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December 09, 2012

Is GPS Making Us Dumber And Less Interesting?

Interesting. Well, for a Sunday.

If we are, in fact, ditching the map for flashier gear, will we be better off? Maybe not. A study conducted in Tokyo found that pedestrians exploring a city with the help of a GPS device took longer to get places, made more errors, stopped more frequently and walked farther than those relying on paper maps. And in England, map sales dropped by 25 percent for at least one major printer between 2005 and 2011. Correlation doesn’t prove causation—but it’s interesting to note that the number of wilderness rescues increased by more than 50 percent over the same time period. This could be partly because paper maps offer those who use them a grasp of geography and an understanding of their environment that most electronic devices don’t. In 2008, the president of the British Cartographic Society, Mary Spence, warned that travelers—especially drivers—reliant on electronic navigation gadgets were focusing mainly on reaching a destination without understanding quite how they got there...

“Trying to see and understand the big picture on your phone or laptop usually isn’t possible,” said Harrison...

Using real printed maps also demands—and can help users develop—critical thinking skills.

Well, there's an easy enough fix: Make sure you still have paper maps (or buy them if you no longer have them) and plot most of your trips via map. Use GPS for back-up or for when you go someplace on the fly.

But I think there is a general problem with some things being too automated and thus too easy. It's not that things need to be hard. It's that people lose the ability to do it the hard way should that become necessary.



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posted by Ace at 08:33 PM

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