Finding North: The app
Getting lost, and finding our way again, are a key part of how humans evolved, of who we are. The use of GPS and related technologies erodes our exploring and wayfinding skills, and related portions of our brain. But fighting back doesn’t mean you have to give up the real advantages tech affords. All you have to do to rescue that part of our consciousness is spend some time, every day, or week, navigating. There are two ways to do this:

1, ORIENT YOURSELF, as a personal discipline, every morning toward the sunrise, or toward the north star at night, and visualize where you stand in the greater world. Or keep a pocket compass and map and practice navigating on your own. Better yet, draw a map and mark the location of pharmacy, work, loved one, a place that scares you. Don’t be reluctant to add emotional or historical information—a map can include anything. Or, instead of letting your device tell you where to go, use Google Maps and a simple, free, Android or Apple compass app to figure it out for yourself on your cellphone screen.

2, GET LOST. Being told our precise position teaches us nothing. We only learn when we do not know the solution to a given problem, and figure out the answer on our own. So leave all devices at home and find a tract of country or city that you don’t know—then follow every alley or path that catches your fancy until you are good and lost. Then find your way home, constructing a mental map of this new territory, and trying to understand how it works. ... And if you can’t even get lost without a tech solution, here are four apps that will help you out:




Random GPS

Early astrolabe, used to measure sun's altitude for navigating (Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris)