Over the last fifty years, humanity has developed an extraordinary global utility which is omnipresent, universal, and available to all: the Global Positioning System (GPS). A network of twenty-four satellites and their monitoring stations on Earth, it makes possible almost all modern technology, from the smartphone in your pocket to the Mars rover. Neither the internet nor the cloud would work without it. And it is changing us in profound ways we've yet to come to terms with.
While GPS has brought us breathtakingly accurate methods of timekeeping, navigation, and earthquake tracking, our overwhelming reliance on it is having unexpected consequences on our culture, and on ourselves. GPS is reshaping our thinking about privacy and surveillance, and brings with it the growing danger of GPS terrorism. Neuroscientists have even found that using GPS for navigation may be affecting our cognitive maps - possibly rearranging the grey matter in our heads - leading to the increasingly common phenomenon 'Death by GPS', in which drivers blindly follow their devices into deserts, lakes, and impassable mountains.
Deeply researched, inventive and with fascinating insights into the way we think about our place in the world, Pinpoint reveals the way that the technologies we design to help us can end up shaping our lives. It is at once a grand history of science and a far-reaching book about contemporary culture.
GREG MILNER is the author of Perfecting Sound Forever, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A former editor at Spin, his writing has also appeared in Slate, the Village Voice, Wired, Salon, New York, Blender, Rolling Stone, the Word, the Sunday Times, and the Journal of Technology in Human Services. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.