Saturday, July 31, 2010

Learning From Stories


I just finished Michael Crichton's novel, "Prey." While considering the story's discussions of swarm behavior and nanotechnology, it struck me how much we lost when Crichton died. Although some of his books are pure entertainment, many - "Jurassic Park" is a grand example - contain glimpses into fascinating aspects of science that cause you to wonder, "What if?"

Other writers - Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Saul Bellow come to mind - are more indirect in their benefits (I can already hear literary critics snorting at mixing them in with Crichton) and yet their insights into the human condition are very real. For example, Trollope's "The Warden" is a tale of a good man caught up in a scandal and beset by forces that never seem to leave us. I read it several years ago and remain in its spell. I'm thinking of ways to use some of its points in my workshops on ethical decision making.

Still haven't figured out how to put Crichton's information on swarm and predatory behavior to use, but I will.

Marvelous things, novels.

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