[telecom] 'You Are Here' by Hiawatha Bray

BOOK REVIEW 'You Are Here' by Hiawatha Bray

By James Sullivan | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT MAY 13, 2014

Hiawatha Bray notes the price of the unprecedented convenience offered by a smartphone, beginning with our agreeing to "use your current location."

One of the signal books of the 1970s urged readers to "Be Here Now" - to be ever-present, according to the consciousness-raising ideals of the time.

If "You Are Here" is indicative of how we've arrived at the current era - technologically tethered as we've become - this new historical survey by veteran Globe reporter Hiawatha Bray makes a sobering case for our own complicity in creating a society where technology offers great benefits and conveniences but threatens individual privacy and independence.

"For much of human history," he writes, "it has been relatively easy to get lost." Ages ago, that was a terrifying prospect, but now it almost sounds like a welcome invitation. Bray's book describes the march of progress in mapping our own surroundings and how our search for ever-better surveillance has sometimes made us lose our way as we try to "find ourselves."

In deft detail, "You Are Here" chronicles the various innovations that have helped human beings guide themselves across the planet, from the primitive navigational tools of Polynesian sailors to the gyroscopes and GPS devices with which we've conquered the sea and air. In the smartphone age, however, we've made ourselves, not the rivers and mountains, "the primary geographic feature" of the landscape as we identify "the exact locations of billions of humans, their every move recorded and viewed by far too many eyes."


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