The first English translation of a nonfiction work by Stanisław Lem, which was “conceived under the spell of cybernetics” in 1957 and updated in 1971.
In 1957, Stanisław Lem published Dialogues, a book “conceived under the spell of cybernetics,” as he wrote in the preface to the second edition. Mimicking the form of Berkeley's Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, Lem's original dialogue was an attempt to unravel the then-novel field of cybernetics. It was a testimony, Lem wrote later, to “the almost limitless cognitive optimism” he felt upon his discovery of cybernetics. This is the first English translation of Lem's Dialogues, including the text of the first edition and the later essays added to the second edition in 1971. For the second edition, Lem chose not to revise the original. Recognizing the naivete of his hopes for cybernetics, he constructed a supplement to the first dialogue, which consists of two critical essays, the first a summary of the evolution of cybernetics, the second a contribution to the cybernetic theory of the “sociopathology of governing,” amending the first edition's discussion of the pathology of social regulation; and two previously published articles on related topics. From the vantage point of 1971, Lem observes that original book, begun as a search for methods “that would increase our understanding of both the human and nonhuman worlds,” was in the end “an expression of the cognitive curiosity and anxiety of modern thought.”