How to Combat Tribalism on Campus
Thinking recently about the state of debate on college campuses, I was reminded of “The Eleventh Voyage,” a story in the science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem’s 1957 collection The Star Diaries. In it, the space adventurer Ijon Tichy is dispatched to a distant planet and charged with infiltrating its colony of human-hating robots. To pass among them, he dons a robot costume. He lives in terror of being found out, but he soon discovers he’s not the only one in disguise; the iron exteriors of some robots he meets are hiding nervous humans too. Eventually, all the robots turn out to be humans in robot suits, each a victim of an elaborate ruse pitting “us,” the humans, against “them,” the robots. The story ends with Ijon and his fellow Homo sapiens joyfully removing their phony robot heads as it dawns on them that, in reality, there is no “them” — there is only us.
Originally published: March 17, 2023
Author: Daniel Diermeier
Institution: Vanderbilt University
Published by: The Chronicle of Higher Ed