BBC Future

60 Second Idea

‘Giving directions to the lost should be compulsory’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week map designer Aris Venetikidis proposes a way to help travellers that find themselves lost.

“If I could issue a decree I would make it the law that if you saw someone on the street holding a map with a confused look on their face, it would be legally required that you walk up to this person, ask them where they want to go and whether you can help them.

That may sound weird coming from a map designer, but I think maps – by the very fabric of how they are produced – have a couple of shortcomings. In particular, they have far too much irrelevant information that can be substituted by local people.

Local people may be able to recommended you places based on your persona, they may be aware of temporary detours or even if the location you are heading for isn’t worth going to.

A map’s problem is that it essentially doesn’t know who is looking at it.

Does that make maps obsolete? I don’t think so. The locals giving you directions may still want to make little marks and routes on your map.

And by taking your map along, people will talk. Strangers and visitors would feel more welcome and I think that would make the world a better place.”

You can listen to Aris discuss his idea with earth scientist Greg Asner and historian of cartography Jerry Brotton in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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