Dune: Is Frank Herbert tomorrow’s Nostradamus?

In November, the second instalment of Denis Villeneuve’s film adaption of Frank Herbert’s Dune will arrive. For those who’ve read the book, you know what’s coming. For those of you who haven’t, boy, you have no idea what’s coming! Inside Telecom has already covered the subject of prophesies in movies. This article may really prompt you to ask ‘is Frank Herbert tomorrow’s Nostradamus’? Especially regarding recent conversations regarding the banning of AI.

The ultimate spoiler alert

No, don’t worry, no spoilers here. What I want to tell you about, happened about twelve thousand years before the story of Dune begins (just to align, the story occurs twenty thousand years from now). An event which admittedly is not one of the two or three central themes of the saga – it’s a backstory – but with a direct bearing on how the story line of Dune plays out. By chance, or perhaps not by chance, the world today finds itself having a conversation which may arrive at the same conclusion.

AI misbehaving

Twelve thousand years before Dune’s questionable hero Paul Atreides was being revered as a messiah, AI had been banned. Anyone caught defying the banning of AI was to be put to death immediately. The story goes that eight thousand years after we invented AI, it had gotten so out of control that it was forcibly removed from society in what became known as the Butlerian Jihad. (Apologies to ChatGPT for writing in the past tense when referring to the future. I’m only human.)

So, AI is destroyed because it has run amok.

Hmmmm…..interesting. I’m not sure whether to be furious that it took so long for the banning of AI, or unnerved that Frank Herbert made this prediction in 1965 when he wrote his first Dune novel. Surely AI wasn’t a thing in 1965?

The birth and death of AI

Well, I did the shallowest of digs and found out that actually, 1965 was the birthyear of AI. Earlier rudimentary experiments aside, this was the year when Edward Feigenbaum and Joshua Lederberg created a programme which was the first to replicate human decision-making.

Coincidence? (This is where you, my dear reader, are meant to respond with a conspiratorial ‘I think not’.)

There are a number of other prophetic themes in Dune not appropriate for discussion here because they touch on faith, politics and substance abuse. But when you sit down to watch Part Two of this epic tale, be prepared to experience a film that encompasses all the hopes, dreams, hubris, humility and anxiety we are feeling today. Mostly, about technology and the banning of AI in numerous applications.

It will try to objectify your emotions through the lens of tomorrow. To most, it will fail. Because despite its genre of science fiction, despite its unforgettable conclusion, you may feel yourself uncomfortably relating to Dune. Perhaps this is the reason why the book is the best selling sci-fi novel of all time.

But don’t be frightened. Why?

Becausefear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Don’t get it?

You will.

By the way, I don’t mind if you take this article with a pinch of salt. Obviously I’d prefer you to take it with a pinch of spice.

Don’t get it?

You will.

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