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    Machine Mentality

    Postby Robspierre » 20 Apr 2016 00:06

    I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of "Machine Mentality" and what various paths Frank was populating with the concept along with how technology is used by people today. I'm thinking beyond the idea of turning many simple tasks over to the computers to handle and looking deeper, into concepts of trust, the inertia of masses of people to seek the easiest path, how the clash of freedom and safety go back and forth. I'm looking back over the pics of the reference books that were part of Frank's library, in particular the volumes referencing robotics, A.I, and logic and I am starting to gather bits and pieces of ideas because, in part, to working in a region that is at the bottom of the socio-economic scale, how technology is becoming hardwired into peoples lives beyond the sound bites and jokes that zombies now walk among us. It's more than brains being re-wired by the constant feedback and stimulation technology provides because that does not fit into the world that Frank was developing, they are symptoms, the root causes are deeper, just how deep, I'm not yet sure, but I'm going to be using this space to explore and solicit thoughts.


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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby georgiedenbro » 20 Apr 2016 10:56

    In reading through the Chronicles again over the last year I've been giving some thought to what exactly Frank had in mind when he discussed mentats and their limitations, as well as why Mohiam compared them to machines in their thinking process. I also look at this in lieu of the themes presented around Dune, where moving in patterned steps attracts the worm, which in turn is a metaphor for the great sexual/beastly energy that lies beneath our consciousness. Not only did Fremen life revolve around constant change and unpatterned movement, but even as late as CH:D we hear Odrade thinking about the need for the Sisterhood to avoid patterns and repetition. She even laughs out loud at one point when musing to herself - risking worry in the Sisters that observe her - because the need to be spontaneous is so great. In Heretics we have Taraza's repeated mention of dependencies and key logs, and how she must use Teg to unjam the Sisterhood from dependencies and patterns it had nurtured for a very long time. I think this can all tie back to Mohiam's thoughts about the coming jihad back in Dune, where Humanity's collective unconscious was demanding change and a breaking up of stagnation and pattern. We could even take it further and compare this to what we see in the KH, where the prescient trap is itself the ultimate pattern. Scytale certainly picked up on that one.

    Overall the common theme I can see here is a connection between sexual reproduction and variation being tied into thinking pattern. If Humankind is a giant organism as Frank supposed it might be, then its variation over time in terms of recombinations of DNA would be a sort of learning process for it, which can be chaotic or controlled as the BG oversee it. The RM's can see the details of their genetic heritage in the form of memory, and so they are in touch with the quasi-random steps each generation took along the way. The proscription against genetic engineering from the time of the BJ would seem to be a stopgap against messing with the sexual variability in humanity, which would be a huge patterned trap in itself should it be utilized ubiquitously. Even the BG were careful not to tamper with sexuality or love in their breeding program; I believe it's mentioned once or twice that trying to interfere with this risks the species itself. Mentats, on the other hand, remove themselves from their connection to what came before and simply process data abstractly. They even have to withdraw inside themselves to go into 'mentat mode.' We could argue, then, that by removing their own volition (which we know from RM's involves ancestral input) from their calculations they simply apply a patterned thinking algorithm to data and come to a conclusion. This is in stark contrast to the KH, whose own future decisions heavily impact their visions, to the point where in CH:D the Sisterhood is all but convinced that prescience was more cement than prophecy; making the future happen rather than predicting it. Two different patterns here; the mentat predicts events through patterned thinking, while the KH chooses a future and abides by it with patterned choices. Leto II was even being deliberate about this and wanted people to see the pattern to his actions and learn from it (specifically, to learn the dangers of it). The one thing about mentats which maybe points towards a a good mindset is their habit of formulating questions rather than trying to find answers.

    I can't put my finger on exactly what I'm trying to say, but it seems to me like Frank was suggesting an optimal course of endorsing both logic and chaotic spontaneity, both in manner and thinking pattern as well as sexual reproduction. We can see examples of this in his treatment of Siona and the need to be undetectable to prediction, in Teg with his habit of always doing the unexpected (a trait inherited all the way back from Leto, Paul's father), and in Leto II in a way due to his inclination to do exactly the opposite in order to prove a point. I also think Frank was tying the mental traits of order/chaos into political philosophy, insofar as Humans must - as Leto II and later Odrade put it - feel the need for freedom in their bones. This means that the order/chaos thing must not only be sexual, and trained in as a learned skill, but must also someone become somehow integrated in the collective subconscious of the species so that the need is always there not to be driven to patterns or controlled. Machine thinking, on the other hand, exemplified by the extinction-potential hunter seekers, seeks pattern and repetition to absurdity and creates a snowball effect leading towards extinction.

    I really need to read Destination: Void again once I'm done with CH:D, to try to see again how this ties in with that series.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Naib » 20 Apr 2016 14:27

    The Chronicles are an interesting mix of futurism and anachronism. It is a space faring civilisation, but most people are planet bound to the one they were born on unless a wealthy/powerful patron pays for them to be moved for some purpose.

    While technology is available, it isn't prevalent. For instance most people seem to walk to where they need to go. You don't have people zipping to work in thopters do you? Most day to day items seem to be hand made and are often of varying quality (Fremen made stilsuits v city made for example). So while Frank saw a future with some grand technology, most people didn't need it for their daily lives.

    Now this could have been different prior to the BJ. Technology, computers, AI, etc., could have been as common as 'smart'phones are now. This makes a certain amount of sense when you consider how stupid people are becoming because of their reliance on these phones to do simple maths and remember even the most basic of things. Why exert your mind when you can do a search and have an answer in less than a second? People don't 'know' as much as they used to and it's getting worse IMO.

    What happens when you have a generally ignorant population reliant on technology controlled by a few that know how it works and make it work for them? This could lead to enslavement, that then causes the BJ, followed by the development of the Mentat school.

    I'm rambling.

    For me, what it boils down to is that Frank wanted to concentrate on the human portion of his story and what better way to do that than to eliminate some of the more grossly obvious aspects of science fiction so common at the time.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Robspierre » 23 Apr 2016 23:02

    What one needs to avoid is to make things overly complicated, one of the genius level tricks is that Frank knew that people would bring in their own pre-conceptions and ideas based on their backgrounds and add that into the story without him saying anything. We have the Hero's Journey, Jungian psychology, aristocratic characters, etc, lots of tropes that are common in science fiction and in history.

    I'm going to slowly build my case. Much of this will tie into the Butlerian Jihad but the overall theme deals with the "Machine Mentality" and the underlying focus, power and control.

    First, some guideposts from the Terminology of the Imperium:

    Butlerian Jihad started in 201 B.G and ended in 108 B.G.
    Battle of Corrin 88 B.G. Set house Corrino up as the head of the Empire.
    I will only use information that comes from Frank's writings, or inferences from books that were part of Frank's personal library. No Dune Encyclopedia or worm droppings from the wonder twins.

    I see a lot of references that paint the Dune universe in the first three novels as one that resembles Renaissance Venice due to all the intrigue and various political machinations, in reality, the Dune universe resembles Byzantine Court with trappings of ancient Persia. I am leaning more to resembling a Persian court but am not committed to that idea yet.

    Part I.

    Overthinking the technology and robot aspects of the Butlerian Jihad.


    This is why the dates listed for the Butlerian Jihad are important. The Jihad took place at a time when space travel was not as instantaneous as it is at the time of Dune. The Jihad lasts almost 100 years and even with FTL travel, we are thinking of the conflict of one of massive movements of men and conflict, yet, it is also known as the great revolt and this is something that i believe is often overlooked, throughout history, who do aristocrats fear revolting the most? The peasants/working class. What does technology allow the lower classes access to? Information, and information can lead to dissatisfaction, which can lead to ager and depending on how the society is structured, revolt/revolution. With the Battle of orrin taking place 20 years after the end of the butlerian Jihad, I speculate that the Butlerian Jihad was one phase of a power struggle between various factions that resulted in the creation of the Empire as we know it twenty years later.

    This makes sense when you add in the Great Convention and the restrictions over the use of Atomics, even in a high technology society, atomics are extremely powerful and destructive. Which brings us to the real reason behind the Jihad, and all the little tidbits Frank provided, who has power and control and over whom. Uni? What does this have to do with a Machine Mentality? In one word, mythology.

    The Dune Universe is made up of a mythology that has been intentionally designed to maintain power structures and control so that events of the past do not threaten those who are in charge and enjoy the good life. The computers, robots, and technology presented a threat to a dominant power structure in the past, whatever the conditions were they reached a point that those who were at the bottom, rose up and fought back against what they perceived to be the oppressors. Now, many feel that knowing the specific details are important, they are not. Understanding things like, who make up the largest part of revolts/crusades/jihads (the common man) and who would have access to technology (powers that be.)

    I have another theory, counter to the above, which I will explore in another post.

    What we need to focus on is this, whatever happened in that time period led to an enforced strategy of stagnation. Thus is important because the enforced stagnation led to ingrained power structures. We have the uneasy alliance between the Emperor, the Great Houses, The Bene Gesseritt and the Guild. Part of the stagnation is ignorance, the power structures actively push ignorance which leads us back to the prohibition against the various technologies, by strictly controlling the tech allowed and having "approved" pathways of knowledge, the great schools Suks, Mentats, BG, etc., we have a society that can be controlled and pacified while any trouble makers can be funneled and co-opted by those in charge. This makes a lot of sense when you go back and read the appendices, those who rule were agnostic and they encouraged the mythology that allowed them to control the populace.

    To Be continued.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby georgiedenbro » 24 Apr 2016 02:26

    Robspierre wrote:The Jihad took place at a time when space travel was not as instantaneous as it is at the time of Dune.


    This is just a quibble, but I'm not sure there is evidence of this. There may be some reason to believe folding space wasn't as reliable prior to advances made by the guild, but once Holtzman did his thing they had the tech and that would seem to be that. According to Duncan in CH:D, from the moment Holtzman developed his various technologies no one in the Old Empire ever understood or improved upon them until at least ~18,000 years after the BJ (e.g. the time of CH:D).

    The Jihad lasts almost 100 years and even with FTL travel, we are thinking of the conflict of one of massive movements of men and conflict, yet, it is also known as the great revolt and this is something that i believe is often overlooked, throughout history, who do aristocrats fear revolting the most? The peasants/working class. What does technology allow the lower classes access to? Information, and information can lead to dissatisfaction, which can lead to ager and depending on how the society is structured, revolt/revolution. With the Battle of orrin taking place 20 years after the end of the butlerian Jihad, I speculate that the Butlerian Jihad was one phase of a power struggle between various factions that resulted in the creation of the Empire as we know it twenty years later.


    This part is tricky and requires some appeal to actual history. I do not believe, for instance, that serious revolutions tend to begin by the poor, angry masses. Rather, powerful or influential men utilize the anger of the masses to overturn the old leadership and seize power. Whether you're talking about the American Revolution, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, or even the rise of the mercantile classes in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the results all come in the same: one group of would-be aristocrats shoves out the previous batch. The U.S. was a strange case because although the American aristocrats that rebelled won they in some sense ceded their power back to the people after their victory, which I take to have been a very novel thing. But even so they weren't a bunch of peasants leading the Revolutionary War.

    My personal take on the BJ is somewhat close to yours and involves the passage in Dune: Appendix II that speaks of men with machines enslaving other men. I feel like what typically happens in cultures with an embedded and stagnant aristocracy is that the mercantile classes and bankers, as they accrue money and power over several generations, tend to overtake the nobles in actual power and while the nobles try to suppress them to an extent eventually it fails because the money wins out over the titles and a new leadership is ushered in. The wealthy tradesmen and merchants may not be as 'cultured' or as well bred as the nobles, but their sheer might cannot be stopped, which then leads to the situation where the new leaders are just as powerful as the old ones but are lacking what one might call civilized graces and and subtle eye for things. They are boorish by comparison despite being more powerful. In the case of Dune my current theory is that the men with machines who enslaved other men were technologists and entrepreneurs specializing in servicing and distributing technology. Whoever was in power before it probably became clear eventually that whoever controls the tech controls everything in a culture totally dependent on technology for everything. Every kind of government, from duly elected to a tyranny would face this same problem, of the technological mercantiles accruing so much power and being irreplaceable. I don't see the jihad as originating from the masses because, frankly, I think they're powerless in a setting like this and all too easily pacified with tech, drugs and other distractions. Even with information technology people tend to not be able to self-organize and create a grassroots uprising, especially since the establishment has access to the same web they do and could easily disrupt it through various means. And we haven't even seen the start yet of truly addicting technological entertainments like full VR with sensory interaction, or even virtual drugs that leave you feeling ecstasy for hours on end. Even without pressure I think most people would devolve to a slave-like state almost without outside pressure. So, no, I think it was the actual noble class that 'rose up' against the mercantiles and raised a jihad against the thing threatening their hegemony. It was a case, I think, of punching down (squashing competitors) rather than punching up (revolting). Once the mercantiles had been routed entirely the nobles were free to set up their Imperium whose rules would make it impossible for a technological class from ever threatening their rule again. Stagnation and stability are always the goals of such people - to maintain their dynasty of control. The Corrinos and others in the jihad - I doubt they just fought in it. I bet they instigated it in the first place so that they could be in charge, maybe with the help of the Harkonnens and Atreides and some other Great Houses. I figure the Guild was in on it too since the elimination of computer technology would give them a monopoly on space travel using their human Navigators. The people below, as always, remain bystanders or victims while powerful men engage in their struggles for supremacy.

    Thus is important because the enforced stagnation led to ingrained power structures. We have the uneasy alliance between the Emperor, the Great Houses, The Bene Gesseritt and the Guild. Part of the stagnation is ignorance, the power structures actively push ignorance which leads us back to the prohibition against the various technologies, by strictly controlling the tech allowed and having "approved" pathways of knowledge, the great schools Suks, Mentats, BG, etc., we have a society that can be controlled and pacified while any trouble makers can be funneled and co-opted by those in charge. This makes a lot of sense when you go back and read the appendices, those who rule were agnostic and they encouraged the mythology that allowed them to control the populace.


    Agreed.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Robspierre » 24 Apr 2016 21:23

    Points to consider: Ruling classes are agnostic the Dune universe, when religious messages take hold, aristocrats/powers that be will often try to co-opt, but the driving force is the lower classes, look around the world, how much conflict is driven by the frustrations of young angry males. Second, who would control or have access to robots, those who are wealthy or have ties to power structures, who would machines/robots replace? Not the upper management/ruling class.

    Look back in the appendix's, there are brief clues that hint that travel took a long time.

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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby georgiedenbro » 25 Apr 2016 09:30

    Robspierre wrote:Look back in the appendix's, there are brief clues that hint that travel took a long time.


    That's always been interesting. My guess for now is that it's because due to lack of reliable navigation they had to make many stops in order to recalculate nav coordinates. They wouldn't have had any way to scout from one star system all the way to a remote one magically, and so they would have to have made small jumps, which maybe took the engines a while to recharge from. Only with a Guild Navigator could they calculate the jump directly from a place to its destination safely.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Freakzilla » 25 Apr 2016 10:12

    Mankind's movement through deep space placed a unique stamp on religion
    during the one hundred and ten centuries that preceded the Butlerian Jihad. To
    begin with, early space travel, although widespread, was largely unregulated,
    slow, and uncertain, and, before the Guild monopoly, was accomplished by a
    hodgepodge of methods. The first space experiences, poorly communicated and
    subject to extreme distortion, were a wild inducement to mystical speculation.

    ~Appendix II: The Religion of Dune

    I think that is our most telling description of early space travel and it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. My pet theory is that they did have FTL travel but it wasn't as safe as what the Guild came up with, probably using computers for navigation, and the BJ's computer smashing frenzy left the Guild as the last man standing.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby georgiedenbro » 25 Apr 2016 11:05

    Freakzilla wrote:and the BJ's computer smashing frenzy left the Guild as the last man standing.


    There's that too. I think we've theorized here before that the Guild may have had a hand in stirring up the jihad to knock out the competition. But that said, they must also have been superior to the competition even if the drugs they were using were inferior to melange. No computer at the time could see the future, so obviously that can't compare to prescience in finding a safe course.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Naib » 25 Apr 2016 11:41

    But would the Guild been any safer in the early days? Without the use of Spice the Navigators prescience might have been more limited and so more likely to have trouble. If they were 100% safe, then there would be no need for them to rely on Spice.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby georgiedenbro » 25 Apr 2016 11:53

    Naib wrote:But would the Guild been any safer in the early days? Without the use of Spice the Navigators prescience might have been more limited and so more likely to have trouble. If they were 100% safe, then there would be no need for them to rely on Spice.


    Dune seems to refer to earlier drugs the BG used that did just fine in producing the agony and being used for truthsense. We've discussed a bit that Frank likely changed his mind about how long melange had been around since there is a bit of inconsistency about how effective other drugs might be. By books 4-6 melange is treated as utterly irreplaceable by the BG, which Freak has mentioned doesn't make that much sense.

    Overall I tend to go with Dune's version, where there were other drugs and they did work, but just not as well. But seeing the future 'not as well' is still pretty damn good compared to a computer that can only process the data plugged into it.
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    Re: Machine Mentality

    Postby Freakzilla » 25 Apr 2016 12:06

    georgiedenbro wrote:
    Naib wrote:But would the Guild been any safer in the early days? Without the use of Spice the Navigators prescience might have been more limited and so more likely to have trouble. If they were 100% safe, then there would be no need for them to rely on Spice.


    Dune seems to refer to earlier drugs the BG used that did just fine in producing the agony and being used for truthsense. We've discussed a bit that Frank likely changed his mind about how long melange had been around since there is a bit of inconsistency about how effective other drugs might be. By books 4-6 melange is treated as utterly irreplaceable by the BG, which Freak has mentioned doesn't make that much sense.

    Overall I tend to go with Dune's version, where there were other drugs and they did work, but just not as well. But seeing the future 'not as well' is still pretty damn good compared to a computer that can only process the data plugged into it.


    And like Paul points out to Mohiam at the end of Dune, once you use the "spice liquor" the other poisons no longer work.
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