GPS will know if you've been bad or good
ON A RECENT a trip to Disney World, I made sure to take a plush Mickey Mouse toy with me everywhere I went, from Magic Kingdom to Epcot Center to Space Mountain.
He was a foot-long, lovable childhood cartoon character. I was an overweight, bald man in his mid-30s sporting a three-day beard. It would be fair to say that we were something of an odd couple.
But since me and pretty much anyone is an odd couple, the stares were easy to brush aside.
Regardless, we were inseparable because as we walked around, high-tech Pal Mickey would whisper timely secrets in my ear, like when a parade was starting, where to best jockey for position for a fireworks show, or how to foil Chip 'N' Dale's plot to kill me (though both Disney's Imagineers and my therapist insist he did no such thing).
Pal Mickey uses infrared technology to pick up radio signals. He then vibrates for attention, and after you squeeze his hand, he'll tell you whatever relevant tidbit he deems apropos based on your position in the park.
But if a little microchip- enabled American icon can make ignorance no longer bliss at the Happiest Place on Earth, why not apply this same principle on the rest of terra firma? Admittedly, life's not quite as happy out here, but at least you can get a snow cone for under $4.
Well, several firms are creating more global, if less huggable, Pal Mickey-like services.
The Associated Press reported last week that Mologogo.com now allows you to find the exact location of a cell-phone user on an online map. And if you have a Nokia phone, you can use Geominder software (ludimate.com) to stick a kind of virtual Post-It note on any location. Once you, and your cell phone, return to that area, you'll get a notice to "pick up dry cleaning," or "deposit check" or even "call mayor -- giant pothole approaching port-side."
Of course, like any new technology, it's easy to imagine both its use and its abuse.
During my second day working as a high-school intern in the newsroom of my hometown newspaper, I was asked to fetch some Folgers coffee from a downtown market a few blocks away. Lost for the better part of an hour, I eventually made it back to the newspaper -- defeated.
Rather than walk back in empty-handed, I considered joining the Foreign Legion (if they can bury your past, surely they can get cappuccinos delivered).
But instead, I got in my car, drove to my home-based neighborhood grocery store eight miles away, then lied about an extremely long line at the downtown market once I got back to the newsroom -- coffee grounds in hand.
Now, if I'd had a GPS-enabled Blackberry before my mission began, I could have avoided this massive coverup. On the other hand, if my employer had been able to follow my every footstep online, then the entire building could've tracked my coffee trek like a spectator sport, wagering on me like a frat house hosting a bullfrog race.
Hopefully, these new tech tools will increase our successes, because the privacy they take away will make it much harder to cover up our failures.
After all, there is one thing both Walt Disney and Big Brother would agree on: It's a small world, after all.