Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is almost 30 years old. The movie overshadowed it in many ways due to its absolutely wild success (and awesome factor of a million) but doesn’t expand as much as the book does on the philosophical themes of the story. The book offers a more serious and consistent critique of reckless technological and scientific growth, power, and arrogance. Jeff Goldblum’s portrayal of Malcolm is extremely memorable but is an edited amalgam of all the great quotes from Malcolm in the book. The philosophy of Jurassic Park can be summarized by this classically snarky Malcolm speech:
“They’re both technicians. They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and they call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences. That’s how you get an island like this. From thintelligent thinking. Because you cannot make an animal and not expect it to act alive. To be unpredictable. To escape. But they don’t see that.”
The focus on philosophy and chaos theory throughout the book and how it applies to all the complex factors of trying, and failing, to control life in the park sends a clear message. A message that now can very easily be applied to the internet.
“It’s a matter of what you think you can accomplish. When the hunter goes out in the rain forest to seek food for his family, does he expect to control nature? No. He imagines that nature is beyond him. Beyond his understanding. Beyond his control. Maybe he prays to nature, to the fertility of the forest that provides for him. He prays because he knows he doesn’t control it. He’s at the mercy of it. But you decide you won’t be at the mercy of nature. You decide you’ll control nature, and from that moment on you’re in deep trouble, because you can’t do it. Yet you have made systems that require you to do it. And you can’t do it—and you never have—and you never will. Don’t confuse things. You can make a boat, but you can’t make the ocean. You can make an airplane, but you can’t make the air. Your powers are much less than your dreams of reason would have you believe.”
The Lost World, the sequel to Jurassic Park, if I remember correctly touches on the internet and media but I don’t think even Crichton could imagine the soon to come massive changes the internet has brought to society. Hammond, portrayed in the movie as a kinder and more befuddled grandpa, comes off as a profoundly arrogant, dangerous, and childish ass in the book. He is a Mark Zuckerberg, a Jeff Bezos, a Steve Jobs. He doesn’t think, he acts. He sees an exploitable interest of his and he attacks it with the lie of “wanting to progress society” when what he really wants is to be the first to control a new part of life.
With all the discussion around regulating the internet, social media, and online gaming it’s important to remember this is part of a larger and older conversation. A discussion about doing what’s right versus doing what’s profitable and about thinking deeply before acting foolishly and about people in power trying to control the uncontrollable. The chaos brought on by the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is the chaos brought on by conservative trolls, hate groups, doctored news, propaganda, harassment campaigns, and more in the internet and social media. And specific to gaming - what will gaming become? Now that the future of gaming is largely controlled by huge corporations like Microsoft and Sony and maybe soon Google and Apple, what happens to our voice? Who decides what games are profitable and therefore made and who decides what is too different and therefore unsellable? Additionally these companies are in total control of the online social aspect of gaming - a function they have created and, because we haven’t seen anything else, we accept as “normal” and as a given. Their interest in online gaming is money, not creating a health gaming culture.
If you haven’t read Jurassic Park I highly recommend it. It’s a true sci-fi classic and my favorite of Crichton’s books as well as his most progressive and thoughtful (though, of course, it does have its flaws). Re-reading it now I can’t help but make comparisons to what is happening with the internet. People in control of the internet think they are doing good and that they can control and improve upon human society and behavior - something inherently uncontrollable. They don’t recognize that they could be wrong, nor do they comprehend that they’re pushing a very specific tailored agenda created by their own personal beliefs. Jurassic Park is a fantastic reminder of what is truth and what is delusions of the rich and powerful.
Here’s my favorite Malcolm speech from the movie that best demonstrates his character’s personality in the book.