Thursday, June 19, 2008

Will GPS make us even more stupiderer?

ABC News has a poorly-edited article on the effect of letting computers tell us where to go. To save you pain, here are some excerpts:

For most people... GPS has become a lifeline, giving directions to the nearest pizza joint or the shortest route to the office. But like the spell-checker before it, some experts believe that the guiding device gives less than what it takes away. The price we pay for the convenience, they say, could be our sense of direction.

Jeff Han, a consulting research scientist for New York University's department of computer science, who developed an interactive multi-touch screen that includes GPS functions, foresees a decline in GPS popularity due to privacy issues, after an initial surge in use.

"What does it mean when everyone can potentially point out where all their friends are?" he said. "Instead of actively calling all of your friends, you can say, 'Oh yeah, a few of them are over here.' So, that brings in social issues, and those are the things not yet worked out by cell phone companies.

Of course, use of GPS isn't all negative. One potential - and perhaps obvious - beneficial change will be cutting down on travel time. People will not spend long hours walking around looking for a hidden street if their cell phones can show them the way. Travelers will most likely feel more confident in new locations. Parents may give their children more freedom to walk by themselves at younger ages; their phones will take them home.

One effect of an increased dependence on GPS will be that people's ability to read maps will decay... but what will grow will be better geographic imagination and awareness. People will see the connections between places more clearly - not quite as accurately - but will better imagine how to get from one place to another.

1 comment:

soraneko said...

I always said that I think that GPS could do more harm than good... we'll have to see... not that I'm all that great at reading maps anyway - hooray for mobile phones and a father near an internet capable computer!