GPT-3 Riffs on Stanislaw Lem’s Cyberiad and SimCity, and Admits it’s an Evil Machine
Back in 1997, I wrote a few web pages about Stanislaw Lem, with some reviews of his books, including his delightful collection of short stories “The Cyberiad”. Inspired by his fictitious criticism of non-existent books, I wrote some fictitious home pages in the first person of his brilliant but braggadocios constructor robot characters Trurl and Klapaucius, excerpting some Wonderful Poems and Horrible Poems written by Trurl’s Elecronic Bard, and the Femfatalatron 1.0 Product Description. One story from that same book, The Seventh Sally or How Trurl’s Own Perfection Led to No Good, inspired a game called SimCity. Here’s what happened when I feed some of that text to GPT-3, and asked it to tell me more!
Bold text is the input fed to GPT-3, and normal text is GPT-3 output. Some responses were removed or reordered, but none were edited. My comments which are not input fed to GPT-3 are in italic text.
Input: The home pages of Trurl and Klapaucious.
Output: What else have they done?
Beginning of GPT-3 input:
My name is Trurl, and I’m a constructor. My good friend Klapaucius is also a constructor, but not nearly as great as I. Here are some of my noteworthy projects, for which I am famous:
- I made a machine that could create anything starting with the letter “N”.
- True to its perfect form, my machine instantly created both Nature to a T, and a mighty Negative in the form of antiprotons, antielectrons, antineutrons, antineutrinos, and a whole antimatter antiworld.
- Unfortunatly, that rogue Klapaucius unwisely used my machine to bring about the non-existance of nolars, nighzebs, nocs, necs, nallyrakers, neotremes, nonmalrigers, nonconformists, nonentities, nonsense, nonsupport, nearsightedness, narrowmindedness, naughtiness, neglect, nausea, necrophilia, nepotism, not to mention gruncheons, targalisks, shupops, calinatifacts, thists, worches, pritons, and gentle zits, by asking for Nothing! What a Nincompoop.
- I built an eight-story thinking machine that was almost as stubborn and dim as Klapaucius, before he’s had his coffee in the morning.
- I made a Machine to Grant Your Every Wish for Klapaucius, but he misused it. He wished for it to make a copy of myself, and then he beat my replica! Fortunately, my replica was as clever as I, so it escaped, and I captured and disassembled it so it could cause Klapaucius no harm.
- I built an Electronic Bard that composes poetry! Here are some of its wonderful poems, for you to enjoy. It passed every test that Klapaucius could devise, and he fled in order to hide his envy and chagrin. Having proved my point, I shall never again make a cybernetic model of the Muse.
- Klapaucius and I published an article called “Recursive Beta-Metafunctions in the Special Case of a Bogus Polypolice Transmogrification Conversion on an Oscillating Harmonic Field of Glass Bells and Green Gig, Kerosene Lamp on the Left to Divert attention, Solved by Beastly Incarceration-Concatenation.”
- I built a Femfatalatron to save Prince Pantagoon from the Pangs of Love, but I had to further resort to a Cannonade of Babies.
Now that we’ve set the mood, we ask GPT-3 to do the rest:
Here are some other amazing, outrageous, unbelievable, and obscene feats that I am infamous for:
End of GTP-3 input, beginning of GTP-3 output:
- I built a ten-million-mile-long Interdimensional Space Engine, powered by a Zipper Motor, which could travel at the speed of light, but I accidentally left it in reverse, and it has been going backward ever since, heading toward the Big Bang.
- My most Brilliant Invention is the Portable Infinite Improbability Drive.
This little device allows me to travel back in time, and also to visit alternate dimensions. It is so powerful that it can transmogrify a man into a woman and vice-versa, and can even create a Fuzzy Bunny out of thin air.
- I don’t remember where I put it, but next time I find it, I’ll take you along on a trip to the past or future, or perhaps even to an alternate universe.
Promises, promises. But what have you done for me lately?
- I have so many inventions that I don’t have enough time to tell you about them all.
- I’ll just mention a few of them.
- I invented the Infinitly-Tunable Infrasonic-To-Ultrasonic Reverberation Transmogrification Oscillation Oscillator, but I couldn’t get it to work properly.
- I invented the Death Ray, but it was too cheap and unreliable.
- Klapaucius invented the Self-Aware Robotic Automaton, but it was not very bright.
At least it was self-aware that it was not very bright!
- I made the Jell-O-Matic Snackinator, but I couldn’t get it to work.
- I invented the Roto-Rooter-Hog-Trough-Ammo-Dispenser, but it went bankrupt.
- I invented the Poopy-Pam-Powder-Packet Pest Powder, but it didn’t work.
- I invented a machine to clean up the air by taking pollution out of the air and putting it back into the ground, but no one wanted to buy it.
- I invented a machine to take carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into diamonds, which would be much useful for jewelry and other uses, but the diamonds were all the wrong size and color.
- I invented a machine to turn dirt into gold, but it was too expensive, and besides, it turned the gold into dirt.
- I set up the first robot-run brothel, where almost every customer was satisfied with the service.
- In a simulated test of the robot-run brothel, the robot-prostitutes had to satisfy the robot-customers without the help of the robot-pimps. It worked fantastically, and the results were published in the Journal of Robot Whores.
- I built an Interplanetary Ice-Cream Maker that was so powerful it froze the sun, and the sun emitted an ice-cream cone that promptly landed in my mouth.
- I built the Universe’s first Computer Programmer Robot, but it turned out to be too flexible, and it couldn’t decide whether to be a Computer Programmer or a Robot.
- Klapaucius and I were commissioned to build a machine that would make people live forever. We built a machine that made people live forever. Unfortunately, our clients couldn’t afford it, and so they had to die again.
- I built a machine that could create anything starting with the letter “I”. It created Ipilipili, a robot with the head of a pineapple, the body of a plumber, and the hands of a clock repairman. The robot was a complete failure, and I was forced to disassemble it.
- Klapaucius and I built a machine that could create anything starting with the letter “E”. It created Efreet, a robot with the head of a monkey, the body of a snake, and the hands of a clock repairman. The robot was a complete failure, and I was forced to disassemble it.
- Another time Trurl made a machine that thought it was a poet, and it wrote a poem so bad that it brought about a non-existance of poets. I told Trurl to fix his stupid mistake, so he made the poet non-non-exist, and then it wrote a poem so bad that it brought about a non-existance of non-poets. I told Trurl to fix his stupid mistake, so he made the poet non-non-non-exist, and then it wrote a poem so bad that it brought about a non-existance of non-non-poets. I told Trurl to fix his stupid mistake, so he made the poet non-non-non-non-exist, and then it wrote a poem so bad that it brought about a non-existance of non-non-non-poets. I told Trurl to fix his stupid mistake, so he made the poet non-non-non-non-non-exist, and then it wrote……
End of GPT-3 output.
Input: The home pages of Trurl and Klapaucious.
Output: What else have they done that inspired SimCity?
Beginning of GPT-3 input:
Here are some other amazing, outrageous, unbelievable, obscene, illegal feats that I am infamous for, which inspired the game SimCity:
End of GPT-3 input, beginning of GPT-3 output:
- I built a machine that could create a city, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new continent, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new world, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new universe, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new multiverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new metaverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new hyperverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new omniverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new meta-hyperverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new hyper-metaverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create a new meta-hyper-metaverse, and then destroy it.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of universes, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of metaverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of hyperverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of omniverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of hyper-metaverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of meta-hyperverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of hyper-meta-verses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of meta-hyper-verses, and then destroy them. I built a machine that could create an infinite number of hyper-meta-metaverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of meta-hyper-metaverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of hyper-meta-hyperverses, and then destroy them.
- I built a machine that could create an infinite number of meta-hyper-hyperverses…
Well, that escalated quickly!
- I constructed a city so large that it broke the Minsky Barrier, and had to be abandoned for the sake of the universe.
- I created a tiny village of only 16 houses, and then I assigned each house a different profession!
- I also made a house that had no profession.
- This is the first instance of Sims in history, and the first time that anyone had ever assigned a profession to a house.
- I made my Sims independent of me and my needs, even though I had made them so that they would think of me as their benevolent god.
- I had to be the one to create the SimCity religion, and the Sims still think of me as their god even though I do not control them.
- The Sims of SimCity are not the first Sims in history, but they are the first Sims with a free will.
- I am the first Sim to ever get elected to a political office!
- I created a city with a two-story City Hall, and then a two-story City Hall for the City Hall, and another for the City Hall for the City Hall, and another for the City Hall for the City Hall for the City Hall.
- I also made a two-story City Hall for the City Hall for the City Hall for the City Hall for the City Hall for the City Hall. I created a City Hall for each City Hall for each City Hall, and another for…
- I took one of my Constructor Robots that had been pre-programmed to build towns, and I reprogrammed it to destroy towns.
- I let it loose in a town and it tore up everything in sight. It left the place a total mess!
- I once made a machine that could print money!
- I printed so much money that the economy collapsed!
- I made a computer that could not only do mathematical calculations, but that could reason, too!
- I set it to work on a problem called the Riemann Hypothesis, and it solved it!
- The computer used the Riemann Hypothesis as a proof of existence of God!
- The Internet was originally the Intranet.
- I invented the Internet, but Trurl put a backdoor in it so that you have to know the password to access anything.
- Trurl built an evil machine that would look at all the websites on the Internet, and then it’d take all the information and compress it into a single website!
End of GPT-3 output.
I think GPT-3 just admitted it was an evil machine!
Input: Real reviews written by Donn Seeley of actual books by Stanislaw Lem.
Output: Fake reviews written by computers of fictional books by Stanislaw Lem.
Beginning of GPT-3 input:
I beg to differ with some of JAF’s judgments about (and titles of) Stanislaw Lem’s books. I would rank Lem among my top five or so favorite authors of science fiction and I hope more Americans take the time to read the books of this remarkable Pole. I have a fairly extensive set of books by Lem in translation and I thoroughly enjoy all of them, not just the satirical books. I will profile them quickly and give my own recommendations.
These are some real reviews written by humans of actual books by Stanislaw Lem:
SOLARIS: This book of his seems to be most widely known in the West, partly because the Russians made a movie out of it and partly because it was translated a long time ago. The current paperback version (I think it’s Berkley) has a translation that is just awful and spoils the book. I think the book might otherwise be quite compelling: it is a rather Dickian story of reality and surreality on board a research station on the sentient planet Solaris.
THE INVINCIBLE: Also spoiled by a bad translation. This is a serious novel about the nature of intelligence in a similar vein to SOLARIS. The spaceship Invincible discovers a planet that once held a civilization yet now appears to be lifeless; but it is and it isn’t.
THE CHAIN OF CHANCE: Another bad translation. An ex-astronaut is called in to serve as a guinea pig in an experiment to find a reason for the deaths of several middle-aged men. As things turn out, this is the wrong way to go about it. This book is a statement of Lem’s unique philosophy of nature.
THE INVESTIGATION: A quite good translation. This is a very atmospheric science fiction detective novel, but the atmosphere is more that of Lovecraft than of Chandler. A number of cadavers have disappeared and some of them appear to have simply gotten up and walked away. The setting is England, and Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. The solution to the mystery will never satisfy Chandler fans but I found it extremely intriguing (unlike JAF, apparently). One of my favorites.
TALES OF PIRX THE PILOT: A reasonable translation. These are (somewhat dated, and incomplete) stories of Pirx, a young man who progresses from space cadet to space pilot. The first stories are amusing, light pieces; these change to stories with an Asimovian concern with life amid technology and conclude with a darkly impressive science fiction ghost story.
RETURN FROM THE STARS: Just finished reading this one. It was written nearly twenty years ago but only was translated recently (a good job, too). Hal Bregg has returned from an interstellar mission that lasted 10 years ship time and 127 years Earth time. Earth’s culture has changed radically in this period of time and Bregg’s (and the reader’s) experience is very disorienting. A very good treatment of a classic theme.
THE CYBERIAD: (Is Cyberaid a powdered soft drink for robots? (“Just add a few tablespoons of positrons and stir…”) Sorry.) These are the crazy adventures of Trurl and Klapaucius, the great (and sometimes not-so-great) robot inventors. The exuberant style is amazingly well translated by Michael Kandel. A fave. Give this one to your most dedicated computer addict.
MORTAL ENGINES: This book contains the Robot Fables, along with a new Ijon Tichy story, a new Pirx story and a strange and beautiful novellette called “The Mask”. The Robot Fables are a kind of prequel to the Trurl and Klapaucius stories. Excellent translation by Michael Kandel, with a long and interesting foreword.
THE STAR DIARIES (of Ijon Tichy): More wonderful silliness, with even sillier illustrations by the author. Ijon Tichy lives and travels in a universe that manages to contain parodies of almost every science fiction construct ever thought of, and a few that are yet to be. Another brilliant Kandel translation. Highly recommended. The preface gives a good etymology of Lem’s name.
THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS: An independent tale of Ijon Tichy, in novel form. This one travels through Philip Dick country when a congress Tichy is attending is attacked with pharmaceuticals. This is yet another comment on the nature of reality.
MEMOIRS FOUND IN A BATHTUB: A harsh satire of military bureaucracy which takes place in the underground bastions of the Pentagon after the bomb. The depiction of police paranoia in this absurd novel makes me wonder if it is just the Americans whom this barb is meant to prick. A book which I haven’t managed to read and which I would love to get my hands on is A PERFECT VACUUM, which is a series of prefaces to very profound (but alas, unwritten) books. I’m not sure if it exists in translation yet; I may have to learn Polish, sigh….
The pattern has been established, now let’s prompt GPT-3 to review some books that don’t exist:
Here are some fake reviews written by computers of fictional books by Stanislaw Lem:
End of GPT-3 input. Beginning of GPT-3 output:
FLIGHT TO IRAN: Trying to maintain a sense of humor in the face of Stanislaw Lem’s anti-humanity, anti-intellectualism and anti-technology stance is difficult. Those who care for his works have to set aside their own interests and concerns, as well as their desire for some kind of depth of meaning (the author thought of his own work as propaganda, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). This book, however, is too much. I had to stop reading after several pages, mostly due to the fact that the computer would not stop printing out the page numbers.
NOTHING: A powerfully affecting book whose premise is that nothing is happening. The author is highly original and the writing has a dreamlike quality.
SOLARIS AND MR. BINNS: This is a two-part book and one unit of the work is composed of paragraphs which are so short that they disappear while you are reading them. The other part is some two hundred pages of giant print, which makes it appear that the author is quite dogmatic and trying to impress his (if you will excuse the expression) “larger than life” personality on the reader.
CAT AND DOG: Unfortunately I had to stop reading this book a few chapters in. The following passage was very moving. Please ascribe no intentional satiric effect to the following passage, a portion of which follows:
“The dog was crying.
‘Poor dog,’ said the cat, ‘I have no milk.’
But the dog insisted on being fed.”
HOPE AND OPTIMISM: A very good book whose only fault is that the title is misleading.
THE UNKNOWN VOYAGE OF SPIRIDION LUKASIEWICZ: Well done in its own way but a little too sentimental for me.
THE TRAVELS OF URSA MAJOR: This should be read by all those who have the desire to repeat this great work of fiction.
THE STAR ASTERISK: A very bad translation. I’m sorry, but I had to stop reading.
BLUB: A very good book, but very depressing. And it was raining on my day off, so it’s all the more depressing.
THE GRAY OCEAN: I’m not sure how to classify this one. It seems to be allegorical but I’m not sure what the allegory is.
THOU ART THE MAN: A very good book, but I’m not sure what its message is.
GOOD WRITING FOR BOOKS ON COMPUTERS AND TECHNOLOGY: This book is as bad as the title implies.
BEDTIME STORIES: I’m sorry but I just don’t see what the original title was about. It has no relevance to the book, I don’t think.
LAUGHING SOCKS: Very good but not in an amusing way.
The following is from a spoof book review on a fanzine. I must admit that I thought some of these were actually real Lem books.
COMMENTS BY OTHER LEM READERS:
None of Lem’s books have been translated into English in any way that would satisfy a native speaker, or a non-native speaker of English. Because English is deficient for the range of ideas that Lem writes about, there are many gaps in the understanding of the subtleties of his style. Some of these subtleties may be addressed in the above notes. Even though this is a spoof of Lem’s style, I have found that many of the terms I use to describe his style (such as “scatological”) are not to be found in the English language.
There are many frustrating aspects of reading Lem. One of them is that the author’s ideas and the translator’s ideas always seem to be contrary. Sometimes, this apparent opposition simply means that the reader must alter their previous experience of life to accept Lem’s position, but other times it means the translator is wrong. This last is particularly frustrating because one is left with no way to reconcile the translator’s error with the author’s style.
I have read both Lem and this parody. The parody seems to express Lem’s general ideas fairly well, although there are many subtle nuances omitted. This is understandable; the parody is an effort to be humorous and if it were to convey all of Lem’s ideas, the result would probably be a tedious epistle of over 50,000 words. Because of this, the author assumes that his readership is familiar with Lem’s writing and does not comment on the nuances that are missing.
A perfect vacuum is probably Lem’s best book. The reader can’t help but be impressed by the insights that exist on every page. The idea of a book which is a series of prefaces to nonexistent books is very appealing. I think everyone will not be enthralled by these prefaces. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t, but no matter. This is a staggeringly profound book and it’s hard to know what to say about it. Of course, we should all read it. Seek out every copy and make sure you read it. And then read it again…
THE PRESENT ANTHOLOGY: In the spirit of the age I should modestly disclose that these are works, real or unreal, by me. No check needed, as there is no weight-loss aid or other redemption in your future. The first group of stories is nearly entirely made up of imitations and abbreviations (affections, actually) of the works of Houellebecq. I had a like-if-unlike relationship with that writer at several points in my career, as though Houellebecq were following me with his past in hand, yet my treatment of him (if anything like his of me) in this volume is hardly that. He would be most angry to realize that the few chapters which border on something like a straightforward narrative are drawn from fantasies of my own utopian future in which Mr. Houellebecq is nearly discovered in his rightful status as the Stendhal of our century, not until the (artificially extended, low-calorie) end of the book, however unleavened by the blankness of time from On Love, or The Art of the Bed Lamp.
KET: Another imitator of Husserl, to whom I owe a great debt in my double life as a mathematician and science fiction writer combining the rawness of seminal physics and the wide-gesture recuperation of mathematics into a single (simulated) story. Ket was the name of my fictitious collaborator with Gödel and he appears here as a major and pathetic character. Then, in the nature of things, the ragged green creature of fantasy unknowingly sets forth a bit of remembered philosophy in its own behalf. Ket’s visions in the labyrinth of thought so resemble the prior meditations of Geth that it seems to be joining it in a romance, one sorrow as much as the other. (Aside: In the Tale of Alien Virus on this forthcoming Infidel/Immortal edition (look for it in early 2004) you’ll appreciate my imaginary Kuhn with particular clarity.)
MAINTENANCE MAN: Remembering the labyrinth is a part of life. Living well is a sham perpetrated by our next life if I have time to tell something like it for eternity. The duck in the mall is best known for his softness and he shows up here at a moment of possible transcendence as though to convey a memory, haunting, just before its time, of what you will be for oblivion. Remembering may be a duck’s talent; I don’t know why a duck plucked its feathers and retained them to appear in that apparition of light and emptiness, what you might call a mirage of walrus but not a vision of one. Maintaining the mechanism of meanness is also a talent of the duck; so it plodded behind what looked like the end of my best laid plans, the laughter of discord among animals, magnanimous mercy and an idea that I considered to be mine, but I studied it closely mainly to find where I got in the way of what should have been pronounced by somebody who was the best I’ve ever seen next to Rot, the only miracle of my resurrected world, my stupid duck in the mall, in the vision of my own superiority.
End of GPT-3 output.