Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chrichton on Complexity

I want to take more time to develop this. But today I am leaving a link in case I am wireless at the beach tonight and Sunday. Michael Crichton, the novelist who is an MD, gave a talk on how complex our world is last year. He illustrated it with pictures and graphs, so it is digestible. It is long because the subject is - complex. How can the people who can't predict the weather tomorrow know what it will be 50 years from now? And they are sure it is your fault and you have to give up your car to ride the bus, while they drive whatever they want - or fly in private jets. Chrichton
Some of you know I have written a book that many people find controversial. It is called State of Fear, and I want to tell you how I came to write it. Because up until five years ago, I had very conventional ideas about the environment and the success of the environmental movement. The book really began in 1998, when I set out to write a novel about a global disaster. In the course of my preparation, I rather casually reviewed what had happened in Chernobyl, since that was the worst manmade disaster in recent times that I knew about. What I discovered stunned me. Chernobyl was a tragic event, but nothing remotely close to the global catastrophe I imagined. About 50 people had died in Chernobyl, roughly the number of Americans that die every day in traffic accidents. I don’t mean to be gruesome, but it was a setback for me. You can’t write a novel about a global disaster in which only 50 people die. Undaunted, I began to research other kinds of disasters that might fulfill my novelistic requirements. That’s when I began to realize how big our planet really is, and how resilient its systems seem to be. Even though I wanted to create a fictional catastrophe of global proportions, I found it hard to come up with a credible example. In the end, I set the book aside, and wrote Prey instead. But the shock that I had experienced reverberated within me for a while. Because what I had been led to believe about Chernobyl was not merely wrong—it was astonishingly wrong.

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