Ijon Tichy is the only human who knows for sure whether the self-programming robots on the moon are plotting a terrestrial invasion. But a highly focused ray severs his corpus collosum. Now his left brain can’t remember the secret and his uncooperative right brain won’t tell. Tichy struggles for control of the lost memory and of his own two warring sides. Translated by Elinor Ford with Michael Kandel. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Stanisław Lem (staˈɲiswaf lɛm) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer of Jewish descent. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of Solaris, which has twice been made into a feature film. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon claimed that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world.
His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations and humankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books. Translations of his works are difficult and multiple translated versions of his works exist.
Lem became truly productive after 1956, when the de-Stalinization period led to the "Polish October", when Poland experienced an increase in freedom of speech. Between 1956 and 1968, Lem authored 17 books. His works were widely translated abroad (although mostly in the Eastern Bloc countries). In 1957 he published his first non-fiction, philosophical book, Dialogi (Dialogues), one of his two most famous philosophical texts along with Summa Technologiae (1964). The Summa is notable for being a unique analysis of prospective social, cybernetic, and biological advances. In this work, Lem discusses philosophical implications of technologies that were completely in the realm of science fiction then, but are gaining importance today—like, for instance, virtual reality and nanotechnology. Over the next few decades, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological, although from the 1980s onwards he tended to concentrate on philosophical texts and essays.
He gained international fame for The Cyberiad, a series of humorous short stories from a mechanical universe ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974. His best-known novels include Solaris (1961), His Master's Voice (Głos pana, 1968), and the late Fiasco (Fiasko, 1987), expressing most strongly his major theme of the futility of mankind's attempts to comprehend the truly alien. Solaris was made into a film in 1972 by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972; in 2002, Steven Soderbergh directed a Hollywood remake starring George Clooney.
Peace on Earth is a fast-paced adventure set in the future featuring none other than the star of The Star Diaries, Memoirs of a Space Traveller and The Futurological Congress: the one and only Ijon Tichy.
Stanislaw Lem fans have come to know and love brainy, levelheaded Ijon Tichy who zooms around the galaxy in his one-man rocket ship as if bopping about in a sports car in the author's home country of Poland.
But in Peace on Earth, Stanislaw Lem's last novel published in 1987, Ijon Tichy as first-person narrator tells us he is dealing with a mighty big problem: during his latest mission to the moon he was zapped by robots, a zap that felt like a painless little snap in the middle of his head, a remote callotomy that left him with the right and left hemispheres of his brain disconnected.
Poor Ijon! He knows he is just one Ijon but he feels as if he is two separate selves each with its own brain: the rational, analytic, language making left side and the intuitive, imaginative, creative, artistic right side. Holy queer quagmire, Mr. Tichy! Are you one or are you two? And what, if anything, can offer a resolution? After all, if your wild, nonrational right side continues to pinch the bottom of every attractive blonde you see when you're on a bus, you could wind up in a heap of trouble.
Ijon seeks help from his old friend Professor Tarantoga who locates a specialist by the name of McIntyre in Melbourne, an expert in neurophysiology. Ijon presses the doctor on the question of consciousness - in his own unique case, is consciousness one or two? The professor replies: "It can be explained. The light of a candle is visible in the dark but not in the sun. The right brain may have consciousness, but a consciousness as feeble as candlelight, extinguished by the dominant consciousness of the left brain. It's entirely possible that -" The professor ducked, avoiding a shoe in the head. My left foot had slipped it off, propped the heel against a chair leg, then kicked it so hard that the shoe flew like a missile and crashed into the wall, missing him by a hair. "You may be right," I remarked, "but the right hemisphere is damned touchy." But one example sprinkled throughout the novel of the hilarious consequences of Ijon's callotomy.
Back on the reason why the Lunar Agency, an international organization monitoring activity up on the moon, sent Ijon on his mission in the first place. As twentieth century politics played out in subsequent decades, the superpowers in this future world agreed to remain at peace here on Earth and shift violence and aggression to the moon where war machines and robots from each side were programmed to develop more effective technologies so as to continue the arms race, including attacks and counterattacks. The colossal advantage of this international arrangement: no human casualties.
But, alas, serious problems loom, including the possibility those advanced, ever evolving war machines might come together somehow and decide to attack Earth. Technological surveillance can only go so far; someone had to check in person, and that someone was Ijon Tichy.
Ijon has a bigger problem with his current brain state than pinching blondes - unfortunately, his callotomy effectively wiped out his memory of what he discovered during his moon mission. But there's a chance his memory can be restored, thus one of the superpowers might kidnap him in an attempt to extract by whatever means the knowledge he has locked up in the right side of his brain. The story takes many more wacky twists and turns, including sending Ijon, callotomized brain and all, on a return trip to the moon. So as not to spoil for a reader, at this point I will segue to Ijon's observations on several other technological innovations in this future world:
Remotes "By putting on a suit that pressed hundreds of electrodes to the skin, anyone could link with a male or female remote. Little did people dream how this technology would change their lives, especially their sex lives." In the same spirit as the film Ex Machina (as per below pic), androids or "remotes" are as common as soda and candy bars. Purchase a beautiful Remote for sex any time you want, day or night. Or, you could put your Remote to work painting your house, attacking your rude neighbor or, if you are having financial problems, maybe even rob a bank. Of course, your neighbor or local bank might have their own remotes to counter yours. Then the fun really begins.
Synthetic Insects "As germs secretly enter an animal organism and kill it from within, so did these unliving microbes penetrate cannon barrels, shell chambers, the engines of tanks and planes, and eat through metal, and detonate the ammunition inside. What could a brave, grenade-carrying soldier do against a microscopic, unliving adversary?" Nearly all forms of modern warfare are rendered obsolete by superpowers in possession of millions of synthetic insects. Ijon goes on to relate even the military generals find themselves out of a job. Not a happy group made obsolete by technological innovation.
Genetic Engineering Rich nations found the ideal solution for overpopulation in poor countries: put a drug in their supply of wheat or corn that causes impotence and stand back and watch an entire population die out.
Private Loony Bins Ijon (and indirectly Stanislaw Lem) pokes a long, satirical needle at millionaires, noting how, other than an interest in the money markets, these millionaires, mostly from Texas, have zero interest in anything else, most especially literature and the arts. What a bunch of bores! We are only thirty years out from when Peace on Earth was written. Is Lem's prediction coming true faster than even he anticipated? Actually, Ijon's interaction with a Texas millionaire counts as one of the the funner parts of the book.
Lastly, let me mention Peace on Earth is not hard SF. Even a non-science reader like myself had absolutely no difficulty grasping the basic science included. With this novel, Stanislaw Lem was primarily interested in offering his many reflection on the philosophy of science and the future possible applications of science. I urge you pick up Peace on Earth and take a rollicking romp through the future with Ijon Tichy.
This could be a cityscape from Peace on Earth - not too many people as people are hardly needed at all. Technology and robots are the thing.
At the outset of this tale, mankind has indeed managed to bring about peace on earth, but there’s a problem, and the redoubtable space adventurer Ijon Tichy (who figures into a number of Lem’s earlier writings) has been brought in to solve it. The major powers of Earth have realized that weapons are being developed faster than they can be limited by international agreement, and they’ve devised an ingenious stratagem: the moon will be divided into a handful of national sectors, and a new international body called the Lunar Agency will move everyone’s weapons there, where testing and further development will be placed under computer control. The whole business will remain off-limits to Earth. If things really go to pot, everyone will be able to get their weapons back, but in the meantime, no nation has any. They’ve neither disarmed nor not disarmed: a commentary on the ever more fantastical pursuits of the Cold War arms race (the book was written in the mid-80s), on the era’s disarmament talks, which aimed to reduce one category or another while never really eliminating anything, and more broadly on mankind’s lunatic tendency to, say, swear off drinking while leaving a bottle hidden in a bookshelf.
Nonetheless, it seems to be working. What then is the problem? Probes sent to check the situation on the moon have all failed to report; Earth begins to suspect that the self-evolving weapons have acquired intelligence, banded together, and begun to plan an invasion. Tichy’s mission is to visit the moon and find out. He arrives; he inspects; suddenly he feels himself zapped by something and discovers that a mysterious ray has severed his corpus callosum. Now he doesn’t know what he knows, because his left-brain speech center can’t access whatever memories are stored in his right brain.
From the first page, where Tichy says of his risky mission, “Either I come back or I don’t,” the book is permeated with dualities, oppositions, bifurcations. His split brain parallels the Earth-moon system, which is divided between peace and war, humans and machines. There’s a point at which Tichy remarks on being half awake, half asleep. Much of his exploration of the moon is conducted from orbit, by means of mechanical, remote-controlled devices to which all his muscles and senses are linked, thus making him “neither man nor robot.” Human thinking is pitted against, and for the most part baffled by, machine thought. The tale itself follows two time tracks, after Tichy’s mission and before it. A good deal of the discussion—as always in Lem, one finds fantastically imaginative story elements partnered with a thoroughgoing play of ideas—is concerned with similarities and differences between natural evolution and the artificial evolution that’s been set up to guide weapons development on the moon.
The nature of evolution, whether artificially induced or not, is an idea that had occupied Lem some two decades earlier, in his nonfiction treatise Summa Technologiae*, and it recurs in other works. Here, in his final work of fiction, he takes it up again, and while the treatment has been tailored to the purposes of the novel, it’s significant that Lem sees self-improving technology brought to its highest development in the field of weaponry.
It has to be said that Peace on Earth is a pessimistic novel, as was Fiasco, which preceded it. But its darkness is satirical, and much in the book is just plain funny. One of the ancillary characters is named Tottentanz, clearly derived from the German for dance of death, though the altered spelling suggests tottering, rather than sweeping gracefully, toward doom. One finds mentioned in passing a political party dedicated to equal rights for bacteria, and elsewhere there’s a military invention called synsects, or synthetic insects; that coinage and certain others may be the work of Michael Kandel (the secondary translator behind Elinor Ford), who devised the scintillating wordplay in many other English renderings of Lem. For readers who have met the character of Tichy before, the mere sight of his name is likely to bring a smile. In some ways a picaresque hero, Tichy thinks of himself as a gambler ready to take a risk, but he’s just as capable of beating a hasty retreat; he’s sometimes gullible and other times wary; he’s decidedly fond of creature comforts; and he can be lured astray by a well-crafted simulacrum of Marilyn Monroe.
There’s a striking passage late in the book describing the effects of peace, which reports the following: “The prosperity that obtained after the weapons were moved to the moon had unfortunate consequences, made worse by automation.… Illiteracy increased, particularly since now you didn’t even have to sign a check, only a thumbprint was necessary.… The American Medical Association finally lost the battle to save their profession, because computers gave better diagnoses and were much more patient with patients.… Sex was replaced with a simple device called an Orgaz.… Most of the developed countries did away with compulsory school attendance.… Everything had been smothered in the boredom of prosperity.” It’s clear from this picture, especially in light of the attention that Lem gives elsewhere in the book to evolution, that lack of conflict leads to stagnation. One might wish for that condition nonetheless, and you’ll have to read the book to learn whether it lasts, but I wonder whether this realization contributed to Lem’s withdrawal from fiction writing. I wonder whether he looked around, at all of mankind’s mad and desperate measures in pursuit of one thing and against another, and concluded, before laying down his pen, that it cannot be otherwise.
*I haven’t yet read Summa Technologiae and have based my remark on a masterful review published in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Another valuable discussion of that work was given by Lee Billings in Nautilus.
Peace on Earth is Stanisław Lem's last sci-fi book written before he died in 2006. It is a highly complex story of the countries on Earth deciding to wage their wars -- without human intervention -- on the moon. What happens is that the Earth powers lose touch with their automated forces on the Moon, and send Ijon Tichy there to investigate.
At the outset, he suffers a remote callotomy at the hands (or whatever) of the Moon forces, in which the left and right hemispheres of his brain are disconnected. He is literally in the situation where the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. But he is a valuable resource, so he is sent back to the moon to report on what is happening there.
He not only reports, but brings back something that causes a crisis on Earth.
This is one of my favorite Lems. It is written with sly humor throughout, like all the Ijon Tichy books, of which Lem has written several.
“Sadistics: the algebra of conflicts that end fatally for all parties.”
Wish I had read this fifty years ago. A cynical, naive but hopeful inquiry into how to end the arms race. Well written with a folded timeline which will leave the inattentive reader confused. Good understanding that man’s most basic urge in any situation is to cheat. Stand alone story.
“Politicians continued business as usual, more concerned about voters than the future.”
Extra star because this story reads so well fifty years after written. Lem nailed nano-technology though he wrote at a time when the first integrated circuits were huge and slow. Correctly posited that the future of military--like all technology--is smaller, not larger. Though he erred in thinking robots couldn’t manage walking on two legs.
“The falling curve of the cost of intelligence and the rising curve of the cost of weapons intersected, and at that point began the unhumanization of armies.”
Some awkward phraseology which may be faulty translation, as Lem wrote in Polish. Though identified as written in 1867, correctly refers to 1969 and subsequent moon landings.
“The infiltration of political, religious and social movement … taking advantage of the illusions of the young and the conservatism of the old.”
No está entre los mejores de Lem, aunque decir eso no implica que no merezca la mejor puntuación, a pesar de sus defectos, que los tiene, sigue siendo una obra de sobresaliente. Aunque tiene protagonista a Tichy, no es una novela cómica, y tiene más el estilo serio, de ironía amarga propio de "Regreso a Entia", aunque este es mucho más entretenido. También es menos atrevido en lo que respecta a la especulación que otras obras, incluso que su contemporánea "Fiasco", aunque la idea que constituye el nóvum de la novela es muy interesante y Lem sabe jugar bien con ella para plantear sus reflexiones sobre la carrera de armamentos o la crítica de la comunidad científica. Pero si la primera parte parece una buena novela, aunque de un Lem flojo, cuando pasa a describir los robots de la Luna nos encontramos de nuevo con el Lem más imaginativo y atrevido, con algunas escenas realmente psicodélicas, si se tiene en cuenta qué nos está narrando. Sobre la media de la ciencia ficción es una novela que está muy por encima, pero en la de Lem se encuentra entre aquellas que no figuran entre las tres o cuatro mejores obras suyas.
Eso sí, como introducción a Lem es muy recomendable, ya que pueden apreciarse algunas de sus mejores virtudes como autor y la inmersión es menos impactante para el lector poco habituado a la ciencia ficción, y al genial autor polaco.
One of, if not the last, book of fiction by LEM. It is difficult to 'chonologize' his work as, like Jules Verne, it is translated, thus not published in English consecutively. This complex, interesting and intelligent story is written with great humour. I enjoyed this very much.
Stanislaw Lem is my new favorite scifi/spec fix writer. It's my first dive into his work and I plan to binge on his other titles. This book is brilliant and manic—it quenched my intellectual thirst for a digestible, thought-provoking, and (at times) hilarious narrative. There are some Phil K. Dick and Neal Stephenson (abridged because Stephenson doesn't know the meaning of concise lol) vibes with little touches of Vonnegut-esque playful manic-madness tossed in. :)
I do wish Lem had included more female characters but whatever...what do you expect with 1987 scifi. If you're into thoughtful and playful speculative fiction with a technology/space theme, you'll dig this.
I'd never read anything from Lem before, so this was an introduction for me. A bit strange from the outset, Peace on Earth follows an older model of science fiction than I've been reading in a long time. Lots of invented words, techno-babble, unique concepts, and entertaining anachronism (robots, lasers, and... typewriters?). The characters were fairly thin all around, but the novelty of the concepts makes up for most of that. The narrative jumps around the time line constantly. It takes a slow start before the stage-setting exposition hits, from that point onward the cold war allegory remains pushed to maximum for the rest of the book. The espionage-centric bits are probably the weakest parts of the whole book, as a reader I would have preferred getting more insights into the world (and moon) the author had imagined. Also, the space flight bits were funny for the assumed simplicity of it all and impossibly unprofessional people literally everywhere. I'd recommend this book to readers looking for new scientific fiction that's novel and bit weird. Not the strongest sci-fi I've read lately, but unique enough that I'll never confuse it with anything else.
My rating shouldn't be taken to serious, I didn't know that this was the 4th book in the series. But I still think I mannaged to follow the plot quite well. Stanislaw is a great author in the skill of coming up with a problem and make that problem 100 fold worse and through that creating his futuristic world/concept. In this he have adapted the world's fear of nuclear war and bioweapons. Then increased tech- and threatlevels, ending up with a messed up future were the characters have to make their way. It had a lot of nice quotes and wise words as well.
Toto je posledni Lemův román, není ale posledni formou ani obsahem. Texty s Ijonem Tichým byly vždy lehkonožejsi než ty s Pirxem a i zde Lemova obrazotvornost běží a vznáší se s naznakem humoru, ač za tim vším je hluboka úvaha. Objevuji se tu starší motivy evokuce mrtvé hmoty a zkázy elekteonicke civilisace, jež Lem už užil dříve, nyní v rámci vise odzbrojení Země militarisaci Měsíce. Zábavné a hluboké. A i hrdina s půlkou mozku je možný!
review of Stanislav Lem's Peace on Earth by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 18, 2015
Astronaut Ijon Tichy goes on a secret mission to the moon & gets a callotomy from forces unknown presumed to be the forces he was there to spy on: "While I'm urinating, I feel this little snap. Like a crack in the neck, only higher, in the middle of the skull. It was a remote callotomy. It didn't hurt." (p 2)
"The corpus callosum is a band of nerve fibers located deep in the brain that connects the two halves (hemispheres) of the brain. It helps the hemispheres share information, but it also contributes to the spread of seizure impulses from one side of the brain to the other. A corpus callosotomy is an operation that severs (cuts) the corpus callosum, interrupting the spread of seizures from hemisphere to hemisphere. Seizures generally do not completely stop after this procedure (they continue on the side of the brain in which they originate). However, the seizures usually become less severe, as they cannot spread to the opposite side of the brain." - http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/c...
"The best research done on the split brain and the results of that operation are in Professor Gazzanigi's book, The Bisected Brain, published in 1970 by Appleton Century Crofts, Educational Division, at the Meredith Corporation, and may my brain never grow together again if I'm inventing Michael Gazzanigi" - p 6, Peace on Earth
Of course, it's the fictional character Ijon Tichy who's saying the above & since both he & his callotomy are fictional his brain is no more likely to grow back together if he 'tells the truth'. NONETHELESS, I looked up Gazzanigi &, YES, he has a bk called The Bisected Brain:
"Michael S. Gazzaniga, one of the premiere doctors of neuroscience, was born on December 12, 1939 in Los Angeles. Educated at Dartmouth College and California Institute of Technology, he has been on the faculty of the Center for Neuroscience, University of California, Davis. His early research examined the subject of epileptics who had undergone surgery to control seizures. He has also studied Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients and reveals important findings in books such as Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind. While many of his writings are technical, he also educates and stimulates readers with discussions about the fascinating and mysterious workings of the brain. Books such as The Social Brain and The Mind's Past bring forth new information and theories regarding how the brain functions, interacts, and responds with the body and the environment." - https://books.google.com/books/about/...
The Bisected Brain being from 1970 & Peace on Earth being from 1987, it might be safe to hypothesize that Lem read The Bisected Brain & was partially inspired by it to write this - esp given that Lem was a medical student (see his novel Hospital of the Transfiguration).
"they were offended when I told them I was seeing Dr. Turteltaub. They informed me that he had been expelled from their research group on ethical grounds. Turteltaub wanted to offer murderers sentenced to death or life imprisonment the chance to submit to callotomy instead." - p 9
May things never reach that point. There are multiple premises in this bk of interest. One being that "Peace on Earth" has been accomplished by moving arms development to the Moon & then making it difficult for Earthlings to know what's happening there. Tichy is a recurring character in Lem stories - such as in The Futurological Congress & "The Sanitorium of Dr. Vliperdius". In Peace on Earth he reminisces about returning to Earth after a long absence:
"Earth had changed completely. There was total disarmament. Even the superpowers no longer had the money to continue the arms race. The more intelligent the weapons, the more they cost. That was the real reason for the Geneva agreement. In Europe and the United States no one wanted to enlist in the army." - p 24
"["]The Geneva Agreement made four impossibilities possible. A continuing arms race at the same time as universal disarmament—that's one. Arming at maximum speed and at no cost—that's two. Full protection of each nation against surprise attack while each reserves the right to wage war—that's three. And finally the liquidation of all armies despite their continuing existence. No troops, but the staffs stay on and can think up anything they like. In a nutshell, we've instituted pacem in terris."" - p 78
Lem adds a touch of disappointingly typical human insincerity to Tichy's character: "I took my leave, saying I had to go and promising (insincerely) that I'd drop in again soon." (p 36) Another Tichy story is referred to as if it's non-fiction (& not actually by Lem): "These new acquaintances all turned out to be fans of my Star Diaries." (p 37) Lem always has a sense of humor:
"The older, Castor, worked in algomathematics, which is the algebra of conflicts that end fatally for all parties. (This branch of game theory is sometimes called sadistics.)" - p 37
"A certain Adlai Groutzer ordered from the Boston branch of Gynandroics a remote of his wife at age twenty-one, not fifty-nine, her actual age. A further complication was that when Mrs. Groutzer was twenty-one, she wasn't Mrs. Groutzer at all but the wife of James Brown, whom she divorced twenty years later to marry Adlai Groutzer. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. A ruling had to be made as to whether a wife who wouldn't operate the remote bought by her husband, for sex, was refusing him his conjugal rights. And whether remote incest was possible, and remote sadism and masochism." - p 43
& to think that the best I can do w/ my remote is turn on w/o being turned on [reviewer joke made out-of-context that may seem more confusing than funny to reader]. One of the people that Tichy interacts w/ is named "Tottentanz":
"There was no point in trying to defend myself, Tottentanz persuaded me, because I would be entering a waste bristling with death and inevitably fall and the whole hope was that we would learn something from my death." - p 87
In case I haven't already worn out my welcome as joke-explainer: "tottentanz" is a German musical term meaning "Dance of Death". In contrast to this, I hereby coin the word "ejacudance" to celebrate life. 'Are you going to the Ejacudance tonight?' 'I sure as fuck hope so!'
I wonder if "head under my arm" is an actual expression used by pilots?: "my head under my arm (actually my helmet, but that's how you say it: your head's under your arm when you're ready to fly)" (p 40) So, yeah, I 'had to' look that one up too & there were various results, none of wch that I saw duplicated Lem's usage but I did find this: "The last time I looked, I wasn’t carrying my head under my arm. In other words, my mind and body are, indeed, connected! And – oh yes, your head and body are too!" ( http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/o... )
Lem explores the idea of engineered microorganisms used in warfare, the idea being more robotic than biological or chemical. I'd found a similar idea exciting in Lem's 1967 The Invincible so I found this slightly less exciting b/c it seemed a bit like a rerun. Still, the idea is well worth revisiting:
"As germs secretly enter an animal organism and kill it from within, so did these unliving microbes penetrate cannon barrels, shell chambers, the engines of tanks and planes, and eat through metal, and detonate the ammunition inside. What could a brave, grenade-carrying soldier do against a microscopic, unliving adversary? He would be like a doctor trying to fight a virus with a hammer." - p 51
""The mouse is quick. Correct. From the first antibodies that aose many years ago probably nothing remains. They evolved into—let us call them selenocytes. These joined into multicellular forms to survive, to become more versatile, much as ordinary germs increase in virulence by growing resistant to the antibiotics used against them."" - p 213
Then there're letter-bombs, an idea that certainly pre-existed this novel but wch obtained refreshed meaning w/ the activities of Ted Kaczynski & w/ the post 9/11 anthrax mailings: "The technology of epistolary terrorism is so developed that a charge able to blow the addressee to pieces can be placed inside a Christmas or birthday card wishing him health and happiness." (p 108)
Then there's the lying robot possibility, the integration of deceptive activity in a android-like creature. That seems like something Ron Goulart wd explore the hilarity potential of:
""You'll feel at home here with us, old friend . . ." He bumped my helmet with his as if trying to kiss me on both cheeks. "At home . . . we don't want war, we are peace-loving, meek, you'll see . . ." And with that he kicked me so hard that I fell on my back, and jumped on me, both knees in my stomach. I saw stars, literally, the stars of the black lunat sky, while my "friend" held my head down with his left hand and with his right pulled off his metal bands which themselves twisted into horseshoe hoops. I said nothing, dazed, as he fastened my arms to the ground one at a time with the hoops" - p 152
Lem, like all writers I like, inserts details that might seem irrelevant to the bare-bones plot but wch add much to flesh-out those very bare bones:
"my left leg fell asleep, too tightly wrapped, and I argued on the phone with Wivitch who said the pins and needles would pass and the tape shouldn't be any looser. But I insisted, and they had to spend an hour and a half unwinding me from my cocoon. It turned out that someone—but of course no one confessed—had used a pipe-cleaning utensil to help pull the tape and it had been forgotten under the wrapping around my shin. I asked them to let the matter drop even though I could guess who had done it, since only one of them smoked a pipe. In heroic tales of space such things never happen. An astronaut does not get the runs, nor do the amenities malfunction so that his spacesuit fills with piss. Which actually happened to the first American astronaut in his suborbital flight but out of natural historical-patriotic delicacy NASA didn't mention it to the press." - p 107
Exactly, "In heroic tales of space such things never happen" & therein lies the difference between space opera pot boilers where all the action is laser-weapons-vs-space-monsters & more subtle SF where problems like petty human mistakes can feature as detail even if it's not important in the grand-scheme-of-things.
&, of course, once a writer learns a word like "ommatidia" s/he's just got to work it in somewhere: "I could see on all sides at once, the rear included, like a bee, which has round eyes and sees out of thousands of ommatidia at the same time." (p 166) "One of the optical units, consisting of photoreceptors and usually one or more lenses, that make up a compound eye of an insect or a crustacean." ( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/omma... )
"unfortunate consequences, made worse by automation. Russell called it the electronics Stone Age. Illiteracy increased, particularly since now you didn't even have to sign a check, only a thumbprint was necessary and a computer scanner did the rest." - p 206
Published in 1987, relevant to now (28 yrs later as of this review)? People still read but how much reading is done of longer texts? More informative texts? & how much reading is just of txt msgs on cell-phones? Hardly anyone I know actually reads bks anymore. Writing these reviews is like sending a desperate msg in an e-bottle to people I'm sure are out there but not anywhere in my near vicinity. Woe be unto the intellect if bks & scholarly periodicals die off due to lack of readership. "There are still some fifty thousand scientists and scholars left in the world but their average age was now 61.7." (p 207) I'm 62.
All in all, Peace on Earth was an excellent bk & I certainly recommend it. Unfortunately, perhaps, for this reader/reviewer, I've become a bit jaded to Lem & he doesn't quite impress me as much as he once did.
Honestly I enjoyed this so much that I have to give it 5 stars. I couldn't even say that this is my favourite Tichy story; maybe the 5 stars represents, rather than the merit of this story alone, the merit of the whole of Ijon Tichy's adventures, with this particularly apt conclusion.
Tichy's brain is severed, permanently separating the left and right hemisphere, and the Geneva Agreement has de-militarized Earth; instead, each nation significant enough at the time of signing has a designated sector on the moon where AI engage in a continual simulated arm's race in order to develop the perfect weapon. The problem is, for this to work, no country can know what their stock looks like, which means they can't know what the machines are doing . . . which means people get scared. AI as menace--that kind of thing.
Tichy has some fun, goes on a wealth of excellent tangents about politics and science, how global warfare developed, futuristic social fads and the like. He also has some wham-bam adventures that hit the reader like pop pop pop, as well as some unreal descriptions of the trippy, alien forms of the moon's new intelligence.
The ending is perfect and seals the deal. Tichy's stories should be on every shelf.
Роман точно не є легким чтивом "прочитав і забув". Насичений дрібними деталями вигаданого світу і розлогими розмірковуваннями про причино-наслідковий зв'язок суспільних явищ. Але це і є, як на мене, його головною принадою. Усе-таки це філософсько-сатиричний роман. Що є в романі? Дотепна і місцями кусюча сатира, передбачення нанотехнології, глобалізації, комп'ютеризації та навіть тотальної неграмотності, аналіз гонитви озброєнь і можливого напрямку розвитку техніки, роздуми про те, куди може завести неконтрольований технічний прогрес без участі людини. Чого немає? Штампованих погонь і перестрілок, карколомних поворотів сюжету, любовних пригод та коротких описів. Особисто мені роман дуже сподобався. Хочеться сподіватися, що назва твору була не гіркою іронією, а щирою надією Станіслава Лема, якій судилося справдитися.
Z pisarstwem Lema jest zawsze ta sama trudność: czy cieszyć się nim po prostu, wiedząc o tym, że na tle całej twórczości SF mamy do czynienia z dziełem wyjątkowym, czy też - znając już dorobek mistrza - kwilić po pensjonarsku, że nie wszystko do pięt dorasta choćby takiemu Solaris?
Mnie chyba zawsze jest bliżej do tego upupienia, w którym wielka pretensja się rodzi, że oto nie zachwyca, jak zachwycać miało. Pokój na Ziemi jest trochę przegadany, miejscami watoliną docieplony, a i poziomem oferowanej ekscytacji zwyczajnie nużący.
Jeśli w swoim życiu masz czas tylko na trzy książki od Lema, tę możesz sobie darować.
Лем не прекращает удивлять своей фантазией: После "Непобедимого" он продолжил идею некросферы и на этот раз перевел ее на Землю. Что интересно, в книге огромное количество информации, которая как-то не связывается прямо с основной сюжетной линией, а только является ее дополнением. Идеи, которые высказывает Лем в "Библиотеке 21-го века" и в "Мире на Земле", можно считать также антиутопическими, однако некоторые из них уже существуют в той или иной форме...
Even mediocre Lem has its moments; there were definitely turns of phrase here, and even sometimes whole paragraphs, that made me laugh. But the book as a whole is awkwardly structured, with too many events recounted after the fact by third parties instead of shown, and its themes and social assumptions feel buried in the 1950s despite its 80s publication date.
4.5/5 Póki co najlepsza książka od Lema, którą przeczytałem. Tempo spokojniejsze niż w Kongresie, natomiast nieco dynamiczniejsze od Solaris. Standardowo futorologowi udało się wcisnąć nieco wątków filozoficznych (moim zdaniem całkiem ciekawych). Zdecydowanie polecam.
Stanislaw Lem was one of the most read science fiction authors in the world in his day, especially the 70s and 80s, though not in America because there were rarely translations from his native Polish to English. Europeans could parse the French translations, we couldn’t even parlez vous francais. Lem famously did not like American science fiction, with a very few exceptions. One being Philip K. Dick- and it is no wonder since Lem's 1987 novel Peace on Earth shares many of the same themes that Dick covered: militarization of robots, people losing their memory or not being what they seem, and government conspiracies. In some ways Peace on Earth is like the longer, more detailed, and, actually, *better* version of Dick’s 1953 short story Second Variety (which was basis for the Peter Weller movie Screamers).
Peace on Earth has a sort of a Battlestar Galatica (reboot) backstory. Mankind has put all their military robots on the moon to do whatever military robots do. The rapidly evolving, super smart robots can continue to use simulations and machine learning to improve or work out alternatives to Clauswitz style of warfare but out of the way so that it can’t impact humans.
Or can it?
Except after a couple of decades no one has heard from the robots. This is not unexpected, but people, being people, are beginning to wonder if the robots are still up there. Or maybe the robots have evolved into something peaceful. Or into some supreme intelligence that might want to take over the Earth. Or maybe the robots have run out of things to shot at up there and the winners are now thinking about shooting at Earth. Oooops. Maybe we should send someone to check in on them, just in case...
The story is told from the viewpoint of the astronaut, Ijon Tichy, sent to check in on the robots. The book starts with his return on Earth with brain damage that has severed his corpus callosum, left him with major memory loss as to what happened and why he is on the run. We are in Christopher Nolan Momento territory (without the tattoos) or Jonathan Nolan's/HBO’s Westworld out of sequence story telling as Tichy tries to figure out what happened on the Moon and what it means.
Along the way we get some interesting descriptions of telerobotics and telepresence as well as swarm and distributed robotics. Lem was a hard science ficition writer, who had gone to medical school before switching to physics. He was very much into the science component of his books and in this case more of the ideas of biological evolution. He posits that biological evolution has been about the evolution of small to large— from viruses and bacteria to single cells to animals and people, but that robotics evolution will be from large to small. We started with big robots improving, then getting smaller with miniaturization of sensors and actuators, then smaller computation as a single robot would not need to carry all its computation onboard but could rely on distributed computation, and the trend will continue finally a robot becomes a collection of tiny, simple robots that can cast itself into a larger shape with greater intelligence— the idea behind Michael Crichton’s novel Prey. These swarms of what we would now call nanorobots would provide the ultimate flexibility in reconfigurable robots. Of course, Lem hand waves over limiting factors such as power and communication. But that aside, it’s a thought-provoking idea and a radically different take than Dick’s on how military robots would evolve.
One of the interesting scientific themes in Peace on Earth is Tichy’s use of teleoperation robots to land on the Moon and attempt to check out the robots in the different sectors of the Moon. Eventually Tichy quits using humanoid robots and begins using a reconfigurable robot body that can transform into different animal shapes so as to move more effectively through the different structures built by the robots.
Teleoperated robots are sometimes called avatars, though the term avatar was originally restricted to software simulations- James Cameron changed that connotation with his movie. There is increasing interest in telecommuting (and telesex) through robots, so much so, there is now a XPrize competition on avatars.
My favorite shape that Tichy's teleoperated robot took on was that of a dachshund. And here is where Lem underestimated the scientific challenges of teleoperation. Lem focused on the physical science— how the avatar might reconfigure into a new shape. He assumed that Tichy would have little difficulty adjusting to the new shape because Tichy would be wearing a suit that sensed his body movements. Except this ignores the human-robot interaction component— how does Tichy know to move like a dog and synthesize perception from angles much lower than a human? The degrees of freedom are different, the movement patterns are different, the location of sensors are different. Operators get rapidly fatigued with humanoid robots where there is a one-to-one correspondence between the human and robot and there is no change in size. The cognitive load for trying to control a four legged animal would be huge. It is hard to imagine that Tichy would be successful without an intermediary intelligent assistance program that would translate his intent into the appropriate motions for the current shape.
And that type of assistive AI is a hard, open research question.
The XPrize ANA Avatar competition is making a similar assumption, that if you can build a humanoid avatar, it will be easy and natural for a human to control. That hasn’t been supported by decades of research in telerobotics and the humanoid robots in the DARPA robotics challenge often required multiple operators.
But back to Peace on Earth. It’s a very readable book jam packed with scientific ideas that were ahead of its time, combined with a serious jab at the stupidity of the nuclear arms race that was in progress at the time.
More importantly, Lew foresaw a world in which robots could be a threat, though politicians were a bigger threat, and were a solution to the threat. A refreshing take on robotics and the New World Order. What a shame Lem has been relatively unknown in the US.
You really should read this one, especially if you like hard science fiction like Arthur C. Clarke or if you want to get beyond the US viewpoint of scifi.
Description: Ijon Tichy is the only human who knows for sure whether the self-programming robots on the moon are plotting a terrestrial invasion. But a highly focused ray severs his corpus collosum. Now his left brain can’t remember the secret and his uncooperative right brain won’t tell. Tichy struggles for control of the lost memory and of his own two warring sides.
Another excellent science fiction novel from Stanislaw Lem, and yet another adventure of his greatest character, Ijon Tichy. The story was a bit more predictable than most of Lem's work, but the tale took you on the usual entertainingly convoluted ride to the climax. The world is at peace and there were no more arms races after all the nations of the world sent their arms-making capabilities to the moon as an ultimate mutually-assured destruction deterrent. But naturally, not every one is happy with that and Tichy is sent up to investigate what is happening on the Moon. The story begins after he comes back, having had the two sides of his brain separated so now his right side literally doesn't know what his left hand is doing. And neither side can remember what happened to him...
Very entertaining book and definitely recommended!
The callotomy (or, more commonly “callosotomy”) that Ijon Tichy suffers when he makes his last sojourn on the surface of the moon rends his consciousness, and he quickly becomes aware that he is experiencing a prolonged instance of “the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.”
The foremost source of this expression is Jesus’ injunction to give alms modestly, without drawing attention to oneself in the process. In that context, the expression is about the highest degree of secrecy/anonymity; in the more typical/contemporary sense, the expression is about the self-deluded, oxymoronic, and cognitively dissonant actions of someone or something who/which may be blind to the existence of both these countervalences.
Tichy’s callotomy is a personified embodiment of the clandestine ambivalences that exist within the Lunar Agency, which mission is to contain mankind’s violent impulses by exiling all nations’ weapons of warfare to the moon. At the novel’s core is Lem’s pessimism about humanity’s capacity to bring into line heart and mind, reason and affect, much less to achieve universal concord. Tichy’s bifurcation is at the center of a story that must be recovered from the recent past, even while events continue to move forward without adding any apparent clarity, making it a mash-up of science fiction, detective/suspense mystery, and loopy, comic picaresque.
Tichy’s adventures on the moon and his subsequent adventures in eluding factions that would take advantage of his knowledge about the AI-spawned weaponry on the moon give opportunity for different types of satire and lampoon—Philip K. Dickian-level paranoia from individuals on Earth, stereotyped characterization of nations represented in robotic weaponry on the moon, buffoonish portrayals of American millionaires—as well as for some astute mock-historical/philosophical discussion of the dehumanization and miniaturization of warfare (which also appeared in slightly different form in Lem’s collection of three essays, One Human Minute).
Tichy is to be a pawn in some government’s (or some faction’s) plan to either leave the moon alone or destroy it—in the first case, continuing to live in some sort of paranoid peace, and in the second, to dispel the paranoia by making conflict on Earth overt. However, Tichy is also pawn to the lunar AI, which has stowed away on his transport back to Earth as a handful of sand. This sand, however, like the dispersant technology developed on Earth, is itself a miniature intelligence that collectively can neutralize all terrestrial computer/digital technology. Tichy has inadvertantly brought peace on Earth, at least for an indeterminate while, because humanity is thrown back on analog weaponry, which—because of the lack of knowledge and technology for computer-free manufacturing—is little better than the paleological club and rock.
While Lem presents us with a relatively breezy novel—passing easily from one incident to another with little comment—don’t let your attention stray, for there’s a good deal here, and it becomes difficult to sort the many levels to which Tichy’s ambivalent adventures take us. On the one hand… then on the other…
Lähituleviku Kuu on muudetud suurriikide katsepolügooniks, kus testitakse autonoomseid isearenevaid relvasüsteeme. Õnnetuseks arenevad relvasüsteemid aga nii kaugele, et nad ei soovi oma isandatega enam mingit tegemist teha. Appi kutsutakse vana kosmosekangelane Ijon Tichy, kes lendab kuule asja uurima ja saab seal sügava trauma - täpsemalt lõhestub ta aju kaheks täiesti eraldiseisvaks isiksuseks ning ei pea ilmselt ütlemagi, et kõik kuul nähtu jääb sellesse teise ja koostööle mittealluvasse poolde.
Ijon Tichy lood jagunevad kergemateks ja naljakamateks ning tõsisemateks ja filosoofilisemateks. Antud tekst kuulub sinna tõsiste juttude poolele. Kohati läheb toimuv isegi niivõrd huumorivabaks ja filosoofiliseks, et mul hakkas juba segi minema kas peategelane on absurdimees Ijon või vana emo-navigaator Pirx. Mõned koomilisemad hetked muidugi on, näiteks saab korduvalt nalja usa julgeoleku ja erinevate luureagentuuride kulul. Peamiselt kasutab aga Lem seda teost kohana, kus mõtiskleda isepaljunevate relvasüsteemide, mikroskoopiste droonipilvede ja muu põneva ning hetkel vägagi aktuaalse tehnoloogia üle. Mulle meeldis tegelikult väga aga midagi jäi samas täiusest puudu, seega koondhindeks tubli neli pluss.
"The American Medical Association finally lost the battle to save their profession, because computers gave better diagnoses and were much more patient with patients. Prosthetic sex was replaced by a simple device called an Orgaz. This was a headset with electrodes and a handgrip that resembled a toy pistol. Pulling the trigger gave you the ultimate pleasure because the appropriate place in your brain was stimulated with no effort, no exertion necessary, plus there were no upkeep expenses for male or female remotes, nor indeed the aggravations of natural courtship and matrimony. Orgazes flooded the market. To be fitted you went to special clinics. Gynandroics and other firms that manufactured synthetic women, angels, nymphs, fauns, etc., went out of business with much gnashing of teeth. As for education, most of the developed countries did away with compulsory school attendance. "Children," went the new doctrine, "should not be subjected to daily imprisonment and the psychological torture called learning." Who needs to know how many men's shirts you can sew out of six yards of Egyptian cotton if one shirt requires seven eighths of a yard, or when two trains will collide if one engineer is eighteen, drunk, and going 100 miles an hour and the other is colorblind and doing 75, if they're separated by 15 miles of track and 43 pre-automation semaphores? Equally useless are facts about kings, wars, battles, crusades, and all the other rotten behavior of history. Geography is best learned by traveling. All you have to know is the price of the ticket and when the plane takes off. Why learn foreign languages when you can put a translator chip in your ear? The study of biology depresses and depraves young minds, nor is it practical since no one now can become a doctor or dentist (after the appearance of dentautomata, about thirty thousand out-of-work dentists in both the Americas and Eurasia have committed suicide each year). And chemistry is of no more value than a knowledge of hieroglyphics. Meanwhile on traffic signs and street signs words are slowly being replaced with pictures."
Lugeda soovitan vaid eriti paadunud Lemi või Ijon Tichy fännidel või siis nendel, kes tahavad oma silmaga näha, kuidas üks poolakas suutis juba 30 aastat tagasi meie tänapäevast maailma ette ennustada ja mitmed põnevad teemad enne Strossi lahti kirjutada.
I remember when I first drove a Porsche Carrera. At that point in my driving career a BMW Z3 was the sportiest sports car I'd ever driven. There was no comparison. The former accelerated faster, braked faster, turned sharper corners, was easier to handle, had cooler cup holders... and the list goes on and on. The latter was so far out of the former's league, that I no longer describe them as the same kind of object despite obvious similarities like wheels and doors.
Reading Stanislaw Lem after reading countless pages of pulpy sci-fi is a similar experience. Lem's speculative notions on future scientific advancements seem so plausible, you as the reader, barely question them. Each future discover is anchored with existing (albeit 30+ year old) science.
Beyond the very sciency science fiction, however comes the speculative fiction about how we, as humans would live an interact in this world. Most writers just have us in giant gangs murdering one another at the drop of this hat or that. While the overriding premise is the problem with Peace on Earth... the Earth remains peaceful from cover to cover. To me, that in itself is a sci-fi triumph. So much ... sooooo much sci-fi relies on violence.
Anyway, if you can find a copy of this... get it. Recommended to everybody.
This was a super cool book and a really good read. Lem is great at creating suspense and I was literally dying to find out the answers to all of the questions he posed. I adore the premise of this novel: the solution to continuous arm race and war being each country sending a computer to the moon to create self evolving weapons of mass destruction and relinquishing any right to knowledge about what is going on there, but then this ignorance is manipulated by the government/other parties to stir up fear of invasion by the moon. Idk I didn't summarize that well but that was awesome. Aaaand at the same time the main character is suffering from a severing of his left and right hemispheres, making part of his brain a dark side of the moon that he can't communicate with but might hold some secret to what's going on on the moon. Dang dang dang that was genius. The main character is also somehow a remarkably likable guy, average but also kind of not.
The ending was a little weaker than I had hoped, possibly because it got a little too complex and I lost track of everything that was going on due to my speed reading to find out what was happening/happened. But I loved it and will definitely be reading more Lem.
Престъпление е, че тази книга не е издадена на български! Лем е както винаги гениално сатиричен, остроумен и чудовищно интелигентен, а от някои негови предсказания просто тръпки те побиват (образованието се смята за излишно, а малкото родители, които карат детето си да учи, могат да бъдат осъдени от него). Свръхкомпютризация, нанотехнологии, вируси - и това е писано още в средата на 80-те!!! Препоръчвам книгата да се чете бавно, на порции, за да не се уд��вите в океана от идеи. Историята: на Земята е обявен глобален мир и оръжието е забранено, затова всички страни пращат високотехнологичните си роботизирани армии на Луната, където надпреварата във въоръжаването продължава на еволюционен принцип, извън контрола на създателите им. Земното правителство е обезпокоено и праща знаменития Ийон Тихи да проучи нещата. Но той бива поразен от неизвестно оръжие, което прекъсва връзката между мозъчните му полукълба, и главният му проблем е как да се разбере с другата си половина. Ще успее ли да постигне мир със себе си и да разбере какво се е случило на Луната?