November 3, 2014

As the late great Alfred Korzybski was wont to warn anyone who was willing to listen, the map is not the territory. Sadly his words of wisdom would have been wasted on most people nowadays. Few of us, it seems, have any idea what a map is, let alone the basis on which it might offer a more or less reliable 2D model of geo-topographical reality.

Presented with paper-based cartography, Britsters today are apt to express a degree of consternation and bewilderment similar to that evinced by widely feted urban youth avatar Ali G when, on first sighting a cow, he famously enquired (only somewhat less abbreviatedly) “WTF is dat?!”

Yes, shocking new findings unveiled by leading vehicle leasing outfit fleeced.co.uk prove beyond any reasonable doubt that six out of ten UK-landers have no idea how to read a map and would be quite literally lost without their satnavs. The survey also found that most drivers don’t bother reading road signs whilst slavishly following the twists, turns, u-turns and abrupt lane changes dictated by their satnavs and often circle listlessly for hours on end when their satnavs lose interest ‘too soon’ and blithely inform them that they have arrived at their destinations.

Even fleeced.co.uk spokesperson Johnny Ratty confesses himself cartographically illiterate “We’re all guilty,“ he concludes, stretching the survey findings just a tad in a shameless bid to spread the blame. “Were so fixed on that tiny screen on the dashboard,” he avers, “that we’ve got no idea where we’re being taken.”

Johnny mourns the passing of the age of ‘map and road-sign’ motor navigation, sensing perhaps that his forefathers might have been onto something after all. “In the old days,” he imagines, “it would have been a map, forward planning and using the eyes in my head.” Now, he suggests, there is a real danger that our abject dependence on satnav could turn us into zombies.

The idea that Brits en masse might lose interest in driving around in cosy little metal tubs on wheels and turn instead to munching on brains is obviously a real worry for anyone working in the vehicle leasing sector, and a development that could yet have wider societal implications beyond the automotive services sector.

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