GrendelFish (gfish) wrote,

Map reading

Earlier this year I offhandedly mentioned the loss of map-reading skills due to the proliferation of GPS-enabled devices. I meant it seriously, but purely abstractly. It was in the context of finding supplies after a collapse of civilization scenario, after all! Since then, however, I've spent 6 months with a modern smartphone. This now seems like a very real, very immediate issue.

I love maps. Anyone who knows me even slightly will back me up on this. I love maps so much I've accidentally made multiple friends into cartographers, once through a class recommendation and once through a startup project. I love maps, map reading, map making, everything. I own a sextant. I tried using Polynesian etak skills while biking to Portland once. Hell, I once started a project in middleschool to survey the hill I grew up on, just because working out the angles sounded fun and I'd been impressed with the links between surveying and the roots of math as described in one of the James Burke documentaries. (I didn't get very far. Mostly I just made sure to research geometry as quickly as possible when playing Civilization.)

I say this not (entirely) to brag, but to set the stage. For the last six months, I've looked at maps more frequently than any time since the Mackenzie trip thanks to my phone -- but I'm interacting with them on a vastly more shallow level of comprehension. I just don't have to anymore. This has been technically true for a long time, but the ease with which I can get my exobrain to take care of navigation now is just staggering. It's so very easy that I'm really finding it impossible to avoid. And if I'm not bothering, I can't imagine anyone except a vanishingly small percentage of people ever will.

Map reading dies with this generation.
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