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I’ve been sorting out all my blog postings over the last two years and I came across this article I wrote in May 2015 but didn’t publish.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I thought it was too controversial!   Anyway, be that as it may.  My comments are still relevant and here it is to start 2017 with a bang and a sizzle.


The Royal Institute of Navigation has issued a warning that people are losing the ability to navigate using a map and a compass.

A growing dependence on smartphones and satellite navigation systems to find our way threatens the future for basic map reading and compass knowledge, the Royal Institute of Navigation is warning.   Roger McKinlay, president of the institute, says society is becoming “sedated by software” as it loses both a practical skill and spur to self-reliance.

As a long-distance walker who shuns the satnav and relies on map and compass navigation, I tend to agree.  But, let’s get the statement in perspective.

There are 7 billion people on this planet, give or take a few.  Half of them are female and, let’s face it, with very few exceptions (Felicity Aston, Calamity Jane, Amelia Earhart, Freya Stark, Fanny Bullock Workman, …) women cannot navigate.  It’s an undeniable fact stemming from the hunter/nester divide.  Women have no perception of north, south, east or west and their lack of spatial imagery forbids any intuitive or otherwise innate method of finding a route from A to B.  So we can forget about women losing map-and-compass skills.  They never had such skills in the first place!

(Women who feel outraged by such sweeping assertions are invited to prove me wrong but their comments should be accompanied by a scanned-in certified image of a National Navigation Award Scheme personal certificate at either Bronze, Silver or Gold level.)

That leaves 3.5 billion males who are potentially affected by the satnav craze.

Satnavs in cars started around 2000 followed by satnav apps on smartphones in 2010.  This means that only males born after 2000 have had access to satnav navigation systems and so will not have developed their map-reading skills.  Assuming the world’s male population is evenly spread in ages across eight decades—the 0- 9 year olds, 10 -19 year olds, … up to 70 – 79 year olds—this restricts the lost skills generation to those in the first two age bands i.e. those between the ages of 0 and 19.

Actually, we can rule out the 0 – 9 year olds.  They are too young to become responsible for navigation and, so far, will have relied on their elders to get them from A to B.

This leaves just the 10 – 19 year olds who have, possibly, never learnt to use a map and compass.  This age group represents one eighth of the 3.5 billion males, i.e. around 440 million males.

Now the question is—how many of the males in this age group own and use a smartphone with satnav communication features?    The simplest answer is everyone.  I mean, who do you know in this age group who does not own a smartphone?

440 million 10 – 19 year olds represents 5.7% of the world’s population.   Not a lot but enough to worry about unless, and it’s a big unless, females rise to the occasion, cast off their pinafores and aprons, abandon their children, put aside their knitting and join a map-and-compass navigation class.  In this way will women take command of car ride navigation requirements and males will no longer question whether the turn-right turn-left advice is correct.

i-think-were-lost-10-150My son Mark trying to figure out where we are, Himalayas (Nepal), 2009