A Financial Times Best Book of 2016
A Sunday Times Best Book of 2016
Pinpoint tells the story of GPS, a scientific marvel that enables almost all modern technology—but is changing us in profound ways.
Over the last fifty years, humanity has developed an extraordinary shared utility: the Global Positioning System. Even as it guides us across town, GPS helps land planes, route mobile calls, anticipate earthquakes, predict weather, locate oil deposits, measure neutrinos, grow our food, and regulate global finance. It is as ubiquitous and essential as another Cold War technology, the Internet. In Pinpoint, Greg Milner takes us on a fascinating tour of a hidden system that touches almost every aspect of our modern life.
While GPS has brought us breathtakingly accurate information about our planetary environment and physical space, it has also created new forms of human behavior. We have let it saturate the world’s systems so completely and so quickly that we are just beginning to confront the possible consequences. A single GPS timing flaw, whether accidental or malicious, could bring down the electrical grid, hijack drones, or halt the world financial system. The use, and potential misuse, of GPS data by government and corporations raise disturbing questions about ethics and privacy. GPS may be altering the nature of human cognition—possibly even rearranging the gray matter in our heads.
Pinpoint tells the sweeping story of GPS from its conceptual origins as a bomb guidance system to its presence in almost everything we do. Milner examines the different ways humans have understood physical space, delves into the neuroscience of cognitive maps, and questions GPS’s double-edged effect on our culture. A fascinating and original story of the scientific urge toward precision, Pinpoint offers startling insight into how humans understand their place in the world.