TRAVELLERS, GO BACK TO GETTING LOST THIS SUMMER!

4 July, 2019
By Marco Levi

– If technology does everything, what does a human do?

 

Technology simplifies life. That’s simply out of the question. I’m driving my car in a land unknown, when I suddenly realize I’ve lost my way: I don’t need to look at the stars any longer to find my way.

We all know it: just turn on your GPS and do no more. Technology handles everything. Where to go, how to get there, how long will it take… It’s all calculated for us. Any chance of being lost is all but excised from human existence, like some root. How could anyone take a negative view of a revolution so crucial for the life of all mankind? Impossible: the aura of technology shines too brightly to be called into question. However, it may occur to some how using your car’s GPS as navigator, therefore foregoing to use the human machine’s navigator, our brain, could actually have certain minor consequences. Also in terms of travel.

 

– There’s a built-in GPS in the human machine: the hippocampus.

 

In a scientific study published in 2017 in Nature Communications, some researchers made observations on what happens (but also not happens) to the brain’s neurons, when they go unused, in their ancestral capacity of being “navigators,” mapping out territory. How? Thanks to a virtual simulation, the participating subjects were asked to explore the area of Soho, in London. One group were equipped with GPS, while the other were only allowed to count on their own abilities.

Scientists were thus able to observe not just how much harder, obviously, a brain will work in the absence of technological support, turning itself “on”, but specifically what part of the brain is activated for orientation, in other words: where human GPS is located. In the hippocampus. In the words of Amir-Homayoun Javadi, one of the study’s authors:

 

“The hippocampus creates an inner map of the environment and this map becomes active only when one is involved in navigating and isn’t using GPS”

 

– To travel means to get lost. Have a nice trip.

 

Thanks to this umpteenth microcellular demonstration, the technological “regime” every society is surrendering to is forced to mediate. The datum is always the same: technology, when overused, can and will have severe side effects. The habit of comfort keeps our mind’s potential underused. It keeps it still, as pretty as a picture, but turned off. A beautiful new car, sure, but stuck inside a garage. In terms of travel, this means only half the experience. Eyes half-closed, and heart not even there. How to deal with this?

For sure, the future isn’t about casting GPS aside altogether. But having it in a balance with the hippocampus, using it only when really necessary. So as to never forget that there’s a map, much further away than satellites, we can all connect to. A map, all the way down there, in the infinity, and that is us. On that deep and mysterious groove, where humanity has been traveling forever. And, in order for the trip to work, we can’t give up the possibility to get lost in that infinite groove.

 

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash