The code is not the model

I have a new essay up on Correlations, wherein I try to get the reader comfortable with the idea of a “model”.

In writing this, I came to understand that the way the word “model” is used in the climate sciences is confusing. An executable software package (a “program”) is often called a “model” but this overvalues the code and undervalues the model. The code is an attempted embodiment of the model. The model is the science. The realization of the model (“running the code”) is the prediction. The code itself is just an instrument.

It’s hopeless to demand that we stop calling it a “model”. It’s just too ingrained. We should be aware, though, that this is sloppy thinking. The code is just code.

Remember the Future?

Do you remember progress? Probably, if you do you, then you are an older sort like me, or an oddball collector of paleo-futurism.

Michael Chabon has a wistful eulogy for the future at Long Now.

The odd thing about contemporary market triumphalism is that it celebrates an incapacity to redesign the world. This so-called “realism”, which is in fact a deep pessimism, is not really new, but it is a spectacular retreat from the the optimism that prevailed when I was an adolescent with a season pass to Expo ’67.

We don’t even have World’s Fairs anymore.

This may be the explanation of the lack of activism in today’s youth. It’s not that they like what’s going on. They simply don’t believe that the course of history can actually be changed by human will. They retreat to sarcasm, at which they excel.

I think it may fall to us boomers again, to make change happen. We mostly still believe in the likes of Gandhi or Martin Luther King to actually change the world, but our own courage appears to have vanished along with our naivete.


The topic of the Yale Forum site is supposed to be “climate change and the media” but there are some nice climate change as such articles showing up, too, especially ones by Zeke Hausfather.

There’s a new player on the scene who’ll jump to the head of the line instantly. David Revkin of the NYTimes, a very fine reporter, now has a blog called DotEarth. I’ve been impressed with NYT columnist Krugman’s efforts, and Revken seems serious about keeping his up as well. It will be interesting to see how journalists adapt to the form. I hope Revkin will stay somewhat in touch with the rest of us, though, and not just limit himself to conventional sources.

I also added a couple of other sites. It is getting hard to keep up, but my blog roll really is the set of blogs I try to follow. I’ve been leaving off the better known ones like Gristmill, Climate Progress and Intersection, but maybe they aren’t obvious to my readers, and it helps me keep my reading organized.