Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is your GPS trying to kill you?

Another one of those stories — from the Associated Press: “A Nevada couple letting their SUV’s navigation system guide them through high desert of Eastern Oregon got stuck in snow for three days when the GPS unit sent them down a remote forest road.”

Fortunately, they were prepared for being stranded — food, water, warm clothes — and they made it okay, with a memorable Christmas under their belts.

We’ve heard this one before. Several people have got stuck on the McKenzie Highway here in the Sisters Country because the GPS told them that was the route to take — never mind the signs that say “Road Closed.”

There’s a story about a couple of guys in Poland who drove into a lake because the GPS pointed them at it. But that couldn’t be true, right?

Stories like this play right into my suspicions about technology. GPS is pretty cool. I like having all the information even a basic unit provides.

However... the technology is seductive. Ah, how easy to grow complacent. Let’s cut through here. We can always follow the bread crumbs back to camp, right?

Relying on your GPS instead of low-tech techniques like map-and-compass and common sense (know your route before you take it, etc.) is a good way to get yourself in trouble.

Then again...

The couple was rescued after they finally got a weak signal on their — GPS enabled — cell phone and rescuers were able to locate them.

“GPS almost did ’em in and GPS saved ’em,” said Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger.

A perfect illustration of a double-edged sword. Writ large, it’s a metaphor for the role of technology in our lives. Do we run it, or does it run us?

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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