Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

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Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby Serkanner » 20 Sep 2008 15:18

A long time ago I read that Frank Herbert probably read the works of the 19th century writer and philosopher Samuel Butler. It was hinted that Frank Herbert actually named the Butlerian jihad after Samuel Butler.

I myself have never read Butler but when I was scrolling through some information about artificial intelligence, I found some info about Butler and his ideas about machines. I have only briefly looked into the book Erewhon but I have already not much doubts. Frank did indeed name the Jihad after Samuel Butler.

Samuel Butler in 1872:

There is no security”—to quote his own words—“against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now.  A mollusc has not much consciousness.  Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing.  The more highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time.  Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand!  May not the world last twenty million years longer?  If so, what will they not in the end become?  Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid them further progress?"

Now I will have to read the rest of the book as well.
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Postby A Thing of Eternity » 20 Sep 2008 15:37

Undoubtabley that's what FH named it after. I'm going to have to track down a copy of Erewhon someday.
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Postby Serkanner » 20 Sep 2008 16:59

A Thing of Eternity wrote:Undoubtabley that's what FH named it after. I'm going to have to track down a copy of Erewhon someday.


The simplest way is to go to project Gutenberg and get it from there, although, something tells me you mean a "physical" version.
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and wrote a Dune Novel."

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Postby Crysknife » 20 Sep 2008 18:42

No need to:

http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Butler/Erewhon/

Some of the parts about machines can be open to interpretation, but the overall theme is that humans will willingly GIVE the machines so much power that we will look up one day and realize we are their servants and that we are happy about it. We will have lost our humanity...WILLINGLY. Not that some hell-bent machine mind would take over on it's own.
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Postby Tleszer » 20 Sep 2008 18:56

Thanks Crys, it looks interesting. I'll have to take a look sometime.
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Postby Rakis » 20 Sep 2008 23:15

Crysknife wrote:No need to:

http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Butler/Erewhon/

Some of the parts about machines can be open to interpretation, but the overall theme is that humans will willingly GIVE the machines so much power that we will look up one day and realize we are their servants and that we are happy about it. We will have lost our humanity...WILLINGLY. Not that some hell-bent machine mind would take over on it's own.


That sounds about right from the way FH wrote it, just before the Jihad.
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Postby Ampoliros » 20 Sep 2008 23:57

My assessment as well. I think he was worried more over the loss of our humanity and our self-reliance than he was about machine terrors and gay robots killing babies.
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Postby Drunken Idaho » 21 Sep 2008 01:56

What's especially amazing is that this was 1871! Wow. Think of what his reaction would be to an personal computers, unmanned aircraft, or the iPod Touch!

You've got to wonder what "little consciousness" he's even talking about... The earliest computers (in the sense of a programmable machine) were looms that could automatically create any pattern, with the use of large perforated cards that you insert into the machine.

If this guy can see the Butlerian Jihad in things like automatic looms, then he must be pretty damned smart.

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Postby Laphtiya » 21 Sep 2008 08:34

Drunken Idaho wrote:What's especially amazing is that this was 1871! Wow. Think of what his reaction would be to an personal computers, unmanned aircraft, or the iPod Touch!

You've got to wonder what "little consciousness" he's even talking about... The earliest computers (in the sense of a programmable machine) were looms that could automatically create any pattern, with the use of large perforated cards that you insert into the machine.

If this guy can see the Butlerian Jihad in things like automatic looms, then he must be pretty damned smart.


Well the difference engine was around in the 1800's. Although it was never finished it is possible he had hurd about it. Maybe that was what he was talking about when he says "Little Consciousness"

I personally think that the human race will experiance there own Butlarian Jihad. I mean look in 50 years or so computers have advanced to much. In 10 thousand years, what will happen then?

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Postby A Thing of Eternity » 21 Sep 2008 17:33

Serkanner wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:Undoubtabley that's what FH named it after. I'm going to have to track down a copy of Erewhon someday.


The simplest way is to go to project Gutenberg and get it from there, although, something tells me you mean a "physical" version.


Yeah, I'm a bit of an old book lover and collector. Plus, I really hate reading things off a comp screen, if I have to download something I'll print it and read that - except for Sadworms. That's the only thing I've ever read off the screen, not worth the paper.
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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby Onasander » 06 May 2010 11:45

I would highly recommend the Erewhon series (more than one he wrote) to anyone who finished Frank's Dune series, he's a very important writer on the nature of evolution- offers in part a alternative to Darwinian Evolution- was a influence on the philosopher Deleuze. Many books and TV shows have been heavily influenced by him, including the most recent I saw, Total Recall 2070- where a machine consciousness self-organized and achieved consciousness, and controlled it's own evolution- independent and in our human view, threatening us.

This all being said- I am not to worried about computers, save for the ones programmed by some haters. Humans make a crappy long term food source- don't want to prey on a animal capable of organizing and wiping you out- and humans have a track record for doing that.... and if your not using humans, or a biological food source- and are self sustaining- then why would they even care?

We love the idea of meeting odd, advanced races in space- but home grown machines scare us. We can only see the risks in them, the advantages over us they will have. We live on a planet where everything save the sloth can outmaneuver us, is stronger, or is more violent.... the Masai do pretty well against the lion just holding a stick, we should hold our own rather well against a android that we (someone) programmed so long as the task was anything other than 'kill all humans'.... and even then I won't worry too much- the tactical synthesis and the unorthodox has always provided a means to counter.... that's our specialty.... there are a lot of us, we're a pretty intuitive and violent lot, and we do breed sorta quick- look at us, it seems every few years, we add a billion people- fuck factory reproduction- we add a billion every few years! Our child soldiers are excellent shots, and easy to manipulate and expend in suicide missions- can we yet say the same for a machine? We don't know the restrictions on a artificial-symbolic conscious that isn't made of flesh, blood and neurons yet..... we might very well in the long term turn out to be the naturally better and more adaptive predator.

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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby SandRider » 06 May 2010 22:44

I just can't believe Merritt banned you - that would've been the Post of The Month
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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 07 May 2010 20:44

Oh, he got banned, :lol: that explains this onslaught. Geez, I go away for a week and get lost!
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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby SandChigger » 07 May 2010 21:40

Freakbanned, if at all. Which is of course impossible for anyone else to verify without a statement from Byron. And since he's the no-balls wonder that does it in the first place... :roll:

Onasander wrote:[Butler]'s a very important writer on the nature of evolution- offers in part a alternative to Darwinian Evolution

Um ... NOT.

And I think it's only Creationist IDiots who call it "Darwinian" Evolution these days. :roll:
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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby Redstar » 07 May 2010 22:16

I thought "Darwinian evolution" was used to differentiate it from "Lamarckian evolution" and other branches of evolutionary theory, though it is rather stupid using it anyhow.

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Re: Samuel Butler - Erewhon; prelude to the jihad

Postby SandChigger » 07 May 2010 22:36

True enough, of course. But I was reacting more to its use in conjunction with the present tense in the first part. But even in a discussion of the history of Evolutionary Theory, Butler is at most an interesting footnote or aside, no? ;)


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