Kleshas and Tanhas

ethics morals faiths ideals

Map vs. GPS

with 6 comments

Today, there’s a readiness and willingness to accept information from machines at face value with no discernment. Technology is just a machine, a computer at best. There’s no human judgement values, personal experiences, or wisdom in technology. Specifically, GPS’s are not really giving you an actual destination. It’s a computer that is taking you from point A to point B in the GPS’s system. A simple equation. (We use to be able to solve it with a thing called a map.) The problem arises from our believing that the GPS is really depicting an actual, tangible place. It has the undetectable illusion that is presenting the driver with a real place by showing qualities of the destination. Just because a computer can intake data and spit it back out to the user does not mean it discerns like a human mind.

Google has the ability to run specific search engines that evolve regularly due to its tracking bugs that automatically find new data to intake.  A person had to preprogram the logarithm for that bug to have the illusion of working self-sufficiently. Technology is the extension of human discernment that is propelled by our seeming growing need for convenience. Technology is NOT its own entity that should outweigh or completely for stomp out the individual’s ability to make decisions, especially those affecting him or herself.

I felt motivated to write out the above reflection as a reply to a classmate’s self-righteous exclamation: “Do you even know how to use a map?” Directed at my professor, I couldn’t help but smirk at his idea that maps are already outdated. Maybe they are, but I thought it was quite the assumption to make. Anyways, to me, it sounded like someone saying, “Don’t you know that 2+2=4?” to a college professor. Of course it was said with the tone inclining some sort of rhetorical question. Our professor said he preferred maps over GPS’s; I concurred at which the classmate proceeded to say that maps are susceptible to being outdated. I don’t think you need Garmin and MapQuest to tell you that, buddy. I think the cartographers  back in the day were well aware of the fact their product was susceptible to change when new information and details were procured from further research. On reflection, this gradual process of receiving and editing new data seems more plausible (in my opinion) than the GPS saying, “Turn left now,” leading you into a ravine, which (I’d argue) most people would do as they have their heads down, texting away on their iPhone 4s’s. When the smoke clears, and we crawl out of the ditch, we would then proceed to say, “Stupid GPS! It did not update itself!”

So basically that argument is whether you trust a map that will become outdated or you trust a voice on a GPS. That’s really not my point because it boils down to preference. (I don’t think a map has ever misled its user into a ditch though…even if the roads are rerouted, we don’t follow the road as intently as a GPS, hunched over, waiting for Mr. Australian Accent to lead us to the next point within the list of directions.)

My point is to question why or how do we find ourselves so ready to accept information from technology. Why do we have a desire to let things take control (like machines) as we sit back and take the passenger seat? Is it really out of convenience? If it is, how are we any better than animals if our rationale is only to make our life more convenience? (Medicine, machines, weapons, computers-making everything a little easier for us, allowing everyone to take the passenger seat and let technology take us for a spin.)

I think Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity all point to being in control of one’s own actions and one’s own mind.

Buddhism: the Eightfold Path has a few points worth mentioning. Falling under a broader category of Mental Development, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration all speak of  self-control. There’s really no presence of those three in our lifestyle when we take the backseat with technology.

Hinduism: the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga; I’ve been reading a lot into this in one of my courses. Pratyahara, control of the senses. Dharana, concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. We might be shutting down our senses (and survival skills at that) when we choose to allow technology dominate our decision-making. We really have no shot of cultivating any type of awareness, more or less the inner perceptual kind that many faiths shoot for.

Christianity: this could prove to be a little more difficult since there aren’t many lists in mainstream Christianity. I’d point out that in the Catholic context (which has many a good list) the Seven Deadly Sins has a little something-something called sloth and gluttony. While that may be a bit extreme in the instance of the GPS, taking the back seat in faith (which is a part of every day life, even when we choose to make it not,) is still letting other people”’ and other things do our work.

On a final note, in summarizing, I don’t think technology is wrong at all; that’d be to argue that all the scientific advances (like medicine-that does fall under that category) were for the worse. Absurd. But in the field of something like medicine, it’s not the meds that are making advances on its own. Its the researches, scientists, and physicians that propel medicinal advances.

So why, then, do we take the back seat?


Written by Jack Viere

November 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm

6 Responses

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  1. I think many people are willing to take a proverbial back seat to technology is similar to how many people take a back seat to life in general. Instead of engaging life, and enjoying life, it is easier to simply tune out, and medicate when things aren’t going well.

    Jason E. Marshall

    November 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    • Aldous Huxley’s soma?

      How fitting that your site’s title is ‘living in the now!’

      I’m curious to see what anyone of my generation, and younger, will have to say. I think mono e mono, people will tend to be really self-patronizing with their map using skills and ability to hand write letters and the likes, but I will be the first to say I like technology in certain instances. The blog speaks for itself. However, I see it as a supplement to my life(style.) Not the pinnacle, focal point that I think many people are guilty of…unconsciously. And for Buddhism and Hinduism, this unawareness of how harmful our actions can be is a large focus of each religion’s doctrine.

      Jack Viere

      November 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

  2. Is it an obsolete skill (map reading) or another example of dumming down? Letter writing vs. email?


    November 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    • I think in both instances (map reading and letter writing,)
      it’s out of convenience that we choose email and GPS.
      But they should only be used as a supplement not as a complete,
      separate alternative that forsakes our capacity to think. It’s
      an example of literally following the herd (GPS) off the cliff;
      if the example of the GPS is to be taken to its extreme form!

      Jack Viere

      November 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm

  3. Maps for me. Sadly, also email. Not much paper writing. Unless I print it out, that is. Agree anything out of balance or taken to the extreme is not good, prefer thinking. Even if it takes more time. Too much hurry in an already rushed world. I only know how to store and dial numbers on my cell. If I learn more, I will have to spend more time doing it. Didn’t even store numbers on my old cell, just memorized them and only dialed. So I do see myself slowly caving to the technology where I would rather not. My sister used GPS to visit me from the US, ended up on the opposite side of the city, almost in the river with her husband insisting that it has to be right because the GPS said so! Finally, they used my land directions and arrived safe and sound. Then replaced their GPS.

    Aurora, HSP

    November 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    • I would say that in our busy world, it’s not so much what we are using as much as our relationship to the item/device when we use it. We can abuse the GPS when we are rushed and end up on the other side of town, or we can use it more conservatively (whatever that looks like with a GPS-maybe check on MapQuest?) and not take information at face value from a machine!

      Jack Viere

      November 17, 2011 at 11:13 am

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