of Biotechnology and Computer Technology
The overarching themes
of this scientific thriller are the dangers associated with
genetic engineering and the folly of relying too heavily on
computer technology that may fail at crucial moments.
makes clear in the Introduction, the implications of genetic
engineering cannot be underestimated: “Biotechnology promises
the greatest revolution in human history,” he writes.
It will completely change every aspect of human life. But this
is not being accompanied by any comparable attention to the
ethical implications of genetic engineering, or the safety factors
in genetics is also marked by an alliance between biotech scientists
and commercial interests. The aim is to use the latest developments
in biotech to make money. Crichton points out that this is the
opposite of the traditional way of practicing science, in which
scientists were employed by universities and not linked to business
interests. Now the best opportunities are given to those who
are affiliated with corporations, since that is where the profit
book is an illustration of this critique of the practice of
molecular biology in the modern world. Hammond, with his private
research foundation, admits that his driving motive is to make
millions of dollars. He persuades the graduate-student geneticist
Wu not to consider a career in research at a university. Hammond
regards universities as a “backwater” (p. 125).
He insists to Wu that the future lies with private laboratories
that can get on with their work unfettered by the red tape that
accompanies any application for funding or new research projects
at universities. The same applies, according to Hammond, in
the field of computer science.
at Jurassic Park blind themselves to the possible flaws and
dangers in their scheme, which is being conducted by a U.S.
corporation at a facility outside the United States, thereby
evading what scant controls there are on this kind of research.
The book proposes a healthy dose of “chaos theory,”
in the form of the mathematician Ian Malcolm, as a corrective
to the complacent belief amongst the scientists and entrepreneurs
that their plan is foolproof. Chaos theory demonstrates that
complex systems will always behave in unpredictable ways.
As the novel
shows, this unpredictability of behavior will elude even the
most high-tech computer systems. For example, the system that
the technicians of Jurassic Park believe to be so super-efficient
fails to alert them to the fact that there are more animals
in the park than there should be. Only when Malcolm, with his
human rather than artificial intelligence, points out that they
are asking the wrong question of the computer does the truth
novel shows the dangers of having only one person who fully
understands the workings of the computer system. When Nedry
chooses his moment to do his dirty work for the Biosyn company,
the others are left helpless. No one else knows enough to fix
the computer problems that Nedry leaves behind. This shows the
vulnerability of any high-tech operation to computer failure
and human error or sabotage.
It can therefore
be seen that underlying the fast-paced action in Jurassic Park
is a serious theme: a dire warning of the calamitous effects
when human knowledge is combined with greed and complacency,
and is untempered by wisdom, ethics, or oversight by any responsible