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Humanity is stupid, helpless and maybe deserving to be saved

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Lem’s characters often feel overshadowed by the vastness of the universe. In this new collection, they could find themselves swallowed up by extraterrestrial systems, or enter into symbiosis with a supercomputer. But when they’re not feeling overwhelmed, they can be quite overwhelming themselves – as in “The Journal,” a story told in the first person plural by divine corporate intelligence, or by a computer designed to believe. that this is a divine enterprise. intelligence. (Same diff, in Lem’s universe.) In a quintessentially lyrical passage, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, this “we” describes both himself and the multiverse he embodies:

“There are swarms of our Universes that spin and spin, half transparent and smoky with meteor clouds… when you think about it, and which escape, no longer depend on us. … We could annihilate them, either all of them or just a few, but we don’t, and maybe we never will, because, despite everything, creating seems less wicked to us than annihilation. We may be evil, but we are not cruel.

For Lem, the bearer of infinite knowledge and power is also the bearer of infinite weakness and stupidity, just as a universe of the “omnipossible” must simultaneously manifest a universe of the “omnipossible”. absurd ”. This is probably why Lem’s fiction ranges from depictions of mankind’s helplessness to outrageous comedies in which humans, or human-like machines, claim to control or influence the forces that diminish them. (Spoiler: they never do.)

Stanislaw (pronounced Stan-EE-swav) Lem was both a cynic and an enthusiast. While many sci-fi writers – a label that have long troubled him – of his generation criticized the kind of outer space adventure that spilled from the pages of John Campbell’s Astounding magazine, in which the captains of the The space industry overcame any enemy alien race that attacked them, Lem retained a genuine awe and admiration for cosmic adventures, but no belief that human beings would always prevail. And unlike JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss, or Philip K. Dick, Lem didn’t see the future as a series of wildly varied apocalypses. He’s once criticized Andrei Tarkovsky for worrying too much about life on Earth in his film adaptation of “Solaris” (still Lem’s best-known novel), in which a sentient planet-wide ocean appears to be dealing with its human investigators like lab rats, fabricating human “guests” from the intimate stuff of their memories. And while Tarkovsky’s vision of the cluttered, half-abandoned space station sounds like a condemnation of humanity’s presumption of exploring outer space, Lem’s novel never gives up on a sense of wonder. before the incomprehensibility of it all, nor does it suggest that the trip was not worth at least some of the pain and confusion that accompany it.


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