Monday, December 11, 2006

Crichton on Information Standards

Michael Crichton speaks again at the National Press Club in D.C. Watch here. Last time he spoke there on Global Warming and the Politics of Fear (concurrent with his then just out novel State of Fear), which caused quite a stir.

This time he covers a multitude of topics, but focuses especially on the lunacy of our patenting on gene legislation (relative to his new novel Next and maybe his last one Prey) and the economy of information. i.e. how to create standards in an information economy.

He's also famous for some really bad predictoins: Japan is taking over US in the 80s (Rising Sun) as well as his prediction that the mass media would be gone in 10 years. I don't agree with everything that guy stands for but he does make me think. So take what he says, think about, with a grain of salt.

In fact Crichton, maybe has learned from his mistakes (maybe not) insofar as he discusses how prediction does not work [a post to come maybe squaring that circle with someone like Kurzweil and the Singularity].

His piece on Global Warming--which he mentions in the final minute--is that 1.the earth is warming, 2.humans are increasing C02 and 3. Co2 increase is correlated with increased warmth.

He actually believes all of those premises. He doesn't believe that 1,2,3 shows (by itself) that human CO2 increase is the PRIMARY reason for global .warming. That may be wrong but that is a legitimate argument, not what it is depicted in the media as: he is a flat-earther.

He references a writer from the Times Picayune (New Orleans newspaper) who referred to seeing dead bodies stacked in the New Orleans Superdome. In fact that didnt' happen--although plenty of horrific stuff did, just no stacked bodies. Then the journalist said that he had heard the rumor but wrote the story as if he was there. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fabricating a story.

What Crichton does really well is attack mythic scientific thought. Watch as he trounces the whole notion of peer-review. He is absolutely vicious when it comes to the media, particularly in its reporting on science. Something I definitely agree with.

There are limitations to his thought, but entering his world is humbling. It clears away the cobwebs of the mind. As he says, newspaper one week prior to the fall of the Soviet Union did not predict the event. There was no sign it was coming.

Or his other piece of evidence. No one can know the first week gross for a movie within 20%. No one can know the final gross on a movie within 50%. That's with all the science of marketing, advertising, focus groups. Crichton then mentions that after 2-3 weeks the "predictions" of final gross earnings on a film become good-reliable, but that, as he says, is not prediction, but following the trendline. [That distinction is the key to understanding how to hold both this and Kurzweilian trendlining of a Singularity or third-person perspectives, telos in general].

In other words all predictions are fictions--which is why he writes science fiction novels. Crichton says he writes in novel form because he believes that people should be sold a different fiction than the one they receive from Congress. Brilliant line. And I would add another fiction than the one sold by the media.

Worth the watch.


At 4:39 PM, Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

thanks for the link bro. amen to this too: "I don't agree with everything that guy stands for but he does make me think."

i hope that Crichton, Kurzweil, Dawkins, sit on a panel and debate on something. we could probably learn more stuff from watching that rather than watching the echo chambers in the media.

~C (for Crichton is still cool


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