Driving directions

January 10, 2014

I had a really good example the other day of how our reliance on technology can be misplaced.

I needed to drive to an office I had never been to, I got driving directions online, but I also got one of those human internal “messages” to call to see if there was anything I should know about getting there.  Sure enough there was.

Not only would the exit ramp off of Route 128 be very long, but when I got to the light, I should get into the middle lane and take the right that is not the hard right.  Follow that road down and up a hill, then it’s the second of three brick buildings on my left.

Those directions worked like a charm.  My printed directions had me taking all kinds of turns on about 4 different roads in quick succession.  And nothing about a series of brick buildings.

I like being able to look at directions online — it’s quick and convenient and private.  But the directions can be, as I’m sure most people know, misleading, and the sense that one now knows enough to get to the destination successfully can be misplaced.  (By the way, when I thanked the receptionist for her great directions, she told me that the GPS experience is no better in helpfulness than the online directions in this case.)

I can see that with enough data input, technology could mimic humans in giving directions in these kinds of situations, but I want to know why that’s a good use of human energy.  Why not have a human interaction?  Why not train humans to give better directions, if human unreliability is a problem?  Or make it a valued skill so that it’s more readily available, if difficulty in finding someone to give directions is an issue.  The human interaction was a nice touch, too, I thought.  (She also told me the staircase I would see in the building would not take me to the third floor, where the office was.)

I think my point is something related to “unintended consequences.”  We see the advantages to a new technological application and leap into its use, but we may not realize we have lost something, too.


One Response to “Driving directions”

  1. James Koppel Says:

    Many of the younger unemployed are already socially restructured into youth gangs and the military.

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