Trurl’s Machine Essay
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As a boy Stanislaw Lem showed an early interest in science as well as in the imaginary worlds of fantasy and science fiction. The young Lem’s interest in tinkering mechanical devices of all sorts was put to use by secretly damaging the German vehicles during the Nazi occupation. Later on, he became a full time writer establishing himself as leading science fiction writer in Eastern Europe. This writer from Lvov Poland (now Ukraine) worked on serious themes as the purpose of life and relationship between human beings and technology.
Once upon a time Trurl, a constructor built an eight-story thinking machine. As always, he asks it a ritual question of how much is two plus two. Every time he asks this question the machine always says seven that make him so disappointed. He collapsed in despair at the foot of the machine, and sat there until Klapaucius found him. Klapaucius asked what was wrong, for Trurl looked as if he had just returned from a funeral.
Trurl explained what happened and Klapaucius said that there still a good side to everything.
Trul keeps on kicking the machine until he is warned by it; they notice that aside from being stupid it is also sensitive. Instead of stopping what he is doing, Trul keeps what he is doing, that’s why the machine shuttered, shook and without any word lift itself from its foundations. The machine was swaying like a high tower, advancing slowly; at every step sinking to is second floor, but stubbornly doggedly pulling itself out of the sand and heading straight for them. This left broken concretes behind.
They ran straight and soon saw houses before them. The streets were practically deserted at this time and the construction had gone a good distance without meeting living soul, when suddenly an awful crash, like an avalanche at the edge of the town, indicated that the machine was coming after them. The machine is tearing down all the houses! It is plowing all the building. There are dreadful screams, confusions in the streets. The mayor pleased the machine to stop what it is doing and the machine said that it will only stop if they give up Trurl.
The mayor pleases the machine to have mercy on them. The mayor said that the damage made by Trurl’s machine will be answered by Trurl. Trurl and Klapaucius went to the machine and escaped by going in the cave but the machine has closed the cave with the rock. They are trapped. They talk to the machine and say that all of its answer is correct that two plus two is seven. They ask if they can go now but the machine said that it will think about it, but first they need to answer what is two times two.
Trul fell into a rage, and he said that two and two is four, from the beginning till the end it is four. The machine had begun to ram its eight-story hulk again and again into the wall of stone, hurling itself against the mountain side until huge boulders broke away and went tumbling down into the valley. Thunder and sulfurous fumes filled the cave and sparks flew from the blows of steel on rock, yet through all this pandemonium one could still make out, now and then, the ragged voice of Trurl.
They heard an explosion and saw the machine, lay smashed and flattened, nearly broken in half by an enormous boulder that had landed in the middle of its eight floors. With the greatest care they picked their way down through the smoking rubble. In order to reach the riverbed, it was necessary to pass the remains of the machine. Without a word, the two stopped together in the shadow of its twisted hull.
The machine still quivered slightly, and one could turning, creaking feebly, within. Yes this is bad enough you’ve come to, and two and two is—as it always was—“ began Trul, but you just then the machine faint, barely audible croaking noise and said for the last time, “seven. ” Then something snapped inside, a few stones dribbled down from overhead, now before them lay nothing but lifeless mass of scrap. The two constructors exchanged a look and silently, without any further comment or conversation, walked back the way they came.