Escape to Yountville

Recently my wife and I celebrated our anniversary in the Napa Valley region. We were graced with perfect weather, great food and wine, a fantastic break from child-raising and software-architecting, and some incredibly relaxing spa treatments. We also chose to bring some good books to read, banned TV, and otherwise escaped from everyday life and technology. It was a fantastic experience! My book of choice was Michael Crichton’s latest tome State of Fear. The previous novel of his I read was Prey; this is a significantly better story–and timely, too, given recent world events (i.e. tsunami). The title of his first appendix in this novel, “Why Politicized Science is Dangerous” captures the essential theme (i.e. state of fear as an ecology of thought). I was reminded of the line in Jurassic Park (the movie): …they only thought about whether it could be done, never whether it should. I think my main attraction to Mr. Crichton’s writing is that it’s thought-provoking fiction heavily based on scientific reality (already here or developing). While very entertaining the story contained thought-provoking statement like the following:

  • Good intentions based on bad information is a prescription for disaster.
  • With respect to experimental bias: “expectations determine outcome.”
  • “Opinion in the absence of evidence…[is called] prejudice.”
  • “Social control is best managed through fear.”

In his closing message (after the novel ends), the author states: “I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.” As a result of this novel, I’m giving this more respect, too. Recommended.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.