Mentat

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This article is about the profession from the Dune universe. For the C++ macro-dataflow extension see Mentat (computing).

A Mentat is a fictional profession or discipline in Frank Herbert's Dune universe.

Following the Butlerian Jihad in the Dune universe's back story, it was forbidden to create man-like machines

"Thou Shalt not make a machine in the likeness of the human mind"
- Rayna Butler, as told to her by the spirit of saint Serena.

Thinking machines were outlawed throughout the universe, and the mentat discipline was developed as a replacement. Mentats are humans trained to be able to mimic computers: human minds developed to staggering heights of cognitive and analytic ability.

Ironically, the first mentat was selected by a thinking machine. Gilbertus Albans, selected from the Corrin slave pens about 120 B.G. by the independent robot Erasmus, displayed the first cognitive thinking and computer-like calculation capacity necessary for a mentat. Unlike computers, however, mentats are not simply human calculators writ large. 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: Mentats cultivate "the na´ve mind", the mind without preconception or prejudice, that can extract the essential patterns or logic of data and deliver, with varying degrees of certainty, useful conclusions. They are not limited to formulating syllogisms; they are the supreme counselors of the Dune universe, filling roles as menial as archivists and clerks, or as grand as advisor to the Emperor.

The ability to be a mentat is a talent limited to a small number of people; 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 known at the time.

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 immense processing power. However, repeated use turns the user's lips a shade of red.

Being a mentat can be a profession in itself, or the discipline can be added to other roles. In Dune, Paul Atreides is a mentat duke (later emperor); in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune, Miles Teg is a mentat bashar, or general, who is the most formidable military commander in the known universe. It's also possible to vary the discipline: In Dune, the Tleilaxu create 'twisted mentats' for the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Piter de Vries being the most notable example), the purpose of which is a sociopathic mentat free from the usual constraints of human morality or instinctual considerations (de Vries is, among other things, a sadist and acts as torturer for the Baron). In Dune Messiah, Duncan Idaho is recreated as a ghola, and trained as both a mentat and as a Zensunni philosopher; he then serves Paul Atreides as the house weapons master. In Children of Dune, he marries the regent, Alia, but is then instrumental in protecting the royal heirs from her, demonstrating that mentats are rarely simply disinterested observers and counselors.

In God Emperor of Dune, Leto outlaws the order and crushes any renegade training schools he finds. Unlike his father's execution of historians for the purpose of controlling his legacy and symbolism, Leto never explicitly mentions why he suppresses mentats, leaving the reader to conclude that it simply plays a role in his larger purpose of oppressing humanity. The art is not eliminated, however, surviving through underground schools; notably, the Bene Gesserit preserve the art, assuming that Leto knows of this (through his prescience) and approves.

The Mentat Mantra

The David Lynch Dune movie includes a scene in which Piter De Vries recites the following upon drinking Sapho juice:

"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."

This mantra is a creation of Lynch and does not appear in the books, though in the first book there is mention of the cranberry stained lips due to sapho juice. Unofficially called the Mentat Mantra by fans, it is often parodied to refer to real life substance addictions, most notably, caffeine.fr:Mentat

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