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Missing Link: A coincidence named Stanisław Lem

With “Solaris” he wrote one of the most important novels about the limits of human knowledge. With “Lokaltermin” he invented the ethicosphere in which nanobots prevent murder and manslaughter. Stanisław Lem reviewed non-existent books and quickly invented sciences such as teletaxia, better known today as virtual reality, or phantomism, which deals with the coupling of the nervous system and computer.

What is missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often the time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the sidewalks away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

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He philosophized about an extelopedia, a constantly revising, extrapolating encyclopedia about future things that will exist but are no longer understandable to us. He later turned against technological development and became a cultural critic who rejected the Internet, wanted to fight climate change and overpopulation through biocratic measures of violence.

Stanisław Lem was probably born on September 13, 1921 in Lwów (Lemberg) in Eastern Galicia (now part of Ukraine), his birth brought forward to September 12. To other information his birth falls on September 19th. His father was a doctor and so Lem initially studied medicine too, until the German occupation of Poland forced him to abandon his studies. He then worked as a car mechanic in a repair shop and organized “things” for the Polish resistance until he had to hide himself.

In his two-volume Philosophy of Coincidence, Lem described how he was carrying weapons in the tram and not being checked because he was run over by an SS man. After the war he studied philosophy and physics in addition to medicine, but had to leave Lwów with the family during the Soviet occupation and went to Kraków.

Lem came into contact with the philosopher Mieczysław Choynowski through his study on the “theory of brain functions” that he had undertaken and got his first job at his seminar for science studies. The institute published a magazine in which Lem presented numerous representatives of the “new sciences” to the Polish public. These included the cybernetic writings of Norbert Wiener, the information theory of Claude Shannon and the game theory of John von Neumann.

Particularly influential are said to be according to his biographer Alfred Gall the American W. Ross Ashby with his work on cybernetics and artificial intelligence and Talcott Parsons with his studies on social systems. Lem thus became familiar with the leading US scientific directions and stood far removed from the Marxist currents at the Polish universities, which occupied the intellectual life. When the institute had to be closed because of “subversive tendencies”, Lem managed to save the writings of Wiener, Shannon, Neumann and others. He declared her to be his greatest treasure.

Lem also took his first steps in the literary world. He wrote several plays and as “Ausbruch” his book The Transfiguration Hospital, in which he dealt with the murder of patients in a mental hospital by the National Socialists. This trauma of euthanasia that he experienced with his family – his father worked in such an institution – should shape him: “The incomprehensible nullity of human life in the womb of mass murder cannot be conveyed by means of narrative styles that make individuals or small groups the core of the plot. […] I really don’t know if that is why I took the SF path, but I suspect, and it is very daring, that I started to write SF because it deals with the genus human (or even: with the possible genres more sensible Beings, one of which is man) deals or: should deal, and not with any individuals, be they saints or monsters. “

Lem’s first SF novel, which he himself called “Urlem” and which was written before the “Hospital”, was the novel “Der Mensch vom Mars”. It is set in the final phase of World War II, when Germany capitulated but the atomic bombs have not yet fallen on Japan.

In the United States, a Martian is being excavated in his spaceship who is resisting being used as a guinea pig by humans. Earth people and Martians are hostile to each other, the impossibility of mutual understanding is a typical Lem problem. The next SF novel “Die Astronauten” already contains the whole lem. It is set in 2003, a capsule is found in Siberia that comes from Venus. The people living peacefully under communism are putting together an international expedition which, upon arrival on Venus, has to realize that the Venusians have built a weapon that was supposed to destroy humanity on earth. But the terrible beam weapon was used on Venus in a war and destroyed the Venusians. The film was made from Lem’s novel at great expense in the GDR The silent star. Now Lem was an established writer who produced a number of other conventional SF novels such as “Guest in Space”. Individual technical ideas such as televisite and the projection of a person via holography are worth mentioning.

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