Back in the day before I had a GPS, I had a Jean-PS. That is to say, my wife Jean would position us on our way. Back in those days, my car was a Ford F-100 pickup truck without any air-conditioning other than our rolled down windows. The air coming through tended to make the map flap and hence to be a little hard to read. When we’d been married a couple of years, we had our first daughter whose car seat was lodged between us just above the stick shift on the floor.
This wasn’t always ideal.
Once in Austin I’d gotten lost and confused and had made a right turn on red in a place where that was not allowed. A cop pulled me over.
Jean had the map open and eldest daughter was screaming her head off when the cop walked up to the open window. He looked at Jean with the map, heard the child’s mournful wales, and with pity in his heart gave me directions to where I was going--without giving me a ticket. A GPS doesn’t have that sort of effect on our men in blue.
Jean and I have learned a lot about ourselves and about each other during the moments when we’ve been lost in the car with me driving and her navigating.
Nevertheless, I wanted a navigational system for my car from the moment I knew they existed and have had one for five years.
It’s been nice and Jean has been freed from the chore of map-reading, but, as nice as they are, they also provide an example of the limits of the current state of machine intelligence.
For example, any time I head north out of Pittsburg, mine tries to lead me through a speed trap. I won’t tell you where it is because I was caught there and it cost me $96 dollars, so why should you get off easy?
In any case, I avoid it now by driving up Cayuga Street and skirting this unnamed town to the north instead of going up Highway 69, but, as smart as it is, my nav system still keeps trying to drag me over.
I wonder if it’s getting a cut?
Whenever we make the return trip from Kansas City or Tulsa, I always use the nav system even though I can make the trip blindfolded. I use it because the kids are always asking how long it will be before we get home. I know the answer because I’ve made the trip so many times.
“When we pass the cross on the hill that’s just a ways north of the World’s Largest McDonalds, it will be exactly one hour.”
Page 2 of 2 - They won’t believe me, but when I am reading from the nav system and say, “Fifty-nine minutes,” they do believe.
This works great, but the downside is that when we get back into the city limits the lady who does the talking will start griping at me because I know more short cuts than she does.
This is why we need an Okie nav system.
“Well! If you aren’t a-gonna listen to me, then why did you even turn me on in the first place? I have other things I could be doin’ don’t you know. I swear to my time! I’ve pulled you out of so many jams and now you just ignore me! It would serve you right if I just led you off a cliff.”
An Okie nav system would also know about the speed traps.
The street I live on hasn’t been digitized. I know this because every trip I make begins with the warning that my route takes me over undigitized roads and that I should review my route.
An Okie nav system would give other information about the area: “Your route takes into undigitized areas. It leads you among people who own a lot of guns and know how to use them. Be careful if you break down and walk up to ask for help. If you don’t trip over a car battery or get shot, the folks are as good as gold.”
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.