the pursuit of absolute predictability renders its practitioners foolish

A conference paper transcript from Terence Blake, in which he smashes together Deleuze and Dune, which results in a much more interesting (and far less reductive) reading of the latter than I’ve seen heretofore. A snippet:

Frank Herbert indicates that the « central paradox » of Dune turns on the human perception of time. Paul’s prescience first serves as a weapon in the Fremen liberation struggle, but it traps him in a chemical cycle of addiction and potentially lethal overdose, and it also confines him to a predetermined fate. Instead of leading to liberation, his reliance on prophetic vision generates the chains of predestination. Lastly, there is the religious cycle where Paul is deified as the founding messiah of a dogmatic and fanatical church composed of worshippers rather than comrades in battle.

For Frank Herbert, the pursuit of absolute predictability renders its practitioners foolish, credulous, and conservative. This was already the case with the Guild, and Paul finds himself caught in the same trap.

That latter paragraph in the clip above could provide a productive start for a critique of the RAND-originating deductive school of futuring, and of the concomitant style of governance that the influence of said school has embedded across much of the western world in the last seven or so decades.

Those interested more in the science fiction part of Blake’s paper than the philosophy part can probably skip out about halfway through, though it would be a shame to do so; Blake is a lively thinker, and perhaps the closest thing available to an interpreter of Deleuze who can make Deleuzean ideas accessible to readers without extensive philosophical training or experience. Viz:

For Deleuze, as for Herbert, the goal is not to rise above the ordinary man and rule the world. The end or accomplishment of the process is to ‘be like everyone else,’ to be a reborn ordinary man who ‘makes everyone become’ (A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, 342). The other name for this democratic becoming is ‘becoming-invisible’ or ‘becoming-imperceptible.’ We will see at the end that the aim of the entire Dune Cycle is to produce humans invisible to prescience, uncontrollable, and ultimately free—the opposite of a despot.

(If you’re thinking “that doesn’t seem very accessible, Paul”, then I have to presume you haven’t read many attempts to make Deleuze accessible. To indulge in a cod-Deleuzeanism of my own, it’s a matter of intensities, you know?)

I’ll close with the obligatory observation that, while Frank Herbert’s original Dune trilogy is well worth the candle, his son Brian’s continuations thereof are nowhere near so good as his intentions may have been. Furthermore, anything bearing Kevin J Anderson’s name in the author field of its bibliographic dataset—be it Dune-related or otherwise—should be avoided like the inexplicably successful but nonetheless execrable skiffy hackwork that it is.



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