Maps: From Ptolemy to GPS
This episode is about maps - physical, metaphysical, and existential; as well as their representations, abstractions, and ontological incompleteness. In 1620, Francis Bacon wrote that three inventions had changed the course of history: the printing press (for ideas and communication), gunpowder (for warfare), and the compass (for navigation). With the printing press you can mass produce maps. With gunpowder you very effectively redraw their lines. And with the compass you can more easily navigate with them and fill in the unknown, the terra incognita, of the world around us. 400 years after Bacon, we have GPS or satellite navigation. No invention has had a greater impact on the distribution and popular utility of maps as this. In every phone, on every computer, the side column of every google search - a GPS map is given. And with it, turn-by-turn directions wherever we want to go. Exact distance, alternative routes, estimated travel time, even potential traffic delays. If only this were a description of life... Yet, we are surrounded by these maps. But more and more, I find that people don't know how to actually read maps. They can follow directions, sure, but not read the map. This is a problem, because being able to understand and read maps has less to do with driving on roads, and more to do with navigating life.