29 Dec 2005

Michael Crichton’s 11/6 Speech in Washington on Complexity

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Speaking in Washington, last Novermber 6th, on Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century, Michael Crichton observed that

one important assumption most people make is the assumption of linearity, in a world that is largely non-linear….

Crichton proceeded to explain the peril of exaggerated linear views, taking predictions of deaths resulting from the reactor meltdown at Chernobyl as an example:

according to the UN report in 2005, is that “the largest public health problem created by the accident (at Chernobyl)” is the “damaging psychological impact [due] to a lack of accurate information…[manifesting] as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative, and dependency on assistance from the state.”

In other words, the greatest damage to the people of Chernobyl was caused by bad information. These people weren’t blighted by radiation so much as by terrifying but false information…

You may know that Australian aborigines fear a curse called “pointing the bone.” A shaman shakes a bone at a person, and sings a song, and soon after, the person dies. This is a specific example of a phenomenon generally referred to as “hex death”—a person is cursed by an authority figure, and then dies. According to medical studies, the person generally dies of dehydration, implying they just give up. But the progression is very erratic, and shock symptoms may play a part, suggesting adrenal effects of fright and hopelessness.

Yet this deadly curse is nothing but information.

This is a must read.

Hat tip to terrye at YARG, who linked Roger L. Simon.

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