Sunday, December 4, 2016

Where in Hell am I?

In giving out directions to our house, we and those who receive them have noted that they differ in small but potent ways from those offered by Google Maps, Garmin, and other GPS services. It's not surprising. Good as these technical assistants are, they don't live here.

Determinism supposes that to know everything is to be able to predict everything, but even Google doesn't know everything. The locals would know which road is shorter even if less direct, which road is a total speed trap, which road takes you to the part of town where drug dealers rule the streets.

The latter happened to us in the scenic and historic town of Paterson, New Jersey, the state's tenth most dangerous town (but they try harder!). It's a town full of dead factories and abandoned buildings. While trying to get back to I-80 one night, Garmin sent us all over the place, and eventually straight to the worst neighborhood in town. Twice. In my brand-new car.

I thought I'd done something stupid, until I happened to hear another guy complain that the exact same thing happened to him, in Paterson.

Garmin was either trying to kill us, or just didn't have all the facts.

Sometimes I would fight Garmin over an issue, like I got wind of a backup ahead due to a tractor trailer incident or something ("Major problems on the 287 where a truck full of condoms has collided with a truck carrying chicken parts; police blame delays on rubbernecking"). If I pulled off the highway to seek another route, it would try to direct me right back to the problem I was trying to avoid. Eventually it would say huffily, "Recalculating." I'd offended it.

Look, Garmin, if your directions require me to drive through Hell, I'm not doing it, okay?

Norway's a little out of my way.

It makes me worry that self-driving cars and trucks are going to be a problem. Not that I think they'll crash through "Bridge Out" barriers and plunge into lakes---although we can't rule that out---but that I think they'll be forced to take bad routes, be hijacked constantly, and run things and people over to protect their own contents. They'll make instantaneous but poor judgments. They may even be worse drivers than we are!

Go figure.

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