There are plenty of references in the Dune books about meeting the requirements imposed by the Butlerian Prescriptions, but very little about how they are enforced.


  • A Richesian inventor makes a device, it goes through some kind of review, it may be deemed legal on Richese but not elsewhere.
  • A world outside the Imperium becomes technologically advanced. Who goes out and surveys the world's technology and demands the Landsraad and Emperor take action if they are no longer adhering to the prescriptions?

The Prescriptions:

  • Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a Human Mind.
  • Thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit the Human Body.
  • Thou shalt not make a machine capable of propagation or regeneration.
  • In the Schools of Dune, Manford Torondo bullied Emporor Salvatore Corrinno into creating a Committe On Orthodoxy to enforce Butlerian prescriptions. It is likely that after the death of Toronodo that this committee persisted in some form and either it or a successor is part of the fabric of the Great Convention. Unfortunately, we never got a larger glimpse.
    – brainbuz
    May 7, 2018 at 9:02
  • It's in the OC Bible. It's taboo. The outrage of the masses will correct any wrongdoings.
    – user15742
    Mar 23, 2019 at 3:45

1 Answer 1



Herbert needs the Butlerian Prescriptions as a plot device, to make the story focus on humans and humanity as a whole, instead of technology.


It is simply considered unethical to build machines that resemble humans in appearance or thinking, because it is considered to be derogatory to humans and because thinking machines will be the doom of humankind. It has therefore become a cultural taboo to construct them.

The political system is balanced in a way so that no single political entity, neither the Landsraad, nor the Emperor or a single great House, can grow more powerful than the rest combined. Circumventing the dependence on the spice (which we know, controls all of the universe), by building thinking machines for computing and space travel, would allow such a growth in power.

A world outside the Imperium becomes technologically advanced.

I'm pretty sure that the Padishah Empire encompasses the entire known universe (all space settled by man). The closest thing to outside worlds are probably the technologically advanced fringe worlds Ix and Tleilax, where they in fact work close to the limits set by the Butlerian Prescriptions.

But let's consider what would probably happen if some political faction in the empire tried to reintroduce thinking machines. All other factions would immediately turn against them. They won't let anyone get away with something which is basically a crime against humanity and a serious threat to their very existence.

  • There are references to worlds beyond the Imperium, Ix and Richiese are hardly outfreyn worlds, being early members of the empire and located close to Kaitain. There are references to devices that those worlds invented being disallowed. However, there is no detail on the process that determined that a new device was permissible or not. The computer you wrote your answer on would require a special permit on most worlds and Stack Exchange's data center would be shut down because it might be capable of running an Omnius Emulator. Somehow those decisions are made and applied.
    – brainbuz
    Aug 11, 2018 at 6:09
  • According to the wiki "Even the simplest computers and calculators were banned, with the penalty for building or owning such a thinking machine technology being put to trial and sentenced to immediate death". So any machine which even remotely resembles a computer or is remotely able to "think" is considered a thinking machine and is therefore banned.
    – flaszlok
    Aug 14, 2018 at 12:21

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