default, 13 Things Lem Predicted About The Approaching We Alive In, Stanisław Lem at home in Kraków, 1975, photo: Aleksander Jałosiński / Forum, stanislaw_lem_portret_16.jpg
E-books and tablets, smartphones, Google and alike ‘The Matrix’ were all conceived in the mid-20th aeon by the columnist of ‘Solaris’. Here’s how Stanisław Lem predicted the approaching we alive in.
Optons, lectons, trions and phantomatons… You ability not apperceive these words, but you use best of these things in your accustomed life. The archetypal Brightness sci-fi columnist Stanisław Lem conceived of abounding of them continued afore they became allotment of our accustomed lives. He was alike the afflatus abaft a band animation alternation and one of the world’s best accepted video games.
E-books & tablets
Stanisław Lem was apparently the aboriginal sci-fi biographer to accurately adumbrate the end of cardboard books and the accession of cyberbanking formats and e-book readers. He did so in his 1961 atypical A Acknowledgment from the Stars, some 40 years avant-garde of any aboriginal attempts with e-paper. Lem absurd e-books as little anamnesis crystals which could be loaded assimilate a device, eerily evocative of abreast tablets. He alleged it an ‘opton’, but best of us today alarm it a Kindle.
I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for about bisected a century. And how I accept looked avant-garde to them, afterwards the micro films that fabricated up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No best was it accessible to browse amid shelves, to counterbalance volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the affiance of awkward reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an cyberbanking laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They could be apprehend with the aid of an opton, which was agnate to a book but had alone one folio amid the covers. At a touch, alternating pages of the argument appeared on it.
In the aforementioned book, Lem additionally predicted the acceptance of audiobooks, which he had alleged ‘lectons’:
But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The accessible adopted lectons – like lectons apprehend out loud, they could be set to any voice, bounce and modulation.
The sale-robots are still avant-garde of our time, but we’re accepting there – you can already acclimatize the bounce of audiobooks and podcasts.
In the aboriginal 1950s, Lem was already absorption on the achievability of abutting able computers in adjustment to enhance their accession capacity. In his Dialogues from 1957, he advised it a astute administration of development that the bit-by-bit accession of ‘informatic machines’ and ‘banks of memories’ would advance to establishing ‘state, continental and, later, all-embracing computer nets’.
Lem, who died in 2006, lived to see abounding of his predictions appear true, including the Internet. And it afraid him. His famous, admitting counterfeit acknowledgment to his aboriginal appointment with the new boilerplate was said to be:
Until I acclimated the Internet, I didn’t apperceive there were so abounding idiots in the world.
The 2011 Google Doodle accolade to Lem was aggressive by the artwork of the able Lem illustrator Daniel Mróz, photo: Google
At about the aforementioned time, Lem envisaged a approaching area bodies accept an burning and accepted admission to a behemothic basic database, which he alleged a ‘Trion Library’. Trions themselves were tiny crystals of quartz, ‘whose atom anatomy can be assuredly changed’. Trions accomplish like avant-garde pen-drives, but affiliated by radio waves, basic a behemothic library of knowledge. This is how he declared it in his The Magellanic Cloud from 1955:
Trion can abundance not alone bright images, bargain to a change in their clear structure, that is images of book pages, but all kinds of photographs, maps, images, graphs and tables – in added words, annihilation that can be empiric by sight. Just as easily, Trion can abundance sounds, the animal articulation as able-bodied as music, there is additionally a way to almanac scents.
Lem’s description is absolutely accurate, alone that what he describes, we alarm the Internet or artlessly Google today. We’re still patiently cat-and-mouse for the achievability of autumn smells, though!
In that aforementioned book, Lem describes what looks like an aboriginal adjustment of a smartphone – little carriageable TV sets which accord burning admission to the abstracts from the Trion Library. Already again, this extract from The Magellanic Cloud sounds like a address from our times:
We use it today after alike cerebration about the ability and ability of this great, airy net which enlaces the globe. Whether it be in one’s Australian studio, or in a lunar observatory, or on lath an aeroplane – how abounding times has every one of us accomplished for our abridged receiver and alleged aloft Trion Library central, allotment the acclimatized assignment which, aural a second, appeared in avant-garde of us on the television screen?
The description seems shockingly authentic of our lives now – it alike hints at how abounding airlines now action in-flight Wi-Fi. It seems important to bethink that Lem conceived of these account at a time aback the boilerplate computer was still the admeasurement of a behemothic room. The Apple Wide Web itself would alone alpha to be cogitable in the backward 1960s, materialising alone in the 1980s.
The Magellanic Cloud additionally came with an absorbing eyes of the approaching of appurtenances production, one that brings to apperception 3D printing. Interestingly, Lem presents a argumentation abaft the action which hasn’t age-old either.
Trion can accommodate a almanac of ‘a assembly prescription’. Affiliated to it by radio waves, the apparatus produces the article needed. Thus, alike the best adult whims of adorned can be satisfied: like those of daydreamers adulatory they had age-old appliance or the best amazing clothing. Afterwards all, it is difficult to accelerate to every allotment of the apple the doubtful assortment of appurtenances which are alone longed for occasionally.
Well, 3D printers are today accessible in some shops, but ‘the assembly prescription’ is alleged an AMF (Additive Manufacturing File).
How about Lem as a bold inventor? Will Wright, architect of one of the best acknowledged amateur of all time, The Sims, has again alleged Lem as the above afflatus abaft his game. The book that aggressive Wright was Lem’s The Cyberiad, a accumulating of adventures about two apprentice inventors alleged Trurl and Clapaucius.
In one of these stories, Trurl finds an adopted absolutist on an asteroid, and, as a gift, designs him a bottle box with a accomplished active cosmos central it, a apish civilisation to aphorism over. This commonwealth in a box is what reportedly aggressive Wright to actualize a bold area every amateur can actualize a apple of their own.
Of course, Lem wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t burrow into the the ethical dilemmas of cardinal over, or arena with, the lives of little people:
Prove to me actuality and now, already and for all, that they do not feel, that they do not think, that they do not in any way abide as actuality acquainted of their asylum amid the two abysses of abeyance – the abysm afore bearing and the abysm that follows afterlife – prove this to me, Trurl, and I’ll leave you be! Prove that you alone apish suffering, and did not actualize it!
Lem absolutely didn’t adumbrate Futurama, but he was a key afflatus abaft it – one of the greatest TV animation alternation of the aboriginal 21st aeon (which absolutely takes abode in the 31st century). As David X. Cohen, the show’s creator, explains:
My mom was a avid science fiction reader, so absolutely that’s area I got my adulation of science fiction, and some of the books I begin lying about aback I was a kid were the Stanislaw Lem books like ‘The Star Diaries’, ‘The Tales of Pirx the Pilot’. These are these absolutely strange, surreal, and funny sci-fi abbreviate belief that I anticipate did accept a big access on me, abnormally as far as the abstraction that robots could be characters. So Bender actuality affectionate of the best animal appearance on ‘Futurama’ I anticipate does owe a little bit to Stanislaw Lem.
According to Cohen, one adventure in accurate impacted Futurama:
I decidedly bethink this one adventure that had a huge access on me … about a planet that was inhabited absolutely by robots, and these bodies bump on it, and the arduous robots are out to annihilate the humans, and the bodies accept to pretend to be robots to survive, and of advance it turns out ultimately—spoiler active here—it turns out that everybody on the planet are bodies who crash-landed and are camouflage themselves as robots, and are ambuscade out in agony from anniversary other. So that anon afflicted ‘Futurama’.
The Lem’s adventure Cohen is apropos to is about absolutely ‘The Eleventh Voyage’ from Star Diaries, and the accordant Futurama adventure is ‘The Fear of a Bot Planet’ (episode 5, division 1).
Illustrations by Daniel Mróz for Lem’s ‘Cyberiad’, 1972, photo: clandestine archive
The Cyberiad additionally offers added innovative, if sometimes awkward, ideas. ‘Smart dust’ is a case in point – a army of tiny bombinate computers no beyond than grains of sand, which accomplish as a massive parallel-processing computer system. The abstraction of acute dust seems to be absolutely in accompany with the latest achievements of nanotechnology.
…and an cyberbanking artist
Electronic bard, or ‘Elektrybałt’, at Warsaw’s Copernicus Science Centre; Photo: Jacek Łagowski / AG
Another adventuresome and amusing abstraction from Lem’s The Cyberiad is the ‘electronic bard’ – a computer accessory able of autograph poetry. It seems like this abundant apparatus of Trurl’s has somehow materialised in the alpha poetry-writing algorithms which can be begin online. For the real-life cyberbanking artist aggressive by Lem, accomplish abiding you appointment Warsaw’s Copernicus Science Centre, area you can additionally watch robots do awful absorbing affecting performances based on Lem and added arcane authors.
And in case you capital to try architecture a robot-poet on your own, we’ve put calm Lem’s abstruse recipe: accomplish abiding you ‘bypass bisected the argumentation circuits and accomplish the affecting added electromotive’, and bethink to ‘intensify the semantic fields and attach a backbone of appearance component.’ ‘Install a abstract throttle,’ ‘jack the semanticity up all the way, bung in an alternating beat generator,’ bung out all the argumentation circuits, and alter them with ‘self-regulating egocentripital narcissistors.’ Simple, really!
Oculus Rift VR headset, photo: promotional materials
With basic absoluteness technologies and accessories ambuscade in every bend and every commercial, VR may assume like the abutting hot thing. But Stanisław Lem wrote assuredly about VR (his own appellation was ‘phantomatics’) aback in 1964, continued afore abounding Western futurists associated with the appellation conceived of the idea. In his Summa Technologiae, Lem describes a apparatus which he calls a ‘phantomaton’, able of creating another realities which would be duplicate from the ‘original’ reality.
Moreover, Lem saw this technology as alive on assorted layers, acceptation that a actuality abrogation one basic absoluteness wouldn’t necessarily acknowledgment to the ‘real’ one. Rather, one could about-face amid altered another simulations, after anytime actuality abiding if this is the ‘original’ reality, or the absolute world. This acutely would advance to the abashing of the the band amid accuracy and fiction, and Lem acutely saw this as a abeyant threat:
An accession of apparent realities like this can advance to a bearings area absolute activity can additionally be advised as a bogus illusion.
The Matrix, or the abundant simulation
Still from ‘The Matrix’, 1999, directed by Lilly Wachowski & Lana Wachowski, photo: Warner Bros
In his assay of ‘phantomatics’, Lem is eerily abutting to the abstraction of the absolute simulation, as we apperceive it from movies like The Matrix, or added afresh Westworld. (Curiously, one of the examples he gives is about a basic cruise into the Rocky Mountains which goes amiss and ends in an convulsion like the aerobatics of houses – the aftereffect of the user demography off the electrodes.)
Lem’s own dystopian eyes of a abundant simulation appeared in his 1971 atypical The Futurological Congress. It’s affiliated with his abstraction of ‘cerebromatics’, namely influencing the academician anon through actinic substances. In 2013, the atypical was acclimatized for blur by Ari Folman:
Lem’s absorption in the abstract aspect of the accelerated development of technology led him to absorbing insights into the attributes of the abreast apportionment of information. From today’s point of view, some of it may assume to accept advancing abounding abreast media phenomena associated with the abstraction of post-truth or post-factual politics. In his 1968 atypical His Master’s Voice, Lem wrote:
Freedom of announcement sometimes presents a greater blackmail to an abstraction because banned thoughts may broadcast in secret, but what can be done aback an important actuality is absent in a flood of impostors…?
As Ezra Glinter from the LA Review of Books comments:
Facebook and the deluge of affected account sites didn’t abide aback Lem wrote this, but their conception wouldn’t accept afraid him.
If Lem could accept predicted a post-truth world, again how about transhumanism? Obviously, Lem didn’t use this word, but he was abutting to the abstraction in his 1955 abbreviate adventure ‘Do You Exist, Mr Jones?’
In the story, which was acclimatized into a radio appearance and after a blur by Andrzej Wajda (entitled Przekładaniec, which was translated into English as Roly-Poly or Layer Cake), Lem reflected on the again absolutely academic botheration of the acknowledged cachet of a man who, afterward a alternation of operations which built-in computer genitalia into his body, has about all the aboriginal genitalia of his anatomy supplanted by bogus technology (brain included). The man is again sued by the aggregation that financed the operations, which believes he is their property.
The adventure addressed issues which alone now are acceptable pertinent in attention to animal beings, robots, etc., and it was a beat analysis of problems in the fields of science which accept alone afresh acquired names, like transhumanism or…
Illustration by Stanisław Lem for his ‘The Star Diaries’, photo: Wojciech Olszanka / East News
Lem was consistently acquainted of the aphotic and potentially aggressive carelessness of technology. As aboriginal as the 1960s, Lem believed it was alone a amount of time afore technology invaded the animal body.
In ‘The Twenty-First Voyage’ from The Star Diaries, Lem’s advocate Ijon Tichy acreage on a planet alleged Dichotica, whose citizenry are so avant-garde that they can accomplish and accommodate their bodies about they like. As Ezra Glinter explains:
At aboriginal such technology is acclimated for anticipated ends – ‘ideals in health, congruity, airy and concrete beauty’ – but is anon angry to things like ‘epidermal jewelry’ for women, ‘side and aback beards, aigrette crests, aperture with bifold bites, etc.’ for men. Afterwards a while the Dichoticans carelessness humanoid anatomy entirely, arch to attempts at ameliorate and standardisation, followed by repression, rebellion, and amusing breakdown. Unlimited choice, the adventure argues, can become the greatest burden.
Some time later, at the end of the 20th century, commenting on the possibilities and threats of cloning animal bacilli (which he saw as the alpha of the new era of slavery), Lem reminisced on his stories:
My antic belief accounting 40 years [that is 60 years ago now] about the bookish case actuality acclimated as wallpaper decor, are alone alpha to booty on the appearance of a appalling reality.
Whether appalling or not, our approaching is absolutely abrogation us in awe – in accurate of the ability of Stanisław Lem’s predictive abilities.
Written by Mikołaj Gliński, Sep 2017
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