Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A strange trust in technology...

I don't understand why some people seem to have a completely unquestioning faith in certain kinds of technology and appear to stop using their brains, to their own detriment. The weirdest recent example is a taxi driver who drove into a river because his sat-nav system told him to. Pat Bowles, from Streamline Taxis, said: "Normal people would stop and back out, but because his sat-nav told him to keep going, that's what he did. I don't think he did think until he couldn't go any further."

That is not an isolated incident either, as there are an increasing number of examples where people have been lured into dodgy situations by unwittingly trusting their sat-navs a bit too much. One lorry driver was "trapped in a country lane for four days" after his sat-nav sent him down a road that was too narrow to pass. Unable to leave his lorry, he slept in the cab for days, living off sandwiches and coffee brought for him by locals who took pity on him. Other sorry tales include motorists regularly getting stuck on a dirt track on Saddleworth Moor in Yorkshire, frequently ending up "in tears" according to bemused locals, as well as ending up on railways lines, in rivers and in too-narrow roads.

There are lots more of these incidents, once you start looking. I'm afraid it made me laugh (is that cruel, or does it just prove I'm a techno-sceptic who doesn't drive?). What I don't understand is how you could end up in a river- you must see it in the distance, mustn't you...?

It reminded me of the current Doctor Who story on TV, the Sontaran Stratagem, where all cars worldwide are equipped with a sat-nav-type system that ultimately guides human drivers to their own destruction, as the system is secretly controlled by evil alien forces. I'm not veering into conspiracy theory territory involving GPS systems or aliens here, but suggesting that maybe a completely unquestioning faith in a gadget, while simultaneously putting one's brain on hold, is not a great idea. Unless I would think differently if I was a driver....?