Author, Michael Crichton passed away today. I have read pretty much all of his books. While usually I might mourn for the loss of future output, that wasn’t really my first reaction. When it comes down to it, his recent work often left me feeling a little unsatisfied; although not necessarily in a bad way. Crichton was responsible for Jurassic Park but also State of Fear. The former we all know. The latter questioned global warming and climate change. In each case, Crichton’s target was science, its commercialisation and its arrogance. That is a worthy target but I was never quite convinced. That said, I kept coming back for more.
The books made you think but in many respects that was also their problem. For instance, in State of Fear, to raise awareness of climate change, environmental terrorists do something to generate a tsunami. This was pre-2005 (just) but really? It was hard to see what that would achieve. In other work, Crichton was fixated on the commercialisation of science. And, interestingly, that seemed to involve some sort of tourism — a theme park or in Timescape, going back into the past for historical excursions. As an economist, it was hard to see how that would pay.
Crichton played a good role. He had scientific training and he wrote real science fiction that used the ‘science’ part as a critical part of the ‘fiction.’ That he questioned scientists’ role was a good thing, this is something that deserves continual scrutiny due to the priviledged position of scientists, and for that he will be missed.