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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.

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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.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Few Thoughts from Frank Herbert of Dune -- SF, Soc, Super

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Frank Herbert, author of the science fiction classic Dune, is known for his many interesting observations, and those of his characters. Here follow a few, and some more can be found, in context, in this online book...

The Litany against Fear:
I will not fear. Fear 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 I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

The best art imitates life in a compelling way. If it imitates a dream, it must be a dream of life. Otherwise, there is no place where we can connect. Our plugs don't fit.

Give me the judgment of balanced minds in preference to laws every time. Codes and manuals create patterned behavior. All patterned behavior tends to go unquestioned, gathering destructive momentum.

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Religion must be accepted as a source of energy. It can be directed for our purposes, but only within limits that experience reveals. Here is the secret meaning of free will.

Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little to test that it's a mountain. From the top you cannot see the mountain.

There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.

What do you despise? By this you are truly known.

Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual.

There exists no separation between gods and men, one blends softly casual into the other.
When I am weaker than you, I ask for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.

If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden assumptions. When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

The child who refuses to travel in his father's harness, this is the symbol of man's most unique capability. "I do not have to be what my father was. I do not have to obey my father's rules or even believe everything he believed. It is my strength as a human that I can make my own choices of what to believe and what not to believe, of what to be and what not to be."

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class - whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy.

These are illusions of popular history which a successful religion must promote: Evil men never prosper; only the brave deserve the fair; honesty is the best policy; actions speak louder than words; virtue always triumphs; a good deed is its own reward; any bad human can be redeemed; religious talismans protect one from demon possession; only females understand the ancient mysteries; the rich are doomed to unhappiness...

Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.

There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace - those qualities you find always in that which the true artist captures. You can find it in the turning of the seasons, in the way sand trails along a ridge, in the branch clusters of the creosote bush or the patterns of its leaves. We try to copy these patterns in our live and in our society, seeking the rhythms, the dances, the forms that comfort. Yet, it is possible to see peril in the finding of ultimate perfection. It is clear that the ultimate pattern contains its own fixity. In such perfection, all things move toward death.

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating, and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox rule.


On his personal philosophy...

I had this theory that superheroes were disastrous for humans, that even if you postulated an infallible hero, the things this hero set in motion fell eventually into the hands of fallible mortals. What better way to destroy a civilization, society or a race than to set people into the wild oscillations which follow their turning over their judgment and decision-making faculties to a superhero?

In some people, simply confronting the idea of hyperconsciousness sharpens their mental alertness to a remarkable degree.

...If I'd been born in my grandfather's time, I'd have made my grandfather's mistakes. There's no doubt of it. I just don't want to make my grandfather's mistakes today.

If you want to get anything across, you have to be entertaining first. If you start standing on a street corner, people will tune you out. We human beings tend to have very good filter systems in our heads to see and hear only what we want to see. But analogues give you a marvelous device for getting past that screening system, because people can be caught up in the drama of the story, be deep into the problems of it. Then later on, much later on, they say, Oh, my God, he was talking about this!" And they come out of it with a brand new view of what's happening in their world.

We come from a spectator society, by and large. Whatever entertainment you produce is supposedly for passive receptors, who sit there and take it.... There are a lot of conventions, and you're supposed to gratify all of them. My contention is that entertainment has a far greater arena in which to perform. But to perform in that arena you make demands on your readers.

I ask myself, 'What is the society avoiding?'

Neither Brave New World nor 1984 will prevent our becoming a planet under Big Brother's thumb, but they make it a bit less likely. We've been sensitized to the possibility.

I think the sky is going to fall. I predict blackouts, more strikes, starvation, all kinds of urban violence. But on a positive note, I also think we are still a society of screwdriver mechanics. Our society is particularly rich in people who, faced with a problem, don't sit down and say, "We are doomed"; but instead ask, "How are we going to solve that?"

I saw clearly that science fiction was going to be the thing... My feeling about it was that here was an entire field that could be mined for drama, where there was no limit to the settings that could be created. And I like the idea of being in an open ended system. I leaped into it. It was made to order for my purposes.


Future Imperative

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