This really irritates me. I am sure Stanislav Lem is an interesting and I am sure Stanislav Lem 's reputation in not going to be harmed by me, so I feel free to really let go on this.
The first point I'll make is this is extremely low quality speculation, and the second point I'll make is it's extremely and insidiously destructive of our own future in some very specific ways.
First, this is the rankest type of speculation; it's not even thought provoking, at least productive-thought provoking. Lem is positing to *creatures entirely unknown* preferences, goals, in fact an entire motivational system. That's OK for sci-fi, but it really exposes a lack of imagination and critical thinking skills when he attempts to apply it to actual forms of life in the real world. Here's a certainty- we know nothing about the possible biology of other forms of life elsewhere are far flung galaxies and planets and we certainly know absolutely nothing about any psychology which they may or may not have.
Other living creatures may not even think of themselves as, or be, individuals with a welfare to mind. We evolved in a competitive environs and have the struggle to maintain ourselves against that environs and other creatures worked deeply into our genes, but what if other creatures are just not that way?
The whole idea that what "feels good" is somehow necessarily insidiously destructive to the individual has it biological basis in our unique brain chemistry. Some neurotransmitters and chemical compounds make use feel really good because evolutionarily speaking, they were associated with some survival enhancing behaviors. Separation (and purification) of those chemicals from their behaviors resulted in the problem we know as addiction.
Essentially the "feel good" chemicals are purified, enhanced then introduced exogenously. The nefarious effect is twofold. One is an unnatural level of feelings of pleasure brought on by these drugs which subverts the motivational system and against which we have no (inherent) defense. Thus rats pushing levels to get brain stimulation unto death. Thus people in opium dens. Thus heroin addition.
The other nefarious effect is the reduction of the endogenous production of those same (or naturally occurring similar) chemicals by our bodies. Simply, the body sees that it has enough of this stuff and shuts down its own production Now you not only crave the feel good, you feel awful if you try to quit the exogenic source- you're dependent on the drug.
But this is all specific to our biology. Some *totally other* biology may have no correlative problem.
It's amazing to me that Lem couldn't figure this out.
The second point is this fear of populations succumbing to sloth and no-utility pleasure seeking is a thinly veiled regurgitation of the rhetoric of 19th century conservative scolds. It's the belief that the dirty unwashed masses will devolve into nothing but hedonistic pleasure seekers, dragging us back to the stone age, if left to their own devices .
Absent the imposition of stern consequences -things like workhouses, the threat of destitution, starvation and a life of grinding poverty, people and society will self destruct within a generation. The impoverished model of human beings - it's really something from the Bronze Age- that this implies flies in the face of everything we know about the effects of non-coersive reward structures, human curiosity and knowledge seeking and the inborn desire for self actualization.
People wrecked by threats abuse, torture and the threat of torture, shortages of every sort including empathic responses from others in society and locked in chronically oppositional and dirty relations with everyone around them are, indeed, robbed of their basic humanity, and with that basic humanity goes their desire to engage in produtcive work and be motivated by faint things like intellectual curiosity.
The fact that the above sentence more or less describes the World As It Has Been for the past 40,000 years explains where this belief about humans and their psychology comes from. But it's not true, it's a product of chronic shortages and the resultant need to fight for physical, intellectual and emotional needs. IF there were just magically enough of all of these, Lem's psychology of destructive self absorption would not be the result any more than the rise in people's ability to provide for families leads to over population in developed countries, as predicted by the same scolds. IN fact, just the opposite happens.
Lem's vacuous little thought experiment indirectly reinforces the highly regressive notion that if the poor aren't forced into work to avoid poverty, if all boats really were ever lifted, society will degenerate. This is, in fact, what animates Paul Ryan's views of "poor people" and he's not alone. Millions of people hold this POV more or less unconsciously and it causes them to vote in a certain way when it comes election time.
It's, at its best, a snobbish, classist, racist, ignorant argument cynically reinforced from time to time by by FauxNews and their ilk who seek out then serve up for public horror exemplars that fit the pattern. .
More cooly, it's an excuse to exploit others by arranging the system of contingencies which govern their lives to be as punitive as possible for them and as profitable as possible for yourself and your cronies.