Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910) was an interesting man. He studied mathematics and physics at the University of Breslau and the University of Berlin, and earned his doctorate in 1873. He spent most of his career as a teacher at the Gymnasium Ernestinum in Gotha (1876–1908), and was later called “the father of German science fiction”. His first published science fiction story was “To the Zero Point of Existence”, depicting life in 2371. Later, a crater on Mars was named in his honour, as was the asteroid 46514 Lasswitz.
In 1908, he published a parable titled “The World Projects” (for the German text see: http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/kurd-la-3119/12). Below you can find the English translation of the German parable.
“Of course, the project had to be before the world was created. Of course not just one. There was an infinite number of possible worlds in an infinite number of possible spaces. And since it was an important matter, the upper angels had the task of working them out in detail.
Time was not pressing, for the measure of the earth’s rotation was not yet invented, and so the Lord remembered to choose the best of all possible worlds to create it as the only real world. Of course, he recognized the best at first glance. There was no contradiction, no friction, no disturbances, no pain, no stupidity; nothing but lightning bliss and contentment; and nobody knew what he was really satisfied with. Because everyone was always in agreement, and it was impossible to get angry about something.
He already wanted to execute this world of the highest happiness of all, as he looked at the cost estimate. Oh dear! Unfortunately, the most perfect world was the most expensive of all. It was really too expensive. It needed a permanent cash subsidy because no wish was allowed to remain unsatisfied. Only a public limited company could afford that, and they could not succeed; otherwise the world would not have been perfect otherwise.
Thus, too expensive worlds were eliminated from the outset, as well as the cheapest, because they were trash. Then a few more choices, and finally the Lord kept two worlds. He called them Project A and Project B. They were executed in life size. First, they should now run trial.
Thus, the total energy distribution for the initial state was set at zero time, and then the time was started. First at the world A. Then it started, and the world purred that it was a joy. When it had taken a few million years to do so, which does not mean much in a world experiment, the Lord did a small sample. He reached straight into one of the infinite Milky Way systems, pulled out a sun, took one from their planets, and studied the stuff that grew and crawled on top of it. It almost looked like our earth.
“How do you like it?” asked the Lord. “Is not it a beautiful world?”
“Thank goodness,” said a voice. “Let’s see.”
“What? Check? You’ll know how you like it? ”
“I want to look in the emotional calendar for what I have to answer. Here it is: It is a horrible world. «
“What does this mean?”
“I want to look up the mind calendar. Thus, because of the absolute lawfulness of the mathematical logic that underlies the world project, all events and all emotions are determined from the outset, and they can be searched for in the automatic reproductive registers both for the future and for the past. So if I want to know why I have my opinion, I just need – ”
“But what do you want to gain with it? You have to decide for yourself – ”
“What I want? I’ll look up the will calendar – ”
“I mean, why do you find the world awful?”
“That’s because it’s so absolutely correct that you can learn everything from the reality calendar. Whatever you want, you do not know it before, but you know it when you look it up.”
“For that you are protected from all follies.”
“But you do not live, you’re always looking into your calendars; and when you have seen how it will come, you do not want to experience it. For example, I see from the calendar of intentions that I want to make a speech tomorrow at the banquet in honour of our director, but from the emotional calendar I learn that I am embarrassing myself and still offend the man with alarm.”
“You must leave it here, or change the speech.”
“That’s the horrible thing. Before I find in the mind calendar, if and how that can be! Nothing can be changed in this world! The smallest part or dust will last forever, somewhere it will hang.”
“But you will forget that.”
“Forgetting! Yes, if we had a threshold of consciousness! But even if you could forget it, it’s always in the world plans, and someone can find it. No, no! Knowing everything, but not being able to change anything, that’s bad. And even though everything is so good, a world where you cannot do anything better, it’s awful!”
Then the Lord put the planet back in its place, the sun in their system and the Milky Way in its place, and stopped the time that the world was out of service.
“No,” he said to the top angel who had made project A, “that´s not the best world. Let’s try Project B.”
From the outside, this world looked very similar to A, because it was also built on the principle of nested and inhabited star systems. So the angel was started the time, and when a dozen million years were over, the Lord again reached out a planet and looked at the living beings on it.
“Well, how are you?” He asked. “How do you like the world?”
“Horrible, very horrible!” Shouted a large number of voices.
“Well, now!” said the Lord reassuringly. “Always one after the other!”
But that did not help. So everyone complained at the same time, until he took out such a person. That was quite a happy moment, and when the Lord asked how he liked the world, he exclaimed:
“Oh, that’s how beautiful it is! Now I am alone, there is everything available, what I want. If I want to work hard, my muscles twitch and twitch, and the brain is tired. If I want to rest and say that this is a pretty little house in a large, quiet park and a comfortable sleeping chair on the veranda, I lie there right away and smoke my Havana. That’s the way it is here.”
“Why are you all yelling, horrible! Dreadful!”
“Yes, sir, as soon as one of us wishes for something on our own, we have everything; it willingly rises, and nothing can bother. But when we are stuck together in the space on the living globe, the beautiful thoughts and fantasies, all the delicious dreams of my soul collide with the equally powerful ones of my roommates and compete. Wherever I have my garden, the neighbour lets his six boys hit the ball and scream as much as they can. Because there is no way to prevent what happens, what everyone thinks. The imagination is enough to bring the possible to existence. So there is nothing safe here, nothing definite! So do the only mercy and take all the other inhabitants out of the world, so that I will not be affected in my beautiful world!”
“Hhmmm!” said the Lord doubtfully and put the person back into the world system in his place, where it began to complain again and again.
“Project B does not fit either” said the Lord and stopped the time.
The two upper angels made somewhat dissatisfied faces, as far as that was concerned, and immediately offered to submit new projects.
But the Lord said, “Oh, there’s no hurry with the world’s creation. Both of your worlds are no good. Maybe you’ll come up with something better later. For the time being, that’s the way it is.”
He took the two world models and put them together for convenience in the junk room. After a few million years, the Lord happened to look back into that corner and realized that the two worlds were still functioning. He called out to the two angels and asked who had allowed himself to let the time run, so that the worlds continued their trial.
“I just spent my spare time,” Project A said, a little anxiously.
“Me too,” Project B said.
“Yeah,” they both shouted, “we just wanted to try and make it better if they ran at the same time.”
“So?” said the Lord, kindly. “Let’s see what happened to that.”
And he reached back into the combined world system and got out a resident. That he always met the right one, of course, understood itself.
“Well?” He asked. “How are you doing now?”
“Excellent,” answered the human; because such was it.
“How is that? In the world A, they complained that everything was so necessary that nothing could be changed, and they complained in world B, because everything one imagines is constitutes immediately, and therefore nothing real assembles.”
“Yes, Sir, we have just made up for it. We have made a new one out of the two worlds, our own. Because we are a special society for world improvement.”
“How come! What did you do?”
“Very easy. The worlds are running, we depend on that. But now we take the fantasy out of World B, and from World A we take the law. This is how we complement each other. We also do what we deem desirable, and we use the immutable for the rational. ”
“Not bad! So you are just going on the rational world that I expect. Well, you may do it yourself, I want to confirm it. And who are you? ”
“I’m the engineer.”