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Transportation Technology

Is Sat-Nav Destroying Local Knowledge? 519

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-where-now dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Joe Moran writes in the BBC News Magazine that Sat-Nav clearly suits an era in which 'map-reading may be going the way of obsolete skills like calligraphy and roof-thatching.' Sat-Nav 'speaks to our contemporary anxieties and preoccupations about the road,' writes Moran. 'More roads and better cars mean we can travel further, and so the risk of getting lost is all the greater.' But do real men use sat-nav? Moran says that men seem to recoil from being given digital instructions by a woman, and read the satnav woman's pregnant pauses, or her curt phrases like 'make a legal U-turn' and 'recalculating the route', as stubborn or bossy. Still we don't quite trust the electronic voice to get us where we want to go. 'Since before even the arrival of the car, people have worried that maps sever us from real places, render the world untouchable, reduce it to a bare outline of Cartesian lines and intersections,' writes Moran. 'Sat-nav feeds into this long-held fear that the cold-blooded modern world is destroying local knowledge, that roads no longer lead to real places but around and through them.'"
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Is Sat-Nav Destroying Local Knowledge?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @02:58AM (#28633053)

    PROBABLY.

    • by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:13AM (#28633093) Homepage
      That's not a troll, it's an 8-ball. I just shook him and his post changed to "PLEASE ASK AGAIN".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)

        It I were a network support guy I think I'd have a magic 8 ball sabotaged so it always says "OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD". When people came to ask me about email, I'd say "Well it's not magic! It's easy to check once you understand the basics of the technology" and make a great show of unpacking the 8 ball and shaking it and then show them the answer.

        Thanks! Tip your IT guy. Try the cheetos.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrops (927562)

          What the grandparent is trying to say is "Yes".

          Pretty much same thing happened when cell phones came around, all of a sudden, I couldn't remember anyone's phone number. I was used to look up the name in a contact list and click on dial.

          Last year, my friend I went to a cottage , I reached first thanks to my tomtom, he got lost and called me for directions, I said "I dunno, the GPS got me here!". After struggling for an hour, he stepped into a big box store along the way in a small town and picked up a GPS, g

          • by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @08:28AM (#28634835) Homepage

            Last year, my friend I went to a cottage , I reached first thanks to my tomtom, he got lost and called me for directions, I said "I dunno, the GPS got me here!". After struggling for an hour, he stepped into a big box store along the way in a small town and picked up a GPS, got there in about an hour after that.

            To be fair to you and your friend, neither of you had any local knowledge to destroy-- that's why you both needed the GPS. What was missing that we used to use was a set of turn by turn directions on paper which you could read to him over the phone when he called.

            Really, the question is silly. People who rely on GPS don't have local knowledge to destroy. In situations where they do, they ignore the GPS and use it instead. I use my GPS daily to find work sites I've never been to, but the ones I have, I spend a lot of time ignoring the GPS's instructions. "Make a left here onto the most congested street in the city", it suggests, while I retort "no, you idiot, I'm going to parallel that street on a small side street where there's no traffic". My GPS is good at reading a map, but it's a complete moron when it comes to actual local knowledge. Where the GPS shines is at giving accurate turn-by-turn directions based on your current position, which is a hell of an improvement over the kind of human generated guidance we used to have to put up with: "turn down the street with all the trees along it and turn left where the old schoolhouse used to be; when you see the big oak tree, you've gone too far". GPS isn't destroying local knowledge. It's just destroying infuriatingly bad directions generated by people with no navigation skills.

            • by Loosifur (954968) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:04AM (#28635159)

              I second that emotion, man. GPS works great as device that reads a map aloud, maybe a slight step up from a passenger with a road atlas. Local knowledge trumps GPS every single time, however, because GPS devices can't make decisions based on information that isn't necessarily related to getting from point A to B. GPS can't tell you to avoid such-and-such street because it's a really rough part of town, nor can it tell you that Local Sports Team is playing a home game today at 5:00 PM, so if you drive too close to the stadium you'll be stuck in traffic for two hours. Also, from personal experience I can tell you that GPS doesn't always work accurately in places like Baltimore, MD or Washington, DC, places where the whims of urban development have created streets that are one-way during some hours of the day and two-way during others, and where a straight(ish) street will change names four times over five blocks, or where some streets are really more like paved alleys.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by dunkelfalke (91624)

                Local knowledge trumps GPS every single time, however, because GPS devices can't make decisions based on information that isn't necessarily related to getting from point A to B.

                not every single time because local knowledge is limited.
                i remember that once i used a navigation system on a way home from my parents' house i always drove without. when going from the autobahn to the city it suggested me a turn i never knew it was there and suddenly i was at home 5 minutes earlier than i thought and more relaxed th

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by socsoc (1116769)

                  Your example shows that you didn't have any local knowledge of that road. You knew how to get from A to B and your GPS suggested a slightly different route.

            • by Kartoffel (30238) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:34AM (#28636405)

              The turn-by-turn electronic voice is merely a crutch for people who can't read maps. People will continue to give horrible directions even with GPS. Bottom line: learn to navigate with a map and compass.

              I can't even count the number of times some well meaning person tried to give me directions like, "it's on the right side of Foobar Avenue".

              So then I ask "Is that the right side as you're headed east or headed west?" and they freeze up as their eyes glaze over. Sometimes I try to help by rephrasing the question like "well, is it on the north or south side of Foobar Avenue?", and of course they're still helpless. Too many people have no concept of cardinal directions and no idea how to dead reckon from one point to another without familiar landmarks. If these kind of people ever found themselves in unfamiliar territory they'd be screwed.

              • by alaffin (585965) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:11AM (#28637025) Journal

                The turn-by-turn electronic voice is merely a crutch for people who can't read maps. People will continue to give horrible directions even with GPS. Bottom line: learn to navigate with a map and compass.

                I can't even count the number of times some well meaning person tried to give me directions like, "it's on the right side of Foobar Avenue".

                So then I ask "Is that the right side as you're headed east or headed west?" and they freeze up as their eyes glaze over. Sometimes I try to help by rephrasing the question like "well, is it on the north or south side of Foobar Avenue?", and of course they're still helpless. Too many people have no concept of cardinal directions and no idea how to dead reckon from one point to another without familiar landmarks. If these kind of people ever found themselves in unfamiliar territory they'd be screwed.

                And what if I'm driving by myself? Awfully inconvenient to have to pull out a map every half and hour to get the next set of directions. Or if I run into a road closure/construction/heavy traffic and need to make a detour. Or if I need to find something that is not on a map (the nearest parking garage in the city, the nearest gas station as I cruise along the highway).

                Turn by turn navigation is a tool. It tells me when and where I need to turn. It means I can concentrate on driving instead of remembering that the turn I'm looking for is three blocks after Water Street. It means I don't have to slow down in traffic to try and decide if this is the turn I want only to find out that it's not forcing me to cut back into traffic like a madman. It means I am never lost even if I miss a turn. It just buzzes about recalculating and then finds me a route back. Is it perfect? No - it has more than once directed me to make an illegal left hand turn. But when I'm going somewhere for the first time I don't leave home without it. I'm a better driver with it in the car. I'm a safer driver with it in the car.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Kartoffel (30238)

                  Surely you can tear your eyes away from the road at least once every half hour to look at the map displayed on your dashboard-mounted GPS device.

                  If you can't be bothered to scan your instruments, why are you still permitted to drive?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

                Well of course most people don't have a concept of which way a road runs in cardinal directions. Most local roads don't run in cardinal directions, or even directly between cardinal directions. They usually run something like "sort of south-east until they get to the church and then turns northerly curving around to full north to get around the lake, then turns back east".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Larryish (1215510)

              To be fair to you and your friend, neither of you had any local knowledge to destroy-- that's why you both needed the GPS. What was missing that we used to use was a set of turn by turn directions on paper which you could read to him over the phone when he called.

              Very true.
              Everyone should carry a Road Atlas in the car, and if they spend any significant amount of time in a certain city or county they should purchase a local area map. Most convenience stores carry them. The best places to find local maps AFAIK are truckstops, convenience stores, and the local Chamber of Commerce.
              Having said that, when I get a call from a prospective client I do use Google Maps to find the address. Then the printout of the map goes into the client list folder with the client's info

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by OldSoldier (168889)

              Excellent points... My fear is that GPS is destroying our non-verbal memory. But as you would say, only to those who rely exclusively on it. Case in point... (not just to the parent but to anyone) ... if you use GPS to get to a place you've never been before, can you find your way back WITHOUT GPS? IMHO the legitimate reason for a "no" answer is because you were too busy paying attention to the GPS to take note of landmarks. But after visiting that same place again and again I would hope that most folks wou

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by gknoy (899301)

              Turn-By-Turn directions don't really help a lot unless you're already on the route. If you miss a turn (and don't realize until later), it's hard to recover.

              There are two fundamental questions:
              - Where the hell am I?
              - How do I get from Here to There?

              Without knowing where you are, it's hard to get (or give) directions. Similarly, a map doesn't help until you find some way to correlate your map to your current location -- whether that be a landmark, street sign, or other feature.

    • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:30AM (#28635457)
      I lead a motorcycle group of over 450 people. We ride our motorcycles all over the area surrounding Phoenix, Az. I personally put between 15,000 and 20,000 miles on my bike every year.

      I started to use a GPS on our trips because when you need to get 30 bikes ready for a left turn, it's nice to know it's two miles ahead instead of waiting for the sign to show up. Plus, it's really hard to read a map while you riding a motorcycle, the wind tends to move it all around unless you use a tank bag.

      I moved to Phoenix 6 years ago, and can now ride my motorcycle anywhere in this beautiful state or the Phoenix metro area without a map or GPS. The GPS and the mapping software on my PC have helped me to design routes much easier than I could have with a map. I can use Google maps to get a satellite view of roads and determine if they are dirt or not.

      These tools have helped improve my local knowledge, not lessen it.

      My wife has similar experience in her car. Her GPS has given her the confidence to go into areas in Phoenix with the knowledge that she will be able to get there safely. With that experience, she has gained a better understanding of the Phoenix area.

      The above notes, while anecdotal, indicate that for some people, the GPS helps them learn the area.

      Maybe it's all about how smart or observant the person using it is to begin with. Smart people learn faster without effort, and observant people notice their surroundings without having to work at it. I've always been good at finding my way back to a place after I've been there once or twice, even if someone else was driving. So maybe I'm just naturally more observant that those that don't learn their local area when using a GPS.
  • 'Sat-nav feeds into this long-held fear that the cold-blooded modern world is destroying local knowledge, that roads no longer lead to real places but around and through them.'"

    Are there still signs on the side? If yes, you have everything you need to get anywhere. (Ok, it doesn't hurt to know the major cities you want to go through.)

    • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:11AM (#28633087) Homepage
      If you're worried about "what major cities to go through" then you're no longer talking about "local knowledge". I think it's more talking about the fact that people who rely on sat-nav don't generally know the back streets as well as they used to.
      • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:30AM (#28633173)

        Completely accurate. I bought a gps the same week I got my license. Before that I'd always drive with my parents and they would navigate for me, just trying to be helpful.

        Half the time when im out, I have no idea where I am. I am where my gps told me to be. This bothers me sometimes, but the tradeoff is that I can literally go anywhere I want. Now when people start to tell me directions I just tune out and know I'll just do what the gps says. I can and have driven across the state with no problem.

        One drawback is I can't give directions at ALL, but thats minor to me.

        But just a counter point to play devils advocate: you dont need to use turn by turn directions, you can just use it as a small backlit map that is constantly showing you where you are. Beats unfolding paper.

        • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Interesting)

          by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:57AM (#28633301) Homepage
          Oh, I'd love to have a GPS unit to use as my in-car 'minimap'. I'd never rely on one (in my home city at least) because a large part of effective commuting is knowing the traffic patterns. I find I can shave 10 minutes off a 50 minute journey simply by knowing which lanes snarl up where at what time of day.

          I guess a GPS unit is a bit like code generation tools (zomg a backwards car analogy! :P ) in that it's a good tool for experts, but it can hinder the development of expert skills by beginners.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jurily (900488)

            I guess a GPS unit is a bit like code generation tools (zomg a backwards car analogy! :P ) in that it's a good tool for experts, but it can hinder the development of expert skills by beginners.

            Yup. The law of leaky abstractions. In order to use the higher level tool efficiently, you must be proficient in the lower level foundations [joelonsoftware.com].

            • Re:Road signs (Score:4, Insightful)

              by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @05:37AM (#28633831)

              I don't actually agree because at what point do you stop learning "lower level foundations".

              So say you use a GPS do you need to read maps? And if you need to read maps, don't you need to understand north, south, east, west? And if you need to understand NSEW do you need to understand a compass? And if you need to understand a compass do you need to understand longitude and latitude? And if you need to understand longitude and latitude what about true north and compass north? And what about...

              What did you want to do? Oh yeah go from point A to point B! The problem I have with this lower level foundations is that they are completely irrelevant if you don't need to use them. After all the point of the argument is to go point A to point B. If you were creating the maps in the first place then well yes you need to know all of that stuff.

              When I see Joel's illustration of string and strcat I just smile and think wow reminds of that old man saying, "why when I was your age I was walking through the snow and it was -150"

              Again not to say that some people don't need to learn it, it all depends on what your day job is.

              • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Insightful)

                by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:41AM (#28634243)

                The problem is, of course, that you are entirely wrong.

                Yes, you need to know every one of those things, except maybe the difference between magnetic and true north (unless you're close to the north pole, anyway) because GPSes are, get this, sometimes wrong. Or worse, they don't work at all.

                I was driving the other day on an Ontario highway. I don't live in Ontario, so I was using my GPS. Guess what: the GPS had an outdated map, so it got lost. I didn't because I know how to use a map besides a GPS, and because I can read road signs.

                What Joel says is exactly right - nobody gets to be a good programmer without having good knowledge of the underlying systems. Oh, you can be passable and earn a decent living, but all the really good ones know exactly how the CPU is going to execute their code and how all the different parts fit together. The same thing goes for any other part of life. You can get around fine without worrying too much about how your GPS works or about the finer details of cartography, but when it comes down to it, anyone who can use a map is automatically better at navigating than someone who can't because there are going to be situations where a GPS just isn't going to be good enough, and even if you never come across those, knowing how to use a map will make you better at following directions, anyway, much like knowing how the CPU works can help you even when you're writing in a high level language.

        • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @05:44AM (#28633885) Homepage

          One drawback is I can't give directions at ALL, but thats minor to me."

          That's wierd, becauseI can not only give someone step by step directions, I can tell them exactly how much distance to travel on each road before making a turn and lot's of other information, even if I don't possess personal knowledge of the route and/or destination ! . Hell, I can even E-Mail them a hard copy if they want. Allow me to introduce you to my magical secret [google.com] !

          In other news, the existence of technologies such as refrigeration and gun powder have greatly reduced the abilities of most to survive as a hunter gatherer. This is a pretty huge concern, and somebody should really write an article to warn us of all the dangers!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151)

          "But just a counter point to play devils advocate: you dont need to use turn by turn directions, you can just use it as a small backlit map that is constantly showing you where you are. Beats unfolding paper."

          I follow military practice (because it makes sense) and have both paper maps and GPS. Electronic devices die, maps are cheap and can stay in the glovebox. Each has its uses.

          I print out Google Earth satellite views with road overlay (print screen caps) for a larger-than-GPS screen view of the building I

        • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Informative)

          by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@ g d a r g a u d . net> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @07:22AM (#28634445) Homepage

          I am where my gps told me to be

          Then expect some surprises if you drive in the Alps (or the Rockies) in winter, with a GPS that tells you to go through closed off mountain passes. I hope you have good footwear, warm clothing and a week worth of food as you start to walk back from a stuck car...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Skater (41976)

            That's how that CNet editor died... his family survived by staying in the car.

            I agree with you. The GPS is nice, it usually gives decent advice, but you have to keep THINKING.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Lumpy (12016)

              Most people driving cars dont think.

              and yes I know this first hand, I ride a motorcycle and I see what most of you do to try and kill us on bikes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SkyDude (919251)
          I think new drivers need time before the ability to navigate kicks in. Yes, you may have been on certain roads many times before you drove, but when you're behind the wheel, the perspective changes and you truly are multi-tasking. In your brain, the navigation thread gets a lower priority to the driving thread - staying out of an accident is more demanding.

          I started using a GPS two years ago when I received one as a present. As with many "old guys", I didn't inherently trust the female voice, figuring it
        • by cerberusss (660701) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @08:51AM (#28635023) Homepage Journal

          One drawback is I can't give directions at ALL, but thats minor to me.

          My girlfriend can't either, but unfortunately that doesn't stop her at ALL.

      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @05:51AM (#28633941)

        I think it's more talking about the fact that people who rely on sat-nav don't generally know the back streets as well as they used to.

        It's more than just the back streets. I often notice LOTS of fascinating details on local maps (such as the high-res ordnance survey maps) that simply aren't included in the likes of Google Maps, Microsoft's Live Virtual Earth Whatever, etc. Mapquest (or was it multimap) used to provide these, but when google earth and all came along, they switched to Live to compete, and lost all the details that made me use them.

        There's a basic example of what I'm talking about here:

        http://www.keith-dufftown-railway.co.uk/maps/Map3.gif [keith-duff...lway.co.uk]

        Note the names of hills, local areas, quarries, etc. Often these local names are what give rise to street names and town names. More importantly, stuff like ancient pagan sites and ancient burial grounds --- the fascinating rich places of history and legend --- are often included.

        The world will definitely be a colder place if these are lost in favour of being able to zoom in from a globe to pixelated overhead photos of cows, and low-res DEMs instead of intricate contour lines.

    • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by N1AK (864906) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:55AM (#28633297) Homepage

      Are there still signs on the side? If yes, you have everything you need to get anywhere.

      I was way behind the curve in getting a sat-nav even though it fits the kind of tech-gadget market that should interest me. You're absolutely right that a sat-nav isn't vital for travel, but then nor were road signs if you have a map, a map isn't important if someone wrote the route down for you and writing it down isn't required if you just remember it in your head....

      The point of a sat-nav isn't to make the impossible possible, it is to provide a quick and easy way to do something and a safety blanket if you go wrong. I must of used my sat-nav 50+ times now and the only time it has been really advantageous was when I got caught in a 5 mile queue of still traffic at a junction between motorways. I got it to plan an alternative that didn't use the next motorway and got home virtually as fast as originally planned. Yes it would be possible to get my map out and look for alternatives, but sat-nav does it quickly, optimally and can compare distances and times more easily, what's there not to like?

    • Re:Road signs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Godwin O'Hitler (205945) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:15AM (#28633377) Homepage Journal

      I can see the utility of satnavs, but speaking for myself, I don't really see any need for one. Yes it could avoid my taking a wrong turn from time to time. But unless I was a gadget freak, would it really be worth my while carrying yet another piece of junk around in my car to save maybe 10 minutes a year finding my way back onto the right road?

      As for maps (road maps that is), of course they are indispensable if you're going some place you don't know. If I want to get to Szekesfehervar I have to at least have an idea where the damned place is before I set out. By any stretch of the imagination, I don't see how using a map is severing me from a real place and reducing the world to lines on a piece of paper.

    • by SectoidRandom (87023) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:35AM (#28633479) Homepage

      Try spending a week driving in Italy with a broken sat-nav with a van full of in-laws flown in from all corners of the world, in particular try it when your *not* italian like me! The funny thing was that I never needed the thing, I mean seriously how many signs pointing to Rome do you need to see on the Motorway to know your on the right track?

      Well having said that, on my previous trips to Italy when using a sat-nav on no less than two occasions the sat nav directed us onto a half constructed road! And I kid you not, one of those occasions the sat nav insisted that my fiancee and I drive off the edge of a half constructed bridge!!! It was the on-ramp to the motorway under construction!

      This was Italy so that kind of thing apparently happens often, oh and before you ask there were none of the usually expected signs indicating that the road you are turning onto doesn't actually expect prior to the half built bridge!

      The moral of the story is the usual rule of thumb with any system - garbage in garbage out, don't put all your faith in a machine!

    • Re:Road signs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dimeglio (456244) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:39AM (#28634233)

      I bought a gps to get from Ottawa to Disney World. Got me there alright except the gps guided us to the staff's entrance and not the general public entrance. The man at the gate was wonderful and gave us pins, a bit of fairy dust a local map and then he sent us on our way. We ended-up with free parking on top of that. The lesson I guess is that sometimes it pays to get lost.

  • speed dial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ocularDeathRay (760450) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:03AM (#28633061) Journal
    If this is true it will be just like speed dial and later the cell phone contact list. Yes we did lose the ability to recite everybody's number, but we rarely miss it. If we don't have our cell phone we call information, if our satnav breaks we will use google maps on a smart phone.... in the long run its just no big deal.
    • by Jurily (900488)

      if our satnav breaks we will use google maps on a smart phone.... in the long run its just no big deal.

      Except in the UK, The Land Of The One-Way Roads, Where Straight Lines Are Forever Banished.

    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:51AM (#28633283)

      With Nokia Maps/Ovi Maps, Nokia for example are making it possible to both know exactly where you are, but also where everything you are interested in round about you is, how to get to it and making it possible to share it instantly with anyone else you think might be interested.

      It's the end of the locality of local knowledge. Not of the locality or of the knowledge itself. Or put another way, local knowledge goes global.

      • by chrb (1083577) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @05:20AM (#28633743)

        Most of the digital mapping data misses out a lot of local features. Even the Tele Atlas data that Google maps uses is buggy and in Western Europe misses minor roads, and I've even seen it miss junctions between major roads. In Eastern Europe it often misses entire roads and cities (e.g. compare the capital of Albania on Google Maps [google.co.uk] and OpenStreetMap [openstreetmap.org] .

        Even in Western Europe, the digital map makers miss stuff like cycle and walking trails. If you look at a detailed map like the British Ordnance Survey, which has been built upon local knowledge for hundreds of years, you'll see an amazing amount of information that is missed in the digital maps. I was surprised the first time I looked up my local area and saw that even the tiniest woods were named, and every hill was named and had elevation data. This is local data that almost no-one cares about anymore, but it still seems a shame to lose the history. I think the future is this kind of local data encoded in a modern digital open-standard format, and the only project I see doing this kind of work is OpenStreetMap.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SerpentMage (13390)
          If you are complaining about cycle and walking paths, MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, you should be buying cycle and walking maps.
          I have multiple GPS devices, one for driving, and one for hiking. Different maps, different devices... After all if you are driving do you really care about the name of a woods? Yet if you are hiking it is important, oh wait, it is already there...
          Sorry that I slapping you around, but I wish people would inform themselves on the different types of maps, and gps devices that there are. The
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scytheford (958819)

      Except speed-dial lists aren't subject to the sun's 11-year solar cycle. We've just passed through a solar activity minimum, during which everyone buying into this new gee-pee-ess tomfoolery is having a great time with their magic talky boxes that never guide them astray. Come a few years and the amount of solar radiation will return to its former values. We'll be seeing estimated position errors nudging the 30m mark, as opposed to the 5-10m we've been enjoying of late.

      30m is more than enough to cause the o

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iamhigh (1252742)
        When you are travelling in a foreign city, it is real nice to know you are 30m from your turn. Even if I am really 60m, I bet I can figure it out since mine gives me the street name anyways. Really you are blowing this out of proportion.
  • Where they want to.
    Switch your satnav (and mobile phone and PDA) off. And turn back on your brain!
  • by j0hnyquest (1571815) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:14AM (#28633097)
    You haven't lived until you've been in a car with the Denzel Washington sat-nav voice. "Take a MOTHERFUCKING left turn. NOW" If only there was one for Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007...
  • In Galway once I had to arrange shipping for some stuff to go to Australia. The truck driver arrived from Dublin and spent an hour driving in circles looking for the address to pick up from. Apparently it just isn't done to carry with a map so you can find your destination. People prefer you to stop and ask.

    So I don't think it is specifically a sat nav thing. People sometimes find maps to be intrusive. For me, I have a garmin etrex without mapping capability. I can follow a straight line from A to B. If t
  • by polle404 (727386) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:17AM (#28633119)

    *dons tinfoil hat and tinfoil accessories*
    Amahgawd! mapmakers and backseat navigators of the world unite and sue these sat-nav people!
    It's just like the buggy coach whip makers!

    sat-nav makes it safer to be on the road, now all those idiots driving with a 4' by 4' map over the stearingwheel can actually see where they're going. (that is, if they would stop txting while driving)

    I'm sorry to say, i really don't feel my masculinity threatened in any way by a female voice telling me when to turn.
    It does, however, alliviate some of the stress of urban driving in cities i don't know.

    • What's more (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:49AM (#28633275)

      It isn't going to get rid of maps, it'll just make it such that most people don't own them. There are still plenty of uses for maps like, say, loading in to GPS units. Also there are all kinds of maps out there for special things: topographic maps, boundary maps, right of way maps, etc. These are not going away.

      Basically, USGS is not going to suddenly say "Oh well, people have GPS now so let's just close up shop." Nope, we'll continue to have highly detailed maps of all kinds. GPS just allows us to use them easier. Take a computer, load all the maps up, and then it can give you an overlay for whatever kind you want at your location.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PHPfanboy (841183)

        Absolutely spot on. It's just changing the usage & interface that we have of maps.

  • Soul-less (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johannesg (664142) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:18AM (#28633123)

    Sure, and taking someones picture will steal their soul as well. And now you can get a camera and a GPS in a single convenient package [gpsreview.net], so you can both take the souls of the natives _and_ conveniently avoid their local culture at the same time!

    Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, my GPS has brought me to more interesting places than I care to count, places I would never have visited without this handy tool pointing the way (or at least helping not to get lost). I'm sure the next generation won't even know what the phrase "getting lost" really means, just as being "out of contact" will have no meaning to them. A map will be about as useful to them as a sextant is to us (what? You sold yours on Ebay years ago? Shameful!). And personally, I wish them all the best with it!

    • Yeah, this. And while we're at it the entire premise is ridiculous because if you're capable of reading google maps you can read a normal map. I've yet to meet anyone, anywhere, that couldn't read a map that had a legend on it for whatever odd choice of symbols it used.

    • Believe me, sextants are still in use. You don't think serious sailors don't know how to use them? Here in the UK, port towns usually have classes available in stellar navigation and the use of the sextant, and all the marine chandlers I use still sell them, including cheap training ones for kids.

      One good solar flare and no GPS and VHF for a while. Did you realise that? Solar storms in the past have gone on for days, which is a long time to be without navigational aids. Your hurrahing for technology is misp

      • by Fallen Seraph (808728) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:24AM (#28633429)

        One good solar flare and no GPS and VHF for a while. Did you realise that? Solar storms in the past have gone on for days, which is a long time to be without navigational aids. Your hurrahing for technology is misplaced.

        I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I'd partially deaf to bullshit.

        Contrary to popular belief, it takes quite a lot to interfere with telecommunications. Not only do geomagnetic storms NOT last days (that'd be a ridiculous amount of energy output, and a days long continuous geomagnetic storm has NEVER been recorded), but severe ones powerful enough to interfere with equipment for more than a handful of minutes recur on the order of once every few decades.

        Severe storms, large enough to disrupt half the planet, like the Carrington Event, occur roughly every 500 years, the last one being about 150 years ago, but believe me, if one of those hit us, your GPS would be the least of your concerns. The Carrington Event reportedly lit up the sky at night when the solar wind hit the Earth's magnetosphere, causing aurora as far south as Hawaii, and disrupting telegraph communication over half the world. Nowadays, it'd cause electrical fires all over the place by overloading power lines and blocking pretty much all forms of telecommunication. And bear in mind, this, the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded, barely lasted a single day.

        • by chebucto (992517) * on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:04AM (#28634013) Homepage

          In the parent's defense, events strong enough to distrupt GPS comms do not have to be on the scale of the Carrington Event that you mentioned. From
          http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/06may_carringtonflare.htm [nasa.gov]

          In December 2005, X-rays from another solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes. That may not sound like much, but as Lanzerotti noted, "I would not have wanted to be on a commercial airplane being guided in for a landing by GPS or on a ship being docked by GPS during that 10 minutes."

          The same article says

          On Earth, power lines and long-distance telephone cables might be affected by auroral currents, as happened in 1989. Radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers could be disrupted by solar radio noise. Experts who have studied the question say there is little to be done to protect satellites from a Carrington-class flare.

          Granted, recent the recent flare-related GPS disruption didn't last several days, but large flares do happen on a fairly regular basis (the article mentions 'huge' storms in 1942 and 1989). Which confirms the parent's main point: that backup tech (like sextants) is really a necessity when lives are at stake, simply on the basis of solar flares.

          Obviously, backup tech is also needed to cover everyday problems like systems breakdowns while at sea.

  • by bschorr (1316501) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:22AM (#28633149) Homepage

    What's destroying local knowledge is the video baby-sitters in the back-seat. When I was a kid we knew what our neighborhood LOOKED like. These days kids just stare at the screen in the headrest in front of them from the time they pull away until they get where they're going. I'll bet half of them couldn't find their way home if you dropped them off two blocks away.

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:37AM (#28633489)

      What's destroying local knowledge is the video baby-sitters in the back-seat. When I was a kid we knew what our neighborhood LOOKED like. These days kids just stare at the screen in the headrest in front of them from the time they pull away until they get where they're going. I'll bet half of them couldn't find their way home if you dropped them off two blocks away.

      You know, as much as I love a good ragging on TV, and as much as I hate the use of video valium for babysitting, this isn't really a new problem at all. I had to learn a lot of my community from scratch when I learned to drive because I used to read in the car.

      But I wouldn't call any parent that got their kids to read a lot a bad one, would you?

  • Adam Carolla pitched this movie idea on his (former) morning show to McG. ("Famed director McG, the creative force behind Charlieâ(TM)s Angels, and most recently, We Are Marshalls.")

    Summarized on the old blog. [wordpress.com]

    Adam's got a movie pitch for McG. It takes place in the year 2222, and the military has constructed a satellite weapon that can think for itself. Adam plays Col. Duke LaCrosse. He feels like he wants no part of this military anymore, because this satellite system has gone too far. And of course

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:32AM (#28633191)
    another annoying, pointless "skill" is being killed off by progress. boo hoo.
  • Sure. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by he-sk (103163) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:35AM (#28633217)

    At midnight in an unknown town after fighting 3 hours with a bike tire from hell I want to be knocking on stranger's doors and ask for directions instead of firing up Google Maps on my cell and find my way myself. (Wait, that's GSM-nav. Does that count?)

    Incidentally, I planned my route with a good old fashioned map, because online resources for bike routes in Germany suck ass.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:40AM (#28633229)
    Satnav is faster, more reliable and easier to use than paper maps.

    That's why they are popular. It's also possible to update a Satnav with new data if roads change, or new ones are built. Most people's car-atlases are obsolete if more than a few years old - meaning we have to replace them regularly to keep up-to-date. While the cost is small, it adds up with a new atlas every couple of years.

    The biggest problem with using a map is knowing where you are starting from. It does have a larger "page" than a Satnav screen, which means you get more context at once, but if you are lost it's impossible to work out how to get to where you want to be - as you don't know where you are to start with. Similarly, if you're alone in a car, probably the single most dangerous thing you can possibly do while driving is keep looking down to refer to a map on your lap, while trying not to shunt the vehicle in front if it slows down.

    The point in the article about men disliking taking instructions from a woman's voice shows how out of touch the writer is (and therefore how completely lacking in credibility the whole article is). If you don't like one vioce CHANGE IT. If your budget Satnav only comes with one vioce BUY ANOTHER if it annoys you that much. So far as comparing map-reading with calligraphy or thatching - this is completely spurious: almost no-one in past eras could do either of these crafts, just like very few people have ever really had the skill to read a map (Question: do you know how to tell which way a river flows, by looking at the direction of the contours? Congratulations, you're in the top 1%)

    • by Shag (3737) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:50AM (#28633551) Homepage

      It's also possible to update a Satnav with new data if roads change, or new ones are built. Most people's car-atlases are obsolete if more than a few years old - meaning we have to replace them regularly to keep up-to-date. While the cost is small, it adds up with a new atlas every couple of years.

      "possible" doesn't mean it's done in a timely manner. The folks who provide street data for Google Maps, for example, take years to add new streets in my town, and even existing streets that've been there as long as I can remember show up wrong, or don't show up (despite being clearly visible in the satellite imagery layer), while dirt roads off in the jungle used only by the National Guard for training show up just fine.

      In this town (and, I suspect, many others) local knowledge is still important.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mvdwege (243851)

      The nice thing about a paper map is size. If you are suddenly confronted with new data, like a new road, or construction obstructing your route, a look at the map can give you a nice general idea on how to navigate, because you can see your current position and your goal in one look.

      However, there's two downsides:

      1. It requires the capability to visualize how the map translates to your 3d surroundings. This is not something everyone can do from the outset, although it is a trainable skill (which reinforces t
  • by Rennt (582550) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:49AM (#28633277)

    This isn't just satnav. I don't know many people who can remember how they got somewhere just after they drove with somebody dictating directions. My theory is that "left here... second right..." kind of directions turns off (or reduces the need for) the area of the brain that would normally be tracking where you actually are in relation to where you are actually going.

  • Au contraire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MadUndergrad (950779) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:58AM (#28633307)

    I find that having a GPS makes it easier to learn the local streets, since it shows me where I am on the map at all times. Otherwise I have to spend all my time trying to figure our what that tiny street sign says and I miss everything else.

  • by Potor (658520) <farker1@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:01AM (#28633321) Journal

    Local knowledge is just that - local. If you live there, you have the knowledge. How can GPS destroy that? And you know what? The article does not argue how it does. GPS is used for new routes. It's new knowledge. Nobody uses Sat-Nav repeatedly for the same destination.

    Sat-Nav and GPS are tools - the article poses a question akin to asking if real men don't use hammers. I wouldn't use one to open an egg, but I would use one to fix my stairs.

    I am as much a psychogeographer as anyone who loves to discover a city by getting lost in it, but if I am crossing the country (in my case, Belgium) to buy something, I would like to be efficient about getting there.

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:03AM (#28633327) Homepage
    I'm appalled in recent years at people who refuse to even *listen* to directions from me, a competent human who knows how to tell you how to get where you need to go--because they have a TomTom.  I've actually, multiple times given people directions to my home over the phone, step by step and very simple, but then they end up calling me for help because they weren't listening and now they're lost.  Even when I tell them that my street name exists for several streets in the Houston area, and that I know their TomTom can't be trusted, they still blithely follow it.

    This wouldn't surprise me so much accept some of these folks are supposed to be computer geeks, who have no illusions about the magical powers of computers and software.  Are people lazy or what? ;-/
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by petes_PoV (912422)
      Congratulations - you have discovered that people believe information from sources they have invested in. Whether that investment is financial (they've paid for it) or emotional (they've worked for it) or whatever. They'll give it a higher credibility than info they get for free - i.e. from other people.

      The reason is quite straightforward. If the free information contradicts the earned / paid-for data, and they then go with it, they'll have wasted the investment in the non-free source. It's just human nat

  • Doubt it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @04:25AM (#28633435) Homepage

    I would rather posit that the constant (in)breeding of stupid people is 'destroying local knowledge'. I was brought up before (Not by much) the internet and 'wikipedia as a verb', and at least in my case easy access to information SUPPLEMENTS what I know, and doesn't make me RELIANT on such technology. Of course, as society gets dumber and lazier as a whole, I have little doubt that instant access to information WILL replace actually having to know and remember stuff... But that's not the fault of the technology, it's the fault of modern civilization's end-run around natural selection. :P

  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @05:20AM (#28633737)

    The Laws of Technology:

    1) The more technologically advanced and/or complex a system is, the easier it will be to defeat or break.

    2) As information retained by technological systems increases, the less information is retained by humans, thus progressively minimizing the need for a human working knowledge.

    3) "Advanced" doesn't necessarily mean advanced.

    Who needs to:

    1) Learn how to read a map if you can use your GPS?
    2) Learn how to spell, if you have spell-check?
    3) Learn proper grammar, if you have grammar-check?
    4) Learn penmanship, if you type instead of write?
    5) Learn Morse code, if your cell phone cannot get a signal?

    Unfortunately, people have become so reliant on technology that they have made themselves completely vulnerable to the most simplest of problems, particularly #1 above, which could be the difference between life and death if the GPS unit is damaged or the batteries are dead. Number 4 is becoming an increasing problem, since pharmacists are increasingly misreading prescriptions because the handwriting of the doctor that wrote them is so bad that they dispense the wrong compound, with disasterous results.).

    Consider learning Morse code: If you are in a situation where you need it, like boating or hiking, chances are VERY good that your cell phone won't get a signal, and a 50 cent mirror or $2.50 flashlight will get a distress message out better. Even with a radio, basic radio operation skills are far more helpful that being able to text, since cell reception is not as widespread, powerful, or reaching as a signal from a radio.

    Skills that are not dependent on technology are vital. Society has become reliant on technologies and gadgets that were intended to *aid* in accomplishing tasks, and not intended to completely replace hard skills.

    If you need to live your life surrounded by gadgets, gizmos, and the latest tech, chances are you are already diminishing your capability to adapt and function should something happen and they stop working.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      When you've learned to survive in the wild after being left without anything on your person you'll have earned the right to lecture society about its dependence on technology.
      You are so accustomed to "old" technology (like textiles, knives, clean plentiful water, food everywhere) that you take it for granted and don't even realize it. You'd be dead in a week without all these things you take for granted.Yet somehow this new technology is harmful and turning us to vegetables.
      You are exhibiting classic reacti

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:02AM (#28633999)

    But Google maps sure as hell increased my local knowledge. I like staring at maps. I like to pick a spot, and go there by bike.
    I could see that a sat-nav on a bike will make one more courageous to explore the local area... and if you're one of those polluting road-jamming filthy bastards, you might explore the region by car...

    If you look at it like that, sat-nav increases local knowledge. :D

  • Sat-nav is a menace (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hack slash (1064002) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:27AM (#28634159)
    Sat-nav keeps damaging/destroying our property boundary wall, fucking delivery lorry drivers will blindly punch in a destination which takes them right past our house, the lane is too narrow for a lot of lorries so when they go past they often scrape the drystone wall, sometimes hitting it so hard the whole thing shifts a bit.

    One time we came home from holiday ro find the wall had been knocked down by a 5 axle lorry that didn't even realise what they'd done.

    Much more steps should have been taken during the writing of sat-nav code so shit like this doesn't happen, Tom-Tom, Garmin etc. should have consulted gotten local knowledge so to avoid problems like this. I read of one village that has had some serious problems with lorry drivers treating it as a rat-run, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/08/satnav_menaces_somerset_village/ [theregister.co.uk]

    Sat-nav creators should hold some responsibility for their actions, or rather inactions in forseeing shit like this happen.
    • by that IT girl (864406) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @08:15AM (#28634741) Journal
      This still seems to be more the drivers' faults than the sat-nav. It's just a tool that should in no way be a substitute for paying attention to the road, the surroundings, the street names, or house numbers. This is like blaming the Internet for spam, viruses, or malware. It's not the tool/device's fault, but the tools that use them.
    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @08:47AM (#28634985)

      I wonder how many more stories like this we'll see once sat-nav becomes something that almost everyone uses. For now, most people who have it don't have it on for most of their trips, but many people who "grow up with it" eventually will. This means that the magic voice will have incredible power in shaping urban traffic patterns. Some roads will be jammed while others will be empty, and all because of sat-nav. I wonder if cities will start adapting to sat-nav by widening the streets that (say) Gramin likes to recommend.

      I can imagine a scene in a future movie where some old coot gives the protagonist a ride without nav-sat through the city - taking shortcuts, avoiding lights, dodging jams, and revealing hitherto unseen, decaying, abandoned-looking streets. The protagonist gets to his destination in half the normal time, but still thinks the old man is nutty for his luddite refusal to do things the easy way.

  • Real men (Score:4, Funny)

    by shish (588640) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @06:42AM (#28634249) Homepage

    But do real men use sat-nav?

    Of course not -- real men navigate the same way they do everything else; with a mixture of power tools and grenades

  • by hansoloaf (668609) <hansoloaf AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @07:19AM (#28634433)
    In 10 B.C., one Josephus Moranivus wrote on papyrus paper bemoaning the fact drawn maps destroys the ability to navigate by dead-reckoning.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @08:34AM (#28634889)

    Ahh the salad days when a man feared for his life that a plague might ravage through the countryside and kill all him and his neighbors. It really gave a man a sense of being alive and to value his life when he surived those great smallpox epidemics of yore. These days, with the fancy-dancy "vaccine" kids will never know this great wonder of nature.

    Why is it whenever some new form of technology that relieves some burden comes along there's always these dumb articles about how it's going to ruin us, and how some aspect of -old thing- was really just great? Any positive aspects of -new thing- are ignored, any negative aspect is amplified and distorted, and anything else that mitigates the negative aspect are also ignored.

    Getting back to reality, there's always going to be people who don't have sat-navigation, don't use it, etc. This isn't like a telephone or the internet where you're eventually forced into the technology because everyone else has it.

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