The Mentats are an integral part of the command structure of the Great Houses of Dune. Men and women with exceptional cognitive and logical abilities, able to elaborate theories that surpass human understanding. With the upcoming release of the Dune movie, why not take the opportunity to talk about it? Frank Herbert's work has inspired other great franchises, one of them all Star Wars, and their modernity even after some time still makes them noteworthy today. The parts full of spoilers for those unfamiliar with the saga will be marked as such and absolutely avoidable.
Just like the Sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit, the Order of the Mentats was born in the final days of the Butlerian Jihad in response to a fundamental need of the universe: to find a tool that would replace the sentient machines. Although the new dictates, agreed by all, prohibited the use of artificial minds in imitation of the human one, the advantages of using very powerful computers were there for all to see. To meet this need, the figure of Gilbertus Albans arose, the first to show the necessary cognitive abilities, who founded the Mentat order. Since that time the use of Mentats has grown exponentially, leading to "human computers" being used at every level of society.
Mentat abilities are not the same for everyone, because different minds have incomparable limits, but all are able to perform the most basic advisory functions within the immense hierarchy of the Empire.
Unlike computers, Mentats don't just perform calculations, as their brains are trained to collect a huge amount of data that is filtered and reordered through superior cognitive and perceptive skills: the result is not a simple syllogism but a series of flexible paths, possibly influenced by further data collected in the meantime. This technique is defined as "naive mind", as it is free of preconceptions and prejudices.
Each Mentat undergoes a long and intense training that leads him to develop a great ability of perception and analysis of data, of deduction, of memory, of calculation and speed of operation. In this way he can formulate intricate hypotheses, impossible for common logic. The first part of the training begins in childhood and is held on an unconscious level. In adulthood the candidate is formally informed of the progress achieved and is given the opportunity to choose whether to continue or suspend the preparation. Before proceeding with the processing, Mentats usually sip a special substance, Sapho juice, which increases their abilities and stains their lips with a purple color. Sapho juice can only be extracted from the Ecaz tree and doubles, sometimes triples, the psycho-cognitive abilities of Mentat.
Use of Mentats
A good Mentat can significantly improve any sector in which it is recruited, which is why the Great Houses make extensive use of it. It is not uncommon to see Mentat in the army, as strategists, as political advisers, as economists, etc ...
Just like the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, Mentats can be found at every order on the social ladder, although their Order does not mandate obedience or a single line of thought. A Mentat is loyal to his employer.
Mentat Distorted in Dunes
The Bene Tleilaxu, an order of scientists and geneticists that operates far beyond the limits of morality and law, produces a series of Mentats defined as "Distorted" because they are conditioned beyond the Mentat moral code.