Lem predictions for the PR industry: what has the future brought us already?
The Internet with search engines, e-books and audiobooks, 3-D printing and virtual reality - these are just some of the predictions made more than 40 years ago by Stanislaw Lem. How Lem’s predictions affect the PR industry? What can we, the PR professionals, learn from the works of this famous Polish writer, philosopher and futurologist?
There are books you have to read, and authors you just have to know about - Stanislaw Lem is one of them. I was a kid, when I read for the first time the famous “Fables for Robots” - a grotesque humor series of science fiction short stories, set in the universe populated by robots. Today, as a PR and Corporate Communications professional, I decided to come back to Lem’s books and take a deeper look at his works, this time from a completely different perspective. Let’s celebrate the Year of Stanislaw Lem finding out what there is about communication and public relations hidden in his predictions.
1. “Fantomatics” and virtual reality
In “Summa Technologiae'' Lem created a concept of ‘fantomatics’, which was later described as virtual reality. For him it was a machine called ‘phantomaton’ capable of creating alternative realities, where a person could switch between different alternative simulations.
Since the pandemic started, we are looking for effective ways to communicate with our clients and employees. Before we all will be able to use Google glasses or other sophisticated machines at home, we can meet in virtual conference rooms and all campuses to collaborate with others through the avatars. I’ve been there and tried this and must admit that it is a nice alternative for long static webinars.
2. Search engines, data analytics and behaviour-based algorithms
The “Trion Library” described in “The Magellanic Cloud” is a virtual database people have an instant access to. Does it ring a bell? For sure it does! Google itself processes over 3.5 billion searches per day.
On the other hand, in the mentioned above “Summa Technologiae” we can find Lem’s thoughts on gathering and processing data, which led to the solutions known today as Google or Facebook algorithms.
How does it work for us?
To act as effective PR advisors, we need to be able to process and understand all the data we are gathering. The importance of data analytics was described in the PR 2050 report, however what is crucial for me to highlight is that as communicators we have to connect the dots; without this skill it is highly difficult to lead effective and successful PR activities.
3. The problem of post-truth and fake news
In “His Master’s Voice”, a novel published in 1968, Stanislaw Lem described a phenomenon of the circulation of information, in which the important thoughts are lost “in a flood of impostors”. Lem saw that as a philosophical problem of post-truth, we know today as fake news.
What’s in this for us?
The problem of fake news and deep fakes is a real issue we all face online. We live in the reality where every information or fact can be easily changed and shared later as a news to our clients, employees, members of the local communities etc. I don’t have to explain what consequences it can bring. The importance of these issues for our industry is reflected in the number of initiatives organized to discuss and prevent fake news and digital hate, let me name the two of them:
- Digital PR and internet hate were the main topics covered during the last Public Relations Professionals Congress in Rzeszow.
- In 2020, the Polish Press Association in cooperation with GovTech Poland organized #FakeHunter Challenge focused on finding and verifying false information on the Internet.
Above you can find only a few examples of how Lem’s predictions affect the PR Industry.
I hope you find it as inspirational as useful. If you are interested in the topic, take a look at this article from Culture.pl.
This article was prepared to both celebrate the Year of Lem and to add a Polish perspective to this month’s discussion about the future of the PR industry started by the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.
Big thanks to Katarzyna Wołowiec from the Wroclaw University of Economics, member of the Polish Public Relations Association for her help and advice.
PR & Corporate Communications, Member of the Board of the Polish Public Relations Association