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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Link to a Free Online Book on Dune Author's Ideas about Developing Superhumans

Tim O'Reilly, the author of this book, Frank Herbert, placed it online for general consumption. Based on "extensive interviews" with Frank Herbert, all of his novels up through Children of Dune and other source materials, it discusses Herbert's ideas on how to develop superhuman levels of ability in otherwise relatively ordinary people.

"Dune was set up to imprint on you, the reader, a superhero. I wanted you so totally involved with that superhero in all his really fine qualities. And then I wanted to show what happens, in a natural, evolutionary process. And not betray reason or process." -- Frank Herbert


I will review this work in greater detail soon. In the meantime, let me say -- This is a magnificent book. Herbert clearly wants to develop superhuman levels of ability and insight in human beings, but he is anything but blind to the potential drawbacks. In particular, he sees the "superhero" as a figure that can potentially push humanity away from the expanded insight and independence that s/he represents. The superhero is a force people can turn to in order to hide from the universe's uncertainty through dependency on an all-wise guide or ruler. The amount of thought Herbert has put into this subject is evident with every chapter.

Here is an excerpt from the first page.

"Imagine a world so dry that one man might kill another for the moisture in his body. From its deep desert, guarded by enormous, predatory sandworms, comes a spice with the power to prolong life and evoke visions of the future. Ten thousand worlds are dependent on that spice--a Galactic Empire, seemingly strong, but rigid and ruled by fear. One man stands against the desert and the Empire. Driven out into the sand to die, he promises the ecological transformation of the water- starved planet and unites its people in a holy war to seize control of the spice, the future, and the Empire.

"This is the world of Frank Herbert's Dune, considered by many people to be the greatest science-fiction novel ever written, and certainly the pinnacle of Herbert's own art. Each reader finds a different reason for praise. One is struck by the scope of the creation--an entire world, detailed in topography, ecology and culture. Another seizes on the relevance of its ecological themes. All are fascinated by the characters--epic heroes who sweep their worlds and the reader into their struggles. Heroism, romance, philosophy--Dune has all of these, crafted into the vision of a future one might almost believe has already happened, a history stolen from its rightful place millennia hence."

And further...

"Even in so short a summary, one begins to see Herbert's essential themes. One of his central ideas is that human consciousness exists on--and by virtue of--a dangerous edge of crisis, and that the most essential human strength is the ability to dance on that edge. The more man confronts the dangers of the unknown, the more conscious he becomes. All of Herbert's books portray and test the human ability to consciously adapt. He sets his characters in the most stressful situations imaginable: a cramped submarine in Under Pressure, his first novel; the desert wastes of Dune; and in Destination: Void the artificial tension of a spaceship designed to fail so that the crew will be forced to develop new abilities. There is no test so powerfully able to bring out latent adaptability as one in which the stakes are survival."

Let me repeat, this is a magnificent book. If you are at all interested in the depth of thinking that went into one of science fiction's classic novels, this is the book for you. If you are interested in Herbert's ideas about realizing human potential, this is the book for you. And it doesn't hurt that the whole thing can be read for free online.

If you're interested in reading any of the host of Frank Herbert novels discussed in Frank Herbert, just check out the list of links below.


Dune Messiah

Children of Dune

Under Pressure (or Dragon in the Sea)

Destination: Void

The Green Brain

The Eyes of Heisenberg

The Santaroga Barrier

Hellstrom's Hive

Soul Catcher

Whipping Star

The Dosadi Experiment

The Heaven Makers

The Jesus Incident

The Godmakers
(O’Reilly prefers the original short stories)

Future Imperative


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