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Between an Animal and a Machine

Stanisław Lem’s Technological Utopia


Paweł Majewski

The subject of this book is the philosophy of Stanisław Lem. The first part contains an analysis and interpretation of one of his early works, The Dialogues. The author tries to show how Lem used the terminology of cybernetics to create a project of sociology and anthropology. The second part examines Lem’s essay Summa technologiae, which is considered as the project of human autoevolution. The term «autoevolution» is a neologism for the concept of humans taking control over their own biological evolution and form in order to improve the conditions of their being. In this interpretation, Summa is an example of a liberal utopia, based on the assumption that all human problems can be resolved by science. Various social theories, which can be linked to the project of autoevolution, are presented in the final part.

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28 Final Remarks

28Final Remarks

I started this part of the book by discussing the vision of autoevolution in Lem’s works (the project as laid out in the final chapter of ST and in two pieces of fiction: the “serious” Golem XIV and the “grotesque” version in “The Twenty-first Voyage”). I then tried to read this project as an example of a liberal rational utopia. The following chapters were devoted to discussion and critique of posthumanism – a social and scientific theory and ideology that emerged in the 1980s. I was arguing that the premises behind posthumanism are very similar to the ones adopted by Lem in ST. In the final chapters, I offered an interpretation of posthumanism and other contemporary emancipatory ideas as fulfilling the Nietzschean motif of Übermensch, who rejects the past and the norms derived from it in order to create a brand new identity. I also showed the contradiction and difficulties entailed by radical consequences of such ideas. Most of my analyses were based on revealing hidden premises of these concepts.

The discussion of premises, consequences and affinities of Lem’s project of autoevolution led me toward various peculiar areas, but also to some of the major problems of contemporary civilization. I have tried to prove the thesis laid out at the beginning of this part: that Lem’s essays, especially Dialogues and Summa Technologiae, are devoted exactly to these issues, even though they are not explicitly the subject of discussion.

Was Lem a posthumanist? No, but unwillingly he became a precursor of the current. Compared with ST, the entire posthumanist discourse is very simple and entangled in social ideologies, which Lem managed to avoid by carefully separating his project from social issues. Lem and posthumanists are very general in their musings on the human condition. Despite planning to change, they are not in the least bit interested in current problems; there is only a rejection of those issues with one swiping move as problems that posthumanism and autoevolution will immediately solve – as utopias do. I need to emphasize that both Lem and posthumanists have the best intentions. They all honestly hope to improve our condition – even at the price of eradicating our humanity. ←227 | 228→

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