I have a truly awful sense of direction, which means it’s extremely easy for me to get lost when I go places. This is especially troublesome until we got our first GPS device, a Garmin, in 2007 or so. The Garmin wasn’t of much help, though, when I was walking.
I became sold on smartphones in 2010 when, with the help of my iPhone 4, I was able to successfully navigate my way around Milan. The technology kept improving, and now one of the great things about the world is and I can offload all of the mental processing power that used to go to navigation. I get lost less frequently, and that’s a major source of stress reduction for me.
I got an Apple watch right after it came out; it was kind of a “congratulations on getting tenure” gift to myself. One of the best features has been the navigation. Right now, I can just tell Siri that I need to get to the Mayflower Hotel or the Jefferson Hotel or wherever–or even the nearest drugstore–and I’ll have turn by turn directions on my watch with watch buzzing a little bit every time I need to actually turn. Once again, it’s reduction in the processing power that I need to devote to avoiding getting lost.
For those of you with a great sense of direction, I’m sure this all sounds trivial, and there are definitely far more important things than clever navigation apps. This represents an important drop in what the economist Donald Boudreaux calls the prosperity pool. And for an absent-minded professor like me, it’s a drop that’s bigger than most.