When Tech Fails... Why GPS Can Be A Bad Thing

When Tech Fails... Why GPS Can Be A Bad Thing

Campbell Faulkner
Sep 27, 2010

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Notice the combination of GPS and map above, sometimes simple paper trumps all of the technology Garmin, Navigon, and others can provide...

This weekend when we were on our way to a football game in a far away town the inevitable happened: we became lost. Normally this is not a problem, but we tried to rely on our old friend the GPS, but it ended up getting us lost and made us yearn for a low tech solution, the map.

Navigation technology is an impressive thing, telling us where to turn, our exact position and even estimating our time of arrival. When we needed help, our personal navigation device became stumped and ended up causing us to expend more time when we really needed it and made us realize that sometimes technology is the problem and not the solution; a statement which both annoyed and alarmed us.

At least since the beginning of the 20th century, the promise of technology to provide us with instant and "magical" solutions to our everyday problem has in some small way made us so reliant upon it that disaster can sneak up. Normally we are organized and think of contingencies and ways to avert them. Being techy, we tend to rely on the excellent speed and elegance of silicon solutions. This weekend a simple piece of paper from a rest stop could have prevented our extra hour of journey.

This got us thinking about how we use technology in our lives and just how fragile it really is. All of the structured equations and engineering could not help us avert the difficulty of a GPS that cannot respond to every contingency. While in the future such a device might aide us, more technology relies upon the human user and their proficiency in debugging and realizing the error of our silicon tools. This just leaves us with one question: when has technology failed you at inopportune times?

(Top image: Flickr member Ed Yourdan licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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