The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem

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Read it if you haven’t already. Re-read otherwise.

It is a great text. The book is short, it’s just a little over 260 kilobytes. I actually read it at school, but forgot almost everything. I guess, I was not old enough at that time to appreciate the complete sense of the book. Lem is a genius, obviously. And in addition, the book is the only thing I remember about my high school history teacher Markelov, besides trying to test “digital learning materials” on our class, and trying to convince me that mentally ill people are beyond help. But the book suggestion was good.

I particularly liked the sarcastic depiction of an imaginary “scientific congress” consisting of people whose complete lives consist of travelling from a conference to a conference. I liked the reference to the prevalence of sexual themes in the “liberated” culture, all too common nowadays.

The reference to the overpopulation turned out to be completely wrong, the world population growth seems to be decelerating, but many of his other prophecies seem to be still plausible.

I believe that the reference to the domination of the chemically-induced virtual reality should be taken metaphorically. I doubt that drugs can make you feel that much of a difference with the real life. However, the reference to the sheer amount of drugs in our life in the not so distant future is probably correct.

Rioting is included.

I really liked the reinforcement of my conspiracy theory that the government is putting sedative medicine into the tap water, just to make the population less critical. The reference to the illicitness of negative emotion display is also happening already in our life. The language discussed in the “far future” part of the book is a nice try to imagine how the language is going to be changing, and how it may be affecting the dominant philosophy.

Briefly, irrespective of the anti-utopian scent (common to so many futurological works), this book reinforced my optimism and the belief in the progress and the bright future.

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