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Summa Technologiae (Electronic Mediations) Hardcover – March 4, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0816675760 ISBN-10: 0816675767

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Product Details

  • Series: Electronic Mediations (Book 40)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (March 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816675767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816675760
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"At the end of the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologiae, an ambitious compendium of all orthodox philosophical and theological knowledge about the world. Seven hundred years later, science fiction author Stanislaw Lem writes his Summa Technologiae, an equally ambitious but unorthodox investigation into the perplexities and enigmas of humanity and its relationship to an equally enigmatic world in which it finds itself embedded. In this work Lem shows us science fiction as a method of inquiry, one that renders the future as tenuous as the past, with a wavering, ‘phantomatic’ present always at hand." —Eugene Thacker, author of After Life

About the Author


Stanislaw Lem (1921–2006) was the best-known science fiction author writing outside the English language. His books have been translated into more than forty languages and have sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.

Joanna Zylinska is professor of new media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Bioethics in the Age of New Media and The Ethics of Cultural Studies.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By David Auerbach on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dazzlingly brilliant, Summa Technologiae is Lem's speculative nonfiction masterpiece, written in 1964 but not translated into English until now. It contains the intellectual seeds of most of his subsequent work, and ideas that very few science-fiction writers were even touching at the time (nanotech, evolutionary biology, virtual reality, complexity theory, the "singularity", etc.). The penultimate section, "The Creation of Worlds," is one of the most mind-expanding things I've read in some time, tying evolution, cosmology, technology, and language together in an epic analogy.

Fans of Lem's later Imaginary Magnitude and A Perfect Vacuum will find many of their ideas already present in Summa. Lem is not as pessimistic here as he would later become. While hardly a techno-booster, he's more concerned here with possibilities than likelihoods, so he does indulge in some best-case fantasies at times--which are still not *that* sunny.

Here's what he has to say: "Civilization lacks knowledge that would allow it to choose a path knowingly from the many possible ones, instead of drifting in random tides of discoveries. The discoveries that contributed to its construction are still partly accidental. ... So it is not a question of condemning of praising technology but rather of examining to what extent we can trust its development and to what extent we can influence its direction."

Not terribly reassuring. The sections on virtual reality ("phantomatics") and artificial life ("imitology") are lighter on the gloom and feel quite prescient.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brian Carss on June 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a solid read and not something that I anticipated when I first read earlier reviews in the New Scientist magazine.
It turned out to be a discourse on evolution from two different viewpoints, bio-evolution and techno-evolution. The first is well understood but one needs to have your attention drawn to the second, which is very different, in that it can be reversed with all the cultural consequences, while the former can not.
Be prepared to work at this book as the author introduces all sorts of new and newly created vocabulary, but don't be put off. It is well worth the time spent reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Davidson on October 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An historical oddity - very much "dated" in one sense, since this translation into English has come decades after its original publication, but on the other hand, it is a compelling reminder of Lem's power as a prophet. So he talked about "phantomatics"... which we now call "Virtual Reality". Lem isn't the easiest to read, but you can't discount him as a futurist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miguel Angel Guerrero Prado on August 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being an avid reader of all of Lem's work, I bought this book as soon as I could.
Lem shows himself as intelligent and insightful as usual, but the book has disppointed me in two ways. First of all, the translation is not as good as expected. It seems that the translation goes laboriously word by word with no regard to the full meaning of paragraphs or even sentences.
Secondly, Lem is not at his best. The ideas flow as a river meandering with no destination; they are not fully developed, their implications are not explored nor extrapolated to the end. The imagination and creativity of Lem seem restricted or curbed in a vain attempt to appear as more "scientific" and less "ficticious".
You will find more science, more lines of provocative thinking, and deeper analysis of humans and their social and technological issues in almost all of Lem's fiction works
Being out of date is the less signficant flaw of this book,
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More About the Author

Stanislaw Lem is the most widely translated and best known science fiction author writing outside of the English language. Winner of the Kafka Prize, he is a contributor to many magazines, including the New Yorker, and he is the author of numerous works, including Solaris.

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