Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GPS-induced Brain Rot


”In June, Al Byrd’s three-bedroom home, built by his father on the western outskirts of Atlanta, was mistakenly torn down by a demolition company. “I said, ‘Don’t you have an address?’ ” a distraught Byrd later recounted. “He said, ‘Yes, my GPS coordinates led me right to this address here.’ ” “

Do I have your attention now ? Good. Read on.

I am, now, forever in debt to the Earth-Bound Misfit. Without her, I would have never heard of The Walrus and I would never have seen this article by Alex Hutchinson:

Global Impositioning Systems

It’s a lengthy article so instead of gushing about it, I’m just quoting some interesting parts. Find a few minutes to set aside and read the whole thing without distractions. It is well worth your time.

”The demonstrable benefits of GPS have, however, removed much of the incentive for the younger generation in Igloolik to undertake the arduous process of learning traditional navigation techniques. Elders worry about this loss of knowledge, for reasons that go beyond the cultural — a straight line across an empty icefield plotted by GPS doesn’t warn about the thin ice traditional trails would have skirted. Dead batteries and frozen screens, both common occurrences in the harsh Arctic conditions, would also be disastrous for anyone guided solely by technology. “

Paying attention young controllers and pilots ?

”Though the data can only be extrapolated so far, Lerch’s mouse studies suggest that human brains begin to reorganize very quickly in response to the way we use them. The implications of this concern Bohbot. She fears that overreliance on GPS, which demands a hyper-pure form of stimulus-response behaviour, will result in our using the spatial capabilities of the hippocampus less, and that it will in turn get smaller. Other studies have tied atrophy of the hippocampus to increased risk of dementia. “We can only draw an inference,” Bohbot acknowledges. “But there’s a logical conclusion that people could increase their risk of atrophy if they stop paying attention to where they are and where they go.” “

(Emphasis added -- just to get your attention. Yes, exercising the brain actually changes the brain. Read the article.)

”He often encounters people who believe they have terrible navigation skills but who turn out to perform perfectly well on his tests. It may be, for example, that their spouses always drive, so they have no reason to pay attention to their routes and consequently never know where they are. That’s an attention problem, not a navigation problem. “

I apologize to my wife. Now, go read the article.

Don Brown
November 11, 2009


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