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Michael Crichton

Dave Hallsworth

All Michael Crichton's books seem written with a film in mind. Prey is no exception and the story loses something in the process. We all know how much Hollywood is attached to stereotypes and Crichton shows how much he also is aware.

Prey is another in the Jurassic Park mode, ripping away from beginning to end without letting you off the edge of your seat. His opening chapter is amusing as it portrays the unemployed computer magnate father being the househusband, in a scene in the supermarket where he and a similarly situated colleague are arguing the merits of Pampers and Huggies until they realise how ridiculous they must sound to passers-by. Surely though, technology aware husbands would buy their household supplies via the Internet and have them delivered? Great scene though!

The hero's wife of course has got above herself in her role as the breadwinner - obviously women were meant to stay in the home with the children. Of course the children are suffering from this and becoming more attached to their father, creating resentful jealousy in their mother, who is dabbling in nanotechnology with her employer/lover.

We all see ourselves as the peak as humanity, our ancestors as something less than us, and each generation will continue to see this. Things that we have seen and experienced during our lifetime would have been magic to previous generations. I myself have seen the introduction of electricity to the homes of the ordinary people, witnessed the birth of radio and the cinema, and now television and the internet. Who of us today could imagine life without electricity?

Today as we fly across the world for our pleasure, transmit instant messages worldwide, ride our own private transport, eat fresh food shipped in and flown in from all over the world at prices to suit the pockets of ordinary people, and enjoy a health and longevity already concerning those who pay our pensions, we find it hard to imagine improvements as other than quantitative changes. For our present lives are beyond even the utopian dreamers of yesteryear.

The Cold War with tens of thousands of nuclear rockets of the two major protagonists which threatened the mutual self-destruction of humanity, produced a whole generation of children growing up uneasy with science, a science many found difficult to understand. This seemed a whole new ball game to what had been experienced before, it was not something you could ignore if you didn't want to be involved. The changes heralded by science since the nuclear bomb were changes that affected everyone. We could understand and repair our cars, and perhaps our radios, who though could repair their televisions, mobile phones, video recorders, etc?

Today we stand on the threshold of a combination of discoveries that will transform our world beyond our comprehension. Genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence (computers), and nanotechnology, each of these, let alone their combination, causes uneasiness in even those involved with these techniques. For with these techniques we cannot only transform the world but ourselves, an injection of self-replicating nanomachines programmed to correct your body, would not only heal all faults, but would also leave you as once more a young person with young body. The religions blanch with horror at such audacity. Just my luck to miss it.

With artificial intelligence computers running our utilities, operating our factories, designing the machines necessary to transform our lives; GM designing the superior food crops and raw materials to provide the abundance necessary for humanities freedom from want; nanotechnology manufacturing the materials unobtainable, but necessary, for our scientific progress on earth and into space; even more amazing, the combination of all these in actually enhancing humanity itself, a world of superpeople.

Michael Crichton has made clear his opposition to these new developing discoveries. He is not convinced that science in the hands of America's military-industrial complex can be trusted to develop these new sciences safely without putting our whole lives and world in peril. Of course given the power of these tools in the making, who wouldn't worry? However if it needs the military-industrial complex to bring these advances about everyone will gain in the long run, as we did through the spin-offs from other weapons systems. Michael Crichton's Prey is just about a weapon that went wrong. The real potential of nanotechnology seems beyond his imagination.

Like his dinosaurs managing to live on unsuitable food and oxygen levels below their needs, his nanos are also pseudo-science. Bet they make up to a good thriller at the box-office though.

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