Stanislaw Lem
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Apropos novels, maybe we should mention some Stanislaw Lem in the book section. I suggest his Golem XIV, which is the dryest, most academic sf I have ever read. It is a veritable sleeping pill, and at the same time amazing. It is a collection of two lectures (as well as some commentary) held by the superintelligent computer Golem XIV about evolution, humanity and the nature of intelligence. Golem points out the essential dilemma of humanity: either remain as it is, and stagnate, or autoevolve, and thus become something alien to current humanity.

His The Cyberiad is another wonderful book. It is the kind of fairy tales Metasoft parent objects tell to their child objects before the memory consolidation period. It deals with a fairy tale world inhabited by robot kings, cybernetic knights, probability dragons, and the two constructors Trurl and Klaupatius. These two friends/competitors invent marvellous machines such as the electronic poet, the machine that could make anything beginning with 'N', the memory transfer device, a simulated kingdom for a deposed tyrant, and artificial gods. Many stories sound like they belong in OA.

Lem is a great thinker, and can switch between being enormously dry and academic into total slapstick instantly. I have already mentioned him in passing with the King Gnuff Syndrome and toposophy.

- Anders Sandberg

Eden, written in 1959, was one of Stanislaw Lem's earliest science fiction novels. It is a remarkable tour de force, not the least because it is decades ahead of its time in its subject matter. A ship crash-lands on Eden, a planet that bears alien life and an alien civilization. The crew, an iconic Captain, Engineer, Physicist, Chemist, Cyberneticist and Doctor (we only learn their personal names near the end of the book), must make repairs. In the meantime they attempt to explore and understand the world they have discovered. They find that they cannot distinguish forests from factories, or animals from sapient inhabitants. They are sometimes repelled, sometimes attracted, and always puzzled. Not only is Eden the product of a completely alien biology, but it has also been thoroughly transformed by what we would now call genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and (most of all) applied memetics (though of course, Lem does not use those terms, since none of them had yet been invented when he wrote this book!). In the end, the explorers leave with the understanding that they do not understand, and that every construction they try to place on what they have seen says as much about themselves as about Eden itself . This a must-read for those who are interested in seeing the portrayal of a logically consistent but utterly alien world. For OA worldbuilders, it is a glimpse of what a society thoroughly moulded by some of the technologies central to Orions Arm (nanotech, genetic engineering, memetics) might actually look like, and how baffling it might be to mere human baseline minds.

- Stephen Inniss