I've once read a text. I think it was sci-fi related. Now I am searching for it. And I hardly can remember any hard facts. Here are some fragments:

A robot is traveling to a planet. (I guess the inhabitants are humans.) He carries some kind of empathy-serum with him. He sets it free (maybe by accident), and everybody went nuts. Man start feeling the birth-pain of their woman; and other crazy stuff happens. Something bad happens to the robot (can't even remember the exact end).

The first time I found this one by accident. I neither can't remember if it was German or English. Reading the Wikipedia entries for Julius von Voß, Stanislaw Lem, and Isaac Asimov don't ring any bell (so far).

some more loose details

I remember two people (robots?) arguing about, if more empathy would help .. (?) Then someone starts reporting about a failed attempt to prove that. A robot has been sent (by its inventor?). I remember a bridge, and a river - maybe the point where the (serum?) hits the environment. Happy people flock together (in small groups of three or so) and chase away sad people, because they don't wanna feel it. In the end everybody realizes that the robot is not affected. Everybody becomes very angry. Seeing him as the root of their misery (to share everyones feelings). They hunt him down. He got damaged.

I remember the whole story, as if someone talks about his own adventure of the past.

other circumstances

I might have read something about Julius von Voß in a german magazine back in 2012. Don't remember which one. No ordinary. Never seen that mag before and after. It was all about science-fiction as seen from distant past authors. I specifically remember "Ein Roman aus dem ein und zwanzigsten Jahrhundert" mentioned there. I did a bit of research back then, and stumbled upon the above mentioned short story about empathy (maybe it's just a part of a longer text).

When I remember it correctly the term "empathy" wasn't even used at all.

  • Welcome to the site! Great start. If you could take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit in any more details, that would be great
    – amflare
    Oct 30, 2017 at 21:35
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of What book had a robot going around the galaxy, making other robots?
    – Otis
    Nov 4, 2017 at 11:56
  • 1
    Given the nature of this particular work (i.e. disconnected substories), it's hard to call one of these two duplicates "better" than the other.
    – Otis
    Nov 4, 2017 at 11:57
  • @Otis - Well, if it's pointing to two different works that just happen to be in the same published story collection, then no, it should not be closed. (Normally we just close duplicate story-ids to link together questions about the same work).
    – Radhil
    Nov 4, 2017 at 18:09
  • @Radhil - It's the same work. All the stories are by the same author. Stories share the same characters, though, so it's kind of one big story, in a way.
    – Otis
    Nov 4, 2017 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


This is one of the short stories in Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad.

More to the point, the one about altruizine. From the Wikipedia:

Altruizine. Klapaucius produces a large quantity of the substance and sends the above-mentioned hermit (who is eager to help others) in human guise to experiment on the population of a single planet. Some of the results include villagers feeling the birth pains of a cow, depressed people being violently attacked and driven off and a crowd storming the house of the newlyweds to vicariously participate in their unaccustomed sensations. Eventually, the hermit is identified for a robot (because he does not feel the humans' pain), is thoroughly beaten and tortured, then shot into outer space via a cannon. He then lands near Trurl's house, where the story began. Concluding his tale, the hermit assures Trurl that his thirst for altruism has vanished.

Out of my memory:

  • The story begins with Trurl finding the badly wounded robot who, after getting better, tells him what happened.

  • The robot initially wanted to do a small scale test -and that test seemed promising-, but he accidentally drops the altruizina down a well (or a river), contaminating all of the world's water. As he "leaves" the planet, he can see the destruction unfolding on it.

  • After the people have become "altruizined" and the newlyweds scene, the robot goes to visit the home of a well known sage man, well known for his benignity. Only cats roam around his house.

  • He is approached by two men. When they are close, one of them suddenly slaps the other. As he did not expect that and he did not show signs of pain, the men confirm that he is not a human and that he is the one responsible for the events.

  • 1
    I really wonder why the name of the robot Bonhomius isn't mentioned @all in the english article. # And for those with further interest The german version has a rather bulky subtitle: "Der wahre Bericht darüber, wie der Eremit Bonhomius das universelle Glück im Kosmos schaffen wollte, und was dabei herauskam"
    – Stefan T.
    Oct 30, 2017 at 22:39
  • @StefanT. It's the translation of the full original name: "Altruizyna, czyli opowieść prawdziwa o tym, jak pustelnik Dobrycy kosmos uszczęśliwić zapragnął i co z tego wynikło".
    – Litho
    Nov 9, 2017 at 13:23

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