Swellnet Saves The World
Science fiction bores the shit out of me. It really does. Yeah, I can get beyond the stereotype of undersexed and overanxious young men dressing like Trekkies and playing World of Warcraft but the plotlines just don't grab. All those parallel universes, time travelling wizards and nasty aliens leave me colder than a Klingon's heart.
Yet when the theme of man versus machine arises in the genre I sit up and take notice. You know the one: man relinquishes dominion to the machines, a hero is born, and an epic struggle for humanity's freedom ensues. I pay attention because it's starting to come true.
"It is?" I hear you ask.
Yes, it is. Let me give you an example of how humans are beginning to hand control of their minds over to the machines:
"18 feet @ 20 seconds"
And here's another example:
"10 feet @ 18 seconds"
That data comes straight from the mind of the machines and is blindly consumed by humans. Upon hearing such numbers they froth like Pavlov's dog and alter their behaviour to maximise the reward.
Such willing and unquestioned subservience has seen an insidious plague of replicants spread across the web: Buoyweather, Windguru, Seabreeze, Wavewatch. Each replicant claims to be helping humanity, even giving the false appearance of being run by us, yet all of them are merely chips and processors whirring away in temperature-controlled server rooms telling you, me, all of us, when to surf.
The sites listed above, and many more just like them, are all controlled by the same mother computer, known as GFS, or Global Forecasting System. It's the underlying model of all their data. If one replicant appears to display different information it's only due to the location of their data point, or it may be something as superficial yet no less powerful as how colourful their graphs are. Blue and green evokes trust, red danger, yellow appeals to the human eye. The replicants have the key to your mind.
But the point I make is this: It is all the same information. Unchecked and unintelligent.
The most worrying aspect however, is that we've all been drawn in and come to rely on it. Humanity is handing the controls over to HAL and we're locking ourselves out of the pod bay doors. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, the science-fiction script requires a hero to be born...
Last Wednesday, Craig Brokensha, Swellnet's surf forecaster, spotted something only discernible to the human eye; a confluence of data meaningless to replicants but triggering rich emotion in sentient beings. A sudden wind switch was due in Sydney, while two swells - a south-east and a north-east - were in the water, the combination offering a small window of opportunity. For a few hours it would be offshore and peaky though dropping quickly as the wind blew the short-range swells flat.
Being a lover of humanity Craig informed everyone via Swellnet's Wednesday forecast notes. He broadcast the exceptional event and explained in explicit detail – to the hour, to the inch – how it would unfold.
Come the time and the Swellnet office was empty. I paddled out at Manly - Australia's Most Popular Beach - just before the expected wind change. I was the only Earthling on the bank. The wind, as predicted, switched from onshore to offshore and the transformation began: the surface smoothed and the bank defined itself, the two swells became apparent, they gathered in peaks and wedges and barrelled either way.
One bodyboarder paddled out to join me. I was still the only Earthling.
An hour into the session, while the replicant computers were punching out their meaningless data, it really began to pump. Craig paddled out. There were now four people on the bank at Australia's Most Popular Beach one day after a glowing surf forecast was issued. Half the crowd was Swellnet.
Where was everyone? They'd been duly warned. The situation was more dire than expected.
All good science fiction stories carry a message and this one is no exception. We must fight back before our cause becomes hopeless. Reclaim your lost humanity by only reading forecast notes and reports written by humans.
(Photos taken by Craig after the session)