Jurassic Park

by: Michael Crichton


The Potential Dangers of Technology

Hammond, in an attempt to increase efficiency and save money, wants Jurassic Park to be able to operate with a minimal number of staff. Therefore, he has the park designed to be operated almost entirely by a huge computer system that automates virtually all of the park's systems and functions. The computer system has significant bugs, however, and these defects prove disastrous over the course of one twenty-four-hour period.

Jurassic Park was written in 1990, amid the fever of the information age when seemingly the whole world was suddenly interested in computerizing. Companies and individuals wanted to automate their lives and tasks, albeit sometimes on a much smaller scale than that of Hammond's park. This occurred just ten years before the predicted turn-of-the-millennium "Y2K" computer glitch that had computer technicians and information technology professionals across the globe bracing for disaster.

One of the primary questions Crichton explores in Jurassic Park is what would happen if all of these computers and systems suddenly stopped working. Crichton does not include Malcolm's chaos-theory calculations of catastrophe merely to show off fancy-sounding scientific lingo. Malcolm's theories, rather, serve as a warning for a society increasingly dependent on technology. Though Hammond's computer system is designed to anticipate any disaster that may befall his park, yet Malcolm asserts that, because of the laws of chaos theory that govern all natural or manmade systems, the workings of a complex system like Jurassic Park simply cannot be predicted for any length of time. Something unexpected is bound to happen, and no computer program can be designed to prevent it. Malcolm's lesson can be applied to any person or corporation that tries to substitute computer calculations for flexible human thought. Circumstances change, and even the most complicated computer program will not always be able to keep up.

In a broader sense, Crichton is making a statement about man's thirst for scientific discovery and power. Much of the research and DNA gene-splicing in Jurassic Park is performed by supercomputers, not humans. A strand of DNA is so long and complex that, even with the aid of a computer, it is difficult to decipher and comprehend in totality. Indeed, Dr. Wu, the park's head scientist, is only half-aware of what exactly his computer programs are doing when they replicate dinosaur DNA. Crichton expresses worry that science is increasingly headed into theoretical realms of concepts and figures that are so large that they are literally incomprehensible to the human mind. Just because we have a supercomputer or any other powerful scientific or technological tool that can do something for us does not mean that we should use that tool, especially if our knowledge of its precise function is so limited.

Similarities Between Dinosaurs and Birds

Much of the foreshadowing early in the novel revolves around the concept that dinosaurs are related to birds. At first, Crichton merely hints at the concept: the injured InGen worker uses the word "raptor", which Manuel associated with the mythical Costa Rican hupia. Bobbie looks up the word in two dictionaries and finds the definitions "abductor" and "bird of prey." Furthermore, Tina states that the lizard tracks she saw before she was attacked looked like bird tracks, and claims that the lizard chirped and bobbed its head like a chicken. This bird imagery continues after the discussions of dinosaurs begin. Morris says that Grant's dinosaur fossils look like chicken bones, and Grant describes the procompsognathus as being roughly the size of a chicken and the velociraptor as "finely tuned as a bird."

The reason for these comparisons becomes more obvious once Grant and company begin interacting with the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. Even from their first observations of the animals, Grant and Sattler are immediately surprised at how deftly the dinosaurs move. The velociraptors are given particularly birdlike descriptive features, a connection that emphasizes that dinosaurs were not necessarily the lumbering beasts they are often depicted as today. Rather, Crichton explores paleontologists' theories that dinosaurs may have been exceptionally agile and intelligent creatures.