Prague is the perfect romantic getaway. You just have to keep your paranoid imagination under control. My sweet lover and I drank wine on the river, mused in the museums, and explored the natural world on foreign beds. We led each other through the city’s streets, admiring its ancient beauty: the palace on the hill, St. Vitus Cathedral, the basilica at Vyšehrad, the green idol of St. John of Nepomuk who watches over the Charles Bridge, eavesdropping on lovers’ secrets.
Day by day, the depths of Czech history were uncovered like the nested shells of a matryoshka doll, each more enchanting than the last. Over the centuries, we see a progression from the goddess Marzanna to Mother Mary to the Plastic People of the Universe. At the end of the story, hiding within the Russian doll’s radioactive core, we find a nightmarish golem with latex genitals and an apple in its mouth.
The Future is a Fantasy
A thousand years ago, Prague was little more than a humble, half-pagan fort on a hill. In time, the splendor of the Bohemian kingdom emerged from successive waves of invasion, Catholic conversion, and technological development. The 14th century marks the height of Bohemia. We see the reign of Charles IV, the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral, and the tragic martyrdom of St. John of Nepomuk by the great king’s successor, Wenceslas, who supposedly killed the priest for keeping the queen’s confessions a secret.
“Who is the biggest? Who goes the longest?! Throw him off the bridge!”
From the 16th century to the end of World War I, the city was under Hapsburg control. This era saw the flourishing of gorgeous baroque architecture, as well as advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. In response to Holy Roman hostility in the late 1500s, legend has it that the Kabbalist Judah Loew constructed the first working golem. Fashioned from clay, the creature’s software consisted of a scroll inscribed with the secret name of God. Originally created to defend Prague’s persecuted Jews, the short-circuited golem began attacking people at random and had to be deprogrammed. The Singularity would have to wait for the cavalier regulations of the 21st century.
Incidentally, the term “robot” was coined in 1920 by Czech playwright Karel Čapek. It derives from the Slavonic rabota, or “forced labor.” The word first appears in Čapek’s presently disregarded warning to humankind, R.U.R. – Rossom’s Universal Robots, which envisions the proliferation of soulless androids who relieve human beings from their earthly toil. They can do anything we can do—except give a damn about anybody’s feelings. Before long, men cease to fight their own wars and women stop having children. Progress gives way to decadence. Eventually the robot slaves stage a quasi-Marxist rebellion, leaving one person alive to wonder what the hell just happened.
The great psychologist and precognizant smart phone salesman Sigmund Freud, born in the Czech hamlet of Příbor, gave his perspective on the ongoing cyborg revolution in his 1929 classic Civilization and Its Discontents:
As we see, what decides the purpose of life is simply the program of the pleasure principle. … With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning…Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God.
In 1938 a steel-grey cloud descended on the Czech people, when the Allied Powers handed their nation over to the Nazis. The brutal occupation lasted until the Germans were defeated in WWII. In the subsequent scramble for power, Marxists took control of Eastern Europe, and for forty years the Czech people were crushed under the iron fist of Communism. With no robots to do the work, humans were forced to shoulder the burden. The pressure intensified in 1968 when a battalion of Soviet tanks was sent to crush the Prague Spring rebellion.
Daily interjections: @EvoPsychosis