Stanislaw Lem: 1964 – Envisioning the InfoSphere

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The emergent “cybernetic – sociotechnical” shell will enclose the civilization under discussion within itself. – Stanislaw Lem, 1964

Stanislaw Lem wrote this in 1964 long before the Internet as we know it existed. He was of course well read in structuralism, cybernetics, and the sciences. Here he envisions what would become the future of the InfoSphere, Internet, and Cyberspace:

Every civilization creates an artificial environment for itself while transforming the surface of its planet, its interior, and its cosmic neighborhood. Yet this process does not cut it off from Nature in any radical way; it only moves it further away from Nature. But the process can be continued so that an “encystment” of a civilization in relation to the whole Universe eventually takes place. Such “encystment,” which could be enacted through a particular application of cybernetics, would facilitate the “tamponing” of excess information and the production of information of an entirely different kind.  A civilization that is experiencing an information crisis and that already has access to feedback from Nature, and to sources of energy that will guarantee its existence for millions of years— while realizing that an “exhaustion of Nature’s information potential” is not possible, whereas continuing with the current strategy may result in a defeat (because the constant march “inside Nature” will eventually lead to the dismantling of science as a result of its hyperspecialization and thus, possibly, to a loss of control over its own homeostasis)— will be able to construct an entirely new type of feedback, from within itself. Producing such “encystment” will involve having to construct “a world within a world,” an autonomous reality that is not directly connected with the material reality of Nature. The emergent “cybernetic–sociotechnical” shell will enclose the civilization under discussion within itself. The latter will continue to exist and grow, but in a way that is not visible to an external observer anymore (especially one in outer space).1


  1. Lem, Stanislaw (2013-03-01). Summa Technologiae (Electronic Mediations) (Kindle Locations 1926-1940). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.

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