Synopses & Reviews
The Polish writer Stanislaw Lem is best known to English-speaking readers as the author of the 1961 science fiction novel Solaris, adapted into a meditative film by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and remade in 2002 by Steven Soderbergh. Throughout his writings, comprising dozens of science fiction novels and short stories, Lem offered deeply philosophical and bitingly satirical reflections on the limitations of both science and humanity.
In Summa Technologiaeandmdash;his major work of nonfiction, first published in 1964 and now available in English for the first timeandmdash;Lem produced an engaging and caustically logical philosophical treatise about human and nonhuman life in its past, present, and future forms. After five decades Summa Technologiae has lost none of its intellectual or critical significance. Indeed, many of Lemandrsquo;s conjectures about future technologies have now come true: from artificial intelligence, bionics, and nanotechnology to the dangers of information overload, the concept underlying Internet search engines, and the idea of virtual reality. More important for its continued relevance, however, is Lemandrsquo;s rigorous investigation into the parallel development of biological and technical evolution and his conclusion that technology will outlive humanity.
Preceding Richard Dawkinsandrsquo;s understanding of evolution as a blind watchmaker by more than two decades, Lem posits evolution as opportunistic, shortsighted, extravagant, and illogical. Strikingly original and still timely, Summa Technologiae resonates with a wide range of contemporary debates about information and new media, the life sciences, and the emerging relationship between technology and humanity.
andquot;At the end of the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologiae, an ambitious compendium of all orthodox philosophical and theological knowledge about the world. Seven hundred years later, science fiction author Stanislaw Lem writes his Summa Technologiae, an equally ambitious but unorthodox investigation into the perplexities and enigmas of humanity and its relationship to an equally enigmatic world in which it finds itself embedded. In this work Lem shows us science fiction as a method of inquiry, one that renders the future as tenuous as the past, with a wavering, andlsquo;phantomaticandrsquo; present always at hand.andquot; andmdash;Eugene Thacker, author of After Life
is a fantasia that follows certain lines of speculative thought as far as Lem can take them. Lemandrsquo;s sober materialism may seem dehumanizing, but he brings back to the frontier a question that has plagued civilization since the beginning, and whose shifting, always insufficient answers have always signaled revolutions in culture: what is it to be human?andquot; andmdash;Los Angeles Review of Books
andquot;With Summa Technologiae, his masterwork of non-fiction which has been translated into English for the first time, Lem has taken Western civilisation for a spinandmdash;with spectacular consequences. andquot; andmdash;New Scientist
In Summa Technologiae, Stanisand#322;aw Lem produced an engaging and caustically logical philosophical treatise about human and nonhuman life in its past, present, and future forms. After five decades this work has lost none of its intellectual or critical significance, resonating with contemporary debates about information and new media, the life sciences, and the emerging relationship between technology and humanity.
About the Author
Stanislaw Lem (1921andndash;2006) was the best-known science fiction author writing outside the English language. His books have been translated into more than forty languages and have sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.
Joanna Zylinska is professor of new media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Bioethics in the Age of New Media and The Ethics of Cultural Studies.
Table of Contents
Translatorandrsquo;s Introduction. Evolution May Be Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts, but Itandrsquo;s Not All That Great: On Lemandrsquo;s Summa Technnologiae
2. Two Evolutions
The First Cause
Several Naandiuml;ve Questions
3. Civilizations in the Universe
The Formulation of the Problem
The Formulation of the Method
The Statistics of Civilizations in the Universe
A Catastrophic Theory of the Universe
A Metatheory of Miracles
Intelligence: An Cccident or a Necessity?
Return to Earth
A Megabyte Bomb
The Big Game
The Intelligence Amplifier
The Black Box
The Morality of Homeostats
The Dangers of Electrocracy
Cybernetics and Sociology
Belief and Information
The Beliefs of Electric Brains
The Ghost in the Machine
The Trouble with Information
Doubts and Antinomies
5. Prolegomena to Omnipotence
Chaos and Order
Scylla and Charybdis: On Restraint
The Silence of the Designer
and#9;A New Linnaeus: About Systematics
Models and Reality
Plagiarism and Creation
The Fundamentals of Phantomatics
and#9;The Phantomatic Machine
and#9;Peripheral and Central Phantomatics
and#9;The Limits of Phantomatics
and#9;Teletaxy and Phantoplication
and#9;Personality and Information
7. The Creation of Worlds
The Engineering of Transcendence
8. A Lampoon of Evolution
The Reconstruction of the Species
Bionics and Biocybernetics
In the Eyes of the Designer
The Autoevolutionary Machine