Andrew Blum: The Weather Machine

An interview with Andrew Blum about his book, The Weather Machine.

Andrew Blum: The Weather Machine

Weather forecasting is fascinating. It involves making predictions in the complex, natural world, using a global infrastructure for people who have varying needs and desires. Some just want to know if we should carry an umbrella today. Others want to know how to prepare for a week-long trip. And then there are those who use the weather forecast to make decisions that can have significant, even critical, consequences.

We also think weather forecasting is an interesting topic given the parallels to what we are experiencing in AI. Weather forecasting and AI systems are black box prediction systems, supported by a global infrastructure that is transitioning from public to private control. In weather, our satellite industry is transitioning from publicly-funded and controlled to private. And in AI, the major models and data are transitioning from academia (which we would argue is essentially public given their interest in publishing and sharing knowledge) to corporate control.

Given this backdrop and the fact that Helen is an avid weather forecasting nerd, we talked with Andrew Blum about his book The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast. The book is a fascinating narrative about how the weather forecast works based on a surprising tour of the infrastructure and people behind it. It’s a great book and we highly recommend it.

Andrew Blum is an author and journalist, writing about technology, infrastructure, architecture, design, cities, art, and travel. In addition to The Weather Machine, Andrew also wrote Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet which was the first ever book-length look at the physical infrastructure of the Internet—all the data centers, undersea cables and tubes filled with light. You can also find Andrew’s writing in many publications and hear him talk at various conferences, universities, and corporations. At the end of our interview, we talk with Andrew about his current research and we’re very much looking forward to his next book.

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Thanks to Jonathan Coulton for our music

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