In his New Atlantis article, "GPS and the End of the Road," Ari Schulman's description of driving through the Washington, D.C., area with the dubious help of a GPS navigator is priceless. Been there, done that.
Not only does Schulman remind us that GPSes sometimes fail to work properly in a dense network of roads, but he also makes some important points about how the use of technology is affecting our ability to drive. Be it with GPS or cell phones, we're paying less attention to where we're going than what's happening inside our cars. With the advent of new technologies, we're also seemingly becoming less responsible for our actions. Manufactures are adding technologies that correct a myriad of human errors.
There is another concern about these devices -- a neurological one. Ever heard the saying, "use it or lose it"? We're not exercising a part of our brain, the hippocampus. This, writes Schulman, "can lead to a decay in spatial reasoning skills." It also can lead to something worse. Schulman continues, "Poor hippocampal health is also associated with dementia and decline in memory function, including Alzheimer’s disease."
Finally, we're missing the "getting" there part of the trip. In significant ways, we're disconnecting from the real world around us. We're missing its grandeur, even in the little things. We're forgetting to imagine and wonder about other times and people who've traversed the same roads.