I’ve just been on the radio (briefly) chatting about whether GPS and sat navs are eroding our sense of geography. Whether we’re so busy peering at our screens that we don’t see the lambs gambolling in the field nearby or whether we never bother to learn where places are because we know we can just tap in a postcode and whether that’s good or bad.
Needless to say, I was on the side of the GPS. That thing is a life-saver, and while it would be nice in theory if I knew where Bognor Regis is, I am not going to spend time rote learning how far away it is or what routes I need to take to get there. If indeed I did want to get there in the first place.
The argument is part of that whole broader debate about whether the internet is making us a bit stupider because we know we can rely on Google to feed us facts rather than sitting down and learning them. Some fair points there – but I always think that being freed from having to learn lots of facts is a good thing and lets us do more exciting and useful things with our time.
Humans have always made tools to help them do stuff faster and better. Back to the satnavs – do we really want to spend time wandering around lost in the Cotswolds or South London, when you could save a lot of time by just knowing where you’re going. Plus quicker car journeys mean less fuel is burned, which is cheaper and greener.
And if you want to spend time getting lost in countryside and looking at lambs then you can always switch the electronic devices off.
There has been an argument kicking around which says that because sat navs always channel us down the most efficient routes so they are effectively restricting where we go. Called restrictive cartography, we mentioned it in story: Are electronic maps trapping you in virtual prisons? it’s a bit of a crazzeee conspiracy theory in my humble opinion, but hey.