One of my favorite stories in The Cyberiad is Altruizine in which a hermit relates the repercussions of his quest for universal happiness and Klapaucius’ journey to find the HPLD. Once Klapaucious’ finds these beings he is disappointed by their lack of activity and he wonders why they are not working to assist other civilizations. He builds a machine that simulates a member of the HPLD and receives an unsatisfactory answer. The HPLD have already achieved the highest possible development and thus there is nothing left for them to do. When the HPLD tries to help others it ends up a failure and counterproductive. The machine gave a great example, “When a civilization starts straightening humps, believe me, there’s no end to it.” (265) In attempts to help the deformed from the top down, bestowing gifts without context or the agency of the individual it usually ends up badly. When trying to “bestow happiness by force” it always ends with grief. The HPLD points out that coming to any sort of knowledge takes time and is a process and a evolution that cannot be imposed by anyone.
The machine says, “civilizations are not to be tampered with, for each must go its own way, progressing naturally from one level of development to the next and having only itself to thank for all the good and evil that accrues thereby” (271). Nonetheless Klapaucious needs something to fulfill his desire to help others and he was given Altruizine, which ensures that everyone feels what the person around them is feeling. Thus, being happy is for the greater good. This experiment is a catastrophe. Once Altruizine is released on a population the people go insane from the emotions of others. Ultimately, it becomes clear that happiness cannot be forced or imposed on individuals. It is impossible to find universal happiness and even altruism can lead to disaster. While all of these stories are intriguing ad humorous I believe there are some deep meaning in many of them. There is commentary on human nature, vice, and vanity.