[LINK] limits of technology in finding someone

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Fri Dec 8 09:46:51 AEDT 2006

Family found by mobile triangulation, but father dies. story slant: 
lack of GPS. I don't think that's correct.

>  http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/16180632.htm

Quinn: Kim death highlights limits of technology
By Michelle Quinn
Mercury News

The best of technology couldn't find James Kim in time.

It hurts. Our personal technology makes us feel all knowing, 
invincible, able to navigate the world beyond the limits of our 
immediate knowledge and surroundings. We can sit in San Jose and find 
the coolest spot to spend the night on the Oregon coast or the best 
sushi place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

But in the end, despite our iPods and Blackberries, we are really 
just ticking clocks that wind down without food, water, shelter.

Kim, a CNET technology editor, was found dead Wednesday afternoon in 
rough Oregon terrain after he left his wife and two children in their 
car to look for help. The couple had been stranded for a week, 
keeping themselves warm and alive with incredible resourcefulness.

On Monday, technology gave a crucial assist. Searchers were able to 
narrow where the family's car was thanks to the Kims' cell phones, 
which were on and sent a signal to a nearby tower. Searchers saved 
Kim's wife and two children.

Amid all the technology they traveled with -- three mobile phones and 
two laptops, the Kims apparently didn't have global positioning 
systems, which would have helped. But who thinks of needing GPS -- 
except for the overly concerned -- if you are driving Interstate 5 to 
Seattle and Portland with a side trip to the coast?

The police talked about the laptops Monday in a press conference. 
They were going to delve into them to get a sense of James Kim's 
thinking of where he might head.

It made me wonder whether the couple, like many of us, consulted 
Mapquest or other mapping sites on the Internet to figure out the 
quickest route once they missed a turnoff to the Oregon Coast.

They eventually found themselves on Bear Camp Road. Nice enough name. 
But Mapquest and other services like it don't give context and 
history. It doesn't tell you that driving from San Francisco to San 
Jose at 8 a.m. takes two hours. It doesn't know that trees are down 
on a road or that funding to light up the road has never come 
through. It doesn't say this isn't a place people go in winter.

Sites like Mapquest have ``no crossover information,'' said Inspector 
Angela Martin in the Missing Person's Unit at the San Francisco 
police department.

I didn't think I was religious. But the tech optimist in me believed 
that the best of our technology was going to find Kim. The 
helicopters had heat sensors and scanned the area at night. A cell 
phone engineer erected an emergency cell phone tower to help 
searchers but also to give Kim's cell phone a signal.

But it wasn't enough. The indifferent fog clouded over, preventing 
the helicopters from flying. The terrain Kim walked took him to a 
point where he had sheer drops on both sides. One can't even imagine 
his despair at that place.

Oh, there will be plenty of helpful tips from this tragedy, how to 
pack your car for trips, whether to invest in global positioning 
systems. More technology, we can't but help feel, is the answer.

It's poetic, the tech editor's family saved by a cell phone. But now 
with Kim dead, it just hurts to feel technology's limits.

Jan Whitaker
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
personal: http://www.janwhitaker.com/personal/
commentary: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/

'Seed planting is often the most important step. Without the seed, 
there is no plant.' - JW, April 2005
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