Dune Chronology - Plot Arc - The Butlerian Jihad

The Butlerian Jihad

As explained in Dune, the Butlerian Jihad is a conflict taking place over 11,000 years in the future (and over 10,000 years before the events of Dune) which results in the total destruction of virtually all forms of "computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots." With the prohibition "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind," the creation of even the simplest thinking machines is outlawed and made taboo, which has a profound influence on the socio-political and technological development of humanity in the Dune series. Herbert refers to the Jihad several times in the novels, but does not give much detail on how he imagined the causes and nature of the conflict. In Herbert's God Emperor of Dune (1981), Leto Atreides II indicates that the Jihad had been a semi-religious social upheaval initiated by humans who felt repulsed by how guided and controlled they had become by machines: "The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines," Leto said. "Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed." This technological reversal leads to the creation of the universal Orange Catholic Bible and the rise of a new feudal galactic empire which lasts for over 10,000 years before Herbert's series begins. Several secret societies also develop, using eugenics programs, intensive mental and physical training, and pharmaceutical enhancements to hone human skills to an astonishing degree. Artificial insemination is also prohibited, as explained in Dune Messiah (1969) when Paul Atreides negotiates with the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, who is appalled by Paul's suggestion that he impregnate his consort in this manner.

The Dune Encyclopedia (1984) by Willis E. McNelly (and approved by Frank Herbert) presents an extended chronicle of the Butlerian Jihad. According to McNelly, he and Herbert had planned to expand this version into a prequel novel to Dune; Herbert's death in 1986 left this project abandoned, and Herbert's own vision of the actual events of the Butlerian Jihad unexplored and open to speculation. The Legends of Dune prequel trilogy (2002–2004) by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson presents the Jihad as a war between humans and the sentient machines they had created, who rise up and nearly destroy humanity. The series explains that humanity had become entirely complacent and dependent upon thinking machines; recognizing this weakness, a group of ambitious, militant humans calling themselves the Titans use this widespread reliance on machine intelligence to seize control of the entire universe. Their reign lasts for a century; eventually they give too much access and power to the AI program Omnius, which usurps control from the Titans themselves. Seeing no value in human life, the thinking machines—now including armies of robot soldiers and other aggressive machines—dominate and enslave nearly all of humanity in the universe for 900 years, until a jihad is ignited. This crusade against the machines lasts for nearly a century, with much loss of human life but ultimately ending in human victory.

Read more about this topic:  Dune Chronology, Plot Arc

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