Odd Thoughts: Computing a future of the past

It has been suggested that, if you could build a computer big enough and fast enough, and input enough information about what has transpired in the universe to date, it could predict the future.

There are problems with the theory. 

For instance, if while you are inputting information you miss the tiniest detail (perhaps a Zulu warrior’s sneeze on a cool December day in 1622), it can skew the entire course of future history, as the computer sees it, throwing off its calculation by an unfathomable exponentially. 

Miss just one mouse’s death by drowning in a mud puddle a thousand years ago, and the computer could end up predicting a mouse plague in the Yukon – a mouse plague that may never happen, in the final analysis.

What if it misses a dinosaur stepping on a rat-sized mammal in the Jurrasic? The computer could end up predicting that the very humans who created it never came into existence.

Forget to account for one exploding star in a galaxy at the opposite end of the universe (and at the opposite end of time) and your computer could predict the destruction of the earth by an asteroid that actually will miss us by a million light years.

That’s why I’m not terribly worried about the findings of a recent computer-generated model of plate tectonics (the scientific theory that describes large chunks of the planet’s surface crashing into each other, causing earthquakes and forming mountains like the Rockies or the Himalayas). 

The computer has predicted that Victoria will one day go crashing right into Penticton. 

The cataclysm is approaching at the staggering rate of one centimetre per year. 

The study I read on the subject did not indicate whether Victoria will be slicing through Vancouver on its way, or whether it plans to take a southern or northern route to get to its destination. 

With the massive plates of the earth’s crust whipping along at the rate of about a centimetre per year (which works out to somewhere around 10 kilometres per million years), it’s really a pretty certain deal that the provincial capital isn’t going to hop right over top of Vancouver.

Either way, for those who speculate in real estate, all those missing variables are going to make it impossible to determine with any reasonable measure of accuracy how Victoria’s move will affect Lower Mainland property values as it goes by. 

There was no discussion as to how Victoria would get through – or over or around – Manning Park. 

I would suggest that the folks in Victoria be prepared for some pretty miserable weather if they plan on going through the higher passes in the winter time. 

If they hit the kind of road conditions and poor visibility that I experienced on my most recent trip through that area, it could slow their progress to an absolute crawl, quite possibly adding an extra million or two years to their journey.

Certainly, Victoria doesn’t want to be caught on the summit in the middle of the park in mid-winter.

The most intriguing question is, however, when Victoria finally gets to Penticton, how long will it take the politicians to catch up – unless one of the hundred thousand or so earthquakes it will take to power the journey bursts open a natural gas find?

Or maybe oil?

Or coal?

Maybe they can pick up some firewood along the way?

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