Friday, June 27, 2014

You Are Here

I have mentioned the interesting phenomenon of "you are here" directives on Zoo maps that visitors are given at the Entrance Area to some large Metropolitan Zoos.

On one post some humor was generated by the story about how a certain Senator became confused by the map that the Zoo handed out.

He became confused because as he moved around the Zoo (noticing the map from time to time) he became certain that he had moved upon occasion since he had last looked at the map ... but ... to him the map was still indicating that he was still at the entrance of the Zoo (Has The Navy Fallen For The Greatest Hoax?).
Click to enlarge the Universe

There is a more serious side to the reality of where we are, where you are, and where I am.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of "you are here" is that we are all in the same place!

As the song says, "We all live under the same Sun" (Exploding Plastic: Inevitable, see video).

This "you are here" phenomenon even has psychological ramifications that have been written about in scientific journals:
One of the most robust and reliable demonstrations in spatial cognition (environmental, geographic, cartographic, etc., cognition) is the difficulty that results for most people when they use a misaligned you-are-here (YAH)
map to wayfind—to orient themselves to the proximal and distal surrounds in order to follow a route to a destination. This difficulty is called an alignment effect. YAH maps are reference maps—general-purpose maps meant to show features in the environment—that are typically rather large scale (i.e., show small areas of the environment) and are placed within the surrounding area they depict. They nearly always include an arrow or some other symbol representing the location and perhaps the heading of a person viewing the map (Klippel, Freksa, & Winter [2006] use the term complex for YAH symbols indicating both location and heading). That is, all YAH maps are in situ in that they represent the area where they are placed. Because they are intended to solve wayfinding problems for a person actively engaged in applying that solution to get somewhere in real time, they must be coordinated with the surrounds when used.
(YAH, emphasis added). One psychologist even made a list of suggestions that were designed to help eradicate the YAH confusion:
You-are-here maps are standard aids for newcomers to a complex terrain. A precisely constructed map with a properly affixed you-are-here symbol, however, is not sufficient. Two principles, one of structure matching and one of orientation, must be considered in order to maximize the map's usefulness. Indeed, neglect of these can make the map misleading. These principles lead to the following set of recommendations: (1) provide salient, coordinate labels in both the terrain and the map; (2) place the map near an asymmetrical part of the terrain; (3) design the you-are-here symbol to indicate map-terrain correspondence; (4) align the map with the terrain; (5) be redundant, that is, use as many of these supplements as possible.
(You-Are-Here Maps: Psychological Considerations, emphasis added). In my opinion the relevant psychology only becomes germane to all of civilization when "you are here" applies to our place in the cosmos.
Where will we "B"?

We live on the planet Earth, which seems to be confusing to some of us who have not figured out "you are here" yet.

I say that in the sense of where one is most often determines how one should behave a la "when in Rome do as the Romans."

When on Earth, do as a competent cosmic adult Earthling would do!

The psychological aspect of being lost in space on a planet we do not know enough about really is a frightening concept.

Yet there is no valid reason that our species should be endangered as we endanger all the other species still living with us, and in fact that is a violation of the map we have been given (The Tenets of Ecocosmology, I am the Highway).

Nevertheless, the fact is that we make about 200 species extinct each day as we move closer and closer to our own extinction (Will We Destroy Food - The Bees? - 2).

So, why are we here?

The next post in this series is here.


  1. I've been trying to answer that final question my whole life. Along the frustrating way I came to a second, equally important one: What, exactly, is the [insert favorite swear word] point?

    Some religions claim all of this is the "play of God," while the atheistic version is that we are the consciousness of the universe (while we're so ignorant as to killing ourselves off by our own hand) and the agnostic claim is that we can't know why (being incapable of this meta-knowledge because we're part of It). I like some of the other answers given by various people: "We're here to help each other through this thing." by K. Vonnegut being one of them (notice it doesn't even try to define existence). Philosophy covers this topic (teleology) but ends up with language trouble and becomes practically unintelligible or ends up providing no additional information and at times becomes self-referential.

    What's your take Dredd?


  2. Tom,

    About the same as yours.

    We are out on Highway 61 it seems.

  3. I saw this a while ago and saved it to my 'musings that speak to me' file.

    You are the result of 3.8 billion years of evolutionary success.

    Act like it.


  4. There are two approaches to evolutionary concepts.

    The original perspective, which is out of favor now, was that evolution has some purpose which fundamentally includes ever increasing improvement, a progressive dynamic, whereby everything improves with time.

    Evolution and improvement are practically synonymous in that perspective.

    The contrary perspective is that evolution just happens randomly with no particular end result or purpose programmed into it.

    Noam Chomsky quotes Ernst Mayr, a noted evolutionist, on the latter version:

    "I'LL BEGIN with an interesting debate that took place some years ago between Carl Sagan, the well-known astrophysicist, and Ernst Mayr, the grand old man of American biology. They were debating the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And Sagan, speaking from the point of view of an astrophysicist, pointed out that there are innumerable planets just like ours. There is no reason they shouldn't have developed intelligent life. Mayr, from the point of view of a biologist, argued that it's very unlikely that we'll find any. And his reason was, he said, we have exactly one example: Earth. So let's take a look at Earth. And what he basically argued is that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation ... you're just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won't find it here for very long either because it's just a lethal mutation ... With the environmental crisis, we're now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we'll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us."

    (What Kind of Intelligence Is A Lethal Mutation?).

  5. "Every branch of the United States Military is worried about climate change. They have been since well before it became controversial. In the wake of an historic climate change agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in China this week (Brookings), the military’s perspective is significant in how it views climate effects on emerging military conflicts.
    At a time when Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush 41, and even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called for binding international protocols to control greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Military was seriously studying global warming in order to determine what actions they could take to prepare for the change in threats that our military will face in the future.

    The Center for Naval Analysis has had its Military Advisory Board examining the national security implications of climate change for many years. Lead by Army General Paul Kern, the Military Advisory Board is a group of 16 retired flag-level officers from all branches of the Service.

    This is not a group normally considered to be liberal activists and fear-mongers."