I relied on old style maps when there was no GPS on celphones yet. When the GPS started to be in use, I still checked the map and used my GPS as I went along. If the GPS map is not updated, I can end up in a one-way street. Having consulted my map first, common sense acts up when the GPS seems to be bringing me to an uncertain way.
Now, I rely mostly on GPS since maps are not so common and they tend to be outdated. However, common sense is not be ignored.
For me & my parents the lack of knowing that their commercial timeshare was in North myrtle beach has slipped us up a couple times with onstar even the mcdonalds app was a ledging that their was one when in fact that was south of there
When we lived in Alaska we would always rely primarily on visual observation of the landscape and its land marks for our way finding, particularly hiking, biking or boating in an area new to us. This isn’t to say that we didn’t use/rely on GPS or topographical maps; we carried both with us most of the time, along with a Personal Locator Beacon (so someone else could find us in an emergency) and of course we also carried bear spray and a firearm, which was to give us a reasonable chance of finding our way passed an aggressive bear or mother moose One year while fishing in Prince William Sound we learned an important lesson in way finding. As we motored our skiff out of the cove in which our cabin was located and into the main passage about a quarter mile away, I took note of the landscape eyes forward, but coming back in the afternoon when attempting to navigate from the passage back to the cove no entrance looked familiar, which is when we realized that we failed to look with our eyes rearward when we left the cove and entered the passage earlier that morning. The human head and brain is set up to look forward as the body is set up to move foward.
It is not intuitively obvious or physically natural to turn around to see where you’ve come from in order to complete the mental map for the returning. Metaphysically this points to one of our major failings as human beings, which is the failure to see where we’ve been in order to best move ahead. That said, we did eventually find our way back to the cove and cabin after two or three wrong entrances. The experience shook our self-confidence in our self-reliant way-finding to the point that whenever we were in new marine territory we would always enter the camp/cabin location in our GPS before heading out.
Just yesterday I said to my wife as we were driving in search of a piece of undeveloped property, “I think it will be down around this next curve.” She promptly pulled out her phone and asked what’s-her-name to give us directions, and then couldn’t understand why I was upset about it. Don’t hand off responsibility for where I am and where I am going to an algorithm. I’m hyper-aware of what’s going on around me when I’m searching – sunlight angle, time of day and year, what roads we’ve passed, signs, rise and fall of the land. And if/when your phone fails, I’ll be able to find my way. My wife, on the other hand, would be still be staring at her phone, wondering what to do, now…
“People seem to have an astonishing ability to believe their GPS is always right, even when such belief defies logic.”
I have prosopagnosia, so I have an excuse: I once arrived in Dallas/Ft Worth, decided on a whim to drive to Denver (Colorado) and hired a car. Half way to Denver (West Texas, another Denver apparently) I drove into a class 4 tornado.
This article highlights the ever-growing importance of reconciling scientific knowledge with ecological knowledge (Common Sense!).
I can get lost with or without a GPS. It’s just a knack I have.
I am reading more and more of these articles about people being flat-out stupid. Put your phone down and use your brain. But you knew you were going the wrong way and still did it is the problem it has nothing to do with maps or GPS and has to do with people being lazy and stupid
Humans innately have the same ability as animals, it is just that most never have to use their senses to figure out how to navigate the spaces we occupy. We also tend to move around a lot, whereas animals inhabit a defined area- including migration paths- which they become familiar with out of necessity.
I learned at an early age to be aware of my surroundings and to orient my self to the landscape, no matter where I am. I wander deep into the forest, sans GPS, and always know where I am via standardized USGS maps and a compass, which I rarely need. It’s a matter how of learning how to be in tune with abilities we already have. Look around you, not down at your device. And then there will be the day when GPS units are all off because of solar activity- A very real scenario that has NOAA keeping a vigilant eye on space weather.
GPS is a useful tool when one has no idea, but I will always check mapquest and scope out the route before I rely on GPS. Once I start MY PREFERRED route, GPS can catch up. I don’t trust it to give me the most common sense route. It has put me onto a highway and off within one exit (try crossing several lanes of traffic in 1/4 mile on a busy highway) when a street would have provided a much easier route. My rule is to know before I go.
What a wonderful article. So if the author can answerme this : What happens to our intuition in an age such as ours? What do I have to read in order to find out?
HI John, I would definitely start by reading my new book Wayfinding :) The short answer is: I don’t think we have a chance to cultivate intuition if we always reach for a device first. Best, Maura
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