Kim Tingley, The Secrets of the Wave Pilots

Our capacity to recall stories and paths in the world are linked in the hippocampus:

Recently, Maguire and colleagues proposed a new unified theory of the hippocampus, imagining it not as a repository for disparate memories and directions but as a constructor of scenes that incorporate both. (Try to recall a moment from your past or picture a future one without visualizing yourself in the physical space where that moment happens.) Edvard and May-Britt Moser have similarly hypothesized that our ability to time-travel mentally evolved directly from our ability to travel in the physical world, and that the mental processes that make navigation possible are also the ones that allow us to tell a story. ‘‘In the same way that an infinite number of paths can connect the origin and endpoint of a journey,’’ Edvard Moser and another co-author wrote in a 2013 paper, ‘‘a recalled story can be told in many ways, connecting the beginning and the end through innumerable variations.’’

Disorientation is always stressful, and before modern civilization, it was often a death sentence. Sometimes it still is. But recent studies have shown that people who use GPS, when given a pen and paper, draw less-precise maps of the areas they travel through and remember fewer details about the landmarks they pass; paradoxically, this seems to be because they make fewer mistakes getting to where they’re going. Being lost — assuming, of course, that you are eventually found — has one obvious benefit: the chance to learn about the wider world and reframe your perspective. From that standpoint, the greatest threat posed by GPS might be that we never do not know exactly where we are.

I like the challenge to ‘try to recall a moment from your past or picture a future one without visualizing yourself in the physical space where that moment happens’. We can only see what the lens presents.

Great insight: failing to find our way is how we learn to find our way, and GPS unties that linkage because we never fall off the edge of our mental maps in to nowhereland.

Kim Tingley, The Secrets of the Wave Pilots

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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