Fascinating Michael Crichton speech from April 2002 on why speculation is so futile — and the media has fallen farther and farther because of their willingness to indulge in this (yes) idle speculation.
Even though the speculation is correct only by chance, which means you are wrong at least 50% of the time, nobody remembers and therefore nobody cares. You are never accountable.
His example teasing apart the words from a New York Times article opened up my eyes. I’ve enjoyed most of the Crichton books; I think I’ve read them all. More and more, the novels read like screenplays, and that’s not a compliment, but he usually knows how to keep a story moving. The Andromeda Strain is nearly brilliant. The Great Train Robbery is brilliant. This essay on speculation reminds me of Crichton’s talents… and makes me wish he’d tighten up his novels a bit, even though he knows they’ll sell no matter what.
One more quote, but you should really read the entire essay.
…there are some well-studied media effects which suggest that simply appearing in media provides credibility. There was a well-known series of excellent studies by Stanford researchers that have shown, for example, that children take media literally. If you show them a bag of popcorn on a television set and ask them what will happen if you turn the TV upside down, the children say the popcorn will fall out of the bag. This result would be amusing if it were confined to children.
I do see from his official site, that I’ve missed a few of his books. Maybe I’ll get to them, maybe I won’t.
Update:In further scanning/reading this evening, I found this tidbit on NYTimes.com, in their political group blog (although they don’t use that word… shhhh!):
“As someone who had been counted out himself, [President] Clinton also warned about being too certain about predicting the outcome of the nominating contests. “You may know what is going to happen,” he told the assembled press corps. “But I don’t.”