That the tyrannosaurus escapes its paddock and that the velociraptors begin to freely hunt humans is not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park. It’s cinematic excitement. That the dinosaurs are actually able to reproduce simply because “life will find a way” as Dr. Ian Malcolm so succinctly puts it is not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park either. It’s a restatement of contemporary evolutionary theory with an overemphasis on the natural drive to persist. Finally, Dennis Nedry’s intentional shutting down of the electrical grids in his failed attempt to steal the park’s embryos, although certainly the instigator of quite a chaotic storyline, is also not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park. It’s market dynamics at work in a high-stakes environment.
These are all examples of chaotic actions. They are not “chaos” itself.
The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is always beneath the surface, poking its head above the waters in these attempts to illustrate the various impulses of theoretical systems dynamics. The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is the molten core of this story itself, the very thing that appeals deeply enough to fans to generate a successful franchise of three follow-up sequels in addition to the original film. The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is what none of us actually understand: the intricacies of the human mind.
Let us return to our earlier examples of Jurassic Park’s chaos to make sense of this statement. This time, however, we’ll read through our examples in reverse order. For, it is Dennis Nedry’s original crime that unleashes the blockbuster’s chaos.
However, as I have already said, Dennis Nedry’s shutting down of the park’s electrical grids is not the film’s real chaos. The real chaos of Jurassic Park is the desire Dennis Nedry feels to begin with. Dennis Nedry feels unappreciated. Believing himself more intelligent than those around him, he acts in concert with those beliefs. He attempts to outsmart his employer and deliver their research to a rival company that will reward him handsomely. He believes he will succeed in this endeavor because he (falsely) believes he is smart enough to succeed. This false belief leads us to our second example of Jurassic Park’s chaos.
Dr. Ian Malcolm’s revelation that “life will find a way” is not the real problem leading to what goes wrong within the park system itself. The real problem is John Hammond’s false notion that human beings can control the path down which life chooses to go. Much like with Dennis Nedry and the inability for his employers to foresee that man’s desire (or Dennis’s own inability to foresee how wrong his plan could go), the operators of Jurassic Park falsely believe they can direct life along a specific path. Therefore, this is not simply an example of life “finding a way.” Rather, it’s an example of human beings falsely believing they can keep life from finding that way.
This leads us to our first and final example of Jurassic Park’s chaos—the tyrannosaurus escaping its paddock and the velociraptors feeding on the park’s operators. This folly never should have come to be in the first place. Without a human being’s overwhelming confidence, there is no reason to believe anyone can consistently control apex predators that went extinct millions of years before. Only the height of hubris would allow a human being to believe such a thing. This hubris, however, is consistently evidenced in our day to day lives. Everything from skateboarding to shark diving reveals it to be a basic human trait. Often, we succeed. Sometimes, we fail. When we fail on a level as massive as Jurassic Park, we only hope the damage can be contained.
In this way, Jurassic Park is a film about the failure of human beings to control their surroundings. It becomes a metaphor for everything from warfare to environmental degradation. We go to war believing the war will be contained. It won’t. We use plastics believing we can figure out how to dispose of them later. We can’t. However, what we really learn from Jurassic Park is that the core failure of the human being is our own desire. Wanting to be able to control these things creates situations that loom beyond our control. We want to be able to corral our underlings, our superiors and our creations into the roles we’ve designed for them, and therein lies our tragic flaw. We can’t.