如果没有GPS定位 我们会迷路吗

日期:2019-09-16 14:52    阅读:

On Labor Day, in 1973, a dozen military officials furtively gathered in an office of a deserted Pentagon building in Washington DC to discuss a new global satellite-based navigation system. Most historians, never mind voters, know almost nothing about that meeting, which launched the network now known as the global positioning system, or GPS. That is a pity.

 

1973年美国劳动节那天,12名军官在美国华盛顿特区五角大楼一栋废弃建筑的一间办公室里秘密开会,讨论一种新的全球卫星导航系统。多数历史学家(更别提选民了)对缔造了现在被称为全球定位系统(GPS)的网络的这次会议几乎一无所知。这是个遗憾。

 

I have been reading a new book, Pinpoint, by American journalist Greg Milner, which seeks to explain how GPS came into being and how it now operates. It is one of the most mesmerising and exhilarating, yet alarming modern technology books I’ve read. These days most of us have become stealthily addicted to GPS, not just when driving but also when performing many functions with our smartphones and other devices.

 

我在读美国记者格雷格?米尔纳(Greg Milner)撰写的新书《定位》(Pinpoint),该书试图解释GPS如何诞生以及现在如何运转。它是我读过的最扣人心弦、令人兴奋但也最令人震惊的现代科技图书之一。如今,我们多数人都对GPS悄悄上瘾——不仅是在驾车时,而且在用我们的智能手机和其他设备运行很多功能时都是这样。

 

Milner calculates that there are already about five billion devices in the world that use GPS (including three billion smartphones), creating a $21bn GPS economy. “This extraordinary system began as an American military application, a way to improve the accuracy of bombs and keep bomber pilots safe,” Milner writes. “[But] today its tentacles are everywhere.”

 

米尔纳估计,目前全球已有大约50亿部使用GPS的设备,包括30亿部智能手机,创造了210亿美元的GPS经济。“这个非同一般的系统最初是美国的一个军事应用,目的是提高投弹精度并保证轰炸机飞行员的安全,”米尔纳写道,“(但)如今它的触角无所不在。”

 

As with so much of our cyber economy, most of us have no clue how GPS works; nor that the entire system is run by an obscure squadron of the US Air Force based near Colorado Springs. If you start looking into the network, it becomes clear that the GPS story deserves far more attention — not least because we urgently need to think about what might happen if GPS breaks down.

 

就像网络经济的很大部分那样,多数人不了解GPS如何工作;也不知道整个系统是由美国空军一个驻扎在科罗拉多泉附近的鲜为人知的中队管理的。如果你研究一下GPS网络,你会清楚地发现,GPS的故事值得引起更多关注,特别是因为我们亟需考虑如果GPS失灵可能会发生什么情况。

 

By any standards, it is an extraordinary tale, in part because GPS touches on anthropology as much as science. As archaeologists, historians and anthropologists know, the way humans imagine the world around them has varied enormously over time. In most premodern societies, people did not have objective “maps” of the world in their heads; instead, they perceived the world as contours radiating out from their home. From the ancient Greeks onwards, many cultures assumed that the sun revolved around the earth.

 

无论按照什么标准,这都是一个非同一般的故事,部分原因是GPS既涉及科学,还触及人类学。正如考古学家、历史学家和人类学家知道的那样,古往今来,人类对周围世界的想象发生了巨大变化。在多数前现代社会中,人们头脑中没有关于世界的客观“地图”;他们认为世界是从自己的家发散出去的轮廓。从古希腊起,很多文化认为,太阳围绕地球转动。

 

When people started roaming the globe with chronometers and peering at the sky with telescopes, it changed their perspective. The Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed his revolutionary idea that the sun, not the earth, was at the centre of the solar system. Since then, we have learnt to create objective — not subjective — maps with growing accuracy.

 

当人们开始带上计时器环游世界,并用望远镜观察天空时,他们的看法改变了。波兰天文学家尼古拉斯?哥白尼(Nicolaus Copernicus)提出了他的革命性看法,即太阳(而非地球)是太阳系的中心。此后,我们学会了制作越来越精准的客观(而非主观)地图。

 

GPS alters this perspective again. It uses signals from four or more GPS satellites at a time (out of about 30 orbiting the planet) to pinpoint our position; but it does so by putting us at the centre of our own map.

 

GPS再次改变了视角。它利用四枚或更多GPS卫星同时发出的信号(来自环绕地球运行的大约30枚卫星)来定位;它把我们放在了我们自己地图的中心。

 

That lets us navigate our surroundings with once-unimaginable precision but it also enables something else to occur that is important: we can now guide other objects, too.

 

它用以往不可想象的精度在我们的周围环境为我们指路,但它也让其他一些重要的事情发生了:我们现在也可以为其他物体导航了。

 

When GPS finally came of age, this technology was initially used to guide bombs, most notably in the first Gulf war. Today those satellites guide everything from aircraft to oil tankers, from hospital operations to financial trades. And, of course, our cars.

 

当GPS最终成熟时,这种技术最初用于精确制导炸弹,最引人注目的是在第一次海湾战争中使用。如今,这些卫星为各种物体导航,从飞机到油轮,从医院手术到金融交易。当然还有我们的汽车。

 

As technological leaps go, this feels almost miraculous, and it might give some grounds for optimism in relation to other seemingly intractable problems, such as climate change.

 

就技术飞跃而言,这几乎像是一个奇迹,而且它可能给其他似乎很难解决的问题(例如气候变化)带来一些让人乐观的理由。

 

The danger is that the more we become dependent on this magical technology, the more potentially vulnerable we become, too. Milner cites some fascinating studies by neurologists, for example, which suggest that when people rely on GPS to navigate, they stop interacting with their environment in a cognitive sense, and their brains appear to change.

 

危险在于我们越依赖这种神奇的技术,我们就可能会变得越脆弱。例如,米尔纳援引了神经学家的一些有趣研究,这些研究表明,当人们依赖GPS导航时,他们停止在认知层面与自己的周围环境互动,他们的大脑似乎会发生变化。

 

More worrying still, as our modern transport, industry and infrastructure networks become more reliant on GPS, there is a growing risk that these could break down completely if those satellites veer off course. The US military insists this will never happen because it is working to keep the system watertight. And one factor that may help them in that respect is that, ironically, even the US’s enemies depend on GPS. Isis, for example, uses GPS-enabled smartphones in its attacks.

 

更令人担心的是,随着现代交通、工业和基础设施网络变得更依赖GPS,如果这些卫星偏离轨道,那么这些系统可能完全崩溃的风险日益上升。美国军方坚称,这种情况永远不会发生,因为他们正致力于让GPS系统万无一失。另一个可能支持这种说法的因素是,具有讽刺意味的是,就连美国的敌人也依赖GPS。例如,“伊拉克和黎凡特伊斯兰国”(ISIS)在其攻击中使用了带有GPS功能的智能手机。

 

The truly scary thing about our modern cyber world is that nothing now seems truly invulnerable. So perhaps the real moral of the tale is that the next time you get into a car, switch on a smartphone or do almost anything else, you should give silent thanks to those unseen satellites orbiting the earth; and then ponder what we would do if GPS suddenly stopped working. It’s a disorienting thought.

 

关于现代网络世界真正可怕的一点在于,如今一切都不是真正坚不可摧的。因此,或许这个故事给我们的真正收获在于,当你下次坐进汽车,打开智能手机或者做其他事情时,你应该向那些环绕地球运行、肉眼看不见的卫星默默道声谢谢;然后考虑一下如果GPS突然失灵,我们会怎么做。这种想法会让人茫然不知所措的。

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