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You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselvesby Hiawatha Bray
Synopses & Reviews
The story of the rise of modern navigation technology, from radio location to GPS—and the consequent decline of privacy
What does it mean to never get lost? You Are Here examines the rise of our technologically aided era of navigational omniscience—or how we came to know exactly where we are at all times. In a sweeping history of the development of location technology in the past century, Bray shows how radio signals created to carry telegraph messages were transformed into invisible beacons to guide ships and how a set of rapidly-spinning wheels steered submarines beneath the polar ice cap. But while most of these technologies were developed for and by the military, they are now ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Our phones are now smart enough to pinpoint our presence to within a few feet—and nosy enough to share that information with governments and corporations. Filled with tales of scientists and astronauts, inventors and entrepreneurs, You Are Here tells the story of how humankind ingeniously solved one of its oldest and toughest problems—only to herald a new era in which its impossible to hide.
"Technology writer Bray asserts that 'mankind has essentially solved the problem of location.' It is now difficult, if not impossible, to get ourselves lost — and, more significant for Bray, to be free and invisible in our movements and actions. The book maps how we reached this point of highly accurate wayfinding and limited locational privacy, reaching as far back as Egyptian stellar navigation and the Lapita people navigating the Pacific by the motion of the waves. Each chapter describes innovations in the 'rigorous science of location.' We learn of the harnessing of radio waves and their implementation in aerial warfare; the creation of the gyroscope and its use in sea and air navigation; the development of navigation by artificial satellites and then GPS; the launch of spy planes and satellites capable of photographing great tracts of land; and, more recently, the capabilities and potential of crowd-sourced mapmaking and constant locational awareness via smartphone. These achievements are impressive and the book acknowledges this, but it also notes and cautions the result of always knowing exactly where we are: 'others know as well, whether we like it or not.' Bray offers accessible explanations of complex innovations but his overall coverage of the topic too simplistic especially when describing modern technology and social implications. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe, where he has been on staff since 1995. He has also written for Wired, Black Enterprise, Fast Company and Christianity Today. Bray lives in Quincy, Massachusetts.
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