ONE HUMAN MINUTE
Along the lines of A Perfect Vacuum (1979), the three slender pieces here--apparently of recent vintage--start out as reviews of nonexistent books, but soon develop into essays that straddle the borderline between fiction and non-fiction. The title piece discusses a book that purports to describe, in statistical form, the entire human race during a single minute of time. Thus, "casualties from falling meteors are rare. . .0.0000001 persons per minute die that way"; and "if all humanity--those five billion bodies--were cast into the ocean, the water level would rise less than a hundredth of a millimeter. A single splash, and Earth would be forever unpopulated." "The Upside-Down Evolution" is a provocative, frightening, and plausible look at weapons systems of the 21st century: huge, expensive, malfunction-prone, human-operated and controlled weapons (planes, tanks, submarines, etc.) will be replaced by myriads of artificial insects, tailored to perform any desired function; human generals and grunts alike are thus rendered supernumerary. In the final piece, "The World as Cataclysm," Lem argues that the formation of Earth, and later the evolution of the human species, are the results of wildly unlikely coincidences. The chances that humanity will encounter another intelligent race are, therefore, small; we should concentrate our attentions on stars having a galactic location and developmental history similar to that of our own sun. Brief but stimulating work, much less belligerent than Microworlds (1984), with the concerns here for once scaled down to a level readily assimilated by mere humans.