A synthetic female voice joined the mesmerizing images on screen. Its liquid smoothness detailed the flow of air currents, the curved lines of weather fronts driving as battle brigades up through the Southeast United States. It went on to highlight the jet stream, a great looping wave, which would bring freezing rain to the Great Lakes and the Eastern seaboard. The sequence came together seamlessly. The demo was flawless.
“What do you mean, the weatherman is dead?” Hank Rowan stood in his trademark blue suit, his sunshine-yellow tie hanging loose around his neck. “People need the weather to be explained.” He slapped the eight-foot wide screen with the back of his hand. “They want me to tell them tomorrow will be a great day for a picnic or when to run from a hurricane. They trust me. They…”
“Nobody trusts the weatherman.” Channel director Sallie Trevors, black pantsuit shrouding her skeletal figure, pointed a finger at the program manager and nodded. “People trust their social connections. They trust targeted information sent directly to them.” She waved for Hank to take a seat. On the screen the images ran through a comprehensive but silent report. “In a word, they trust the system. The computer system that, whether they know it or not, is designed to earn their trust.”
“Manipulate it, you mean.” Hank shook off his blazer like a snake from its skin. He threw it around the chair and sat. “These weather models, they’re not always right.”
Sallie sipped her copper-colored insulated thermos, and licked her lips, the sickly green tint of her diet drink a line like a french mustache. “When was the last time you had to read a meteorological chart? A barometric table of numbers or run a spreadsheet of historic storm surges?”
“That’s what computers are for. But computers can’t communicate the human side of climate, of floods and drought. Of storms that wreak havoc and leave people homeless or dead.”
“We’ve got human-interest newscaster for those stories. And we’ve got her.” Trevors tilted her head toward the screen.
Sliding in from the right came a buxom woman in a vivid blue dress. Her neutral painted nails at the end of her model-perfect hands and arms, together with an indeterminate race made her appear as a weather goddess. The constant buzz of whispers on the set quit dead. She moved like a river, never taking her virtual eyes from the camera.
Hank couldn’t help himself. “Wow.”
“Yeah, she’s something.” Trevors clinked her thermos on the glass table. “I’m sorry, Hank, but the decision’s been made. Cloud Weather’s record speaks for itself. Its AI voice engine, its instant access to every weather event on the planet, they proved it. People just want the facts when it comes to the weather. And their massive computational capability… You can’t compete—not with them, not with her. We have to let you go.”
Hank Rowan forced his gaze away from ‘Andrea’—your All-Weather correspondent. Behind her the fully integrated CGI presentation continued to loop, a scene of wind speeds, cloud water content and a rolling five-day forecast for the Eastern seaboard.
Hank twitched his mustache and spoke to the channel director. “You know, the solar cycle is cranking up. What happens when the next Carrington Event destroys all this,” he scanned the set, “all this technology?”
Andrea’s disembodied voice answered for the crew, “Current probability of a G-5 class CME stands at point-five percent for the next three years. There is little danger for the foreseeable future.”
“Yeah.” Hank donned his jacket. “As if the Universe cares about your probabilities.” He left the studio carrying his box full of snow globes, each one having been jostled so that, even in Miami, it began to snow.