Listening to the weatherman for a week and comparing his predictions with climatological outcomes would show you how tough the forecasting game really is. And weather systems are far simpler than most of the systems we try to make date-specific predictions about. Is it really any wonder that everyone from Audi to the United Nations revises their forecasts until prediction and predicted merge seamlessly, like an outfielder catching a fly ball?
Forecasting of complex systems is nearly, if not completely, impossible. So why do we keep believing them?
Today is “The Day” i.e. The Day of Atonement on the Jewish Calendar. There’s no holier day for The Chosen People. It’s also the first live day of coverage for journalists at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the first show of the rambunctious Auto Show Season. How do these fit together?
Since we didn’t win the Kia Canada Photography Contest and Twitter gives a more interactive glimpse of the proceedings anyways, let’s see how the world’s largest and most influential automakers fared in Paris today and what they have to atone for as a result. Even with more guilt-assuaging plug-in hybrids than sexy booth babes, you’d better believe they’re still guilty beyond reproach.
Across the tracks at the Trento, Italy train station, two black eyes locked into mine. She peered for three seconds longer than it is suitable for strangers, so I shyly returned to the safety of my book. The pages glowed and my back was warmed by the mid-afternoon sun high above blue mountains behind me. A breeze carelessly flipped my place backwards.
I looked again: she was chewing gum and bouncing her white Adidas on the shadowed cement. A small backpack occupied the spot beside her. She was playing the role of Bored Teenager better than any Pizza Hut commercial portraying a stilted family dinner I’ve ever seen. Schoolmates milled about the platform, sharing earbuds, and laughing sarcastically. Her apathetic gaze returned, this time more curious. She reminded me of when zoo animals inexplicably change their attention from immediate surroundings to those on the other side of the glass: the gawkers, the tourists. I immediately understood why, as I stuffed my too-large novel back into my pack; I didn’t fit in. No, it wasn’t so much my clothing that gave me away (on this trip I made sure not to bring the usual tourists ware: wide brimmed hat, fanny pack, last year’s running shoes). It was simply my expression—perhaps punctuated by a Tolstoy beard. I have, after all, been told that I’m no good at hiding my thoughts.
Auto journalism is unique in the world of journalism at large. Adventure journalists travel to foreign lands in search of the quaintest cafés and sandiest beaches, political journalists go to $500-per-plate dinners in Washington, and news journalists talk loudly in front of green screens. Auto journalists do none of these things. “We” (and I use this term in quotations because it isn’t my primary occupation) review products given to us by the people who make them. In our own minds, we provide feedback that car companies will use to make subsequent generations better (i.e. more to our personal liking). In the minds of the car companies, we’re spreading the good word about their most important new vehicles to untold millions via blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Since we’re a valuable resource for them, car companies treat us rather well. Even for those of us who’ve never known personal hardship, it’s something else. But occasionally, this preferred treatment goes too far. About a year ago, Consumer Reports accused Volkswagen of adding trim to the Volkswagen Passat press fleets cars as a means of improving them. Is this common industry practice? Some people think so, but it’s tough to monitor without side-by-side comparisons. And even if more such instances were found, and this were really common industry practice, we must also ask how much difference it makes? 5%? 10%? Any percent? All I know is that Ford Canada, incidentally one of CarEnvy’s biggest proponents, is as innocent of such immoral behaviour as they come.
Upwardly mobile. Trendy. Hip. Urban. Chic. Unconventional. Oy vey!
Every press release you read these days, at least those in the car industry, uses this nauseating marketing-speak to drum up enthusiasm for the latest 5-door hatchback. It’s not just talk either – the cars themselves are fitted with the latest gadgets and aggressive styling to stir excitement in otherwise blasé young adults. In fact, if it’s not aimed at me specifically, the consummate mid-twenties urban professional, it’s apparently not worth building.
On Friday I talked about two of the most egregious offenses to naming in recent automotive history, MyFord Touch 2.0 and the BMW M550d, so for this morning’s Philosophy of Driving, I’m going to explore another aspect of this discussion, and in doing do, parry my previous position.
I previously, and cynically, argued that the German Horsepower Wars had (d)evolved into the German Naming Wars, with the greatest honour going to he with the greatest discrepancy between real and claimed specific output. I then went on to pick apart, quite pedantically, the “2.0″ attached to the new MFT software update. It was all very anal.
But it was hardly a new and refreshing perspective. We love this kind of stuff. We love to to groan about trivial discrepancies. Nothing gets us riled up like lap times, torque figures, and claimed displacement. We live in the scientific era, after all, and precision is King. If we can’t figure out something with absolute certainty, down to the last micrometer and millisecond, it’s probably because we aren’t using sufficiently sensitive instruments. This is the way of science.
This is not, however, the way of our pre-scientific ancestors.