On complex systems and perspective

I have come to believe that Micheal Crichton is a far better nonfiction speaker than he is a fiction writer. This talk is a must-read for anyone interested in preserving the environment. Originally I was going to paste some clips of the article in here, but I decided against it, because you really need to read the whole thing.

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  1. I will read the article when I have more time but as someone who has read his fiction I have to say anything else (the non-fiction) would be an improvement. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yeah. Jurassic Park was ok; it was engaging, at least. I read through a collection of his older stories once though – Sphere and Congo and maybe one other – and they were ghastly.

      1. I attempted to read Adomanda Strain… Yes I know I cant’ spell. ๐Ÿ˜› And I was really disappointed. He seems like he is a better producer on T.V. than actual fiction writer.

  2. Have read part of the article….

    And while i do agree with his basic point of not allowing oneself to live by the “state of fear” projections.. and that we have to realize that there are complex systems in the world.. i.e. that everything is not linear… I do have some bones to pick with him in just the brief part that I read…

    1. He doesn’t give us any sources to check his facts. He gives us a number of 56 and claims this is all the deaths from the event.. and then gives us some vague numbers about long term deaths.. but I never know where he got these numbers.. This makes it really hard to evaluate his claims…

    2. Some of his chemistry stuff is kinda whack… the consumable part of wood and coal both have a elemental ratio of 1:1 in carbon/hydrogen.. whereas petroleum is about 1:2 and natural gas is 1:4…. However, if we go by weight.. then even with natural gas, the weight percentage is still 75% carbon by weight…

    Also.. he doesn’t note that we are actually begining, by his line, to be entering a recarbonization phase… Electrical power plants have shifted away from oil and are being built to use coal.. (nuclear plants have pretty much fizzled out, maybe they’ll come back… will have to see)… because oil and natural gas are too expensive–and there supplies ratios.. (ratio of proven reserves/amount produced in that year ==years of supply left at current rate) have been steadily declining over the past 30 years… (this was not true up until 50’s, when that number grew… then it sort of stabilized, and has since declined)… So basically, he isn’t giving the entire story…
    (oh.. if you want a source for my info.. check out “Twentieth Century Petroleum Statistics”…)

    3. As for the fear.. I think this “fear of dying” causing death is not all that big of a phenomenon… The number of reported cases of people being “scared to death” numbers less than the number of my fingers… and even taking the more general perspective that fear can shape what you do and cause you to do stuff that is not as healthy for you… there aren’t any good numbers on how many people die from this… Thus, I think he is overstating his case here…

    Of course.. I do agree with him that the “catastrophic” prognostications used by people don’t help a lot… but then again.. there is a case to be made that when people present reasonable data showing that there is a problem, but they don’t try to generate a lot of hype–that nobody listens to them… So.. while you and I and Mike C. may not need “the fear” in order to get us to worry about a problem.. are we so confident about everyone else? (I know this is cynical.. but it does confrom with my experiences of others…)

    1. pardon my grammar mistakes..

      I haven’t had my coffee yet… ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Re: Have read part of the article….

      So.. while you and I and Mike C. may not need “the fear” in order to get us to worry about a problem.. are we so confident about everyone else? (I know this is cynical.. but it does confrom with my experiences of others…)

      I’ve had this argument with others. I cannot and will never be able to agree with this kind of ends-justify-the-means argument. It doesn’t matter of the real facts don’t move the populace. Nothing (with perhaps the exception of propaganda directed against a specific enemy in wartime) justifies distortion of facts, no matter what cause the distortion serves.

      BTW, if you read to the end there are sources cited.

      1. only generally..

        He gives a bibliography.. but there are no footnotes… that is more of my beef.. if you are citing specific data, then you have to give a more specific reference so that people can go check that fact… page numbers would be good… (also.. the bibliography doesn’t contain any reference to a 2005 report.. but rather just a UN website… )

        as for “the fear”.. I personally don’t think that using “the fear” is a good thing to do either… I tend to think that when you get into the habit of governing by fear, that you eliminate the possibility of rational governance… and thus it is a bad thing…

        I just raised the point because I also acknowledge that my belief on how I think things should be run, could also be wrong.. just because soemthing doesn’t work for me and I may even find bad… doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on others.. (I’ve come across cases where I’ve explained a particular problem to certain people entirely rationally.. or at least tried.. but they get bored and don’t care… then within a week.. someone exagerrates and hypes the problem in a factually incorrect way.. and they do get the same person to get concerned… It gives me perspective on what can be effective… and truth is not always it… )

        1. Re: only generally..

          Well, it is a talk, not a paper.

          See, I get that, but that’s one of the places I draw the line on my pragmatism. I don’t care if it’s effective; it’s wrong and therefore any results achieved are illegitimate. If someone can only be moved by exaggerations, then I will have to do without their help.

          Usually, however, things are not so artificially binary. Many times either an alternate statement of the facts which brings them home more personally, or an alternate incentive, will be effective. As an example of the latter, people can often be better motivated to do something about scarcity of some resource by removing subsidies and price controls and forcing them to deal with the true cost.

          1. true..

            it was a talk..but perhaps I’m a bit warped by scholastic life.. because most of the talks I hear are basically excerpts from papers, so that while listening to the talk, you don’t get the footnotes.. but after it gets put in written form, you get to see the actual footnotes and stuff.. so you can do proper verification if you really want to…

            as for pragmatism… yes.. this is where you and I differ.. I do still draw the line somewhere.. but.. for me, if the grander goal requires certain compromises that I find distasteful.. then I might be willing to make them…

            As for incentives… sometimes there are options.. and sometimes there aren’t.. in terms of fuel scarcities.. for example.. the question becomes what counts as a “subsidy”?? Do we make the oil companies pay for all of our mideast military expenditures since there are mainly there to stabilize the region so that we can suck out all of the oil there…

            And if they balk, do we just pull out of the Mideast? That would be the principled thing to do.. but it might cause economic and political instabilities that cost society a tremendous cost if done too quickly..

            Not that I don’t think a lot of subsidies shouldn’t be pulled from the particular case of oil.. Historically, the oil industry has received more tax benefits than any other industrial branch… From Depletion tax exemptions.. to the ability to count the royalties paid to foreign countries on oil obtained there against their U.S. income tax bill.. so that when foreign countries raised their royalty rates high enough, most major oil conglomerates stopped having to pay U.S. income taxes.. (you have prolly paid the US gov’t more in income taxes than Exxon has…)
            Overall.. oh.. did I mention the price supports they received for 15 years between 1958 and 1973, in the form of oil import quotas that made fuel costs 70% more in the United States than in the rest of the world during that period?

            Yes.. I know.. the gov’t and industry are equally to blame in many ways.. but , really, the question became.. was there any really any difference between the two.. is there now?

            I know I’m way off topic.. I stop now.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            time to work out..

        2. Re: only generally..

          ‘scuze my broken formatting.

  3. bless you, my son. i’ve noticed this insanity through the years. beautifully done, posting this. going to post link in my journal, with credit to you.

  4. I agree, I am much more pleased with his non-fiction writing than his fiction. I need to read his book, but just haven’t yet, but I perused most everything like this he’s posted. It’s nice to hear a sane voice amidst the eco-theocrat’s wailing and puling.

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