Will GPS Make Us Dumb?

In July, Apple will release the new iPhone 3G with better GPS technology.

ByABC News
June 16, 2008, 5:19 PM

June 17, 2008 — -- For most people -- the cab driver, the tourist, the business traveler -- the ubiquitous GPS has become a lifeline, giving directions to the nearest bathroom, a pizza joint or the shortest route to the office.

But, just like with spell-checker before it, some experts believe that the guiding device gives less than what it takes away. The price we pay for the convenience, they say, could be our sense of direction.

For years, the Web-surfing faithful have used Internet-based maps and route finders, like MapQuest and Google Maps, to guide them to their destinations. These online options bring travelers instantly calculated directions, without having to scrutinize colorful representations of roads. But now, as BlackBerrys and the new iPhone that hits stores on July 11 become GPS-enabled, the world will see a drastic leap in hand-held technology, as well.

As the prices on these devices drop -- the new iPhone will cost only about $200 -- more people will be able to possess these GPS phones. This new affordability may increase our addiction to GPS, according to Ian White, founder of Urban Mapping, a company that licenses geographic data for use in online maps, like Google Maps.

"When we develop a crutch for technology, we lose the ability to do that which we did previously," White said. "It couldn't be more true. People become more and more reliant, and their expectations get bigger and bigger, and if technology doesn't deliver, they get frustrated."

This dependence can already be seen in the use of GPS in cars, which has become more prevalent. If other phone makers follow Apple's footsteps, look for GPS to become even more commonplace.

"I think GPS is going to continue to be embedded in more and more digital devices, including kinds that we haven't even imagined yet," Middlebury College geography professor Anne Knowles said. "Any human activity takes place somewhere. I think we could see GPS units in our watches, in credit cards, or for any human activity that relies on knowing where you are or planning where you're going to go."