Mentat

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A Mentat is a profession or discipline in Frank Herbert's fictional Dune universe. Mentats are humans trained to mimic computers: human minds developed to staggering heights of cognitive and analytical ability.

Contents

Overview

In Frank Herbert's fiction, following the defeat of the thinking machines by humanity in the Butlerian Jihad, it was forbidden to create sentient machines. The Mentat discipline was developed as a replacement for computerized calculation, just as the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild took on functions previously performed by thinking machines. For thousands of years, society considered Mentats the embodiment of logic and reason.

Unlike computers, however, Mentats are not simply calculators. Instead, the exceptional cognitive abilities of memory and perception are the foundations for supra-logical hypothesizing. Mentats are able to sift large volumes of data and devise concise analyses in a process that goes far beyond logical deduction: as in Zen Buddhism, Mentats cultivate "the naïve mind", the mind without preconception or prejudice, so as to extract essential patterns or logic from data and deliver useful conclusions with varying degrees of certainty. They are not limited to formulating syllogisms; they are the supreme counselors of the Dune universe, filling roles as menial as archivist and clerk, or as grand as advisor to the Emperor.

A Mentat's capabilities can be greatly increased by taking sapho juice, but using it leads to addiction. Sapho is extracted from the root of the Ecaz tree and its use doubles or even triples the Mentat's already immense processing power. Repeated use leaves a permanent stain("blood-stained")on the user's lips.

Being a Mentat can be a profession in itself, or the discipline can be added to other roles. Few people have the ability to be a Mentat; thus, those with the discipline are prized in whatever role they choose. There are also varying degrees of ability. In Dune, Thufir Hawat is considered to be one of the best Mentats of his time. Paul Atreides is a Mentat duke (and later emperor) in Dune, and in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, Miles Teg is a Mentat bashar (or general) and the most formidable military commander in the known universe. In Dune Messiah, Duncan Idaho is recreated as a ghola and trained as both a Mentat and a Zensunni philosopher; he then serves Paul as the House Weapons Master. In Children of Dune, he marries the Regent, Paul's sister Alia, but is then instrumental in protecting the royal heirs from her, demonstrating that Mentats are rarely simply disinterested observers and counselors.

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