Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the famous Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, whose books were especially loved in the Soviet Union and now in Russia. Like other science fiction writers, Lem did not escape the glory of a seer. It seems that for some people the more talented the writers are, the more of the things described in their works "come true". But in this reading, science fiction is reduced to a horoscope, and its essence is lost.
Stanislav Lem is credited with a variety of prophecies. Optons for reading crystals with information from Return from the Stars are e-books like the Kindle, and lektons are audiobooks. The Magellanic Cloud describes a computer network like the Internet, connected to it compact receivers in which the reader imagines smartphones, and machines for making anything to order - a kind of 3D printers. Lem's books contain memory cards, credit cards, touch screens, virtual reality, and nanoparticles. Looking at these lists, it seems that Lem predicted our present almost entirely.
But if you look closely, the similarities with modern technologies are mostly superficial. Take the computer network in the Magellanic Cloud. Like the Internet, it is an enormous reservoir of knowledge. But the Internet stores all kinds of information, not just digitized cultural artifacts: books, blueprints, maps, sounds (Lem has even smells). More and more data is being produced by machines - we, even if we can access it, are not able to parse it. But we often use them discreetly, for example, when a dating app suggests a geolocation-based pairing. People are also leaving more and more digital footprints, which, among other things, makes us objects of surveillance and manipulation. Finally, in the once World Wide Web, regions with their own rules are more and more clearly visible. The further, the less the Internet looks like a network in the "Magellanic Cloud".
The Internet could have been different. "The future is always near. With any technology, there are several options for development. It is difficult to say which one will work. Our problem is that we represent technology as an evolutionary line: here was a wooden bicycle, then with a small wheel and with a large one, and then with the same This is not the case, because along with the "penny-farthing" (with small rear and large front wheels) at the end of the 19th century there were bicycles with the same wheels, which were called "bike", and a reverse design with a smaller front wheel, where the cyclist The technology was unsettled, crude. There was a search for an option that would suit everyone, "argues Denis Sivkov, an anthropologist, associate professor at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
Stanislav Lem himself, in the same spirit, shortly before his death, spoke in an interview with Izvestia: “When I turned to the most famous futurological works of 30 years ago, it turned out that events did not develop at all the way the best minds of the 60s imagined. only Anton Golubev turned out to be, who liked to repeat that the essence of the future is that “everything is different” - differently than we imagine. something else ". The writer was also skeptical about his futurological constructions, likening their meeting in reality to a car accident.
Finding predictions of the future in science fiction is like reading horoscopes. The difference is that horoscopes are deliberately vague - so they do not contradict the real state of affairs, and with books you have to close your eyes either to the details described in them, or to facts that contradict these details. Thanks to the inherent confirmation bias, this is not so difficult to do. When this succeeds, the writer is presented as an oracle with exclusive access to the future.
Scientists are annoyed by this approach. In the aforementioned interview with Izvestia, Stanislav Lem said that he was not Nostradamus. The author of "Neuromancer" William Gibson once blurted out: "All we have to describe the work of science fiction writers and futurists of other stripes is purely the language of magic." This emasculates science in science fiction.
Corey Doctorow, who wrote Little Brother and The Way Out, reasoned that almost all of the "prophecies" would be more accurate to say that they inspired engineers and scientists. "Gene Roddenberry" predicted "[in Star Trek] clamshell phones only in the most corny sense - in the same sense in which I" predict "that the pizza will be delivered shortly after I order it." - wrote Doctorow. If we consider the technologies described in science fiction as prophecies, then prophecies are self-fulfilling. Of course, when they come true at all.
Fiction is more valuable when it speaks not of the particular, but of the general. According to Elena Kozmina, a professor at the Ural Federal University, scientific editor and one of the compilers of the collection Art and Responsibility. The Literary Creativity of Stanislav Lem, in the books of a Pole this is a question of the essence of man. "Lem wrote not even science, but adventure-philosophical fiction. This is the literature of adventure, and in any adventure plots the main thing is the situation of the test. Adventurous-philosophical fantasy, including the test of the hero, takes over [from the philosophical story] the test of the idea. In the case of fantasy, one - the only idea: what makes a person human, how does he differ from everything else. When they say that Lem was very technological, followed scientific research, this is all right. But his interest in science and technology was inextricably linked with the anthropological problem, " she explains.
In his works, both artistic and philosophical, publicistic, Lem raised other topics. In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Book, critic Ezra Glinter analyzed how the writer explored the role of chance, the bureaucracy of authoritarian regimes, the arms race, artificial intelligence, technological improvements in living organisms, enslavement through pleasure, information noise. Much of this existed already in Lem's time, and everything else is not so much predictions as, in the words of the writer himself, general development trends.
“In Russian,“future”is often used in the singular, and in English, the word future is often used in the plural, because the future is not one - there are many future,” says Denis Sivkov. “In science fiction works you can juggle these scenarios: fantasy is for us helps by generating alternative explanations for things."