Last night I was watching the weather report after the news at ten with my wife Mary.
I wish they could just stick a magnetic black cloud on London with several fierce looking droplets falling to earth as they used to in ye olden nineteen seventies. Instead the funky cool new graphics wibbled and wobbled and went through various shades of blue. It means the same thing though. The BBC think it's going to piss with rain tomorrow. The time graphic next to the display said 8am. This meant it would be raining as I set off for work. At this point Mary asked me if I'd brought the brolly home. No. I left it at the bookshop. We then proceeded to have the kind of ridiculous argument that makes married life such bliss and all those who are not wed (or living in sin as we did for about ten years) glad of their solitude.
Don't worry, I'm not going to start blogging about my home life (only Finn! - he's irresistible)
My point is that I just walked to Lower Marsh from Camberwell and it only started raining as I turned into the street. By the time I'd opened the shop it had stopped. By the looks of it outside it is now raining, but only a very little - hardly enough to justify all those ridiculous graphics. (The old ladies have their headscarves on but they're still out there haggling with the market traders!)
The BBC (and all other weather people) should still use magnetic clouds because that suggests that what they are saying WILL happen is in fact merely a GOOD GUESS.
Weather folk face it. You don't know what the weather is going to do. After every broadcast you should replay poor old Michael Fish and the hurricane and shrug at your audience.
I suppose there is a vaguely serious point here as well. Nobody can predict the future. And when you start trying it is easy to end up in a ridiculous position. As with the BAs Brave New World report and all our talk about Print on Demand it really is all talk. Nobody can say exactly how things will pan out despite the efforts (and often huge sums of money) that are invested in an attempt to shape the future to our liking.
Climate science falls into the same category. While I do not doubt that human activity is influencing the climate and other aspects of the world I have little time for people that claim to be able to predict how things will change in the future. The best models are still just guesses. As for the precautionary principle (the idea that it is better to act now - just in case) look at where that got George Bush in Iraq...
The Universe is unpredictable. And that's a great thing! We should embrace it. As Erling Kagge pointed out when I interviewed him about his book Philosophy For Polar Explorers this means that it is very very difficult to prove that a thing is impossible.
Or as the final lines of Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szerb put it:
And while there is life there is always the chance that something might happen...