Tuesday 20 March 2018

Where am I ?

Drunk: Hi Honey I'm a bit fluthered, can you come pick me up?
Patient Husband: Sure, where are you?
Drunk: I'm at the corner of Walk and Don't Walk
Did you see what I did there? I reversed the stereotype of the drunken husband and long-suffering wife. Patriarchy 1 - Civilisation 0.

I wrote earlier about my mother having to find her husband 'somewhere in South London' in around 1958. Until The Man implants GPS transponders in all newborns (at the same time as they have their PKU pin-prick test?), knowing where you are is an on-going problem. Getting your pizza or another internet-impulse buy is potentially a problem, to which different countries have come up with different solutions.

I've had a few swipes at Eircode, Ireland's €25 million solution to getting a unique address for every home and business in the country:
Whatever about the codes, the quality of the underlying mapping data has been increasing exponentially. In December last year, I pointed at a fascinating comparison of the quality /richness of Google and Apple Maps by Justin O'Beirne. He pointed out that Google Streetview is IDing all the doorways so that a driverless taxi can purrrrr up to the entry of an apartment complex even when it round the corner from the official street address.
STOP PRESS: First person killed by a driverless Uber car (with safety-driver on board). One of the 184 comments says that the 'pedestrian' in the headline was a cyclist . . . in the cycle-lane. That unfortunate will be remembered in 200 years like William Huskisson the first man killed by a railway engine.

In about 2012, concert promoter Chris Sheldrick was getting pissed off at inadequate addressing as he tried to get kit to concerts in advance of the band. He moaned about it to Mohan Ganesalingam, a genius geek who stood astride the Two Cultures with Cambridge degrees in both mathematics and languages. Between the two of them, and some other early adopters and a few $million of VC, they came up with What 3 Words a global addressing system that assigns a unique identifier to every 3m x 3m square on the planet . . . so 70% of them are all wet. How many such 'squares' are there? about 57,000,000,000,000.  That's a lot of digits to remember! That's why phone numbers are often 7 digits because that's the limit of items that can be retained in short-term memory until we find a pencil to write it down. We're much better at recalling words because we 'chunk' into meaningful images and store that instead of the individual letters. If you want help memorising stuff, then you can embrace the Memory Palace techniques espoused by Mr Memory contestants or my Human Physiology students.

It didn't take [Chris and] Mohan long to twig that the cube root of 57 trillion is about 40,000 which is the number of normal words in the English language which are familiar to well-read people. A normal child will have acquired about 10,000 words by their 8th birthday: an astonishing 5 new words every day since they turned 2 and started speaking. So they took 40,000 English words and grouped them in ordered triplets to generate 64 trillion unique addresses in their GPS look-up table. mineral.customer.ridiculed is different from, not even close to, mineral.ridiculed customer. Like Eircode there is no hierarchy or order in the assignments and that can be a problem. What 3 Words and Eircode will tell you that this a virtue and mumble about error checking. But Alistair Cohen indicates that one letter different in the W3W could send you to New Zealand rather than Olde Zeeland with a huge bill for diesel.

High production value Ad / propaganda by the company. You may argue that such a cunning plan is all very well for Anglophones, but what about deliveries to Петропа́вловск-Камча́тский ? The company has parallel databases in Arabic, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Mongolian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish,Turkish and Kiswahili. At the moment only in English for the oceanic locations, though.  This is the future: for driverless taxis, drone-deliveries, meet-ups in pop concerts and a cascade of, as yet unknown, problems for which W3W will be the solution.

As near as matters to the postman, I am now in / at provide.deluxe.interlude because that's what I do with The Blob every day between 7am and 8am every morning. Be sure you get that right: provide.wonderful.experience is almost exactly halfway between Cuba and Grand Canaria; and I defo won't be there to provide tea and flapjacks for visitors. If I walk out the front door I may drift into metabolism.collider.unedited, still within range of a tossed flapjack!

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