How is GPS Changing People?

Is GPS Dangerous?
Like any new technology, GPS has its drawbacks. You have probably had at least one experience with a driver who swerves all over the road, speeding up or slowing down without warning, and is a danger to everyone in the vicinity, all because his attention is locked on the GPS navigator attached to the windshield. For those who aren’t lucky enough to have these systems in our vehicles, it seems strange that people would even want to have something like a miniature computer screen constantly obstructing their view of the road. This is becoming more and more common, though, and with GPS receivers built into cell phones, some drivers don’t even have the luxury of a map attached to their windshield. Instead, they drive with one hand, continually looking down at the maps on their phones, almost as if they expect the phone to drive for them, too.

The Unfounded Fear of Progress
Those who express such sentiments as these about new technologies are often labeled reactionaries and curmudgeons, and rightly so. After all, the new technologies that have made our lives better have often started out life in the midst of fear and criticism. Many people resisted microwave ovens at first due to a fear of their radiation output. Similar concerns were voiced about cell phones, which have since become an indispensable feature of contemporary life. So perhaps using GPS for everything only seems dangerous now; when this relatively new phenomenon has had some time to become more integrated with daily life, we will scarcely give it a second thought, and will laugh at the notion that we once thought it could be dangerous.

How Technology Changes People
However exaggerated these fears of new technology, it is perhaps fair to ask about their other effects on our lives. Maybe new technologies are not always as dangerous as we make them out to be, but they do have an undeniable and indelible effect on who we are as individuals. Take the microwave as an example. Today, people who are young or single can almost entirely avoid having to learn how to cook for themselves. Almost everything is available in a microwavable version, and there are even "cookbooks" that claim to instruct people how to use the microwave to their culinary advantage. Social networking is another popular example of this phenomenon: with the ability to interact online, interacting in person has become almost obsolete, and as a result far fewer people know how to do it.

How GPS Could Change People
One could argue all day about whether these changes are good or bad, and in the end it might be futile to have the discussion, because there are both good and bad aspects to any major social change. That the changes exist, though, is certain, and it would be truly foolish to claim that people have not changed as a result of these new technologies. In the case of GPS technology, the question that needs to be asked is: how are people changing as a result? If you or anyone you know has a smart phone with an excellent navigation system, you probably already know the answer to this question. People are coming to rely on these portable navigation systems in more and more instances. Those who once knew their way around a particular city, for example, may be forgetting how to navigate without their GPS systems.

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