"Internet mapping services and GPS navigation systems are extraordinarily useful," concedes Carr. "They guide us to distant and out-of-the-way places that were once a hassle to find. They quickly get us back on course when we take a wrong turn." But Carr raises some long-term problems with over-reliance on GPS:
GPS units have also been implicated in thousands of accidents. Last month, a New Jersey driver, dutifully following GPS commands, made an illegal left turn and caused a four-car pileup. Too often when we turn on our navigation systems, we turn off our common sense and stop paying attention to where we're headed. More ominously still, there are signs that our growing reliance on automated GPS directions could end up altering the circuitry in our brains. ...Are tools like Google Maps and GPS eroding our mental faculties?
All of us who rely heavily on computer maps and GPS devices are exercising our innate navigational skills less frequently and less intensively. As a result, those skills are probably decaying. And if our kids rely on computer maps from a young age, they may never establish those skills in the first place. When we upgraded from atlases to gizmos, we made our lives easier. But we lost something, too.