Summa Technologie
Forgotten Masterwork

Summa TechnologiaeThe collection of Stanislaw Lem's philosophical essays "Summa Technologiae" was first published in 1964 in Poland. The English translation however - the work of Joanna Zylinska, professor of new media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London - appeared only in 2013, i.e. almost fifty years later. How does a book dealing with problems of the future pass the test of time? Astonishingly well, actually. According to New Scientist (May 20, 2013) "Stanislaw Lem's forgotten masterwork (…) is a heady mix of prescience, philosophy and irony." It is amazing "how much Lem got right or even predicted" in fields of artificial intelligence, theory of search engines, bionics, virtual reality, nanotechnology and technological singularity. The reviewer quotes an essay by biophysicists Peter Butko who describes "Summa" as an "all-encompassing discourse on evolution: not only… of science and technology… but also evolution of life, humanity, consciousness, culture, and civilization".

see full article from "New Scientist":

A brilliant trip back to the technological future


As professor Jerzy Jarzębski put it:

"This book's title alludes to Thomas Aquinas's "Summa Theologiae" for a reason. In effect Lem creates an entire atheistic paradigm for the Cosmos with God replaced by Reason; the latter, a creative force independent from biology, drives the evolution towards its own, enigmatic goals."

 
Summa Technologiae

image„Summa Technologie” is a „mother-essay” from which most of Lem's later essayistic books stem.    It was written in times when most of the discussed issues – today sometimes quite obvious ones – belonged to the world of fantasy.  The ambition behind this project still amazes, especially if we take into consideration that Lem tried to set up a secular edifice of knowledge, competing in its universalism with Saint Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologica.

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A Look Inside Summa Technologiae
1. Dilemmas

  Talk about the future. But isn't talking about future roses at least an inappropriate occupation for someone lost in the highly inflammable forests of the present? And the investigation of the thorns of these roses, the search for the problems of our great-grandchildren, while we cannot even deal with today's abundance of problems, does such scholasticism not border absurdity? If only we had the justification of searching for means to strengthen our optimism or of doing it for the love of truth, clearly visible in a future without storms, even literally taken, after the possibility of climate control.
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Lem's Opinion
The slogan of this work was "to catch up and outrun Nature". I even considered a subtitle "plagiarisms and creations"...

Summa technologiae written in 1963 was not a novel, but a collection of diverse texts- not necessarily prophecies. The landscapes of the future enclosed in Summa can be compared to a guide for mountain climbing in the Alps. The author of the guide does not claim that every climber must reach all peaks - just as a person in a restaurant is not required to order all dishes.
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