One choice I made a few years ago was to get a GPS unit for my car. It’s a very good thing, helping me find places I need to go where I’ve no earthly notion of the local roads. Just this past weekend I gave a GPS to my daughter, and her reaction was simple: using GPS makes you stupid.
My daughter the libertarian; couldn’t be prouder. I was able to convince her, however, that using technology does not have to make you stupid: you’re either stupid, or not. Can’t be fixed, and using a GPS won’t make you any dumber, or smarter for that matter. What’s important is that one never, ever, let a machine substitute for common sense, for technology, however brilliant, to force us to do something that our eyes tell us would be wrong.
As in, if the GPS, in its ever-so-soothing computer generated voice says, “Turn left in 500 feet,” and you see nothing but a steep canyon on your left, you don’t turn.
Which brings me to an illustration of someone who truly is stupid. From Slashdot, this:
“The Toronto Star reports that a Utah woman is suing Google for more than $100,000 in damages, claiming its maps function gave her walking directions that led her onto a major highway, where she was struck by a car. Lauren Rosenberg sought directions between two addresses in Utah about 3 kilometers apart and the top result suggested that she follow a busy rural highway for several hundred meters. The highway did not have sidewalks or any other pedestrian-friendly amenities, and Rosenberg was struck by a car. Rosenberg filed suit against both the driver of the car that struck her and Google, claiming both carried responsibility in her injury. Her lawyers claim Google is liable because it did not warn her that the route would not offer a safe place for a pedestrian to walk. Google has pointed out that the directions Rosenberg sought come with a warning of caution for pedestrians, but Rosenberg claims that she accessed the Maps function on her Blackberry mobile device, where it did not include the warning.” (emphasis added)
It takes a truly stupid person to blindly walk onto a highway, just because Google said to do so. One can only hope that reason prevails, and this woman gets laughed out of court. In America in 2010, however, I’m not holding my breath…even if my GPS says to do so.