As a road tripper I’m not a very big fan of GPS. It seems they would spoil the sense of adventure and prevent the most glorious finds (which always seem to be found while “lost”). And as a privacy advocate I am some pretty heavy concerns about the ability of just about anyone being able to track all of my movements 24 hours a day. But I still think it’s incredibly cool technology.
That last belief was just made all the more stronger thanks to a recent Wired article–
Wuta is practically naked, except for the red cotton breechcloth strung around his waist and the yellow beaded necklaces that drape his muscular torso. In his hands, though, he’s holding something that places him firmly in the 21st century: a new gray Garmin GPS device.
A member of the Trio tribe, he’s leading me through the rain forest near his village in southern Suriname — a two-hour Cessna flight from the closest road. At the foot of a large tree that dangles a cascade of liana vines, Wuta points his GPS toward the sky: no signal. He fiddles with a button and a few minutes later gets a reading. He relays the coordinates to a fellow Trio cartographer beside him, who dutifully jots them down. Wuta then tramps on, demonstrating how he and other tribesmen have charted, by foot and canoe, some 20 million acres of land here at Amazonia’s northern fringe.
It seems the phrase “modern primitive” finally has an authentic meaning after all. Tribes in the Amazon (and elsewhere) are now using a combination of GPS devices and Google Earth to not only map their domains, but to protect them from the ever-increasing encroachment of the modern world. Ironic? Yes. Cool? Definitely.