The Butlerian Jihad was a pivotal historic event in human history. The event was a protracted and ferocious war, waged by free humans against the thinking machines. It resulted in a near-universal taboo on creating the machines in the image of a man's mind.
Lead-up to The Butlerian Jihad ==References and notes
The cause of the Jihad can be traced back to the decision by Omnius to push the centuries-old stand-off against the League of Nobles to a heightened level. Omnius concluded that the stand-off was inefficient, and that his resources and power made him capable of defeating the rogue humans and utilizing his endeavors in more useful ways. Thus he launched a series of assaults on important League worlds; notably Salusa Secundus and Giedi Prime.
During the conflict on Giedi Prime, Serena Butler, the pregnant daughter of the League of Nobles leader Manion Butler, was captured by Omnius and enslaved on Earth in the service of Erasmus. When her child was killed by the robot the simmering resentment of the human slaves boiled over and in the conflict she escaped, along with Vorian Atreides and Iblis Ginjo.
Upon returning to Salusa Secundus, the capital world of the League of Nobles, her plight enraged the League and triggered a major retaliatory offensive against the Synchronized Worlds of the thinking machines. This eventually led to the destruction of the thinking machines at the Battle of Corrin, freeing mankind from the threat that they had originally created. Following this, the leader of the Jihad then renamed his royal house, House Corrino, and crowned himself the first Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe. The Emperors of the Empire of a Million Worlds were all of House Corrino for the next 10,000 years, until the ascension of Paul Atreides to the Golden Lion Throne.
By 108 B.G., the Jihad itself had finished with the complete destruction of all intelligent machines originally built throughout the human worlds, but it proved to have many profound impacts on the socio-political and technological development of humanity throughout the new empires that emerged.
The most dramatic result that lasted very longer was the ensuing commandment from the Orange Catholic Bible held sway to humans against the creation of machines which bore the human mind's exact image: Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind, after the destruction of the man-made intelligent machines throughout the human worlds. Even the simplest computers and calculators were banned, with the penalty for building or owning such a thinking machine technology being immediately put to trial and sentenced to death.
This lack of thinking technology had led a large technological reversal for humanity that no one could have foreseen, or believed was possible, and facilitated a need for humans to perform complex logical computations and calculations, which led to the creation of the mentat order, of which would be later outlawed by Leto Atreides in an attempt to realize the Golden Path strategy, the Bene Gesserit, and the Spacing Guild. As centuries passed after humanity was impossible to do without new technology they had created, two fringe worlds, Ix and Tleilax, brought technological heights of the Ixians and the Bene Tleilax. Mechanical technology beyond the boundaries of using thinking machine technology were constructed by the Ixians; while biological technology, were provided by the Tleilax to replace the mechanical thinking technology used prior to the Jihad.
Aside from the long-lasting effects of the Jihad, the belief in the spiritual divinity of humankind was renewed from the technophobic situations to a new, but holy one. In addition, the feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen had originated from the ashes of the Jihad when Abulurd Harkonnen was a traitor of disobeying Vorian's order to destroy humans enslaved by the thinking machines.
The last major impact of the Jihad was the rise of a new feudal galactic order that lasted for several thousand more years, mostly under the rule of House Corrino before the ascension of House Atreides. This order, known as the Imperium, was comprised of several new and powerful groups, including the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, CHOAM, the Landsraad, and the Great Houses, most notably House Corrino, House Atreides and House Harkonnen, to name but a few.
Behind the Scenes
In his six original Dune novels Frank Herbert mentions few details of the Butlerian Jihad. At the fall of the Corrino Empire the Jihad is seen as being the event during which humans finally destroy their oppressors, but at a great cost in lives and resources. The lesson taken by the human decedents of this war is that mankind's laziness and ingenuity can be its downfall.
It is worth noting that in their earliest prequel books, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson denote this ban starting before the Jihad began, as a result of the rise of the Thinking Machines. The Jihad also provides a reason why we never see computers, calculators, and all forms of "thinking machine" in the original Dune novels by Frank Herbert, the movie or the miniseries.
In literature, the Butlerian Jihad is a useful plot device for Frank Herbert. By creating a universe which has rejected conscious machines and has reversed into a quasi-feudal organization, Herbert can focus on social and philosophical-related issues, rather than the technological-related issues. Consequently Herbert uses the Dune saga to comment about the human condition and makes direct and accurate parallels to current socio-political realities.
Although Herbert's back-story named it after its instigator, Jehanne Butler - renamed Serena Butler for the prequels — the name could very easily be a literary allusion to Samuel Butler, whose 1872 novel Erewhon depicted a people who had destroyed machines for fear they would be out-evolved by them.
From Erewhon, Chapter 9,
- "... about four hundred years previously, the state of mechanical knowledge was far beyond our own, and was advancing with prodigious rapidity, until one of the most learned professors of hypothetics wrote an extraordinary book (from which I propose to give extracts later on), proving that the machines were ultimately destined to supplant the race of man, and to become instinct with a vitality as different from, and superior to, that of animals, as animal to vegetable life. So convincing was his reasoning, or unreasoning, to this effect, that he carried the country with him and they made a clean sweep of all machinery that had not been in use for more than two hundred and seventy-one years (which period was arrived at after a series of compromises), and strictly forbade all further improvements and inventions"
Another, more subtle justification for the Butlerian Jihad is also found in Frank Herbert's original novels, specifically Heidegger's thesis that the use of technology trains humans to think like machines. The problem is that machines are deterministic; thus, training people to be machines is self-limiting. Herbert seemed to think that to be human is to be essentially 'open-ended', capable of undiscovered, indeterminate evolution.