Dune and the Future of Computers

Is the future computer-less, as Dune suggests?

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“The world will become more digital than physical. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.”

-Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google

Right after I picked today’s topic, I serendipitously discovered that today marks the publication of The Age of AI: And Our Human Future by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher. The logical intelligence of artificial intelligence (AI) seems most impressive: it can beat our best in chess, airplane dogfights, and many other competitions. Yet, Schmidt is concerned about the flaws and harms we are discovering.

For those unfamiliar with the 1965 novel Dune, it may not be clear in watching the new movie version that there are not any computers or similar machines in the distant future. They were destroyed thousands of years prior after a bitter war that humans won against AI machines. People carry books around! There is 1 elite sect called Mentats, who have their minds become human computers by taking higher doses of the psychedelic spice.

We now know that there are many kinds of intelligence besides our logical intelligence that we use in designing computers. The Bene Gesserit of Dune made gains in some aspects of emotional intelligence, such as mastering their fears. Yet, there is little evidence in Dune for advances in spiritual intelligence, that ability to value and pursue more universal and transcendent goals such as conveyed in the Diwali holiday, which also begins today and celebrates our inner light that can protect us from spiritual darkness.

In psychiatry, we have begun to recognize the importance of spirituality. Many of us recommend the expansion of our model, not to bio-psycho-social-technical, but to bio-psycho-social-spiritual.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.