Turn On GPS, Turn Off Brain

from the you-know-what-they-say-about-assuming dept

One of the common reasons given for people to exclude technology from education is a fear that people will come to rely on it too much, and either be lost when it fails, or unable to recognize when it's giving bad results. Most of the time, this seems rather silly: if a calculator breaks, for instance, it's not too hard to find another one. But, it looks like some of those fears about humans either unwilling or unable to question the primacy of technology aren't unwarranted, after a navigation unit sent a British ambulance off course, and the driver didn't notice until they were 200 miles off course (via Engadget). It's not as if they were driving on some unmarked road, but rather they traveled roughly half the length of England, driving from London to outside Manchester before thinking that something was amiss on what should have been a 12-mile journey. The ambulance service says that the faulty navigation unit is being fixed. But what's being done to fix the employees? It's one thing for a GPS unit to deliver screwy directions; it's another to be so ignorant or deferential to it so that it takes you 200 miles, and a tour of half a country, to figure it out when you're supposed to be on a 12-mile trip.

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  1. identicon
    Rob from Oz, 5 Dec 2006 @ 3:36am

    Idiot... But also...

    I'd guess the (correct) journey involved some time on a motorway anyway. You're the driver. It is not unreasonable to assume the satnav might try to avoid roadworks and other motorway blockages. (My experiences of regular commuting on the M25 - the world's largest circular car park - was blockage was almost synonymous with motorway in Britain.) The next thing you know, you're on the M1, and you're thinking "I've not been this far north before" (don't laugh, it happens). When do you give up? When do you decide the Satnav is wrong, and there has not been a command from "central" to transfer the patient to Manchester? (BTW, my recollection is that the destination signs on the Motorway say something like "The North" and two or three nearby towns - you could be a few miles down the motorway before you see something that says Manchester.) When do you take it upon yourself to decide that Brentford, Essex is the correct destination and not Brentford, Manchester?

    Also, it is the early hours of the morning. It is harder to judge location and direction at night. Who do you call?

    I bet they felt stupid, but I think it is perhaps unfair to call them idiots (at least without hearing more of the details.)

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