_Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

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_Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby gwern » 18 May 2018 16:19

While working on a little genetics exegesis of Dune, I realized I never uploaded my scan of Herbert's odd little nonfiction personal PC guide/manual Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980. It is hopelessly obsolete in terms of technology, of course, but I think Herbert drops in a lot of commentary about computers and thinking which sheds light on his fiction, like the Butlerian Jihad or Golden Path or aims of the Bene Gesserit etc.

You can download it from: https://mega.nz/#!eORwxBTT!kk4p12Qu9On5 ... H-mxgJKpw4 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ts6wdsa7c4ra7 ... .djvu?dl=0 http://libgen.io/book/index.php?md5=0bf ... ad6370bbff
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby gwern » 31 May 2018 15:41

Also worth noting: I scanned & uploaded William Touponce's 1988 study, Frank Herbert: http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md ... FFF1A90BFF https://www.gwern.net/docs/fiction/1988 ... rbert.djvu

It focuses primarily on Dune and draws on FH's paper archives in California (thankfully, Brian Herbert didn't get it all), eg the handwritten draft of Dune Messiah. Touponce does a good literary study of Dune/DM and also has informative summaries of the rest of FH's corpus and is worth reading.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby Freakzilla » 02 Jun 2018 19:21

Nice work Gwern, thank you.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Jun 2018 12:18

gwern wrote:While working on a little genetics exegesis of Dune


Thanks for the posts, gwern. One observation I'll make is that while it's interesting to track down potential reasons why FH used specific terminology (such as "first generation cross", as you point out) I would be cautious about assuming that by borrowing language from Mendelian theories that he was implying they were the 'physics' he was assuming for the novels. Likewise in other linguistic areas of Dune, he borrows from Islam in much of the Arrakis culture and from Yogic terminology for the BG, but we shouldn't assume (not saying you are) that the Fremen are Muslims and the BG are into Yoga. It is, after all, 20,000 years in the future. Especially in terms of the science he had to...well...use some kind of terms or another in his books, but I think the ideas behind the words aren't going to be found in the science of his time, or even modern science. As a thought experiment it's certainly fun to match up current theories with what he wrote, but I don't believe he intended Other Memory, for instance, to be some kind of extrapolation of cutting edge biology theories. Rather, I think all of the physics of Dune is interrelated and the individual parts (KH, OM, Holtzmann engines, Duncan in CH:D) won't make sense unless seen all together as part of a general system. As I've mentioned elsewhere my current theory is that the general system is based on an esoteric tradition whose ideas can be found here and there. For a blatant exegesis of this system (or large parts of it) I would check out Dan Simmons' Hyperion series, which I believe shares a physics with Dune and with Destination: Void.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby gwern » 05 Jun 2018 12:42

Well, as I said, FH clearly does borrow a lot of material from nonfiction sources, and we don't have to guess because he says so. Even if he doesn't believe exactly the presentation in his novels, he believes something a lot like it, even if it seems really wacky - I gave several examples of this where he's explicit about his sources, like his 'orgasm theory of war' or nonverbal communication. Wacky, fringe science, most of which has been debunked or rightly consigned to the dustbin of history, of the sort you would read in Omni or Campbell's magazines (let's not forget where Scientology's "Dianetics" was first presented as a legitimate psychology breakthrough...), but still, put forth seriously and not just as entertainment and extended forward for his purposes by FH. Nor would I be so quick to write off yoga as a source: quite aside from how yoga permeated the West Coast in Herbert's era as part of the whole New Age scene so we would not be surprised to see it come up, don't terms like 'prana bindu' strike you as awfully Sanskrit-sounding ('prana': "life force" or "vital principle" in Sanskrit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana )? And note that the main characters in FH's short stories "A-W-F Unlimited" and "Operation Syndrome" explicitly study and use "yoga".

I don't see any particular connection with Hyperion, though I've read the Cantos several times.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Jun 2018 13:25

gwern wrote:Well, as I said, FH clearly does borrow a lot of material from nonfiction sources, and we don't have to guess because he says so. Even if he doesn't believe exactly the presentation in his novels, he believes something a lot like it, even if it seems really wacky - I gave several examples of this where he's explicit about his sources, like his 'orgasm theory of war' or nonverbal communication.


Right, but some of this (such as orgasm = war = genetic melange) stuff isn't exactly an attempt to project modern science into the future. At least I don't think so. He had a theory, for instance, that the entire human race can be seen as (or even literally is) one large non-local organism where individuals are like nodes within it. Although this theory doesn't appear literally in Dune I think the war=orgasm metaphor needs to be seen within this context rather than within a strictly Jungian or Darwinian paradigm. And this type of belief isn't an attempt to popularize or project modern theories into the future. To whit I don't think this particular theory was on the radar in even fringe science at the time. It's more like part of a mystic tradition of thought (such as Yoga) than any Western notion.

Wacky, fringe science, most of which has been debunked or rightly consigned to the dustbin of history, of the sort you would read in Omni or Campbell's magazines (let's not forget where Scientology's "Dianetics" was first presented as a legitimate psychology breakthrough...), but still, put forth seriously and not just as entertainment and extended forward for his purposes by FH.


I know it can look this way. And I'm not straight-up arguing that everything he ever wrote in Dune is what will come to pass. However I think that our knowledge of science is currently so limited that we're not yet in a position to know. How can we, for instance, criticize his idea of ancestral memory when we don't even know what DNA is (literally, it's a mystery how it even works) or for what matter what consciousness is. We don't even yet know how to formulate the question of "what is consciousness?" such that we can begin to investigate an answer. And just recently as a matter of fact I've read about evidence that organisms seem to actually be able to pass on knowledge other than what is strictly encoded in their DNA. In other words, things that happen during their lifetime appear to be able to be transmitted to offspring. How or to what degree, we don't know.

Likewise about other matters in the book, such as the Holtzmann technology, it's pretty hard to say this is nonsense when we don't even know what it's supposed to be in the first place. We have a hard time even asking whether the KH abilities are identical in nature to what the Holtzmann engine does. CH:D seems to suggest yes, but we don't know. FH didn't lay all his cards on the table.

Lest I sound like a nay-sayer, I like the idea of testing claims made in fiction books to see how much reality they may have. In the case of FH's books, though, I think this kind of testing is especially hard because first one needs to be able to state what it is he's saying. Around here we seem to find that hard enough of a task in itself, no less to then say whether it's accurate or not IRL.

Nor would I be so quick to write off yoga as a source: quite aside from how yoga permeated the West Coast in Herbert's era as part of the whole New Age scene so we would not be surprised to see it come up, don't terms like 'prana bindu' strike you as awfully Sanskrit-sounding ('prana': "life force" or "vital principle" in Sanskrit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana )? And note that the main characters in FH's short stories "A-W-F Unlimited" and "Operation Syndrome" explicitly study and use "yoga".


Oh, for sure. There's something in there he's drawing on for sure. But what? That's my question. I'm certain that he didn't just transplant Yoga and have the BG be Yoga practitioners. So the danger is taking our current understanding of Yoga and assuming that *that* is the thing being alluded to in Dune. He's drawing from it, no doubt, but the danger is in inserting our own assumptions of what Yoga (for instance) is into the books rather than pinpointing exactly what he's saying - or not saying.

I don't see any particular connection with Hyperion, though I've read the Cantos several times.


No, the connection isn't immediately apparent. I only made the connection when reading both Destination: Void and some other esoteric material about an ancient tradition and realizing they were both alluding to the exact same thing (using spookily similar language). Shortly after that I realized the esoteric tradition in question (which is hard to name as it doesn't really have one) is stated almost point-blank verbatim in the cantos, and that bits and pieces of this can be found in D:V. Only then did I connect the dots and think about what it would mean if this same system was in Frank's mind when writing Dune. Note that I believe he didn't make it up or invent it, but would surely have heard of it from someone else. When I did that every seemingly weird and unsolvable problem in Dune was immediately resolved and made sense, if seen as existing in that system. And so my current theory is that the physics in the Cantos (which, likewise, Simmons did not invent but heard from other sources) is the same as that in D:V and Dune, with both Herbert and Simmons drawing from another common source for the general system. But seen in a vacuum - no, Dune and the Cantos don't look like they have much in common. The connective tissue is to be found in other material. I think FH in particular took a very particular approach to 'telling truth' where he believed in alluding to it rather than stating it verbatim. He seemed to prefer to present a mystery to make the reader think rather than just telling you what he thought, using the book as a thinly veiled mouthpiece (as Simmons seems to have done).
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby gwern » 08 Jun 2018 21:17

Right, but some of this (such as orgasm = war = genetic melange) stuff isn't exactly an attempt to project modern science into the future. At least I don't think so.


I think it's an extrapolation of a serious scientific suggestion. It could well be related to group selection, which was very in vogue back then because Hamilton and the other Neo-Darwinists hadn't yet demolished most of the claimed 'examples' of group selection and demonstrated the narrow range of conditions required for it to operate. But it's hard to tell because Walter's book is very obscure: the only copy I can find online is $200, the original book reviews I've read are very cursory, and judging from the void online, no one's read it in the past 40 years. So when Leto II talks in GEoD about war being orgasm and the necessity for the Fish Speaker army to be an all-female army, it's hard to know to what extent this might just be a weird version of or copying Walter's ideas or Herbert engaging and extending Walter's ideas as an enthusiast of it (maybe Walter suggested that male armies inherently tend towards aggression for pent-up sexual and reproductive needs, in which case an all-female army might correct that bias, and be feasible in a modern automated war; or maybe that's Herbert's own reply to the problem Walter identifies, and is in fact supposed to be a key mechanism in why Leto II's reign is so stable and peaceful).

And just recently as a matter of fact I've read about evidence that organisms seem to actually be able to pass on knowledge other than what is strictly encoded in their DNA. In other words, things that happen during their lifetime appear to be able to be transmitted to offspring. How or to what degree, we don't know.


I wouldn't overstate our ignorance here... There's a lot of popular faddishness around epigenetics, especially wild theorizing about transgenerational non-genetic/non-environmental inheritance mediated via epigenetics (http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2018/05/g ... al-of.html). The real role of epigenetics is usually much more humdrum: they're simply part of the usual machinery for translating genes into useful effects inside the organism - effects, not causes. Transgenerational epigenetics doesn't even make much sense from a theoretical point of view as I think Hamilton, actually, has pointed out: it needs to encode information which is adaptive (or else there's no point and the epigenetic marks will be erased at fertilization like all other epigenetic marks usually are), but not on a many generational timescale (or DNA is much superior) but also not within a generation (where neural and other learning mechanisms are much faster and more reliable and adaptive) and the environmental fluctuations need to repeat regularly but not too regularly or else more special-purpose mechanisms will evolve. Not to mention the difficulty of postulating the machinery to take specific environmental effects, transcribe them into sperm/egg DNA, survive fertilization and growth etc, and have some desirable effect. (It's not quite as bad as the theory in the pseudoscience Left in the Dark explaining how eating fruit caused humans to evolve: eating fruits causes steroids, which then change DNA - don't ask for details of how that works! it just happens! - which then leads to more fruits and intelligence... But still pretty bad.)

Likewise about other matters in the book, such as the Holtzmann technology


I have definitely run into nothing that looks like an inspiration for those, and I think they were simply your usual handwavy SF advanced-tech, with no interesting background or implications. (They also are less interesting and discussed much less, perhaps for that very reason.)

I'm certain that he didn't just transplant Yoga and have the BG be Yoga practitioners.


I think they are, in the same way that the Zensufi mystics are practicing Zen meditation or the Orange Catholic Bible is Christianity & Islam etc. That is, they are practicing an advanced form of yoga developed over thousands of years and eclectically merged with other disciplines by the BG.

I think FH in particular took a very particular approach to 'telling truth' where he believed in alluding to it rather than stating it verbatim. He seemed to prefer to present a mystery to make the reader think rather than just telling you what he thought, using the book as a thinly veiled mouthpiece (as Simmons seems to have done).


Oh, of course Herbert isn't going to just state it bluntly. The surest way to be boring is to reveal everything to the reader. How much less interesting is Lord of the Rings after you've read the Silmarillion and understand all the allusions and references? Herbert definitely is doing the obscurity deliberately - Leto is deliberately infuriating to make the reader think and feel confused. Actually, you can see this process in the Dune drafts: Touponce includes a photo of the Dune Messiah draft of one of Paul's monologues, and notes that the draft version is very blunt, crude, straightforward, and boring, while the final published version is full of back and forth and question marks and subversion, and is much more interesting to read (and harder to understand).
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby georgiedenbro » 11 Jun 2018 10:26

gwern wrote:
And just recently as a matter of fact I've read about evidence that organisms seem to actually be able to pass on knowledge other than what is strictly encoded in their DNA. In other words, things that happen during their lifetime appear to be able to be transmitted to offspring. How or to what degree, we don't know.


I wouldn't overstate our ignorance here... There's a lot of popular faddishness around epigenetics, especially wild theorizing about transgenerational non-genetic/non-environmental inheritance mediated via epigenetics (http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2018/05/g ... al-of.html). The real role of epigenetics is usually much more humdrum: they're simply part of the usual machinery for translating genes into useful effects inside the organism - effects, not causes.


To be fair, I think one major issue in evaluating Other Memory for instance as a real scientific idea is that FH doesn't ever come out and say how this memory is transmitted. Sure, it has something to do with DNA and the ancestral memories triggered from sharing DNA, but that's sort of all we know. The natural assumption would be that memories are literally transmitted through sperm and that therefore he's suggesting that sexual reproduction has this whole other dimension to it that we haven't understood yet. It took me a long while to realize that it doesn't actually say this anywhere in the books that I can detect and that this was perhaps an unwarranted assumption.

I'm actually pretty sure now that he intended the mechanism of 'transmission' to be totally different from that and that it has nothing to do with sperm or transmitting data. The key to understanding OM is to see FH's constant comparisons over the books between the BG and the BT, and how by the last book the BT had essentially achieved the equivalent of OM in Duncan, where multiple past lives could be activated all at once. And the especially important thing to note is that Duncan recovered memories of all Duncan gholas, even those whose DNA weren't included in his mixture. This is one of those big "huh???" things in the series that make it sound like nonsense, except I think the reverse is true: it's a Rosetta stone to understand what was meant by the more obvious-sounding parts (but weren't actually obvious at all). It's not about physical transmission at all, but rather about resonance on a non-local scale. Duncan had the memories of the other Duncans because his DNA was similar enough to pick up the resonance of the others 'through time'. And likewise I believe the actual mechanism of the OM is that the DNA of a person contains elements of DNA from people in the past and the presence of those elements resonates with them and you 'pick up on' the lifetimes of those before, using much the same mechanism that the KH does when searching through time - except the KH does it in a far more conscious and far-reaching manner.

Likewise about other matters in the book, such as the Holtzmann technology


I have definitely run into nothing that looks like an inspiration for those, and I think they were simply your usual handwavy SF advanced-tech, with no interesting background or implications. (They also are less interesting and discussed much less, perhaps for that very reason.)


It's reasonable to avoid discussing it in detail since we don't know the facts about it. But I'm pretty sure - especially given a few things Duncan says in CH:D - that the Holtzmann tech was seen by FH as being directly linked to how the KH works and to how Duncan's abilities (and even the net) can be explained. It would all have to do with some property of the universe that allows for these things and which involves direct non-local linkages through what we think of as 3D space. Whether he had details of it worked out or not I don't know, but I don't think he intended it to be a random handwavy bit of technobabble.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby gwern » 11 Jun 2018 10:37

Yes, it's definitely not encoding into DNA or anything like that. The Duncan ghola aside, that would imply all sorts of limits we don't see: only direct ancestors, never anyone from a line which went extinct, memories only up to the instant of conception at the latest, no deaths whatsoever (except in the vanishingly rare cases of gholas where you could argue that some cells might have had time to encode memories of death somehow), etc. I'm pretty sure all of those are implied to be violated by various uses of Ancestral Memory. Hence, I'm sure that it's some sort of "four dimensional" prescient KH-like collective-unconscious/Akashic-Records timeywimey stuff.
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby georgiedenbro » 11 Jun 2018 10:59

gwern wrote:Yes, it's definitely not encoding into DNA or anything like that. The Duncan ghola aside, that would imply all sorts of limits we don't see: only direct ancestors, never anyone from a line which went extinct, memories only up to the instant of conception at the latest, no deaths whatsoever (except in the vanishingly rare cases of gholas where you could argue that some cells might have had time to encode memories of death somehow), etc. I'm pretty sure all of those are implied to be violated by various uses of Ancestral Memory. Hence, I'm sure that it's some sort of "four dimensional" prescient KH-like collective-unconscious/Akashic-Records timeywimey stuff.


Yes, exactly my thinking. And additionally I'm pretty sure he intended this to be a serious scientific suggestion rather than a fantasy-novel conceit. I guess in 10,000 years we'll find out!
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby Freakzilla » 15 Jun 2018 21:19

20,000
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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby distrans » 16 Jun 2018 21:24

this is long and dry but about an hour into it the buddist gets animated as he starts talking about this layer at the base of the mind that the brain is accessing. he says it the essense of consciousness and it isn't human AND that it is the repository of all memorys...


Alan Wallace, a world-renowned author and Buddhist scholar trained by the Dalai Lama, and Sean Carroll, a world-renowned theoretical physicist and best-selling author, discuss the nature of reality from spiritual and scientific viewpoints. Their dialogue is mediated by theoretical physicist and author Marcelo Gleiser, director of Dartmouth’s Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLbSlC0Pucw

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Re: _Without Me You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers_, Frank Herbert & Max Barnard 1980

Postby georgiedenbro » 18 Jun 2018 09:40

Freakzilla wrote:20,000


Dune takes places 20,000 years into the future, but I meant for 10,000 to represent how long it presumably takes for the BG to develop their ability to becomes RM's.
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