Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Next -- Michael Chrichton -- Book Review

I consider the loss of Michael Chrichton to have been a tragedy far beyond the scope of losing people like Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. The latter pair were well known and loved for their entertainment value, and Jackson for his earlier musical brilliance.

But Crichton had evolved into a wonderful researcher who had written very accessible novels to bring some very complex topics down to a level that anyone can grasp. These include his last three books: nano-technology in Prey, global warming in State of Fear, and now gene patenting and manipulation in Next.

I've read them all and frankly they are really scary. Not necessarily with regard to some horrible future that they portent ... but rather with the level of greed and incompetence that he documents in almost every special interest group.

Human nature is generally a "me first" phenomenon ... given an opportunity to get more than is deserved, virtually everyone will take a shot. Few people have the courage of their convictions in such a case. Nowhere is this more prevalent than when combined with a mind that is simply in a single track. The environmentalist for whom the ends always justify the means, the government official for whom votes matter more than good public policy ... it goes on and on.

With gene therapy, the patenting of individual genes (which makes no sense whatsoever) has actually impeded significant advanacement of technologies because of high licensing costs for access to the gene for research. A ridiculous turn of events and a continuing nightmare ... may you never catch a gene-related disease, because only a few have had sufficient research to have treatments that work.

And in perhaps the most chilling turn of events, the Bayh-Dole act has more or less removed the independence of University researchers from commercial researchers. Almost all university researchers have ties to commerce now, and that should scare the hell out of you. This means that studies are no longer independent, and there is more than enough documentation to know that the payer gets the best result 9 out of 10 times.

Read all three of the books I mentioned ... they are great eye-openers. I realize that they are rather simplified view points, but that is far better than listening to the media's take, isn't it ....

No comments: