Monday, July 5, 2010

Man vs Machine

1910 invention. Live Map for use with the new popular "automobile"

I'm in Halifax in the elegant Prince George Hotel on Market Street, sitting in the room with a real good cup of fresh coffee I found in the hall as my husband sleeps. I'm a morning person; he's a night person and holidays are not going to change that. We drove to Halifax Nova Scotia from Montreal, stopping at Fredericton. It's a long 9 hour drive to Fredericton, but the highway is good (rare in Quebec). It's the kind of drive where you are bored to death 99 percent of the time, and you have long stretches of road to yourself, even in vacation season, but you still have close calls on the road, for some reason. We had two. A huge truck changed lanes just as were were passing for one. Can't recall the other.

Anyway, since we have the Onstar service on the car, we decided, just for fun, to ask it for directions as we entered Fredericton from the Trans Canada. Might as well get our money's worth, we felt. Just a toy. Well, we asked the live 'navigation guide' or whatever the address of the hotel we were staying at, which she got and then she punched our destination into the Onstar Computer.

It told us what to do first, but before we got to where it wanted us to turn, we saw a 'fork in the road' that said left to Moncton, right to Fredericton, so naturally we turned to the right. Naturally, the Onstar computer told us 'we had left our route..would you like us to recalibrate?' ...we said YES. And then it said to turn onto said highway, but when we got to the next turn the indicator said there was 100 meters to go...so we continued and again it said "you have gone off the route" and so we instructed it to recalibrate and then it took us to a long dirt road and I told my husband, "This doesn't seem right. I mean we are going from the Trans Canada to a major Canadian city, usually that means a direct route through civilisation. Anyway, the computer, somehow, got us somewhere near the airport, 20 kilmeters away, into a new housing development, and landed us at an empty lot and said "you have reached your destination." We contacted the human advisor who said 'But you are at your destination" but we said NO WE ARE NOT. This is a ruralish development. Then the navigation person said he'd recalibrate for us, and the computer took us to a crossroad, which had a sign, right to Fredericton, left to Oromocto, or whatever and it told us to turn LEFT, but we turned RIGHT, being of a higher order of primate and able to think for ourselves. When it asked us if we wanted to recalibrate, we shouted NO loudly. We wondered if we were in a military experiment to see if human beings would follow ANY instructions, even if obviously WRONG. Anyway, this road took us the long and scenic route into Fredericton, you know, the route paste the elegant old homes that every Canadian town has if it has a waterfront. The shortest route is usually the ugliest, I've found. Fredericton had a beautiful stretch, where the heritage homes were interesting in that there was a great deal of variation in style to them.

We don't know what went wrong. Were we soooo stupid, we made the computer go berzerk? As in "Danger, danger. It does not compute Will Robinson" or are computers stupid?

Last year in PEI onstar was 1 for 2.

We got Onstar with the Malibu, but I didn't want it at the time. I just had no choice. It all seems so 1984 or Brave New Worldish. "Hello, Mr. McGill. What can we do for you today? I see you've gained a few pounds Mr. Wells, Should I drive you to the gym, or how about a walk along the river path. The temperature is 64 Celsius and showers are predicted for 4 hours.

And considering the slow slide in totalitarianism that we are experiencing, I get antsy at the thought of my every move being tracked.

So, it's kind of comforting that computers act dumb. All last week the predication for Halifax was 4 days of sun this week, but it's going to rain a bit. That's fine with me. Peggy's Cove is beautiful in the rain.)