The Map IS the Territory
Describing a trip down the Grand Canyon with a Google Maps expedition, Adam Fisher of the New York Times explores the idea that the map, which famously was NOT the same as the territory, is now becoming exactly that:
'It was a trippy moment, the realization that I was going to be able to look back at my own outsourced memory one day. It brought to mind the writer Jorge Luis Borges. In a short story entitled “On Exactitude in Science,” Borges tells of a long-ago empire where “the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.” In Borges’s empire, the importance of the cartographic guild grew as the map grew, until finally the empire was completely covered by a map of itself.
After the downpour faded, I suggested ... that ... this raft trip was effectively sucking the Grand Canyon into Google’s vast cartographic oyster — indeed, his green orbs were capturing the entire world. “What happens,” I asked, “when Street View grows to be as big as the territory it covers?”
...Borges’s story ends with the map of the empire becoming so big that it achieves a scale of one to one, at which point it — along with cartography itself — fades into irrelevance. “In the deserts of the West, still today,” Borges writes in his last line, “there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars.”
We’re fast approaching an endgame in which the capacity to read a map could become a lost art... It’s no exaggeration to describe the smartphone as the equivalent of a cursor moving through a one-to-one-scale map of the world. Today, turn-by-turn navigation is the quintessential map app. Already some maps exist as voices that tell you where to go: Turn left, turn right. When cars drive themselves, the map will have been fully absorbed into the machine.
Right now Google has about 25 experimental self-driving cars on public roads in California and Nevada. So far they have driven more than 600,000 miles without being involved in a serious accident... In effect, the robot car is not driving through the real world so much as it is moving through, in Borges’s words, “a map of the Empire, whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” When the real world is transformed into a data set, it starts to take on some of the aspects of the virtual.'
Google’s Road Map to Global Domination - Adam Fisher
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