones.
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Tazenda was not razed by the Mule's forces.
The First Speaker needed to get the Mule to be as emotionally confident as was possible in order to make the fall all the more dramatic. Thus, he played along and claimed that the Second Foundation had merely lessened the devastation caused by the Mule's fleet, when in reality they had prevented it altogether.

R. Daneel Olivaw and his followers are the Danellians of Time Patrol
A group of people did invent time travel, and R. Daneel saw it as a threat to his plans. So, he and his followers got their hands on some time-traveling machines, and set up the Time Patrol. They made up some details about themselves and rarely appeared in front of patrol members (and used special effects/some sort of interference with their minds to appear as they are described in Time Patrol). No one but the most highly ranked patrol members were allowed to know the full truth, because they may not be as willing to do their jobs if they knew that the future they were fighting for might potentially involve something like Gaia. Their ideas about what would be best for humanity might have been different from those of R. Daneel. The robots also give the Patrol a lot of autonomy since they have so many other areas to control.The Time Patrol is also tasked with finding out about the past since most pre-Galactic Empire records have been destroyed, and Gaia can only remember back as far as the time it was created. The information gathered by the Time Patrol can be studied by Gaia to add to Gaia's knowledge of history and human nature, which may be useful at some point in the future.

Both of the Mule's origin stories are true
Gaians do operate off Gaia (e.g. Sura Novi on Trantor) and potentially a "Gaian" could be born anywhere in the galaxy. The Mule could indeed be a Mutant, but contrary to what everybody believes, his mentallic powers are not his mutation. His real mutation (besides his deformity) is that he is not connected to the rest of Gaia, and for some reason could not be. Gaia might have tried to assimilate him and found itself unable to do so. This would account for his aversion to the planet. As for his powers, those are simply the abilities that all Gaians possess.

The Seldon Plan and Galaxia are complementary, not competitive
Seldon was in a desperate rush to complete the basic Plan before he died of old age. In prior conversation with the Emperor, he had expressed sympathy for the idea of democracy, but conceded that there was no way to make it work on a world as densely-populated as Trantor, much less throughout the entire Empire. So he focused his efforts towards a goal for which he possessed a working mathematical model, a second Galactic Empire. It was not in fact the best possible future for humanity, just the best he had time to run the numbers for. The question of what direction the Plan would take after the establishment of the new Empire he left largely in the hands of the Second Foundation, who were planning to become a Supernatural Elite ruling from behind the scenes, literally changing people's minds as needed.

But Daneel is the chessmaster playing the game across the galaxy. Gaia is a success, but has limits. Most notably, it cannot just assimilate anyone. Children possibly. But adults like Janov Pelorat cannot join the superorganism even if they really want to. Hence the Seldon Plan. A second Empire unifying the galaxy is a crucial stepping stone to Galaxia. Just as Daneel taught the Gaians the secrets of mentalics centuries earlier in order to create the group mind, it would be much easier to do the same to the entire galactic population if it were already unified under one government.

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Thus, at the end of Foundation's Edge, Gaia wipes Mayor Branno of her ambitions of making a premature attempt to build the new Empire centuries early. Stor Gendibel is likewise mind-wiped of the events at Gaia, and returned to the task of advancing the Seldon Plan, and not coincidentally working to build a greater mental fusion than they have now. Gaia has set the Plan back on track.

Had Seldon lived long enough to run his calculations far beyond the establishment of the Second Empire he would have probably discovered Gaia/Galaxia. The Second Foundation almost found it when Stor Gendibel identified the "anti-Mules" that were seemingly doing even more to keep the Plan on track than the Second Foundation.

The Second Galactic Empire will be born, and will run for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years while the Gaians gradually introduce mentalics to the population and construct the galaxy-spanning superorganism.

Fallom is an alien infiltrator
On a recent reread of Foundation & Earth, I noticed there are a lot of hints towards Fallom being some kind of alien imposter planted on Solaria for Trevize to pick up and bring to Daneel. When they first discover her, Trvize is instantly struck by the oddity that Bander never mentioned or implied anything about her existance, suggesting he might not have known she was there at all. Afterward, Trevize frequently feels like Fallom is a serious threat. This easily comes off as him being a dick, but don't forget he's the man with the infallible intuition. The book's final lines in particular seem to imply this, rather than the fact that the Solarians in general are no longer human.

Cleon II's disease was the work of the Second Foundation
There are certainly ways that a slow, seemingly natural and well timed death of the Emperor could produce a desirable adjustment to the Plan. And their abilities would likely allow them to induce a gradual degeneration of the nervous system with the proper symptoms.

Bander's talk about the pleasure of sex creating perverted attachments.
It wasn't talking about Solarian human couples. We know Solarians had real problem having sex with other Solarians. However, Gladia had no problem achieving orgasm with a humaniform robot. First, these were used a stopgap measure of collecting sperm or preparing couples to tolerate other humans. Then, Solarians started forming attachments with them (we know how sexy they made at least one such robot). Then, it was realized such attachments are perverted and, moreover, making Solarians too tolerant of each other's present. Measures were taken.

The reason computers are so primitive
In the original trilogy, computers are extremely primitive. Of course, from a Doylist perspective this is because Asimov was writing in a time before people realized the capabilities of computers, but there's a Watsonian explanation as well: the robots are working to keep computer tech primitive so that humanity won't be able to reinvent robots.

Seldon Crises 6 through 10
]We don't know much about the later Seldon Crises - with the exception of the eigth. Foundation's Edge skips over the sixth and seventh crises. Further, the ninth and tenth haven't happened yet - and an entirely separate question is if they even WILL happen at this point. A short summary of the ones we do know about:

  • 1 - Balance of Power: The Foundation plays off the local barbarian kingdoms of the Four Kingdoms against each other.
  • 2 - Religion: Because science and technology are declining in the barbarian kingdoms, they come to revere Foundation tech with religious awe, actively encouraged into a mystical cult by Foundation leadership. Thus even when one of the Four Kingdoms becomes so mighty that balance of power doesn't matter anymore, the cult of science encourages a revolt by the general population against their leaders.
  • 3 - Trade Alone: Eventually, the infiltration-through-science-as-religion gambit would play itself out. This is due to a combination of farther away kingdoms wising up to it (hearing about what happened to prior conquests), and due to the rise of regionalism/nationalism in farther-away barbarian kingdoms, given how much time has passed since they gained independence (the science religion couldn't make people outright betray their kingdoms anymore). Instead, the Foundation has gained enough power that it shifts into becoming a mercantile empire, applying economic pressures to win without a fight.
  • 4 - Foundation & Empire: eventually the Foundation finally comes into conflict with the remnants of the Galactic Empire, mighty even in decay. Yet it is inherently impossible to stop the decline of the Empire at this point, so all the Foundation needs to survive is tenacity. A weak general would never be a threat to them, and if there was a strong general under a weak emperor, he'd rather seize the throne. The two can't be the same person: if a strong emperor tried to lead a conquest in person, corrupt royal intrigues would sprout up back in the capital. The only scenario dangerous to the Foundation would be a strong general under a strong emperor, but by the same token, the strong emperor would eventually feel threatened by the strong general and have him removed.
  • 5 - Independent Traders: With no major external rivals anymore, the Foundation encounters the same corruptions of over-centralization that the Galactic Empire did on Trantor. Corrupt politicians make the office of Mayor hereditary, until the position is held by their incompetent grandsons. Conversely, the merchant-princes going out into the barbarian kingdoms to build mercantile empires amass considerable wealth and power on their own, and start chafing against the corruption of the central government. This will lead to a civil war, but while the traders will lose, it will result in the Foundation enacting democratic reforms to fix the systemic corruption that caused the crisis in the first place. This crisis was interrupted by the Mule, whose mentallic powers Seldon did not predict.

Foundation's Edge then skips ahead two centuries, to the eigth crisis. With the Foundation Federation now dominating about a third of the galaxy, there are arguments to move the capital closer to the center of its territory, not on far-away Terminus at the edge. This measure is opposed and fails: moving the capital closer to the center of the galaxy would make the Foundation over-eager, biting off more than it can chew by trying to conquer the rich and powerful provinces of the Interior sectors too quickly.

So...going by the analogy that it's "The Fall of the Roman Empire - In Space!", what could the sixth and seventh crises have been? Given that it's stated there are no major enemies facing the Foundation anymore? They're more powerful than any barbarian kingdom, and their last major external threat on a strategic scale was the Galactic Empire.

  • Going by the analogy of Rome's early expansion, a major problem encountered by any expansionist empire if it succeeds far enough and long enough is the question of extending full citizenship to new conquests. The Foundation goes from controlling only a tiny fraction of the galaxy around the Four Kingdoms, to a third of it 500 years after its founding.
    • That was already an issue but never rose to crisis-level. Hober Mallow wasn't from Terminus, but after a few centuries they started extending Foundation citizenship to people from the Four Kingdoms and beyond.
    • One possible sign of some form of extension of rights to new conquest crisis: by Foundation's Edge, the political entity of the (First) Foundation is no longer referred to as simply "the Foundation", but as "the Foundation Federation". Perhaps the sixth or seventh crisis was not a crisis of the individual rights of citizens, but of increasingly unworkable centralisation around Terminus (in other words, the "rights" of other star systems in the Foundation)?

The Final Two Seldon Crises

The eighth crisis was an argument to move the capital closer to the interior of the galaxy, a debate which failed, because this would lead to reckless over-expansion, instead of gradually incorporating more territory at a stable rate (having already gained control over a third of the galaxy). What were the final two crises?

This is a multi-faceted question, because it challenges the assumptions set up at the beginning of the story, due to the revelation of Gaia/Galaxia as an alternate plan for bringing about a Second Empire.

It's explained - on literally the last page of Foundation & Earth - that Galaxia would be the best option compared to the First or Second Foundations, due to the inherent limits of Psychohistory: it only works on a galaxy populated by humans, whose psychology and behavior is comprehensible and thus predictable. Even robots technically count as a human "action" and can be predicted by Psychohistory. There are two challenges to it:

  • 1 - Sapient races apparently develop very rarely, frequently only one in an entire galaxy - the Milky Way only contained humanity. Statistically, however, there should be some galaxy out there in which at least two major sapient races developed. They would be locked in inevitable conflict to the point of extinction, giving the victor an aggressive and expansionistic mindset. This would drive them to spread out into inter-galactic conquests. In contrast, due to the vast distances involved, humanity never felt a need to conquer other galaxies, instead content to fight over control of the Milky Way. Such an alien race would eventually invade, and be inherently more powerful than other races that only control one galaxy - and its actions would be unpredictable by Psychohistory.
  • 2 - Transhumans. Subsets of humanity might eventually modify themselves so drastically from baseline humanity - through genetic engineering, cybernetics, etc. - that they functionally become a different species, whose mindset and actions are incomprehensible to psychohistory. Such as the Solarians, a relict population of the original Spacers who kept genetically modifying themselves for thousands of years.

An interesting consideration, however, is that Seldon was aware of Gaia/Galaxia, but disagreed with it. He did intend for it to be a fallback plan or alternative should Psychohistory fail, but he gently chided R. Daneel Olivaw that it might not be necessary. Logically, this leads to several possibilities:

  • 1 - The original "Seldon Plan" assumes it will be chosen instead of Gaia/Galaxia, or that Galaxia will fail somehow. In which case the final two crises don't really take it into consideration. This version of the Plan also strictly assumes that no Aliens or Transhumans appear to mess it up.
  • 2 - Given that Seldon knew about Gaia, it's possible that the final two "Crises" actually anticipated and incorporated Gaia into its chain of events. Leading to two possibilities:
    • 2A - Seldon intended Gaia to complement his Plan.
    • 2B - Seldon opposed Gaia. He was willing to keep it around as a fallback option, but if the Foundation succeeded in creating a Second Empire without Gaia's intervention, he'd want a plan in place to defeat it.
  • 3 - It's possible that the final two crises actually do deal with Aliens or Transhumans. Psychohistory might not be able to predict their actions - but by the same logic, Psychohistory didn't predict the Mule either. A mutant with mentallic powers (later revealed to be a renegade from Gaia). Are not the Second Foundationers, with their mentallic powers, essentially Transhumans already? Only a matter of degree removed from Solarians? Yet while Psychohistory couldn't "predict" the Mule, as such, Seldon's "Plan" went beyond mere predictions, with anticipated fallbacks and safeguards specifically against unpredictable events. In short, it's possible that Hari Seldon himself already predicted everything that the characters discuss in the final chapter of Foundation & Earth, and had already incorporated all of these possibilities into his plan!


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