Perspective From Michael Crichton On Experts And Predicting Crises

Michael Chrichton was a unique and relentlessly positive influence on our culture, popular and otherwise, before his death in 2008 at the age of 66.  Trained as a doctor and scientist, he applied his knowledge, his brilliance, and more importantly, his remarkable powers of lateral thinking and unbiased analysis, to myriad  fields, always aimed at a form of public education that was fueled by entertainment.  He taught, he wrote best-selling novels, he was a futurist, he directed movies, he created TV shows.   Mostly he thought, and through the fruits of his thought, made ordinary people smarter, at least those smart enough to pay attention. Yes, he thought a lot about ethics. You can learn more about his career and interests at his website, here.

Michael Crichton was especially interested in threats and crises, how they happen and our reactions to them. His first hit novel, “The Andromeda Strain” was about a deadly virus. He would have been very helpful right now. Though he was himself an expert on many topics, he was wary of the abuse of expertise; though he was a visionary, he was was a vocal skeptic of predictions and assumptions. Crichton, I think, would have found the current weaponizing of hindsight bias to find a new way to demonize President Trump as revolting and dishonest as I do.

In this 2002 lecture, Crichton discussed the media’s obsession with speculation, and society’s unwarranted confidence that the future is predictable, especially when experts are doing the predicting. Some selections: Continue reading