I utilized a day from Spring Break to catch up on some reading. Jurassic Park, the novel I'd wanted to read for a long time now, finally came up on my radar. I knew Crichton, I knew how the scenes would be described, I knew the subtle theoretical underpinnings to be expected from any Crichton creation, but his treatment of Ian Malcolm's character was absolutely fantastic.
Malcolm was the mathematician that John Hammond had recruited to analyse his Park, but wasn't happy at his skepticity since Day 1. Malcolm's character was underplayed in the movie in the interest of, I presume, keeping it simple. But his application of Chaos Theory to Jurassic Park made the best reading.
An excerpt, a pretty long one: (fair use, of course, as permitted by copyright law.)
"You know what's wrong with scientific power? It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails. [...] Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants that power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you've attained it, it is your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline."</p>
"Now what is interesting about this process is, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won't abuse it."
"But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify -- it doesn't matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast."
"And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don't even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn't even conceive that any discipline might be necessary."