Re: Transcendental Fiction List

From: ben goertzel (
Date: Thu Mar 07 2002 - 08:38:40 MST

Hi Damien,

Your cites are largely the same as mine would have been ... and readier to
hand ;)

I think he somewhere slightly more clearly talked about the probability of
immense incomprehensible tech. advance. It might have been in the
collection "Microworlds", which gathers his writings about sci-fi. But I
don't have time or inclination to hunt down the quotes at the moment!


----- Original Message -----
From: "Damien Broderick" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 06, 2002 8:49 PM
Subject: RE: Transcendental Fiction List

> At 08:01 PM 3/6/02 -0700, Ben wrote:
> >Stanislaw Lem.
> He might have done so in his large and untranslated Polish books on sf and
> extreme technologies (e.g. *Summa Technologiae*, partially translated into
> English by Dr Frank Prengel at
> ), but I don't recall seeing
> anything *exactly* on this in English (aside from spoof non-fiction like
> Golem-XIV and imaginary reviews, etc). You got any specific cites?
> I once wrote:
> =====================
> Stanislaw Lem, the great Polish polymath and sf writer/critic, published
> *Fantastyka i Futurologia* in Cracow in 1970. Lem noted almost in passing
> that repeated total regressions in technological progress are implausible.
> He suggests that regressions are added to fiction for the literary motive
> only, and that taking into account genuinely expectable change would have
> made it impossible to write a novel.
> Lem wrote:
> "Another vision, in which . . . there would be some continuity in the
> current of civilizational transformations-would have made it impossible to
> write the book. For the ascent that follows exponentially from this
> would surpass the capacities of any artist's imagination. . . . [T]he
> existence of future generations totally transformed from ours would remain
> an incomprehensible puzzle for us, even if we could express it." (285-7;
> parts of this work were translated [via Hungarian] by Istvan
> Csicsery-Ronay, Jr, and published in 1986 in Science-Fiction Studies [Vol
> 13, 272-91].)
> Lem preempts Vinge's metaphor of an event horizon of prediction: "[Olaf
> Stapledon] has invalidated the real factors of exponential growth, which
> obstruct all long-range predictions; we can't see anything from the
> moment beyond the horizon of the twenty-first century" (287).
> No less remarkably, perhaps, Lem made a cognitive leap still seldom seen,
> believe, in most futurism. There are reasons to doubt his conclusion, but
> it is an impressive leap of connective imagination:
> "Predictions beyond 80 or 100 years inevitably fail. Beyond that range
> the impenetrable darkness of the future, and above it, a single definite
> sign indecipherable, but impinging on us all the more: the Silence of the
> Universe. The universe has not yielded to the radiance of civilizations;
> does not scintillate with brilliant astro-technical works-although that is
> how it should be, if the law of psychozoic beings were an aspect of the
> exponential ortho-evolution of instrumentality in cosmic dimension." (288)
> =======================
> So: Fermi `Paradox' read as evidence of no earlier Spikes in our
> Most of Lem's books, prized for their wit in Poland, have been abominably
> mistranslated into leaden stodge.
> Damien Broderick

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