I finished reading Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune the other night.
If you aren't familiar with the Dune books, this is the fourth in the series. Very different from the tight trilogy of the earlier series.
This book gets out-there.
It's more of a Big Ideas book.
Lots of talking, and not a lot of action. It never felt boring despite that. And I'm the type to dive into a Travis McGee story, Donald Westlake, or Dean Koontz novel to palette-cleanse after too many pages of deep-thinking.
Herbert was an author for the thinking reader without being unreadable.
This book overflows with choice quotes. Like this one:
What do such machines really do? They increase the number of things we can do without thinking. Things we do without thinking—there’s the real danger.
No surprises really -- Frank Herbert was known for two main ideas:
- Skepticism about charismatic leaders and social movements -- including organized religions and dictatorial demagogues
- Concern over the growing automation of human life.
The problems of mass delusion and mass mechanization were on Herbert's agenda decades before the internet was a thing.
There are no computers or "thinking machine" in the Dune setting. Even though they've got handy convenient space travel, computers are banned after a violent upheaval called the Butlerian Jihad.
(Trivia time: This is named for the 19th century writer Samuel Butler, whose work "The Book of the Machines" was even more eerily prescient about the dangers of thinking machines...)
There's wisdom in that warning.
Let the machines do the thinking for you, and soon you won't be doing any thinking at all.
The more fascinated we become by our machines, the more machine-like we ourselves become.
Are you ever tempted to think of yourself as "nothing but" a machine programmed by your genes for survival and reproduction?
Machine fascination is everywhere, dressed up as "objective science".
Nice try, nerds.
Thinking is a fine human gift, even if too many of us choose not to practice it.
Automation is fine and good -- IF it is properly fenced off.
Trouble is, there is no easy way to do this.
The ratchet of human laziness turns in one direction.
Best you can do?
Don't be afraid to think for yourself.
Be good & take it easy.
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