Whatever positive things we can say about our civilization, we can be sure of one thing: its development has certainly not been harmonious.
… we are talking about Intelligence! Yet it would have been impossible to reach the Atomic Age without the Age of Coal and the Age of Electricity that preceded it. Or a different environment would have at least required a different sequence of discoveries, which would have involved more than just rearranging the calendars of Einsteins and Newtons from other planets. In an environment with a high degree, of disturbance that exceeds the regulatory capacity of a society, Intelligence can manifest itself not in an expansive form, as a desire to take control over the environment, but rather as a desire to subjugate itself to that environment. I am referring here to the emergence of biological technology prior to physical technology: creatures inhabiting such a world transform themselves to function in a given environment, instead of transforming that environment so that it serves them—the way humans do. “But this is not intelligent behavior any more; this is not Intelligence!” we hear in response. “Every biological species behaves in this way in the course of evolution …”
A biological species does not know what it is doing, I reply. It does not rule itself but is rather ruled by Evolution, which throws its hecatombs onto the altar of Natural Selection. I was referring to conscious activity: a planned and directed autoevolution, a kind of “adaptation retreat.” It does not look like intelligent activity to us because man favors a heroic attack on the surrounding matter. But this is just a sign of our anthropocentrism. The more different the conditions of the inhabited worlds are, the more diversity there must be between various types of Intelligence within these worlds. If someone thinks that coniferous trees are the only ones that exist, he will not find any “trees” even in the thickest of oak woods. Whatever positive things we can say about our civilization, we can be sure of one thing: its development has certainly not been harmonious. Capable of annihilating the biosphere of the planet within a few hours, this civilization is on the verge of collapse when facing a relatively severe winter! I am not saying this to “foul my own nest.” Indeed, inequality of development is most certainly a norm in the Universe. If there is no “one single Intelligence” but rather its countless types, if a “cosmic intellectual constant” is nothing more than a fiction, then the absence of signals can be understood more easily, even if we take into account considerable civilization density. We thus have a multiplicity of Intelligence types, whereby they are all embroiled in their “own planetary matters” and moving along different trajectories, separated as they are by their different ways of thinking and acting and by different goals. As we know, man can be alone in a large crowd. Yet is this to say that this crowd does not actually exist? Is this loneliness merely the consequence of a “semantic misunderstanding”?
Stanisław Lem “Summa Technologiae”, translated by Joanna Zylinska, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2013, p. 70-71