I think it was the comedian Dave Allen who used to tell the joke of a drunk leaving a pub one night, in a coastal town, in a thick fog. Worried about falling off a cliff he picks up a stick to tap the path in front. After five minutes he senses a void ahead but to his dismay cannot find the route back. He sits down and waits for dawn and the fog to lift. Several hours later he wakes in broad daylight slumped on a traffic island in the High Street clutching a broken stick.
Who says resilience (or lack of it) in navigation aids is something new? Something has to be done about it. All sticks should conform to a British Standard. Sticks should be regularly tested to ensure conformity. (What’s brown and sticky? A stick!) Sticks that have been tested should be marked with a small label showing the date of the test and the initials of the accredited tester. A priority should be given to sticks in the vicinity of pubs in coastal towns.
Or maybe not. A recent chat with Tristan Gooley (the Natural Navigator – @NaturalNav) got me thinking about self-sufficiency. For those not familiar with natural navigation, it is – to quote Tristan’s website – “the rare art of finding your way using nature, including the sun, moon, stars, weather, land, sea, plants and animals”. The point is not only that you can find your way around using natural cues. Equally importantly, if you get lost you’ve nobody to blame but yourself.
Prepare to be shocked! The same applies to GPS – or any navigation technology. In fact, the principle applies to using social media, the world-wide web and the post-it on the kitchen wall where whoever took the last toilet roll out the cupboard is supposed to flag a warning. Processes, computers and “other people” all make mistakes. The “user” is the only casualty.
One day, when artificial intelligence, driver-less vehicles and robots are everywhere, life will be awful. And then a job advert will appear. “Wanted. Key component of critical system. Must be sceptical, suspicious and not always follow instructions. Would ideally suit a human.”