Predicting the Weather: Another Stuffed Turkey from Google DeepMind?

November 27, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

By or design, the adolescents at OpenAI have dominated headlines for the pre-turkey, the turkey, and the post-turkey celebrations. In the midst of this surge in poohbah outputs, Xhitter xheets, and podcast posts, non-OpenAI news has been struggling for a toehold.


An important AI announcement from Google DeepMind stuns a small crowd. Were the attendees interested in predicting the weather or getting a free umbrella? Thank, MSFT Copilot. Another good enough art work whose alleged copyright violations you want me to determine. How exactly am I to accomplish that? Use, Google Bard?

What is another AI company to do?

A partial answer appears in “DeepMind AI Can Beat the Best Weather Forecasts. But There Is a Catch”. This is an article in the esteemed and rarely spoofed Nature Magazine. None of that Techmeme dominating blue link stuff. None of the influential technology reporters asserting, “I called it. I called it.” None of the eye wateringly dorky observations that OpenAI’s organizational structure was a problem. None of the “Satya Nadella learned about the ouster at the same time we did.” Nope. Nope. Nope.

What Nature provided is good, old-fashioned content marketing. The write up points out that DeepMind says that it has once again leapfrogged mere AI mortals. Like the quantum supremacy assertion, the Google can predict the weather. (My great grandmother made the same statement about The Farmer’s Almanac. She believed it. May she rest in peace.)

The estimable magazine reported in the midst of the OpenAI news making turkeyfest said:

To make a forecast, it uses real meteorological readings, taken from more than a million points around the planet at two given moments in time six hours apart, and predicts the weather six hours ahead. Those predictions can then be used as the inputs for another round, forecasting a further six hours into the future…. They [Googley DeepMind experts] say it beat the ECMWF’s “gold-standard” high-resolution forecast (HRES) by giving more accurate predictions on more than 90 per cent of tested data points. At some altitudes, this accuracy rose as high as 99.7 per cent.

No more ruined picnics. No weddings with bridesmaids’ shoes covered in mud. No more visibly weeping mothers because everyone is wet.

But Nature, to the disappointment of some PR professionals presents an alternative viewpoint. What a bummer after all those meetings and presentations:

“You can have the best forecast model in the world, but if the public don’t trust you, and don’t act, then what’s the point? [A statement attributed to Ian Renfrew at the University of East Anglia]

Several thoughts are in order:

  1. Didn’t IBM make a big deal about its super duper weather capabilities. It bought the Weather Channel too. But when the weather and customers got soaked, I think IBM folded its umbrella. Will Google have to emulate IBM’s behavior. I mean “the weather.” (Note: The owner of the IBM Weather Company is an outfit once alleged to have owned or been involved with the NSO Group.)
  2. Google appears to have convinced Nature to announce the quantum supremacy type breakthrough only to find that a professor from someplace called East Anglia did not purchase the rubber boots from the Google online store.
  3. The current edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac is about US$9.00 on Amazon. That predictive marvel was endorsed by Gussie Arnold, born about 1835. We are not sure because my father’s records of the Arnold family were soaked by sudden thunderstorm.

Just keep in mind that Google’s system can predict the weather 10 days ahead. Another quantum PR moment from the Google which was drowned out in the OpenAI tsunami.

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2023


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