Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thoughts on Dune's banning of computers

I just finished Frank Herbert's Dune. I've previously seen the Sci-Fi 2000 mini-series and their 2003 Sequel, Children of Dune. I recommend to any Dune newcomers, read the books first, then watch the movies. The novels paint a world in Tolkien level detail, and no movie can ever do it full justice.

The ecological undertones and melange as an allegory to oil are somewhat obvious. The feudalism/corporatism type government of the known universe seems like what would occur in a situation where you had a large expanse of people, and the transaction costs of government were high. I'm sure much was written about these things. I'm sure one day I will read some of them and even write something about such things. What interests me most is the lack of AI, and computers in general.

One could react several ways to the outlaw of computers in the Dune universe. One could simply state that Frank Herbert was entirely wrong about the computer thing, despite being so right about the oil thing. You could also say it will take a long time for AI to get to the point that our leaders must declare "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind." One could also state that Frank Herbert's miscalculation was predicting how useful computers could be without any reasoning skills, and their role as communication devices.

I'm sure that Herbert was questioned on the AI questions. He published Dune in 1965 and died in 1986. So one would think I should have done a bit of research before publishing this article. However, I want to continue this line of thought without an "authoritative" answer a bit more. I'll try to write more about it though. after some research.

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