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when everyone knows everything

Instant info everywhere kills the secret, out-of-the-way gem:

As GPS transceivers become common accessories in cars, the benefits have been manifold. Millions of us have been relieved of the nuisance of getting lost or, even worse, the shame of having to ask a passerby for directions.

But, as with all popular technologies, those dashboard maps are having some unintended consequences. In many cases, the shortest route between two points turns out to run through once-quiet neighborhoods and formerly out-of-the-way hamlets.

Villages have been overrun by cars and lorries whose drivers robotically follow the instructions dispensed by their satellite navigation systems. The International Herald Tribune reports ( that the parish council of Barrow Gurney has even requested, fruitlessly, that the town be erased from the maps used by the makers of navigation devices.

Hard-core surfers are finding their private waves are getting invaded by hordes, who have been following surfcams streaming live on the web.

At the same time, though, transparency is erasing the advantages that once went to the intrepid, the dogged and the resourceful. The surfer who through pluck and persistence found the perfect wave off an undiscovered stretch of beach is being elbowed out by the lazy masses who can discover the same wave with just a few mouse clicks. The commuter who pored over printed maps to find a shortcut to work finds herself stuck in a jam with the GPS-enabled multitudes.

You have to wonder whether, as what was once opaque is made transparent, the bolder among us will lose the incentive to strike out for undiscovered territory. What’s the point when every secret becomes, in a real-time instant, common knowledge?


  1. Ian Ian 2008-03-03

    This is what is explored in the new field of Knowledge Management. Mostly driven by corporations, KM seeks to take what people know tacitly and make it explicit. The savvy commuter stuck in a jam with hundreds of techno-commuters is suffering the consequences of the enormous knowledge networks this type of thinking creates. Not only do I feel sad for the devaluing of the search for information, I also feel a sense of loss for the human relationships once formed in the transfer of tacit knowledge. The GPS-enabled need not ask for directions, but also, in a world with, I can’t remember the last time I called my mom for a recipe.

  2. Hugh Hugh 2008-03-03

    @ian: KM may be driven by corporations, but from my experience it sure isn’t mostly driven by corporations, it’s mostly driven by the techheads I know and know of … including myself. But whoever is driving it, it is happening & will continue to happen. so, the question isn’t whether that’s good or bad, it’s rather, what should we do considering it’s going to happen no matter what. how should we live our lives in this context, what sort of tools should we build to try to make sure that human interactions remain rich and meaningful and plentiful (assuming we want human interactions to remain, perhaps some people don’t).

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