Mad scientists of Stanisław Lem

Mad scientists and inventors appear in the fiction of Stanisław Lem in the memoirs of Lem’s starfaring vagabond Ijon Tichy, collected in The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller, as well as in The Cyberiad. Most of Lem’s mad scientist stories fit into the format of stories about unusual inventions, known since the 19th century, most of them are devoid of ironic tone characteristic of most of Ijon Tichy’s stories and robots’ fables, and they are literary frames for various Lem’s theories. Lem’s mad scientists include professors Corcoran, who created several artificial universes in isolated lockers; Decantor, who created an immortal soul, Zazul, who cloned himself and was apparently killed by the clone who took his place; Diagoras, who created progressing makes of an ‘independent and self-perfecting device that is capable of spontaneous thought’ and was unwittingly used by two such devices as a communication medium; doctor Vliperdius, a robot doctor who runs an asylum for mentally ill robots; and professor A. Dońda. Kamil Rosiński suggested that a prototype to Lem’s brilliant eccentric scientists could have been psychologist and philosopher Mieczysław Choynowski [pl], who was Lem’s mentor for some time. Dońda catastrophically succeeded in his quest to prove massinformation equivalence, analogous to mass–energy equivalence: by accumulating a huge amount of useless information in a supercomputer, Donda made the total amount of information accumulated by humanity to cross a certain threshold, after which it all converted into a new universe, leaving humanity without any knowledge. Professor mathematician Ammon Lymphater from the 1961 short story ‘Lymphater’s Formula‘ after studying the biology of ants devised and constructed ‘It’ capable of instant precognition of everything within ‘Its’ rapidly expanding perception range. Realizing that the Superentity ‘It’ renders the human civilization redundant and obsolete, Lymphater destroys ‘It’. ‘It’ already knew Lymphater’s intentions, but not worried, knowing that sooner or later some one else will create ‘It’ again and again, eventually something would arise that would amount to an artificial God… ”
W – Mad scientists of Stanisław Lem, W – Ijon Tichy
LA Review of Books: The World According to Stanisław Lem
From Čapek to Lem: AI in Eastern European Science Fiction

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