by David M. Raley
If you already know what GPS is, skip to the next paragraph. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite. It is a system for determining your position on Earth by Radio reference to five of the 22 satellites, or four satellites and a Ground Reference Station. There are two methods. You can use the satellites to learn the exact time, and then with a very accurate Sextant, find your position using the Sun. The other method involves a self contained Receiver of one of several grades. Using one of the popular hand held units, five satellites can give your position to about 100 yards (92.31 meters). Most people report accuracy to within 100 feet (30.77 meters). Actually, it tells you where you were about two seconds ago. The more sophisticated units can determine position within inches, provided you leave it in place for an hour, from satellites alone. Using a Ground Reference, Differential, Station up to 30 miles (48.28 km) away, position within a one inch (2.54 cm) sphere can be determined while in motion. So say the proponents. Here again, it is the position where you were when the sample was taken. The speed of your vehicle and the speed of the receiver's computer determine the real time accuracy. The Department of Defense owns GPS, they built it to guide Warplanes and Missiles. They can, and frequently do, degrade the signals, hence the 100 yard "guaranteed maximum error". The accuracy of GPS using Military Grade Receivers is unknown, to me at least. I would guess that they have some sort of code to overcome the degradation. If a Ground Reference Station is in use, the degradation has no effect. To overcome the effects of weather, two frequencies are used, producing four streams of data. The receiver knows what the relationship between the Data Streams should be and can tell what has happened to them in transit from shifts in the relationships. There are Short Range Reference Transmitters that can get you to a tenth of an inch.
The use of GPS for navigation is obvious. Just look in any Aviation Magazine and you will find dozens of ads for receivers. Private Pilots are buying them and using them for both navigation and approaches. The FAA is hard at work developing non-precision approach plates, and planning a system of Wide Area Differential Stations and precision approach plates. A private company is working on a network of Local Area Differential Stations. At the present time you may use GPS as an aid so long as you also have an approved receiver for an existing method. For example, you must have a Localizer Receiver and be landing at an airport with a Localizer Approach before you can use your GPS as an auxiliary aid. You cannot legally go to Localizer Minimums using GPS at an airport with, say, only a Non-Directional Beacon Approach; or with no Instrument Approach at all. There are rumors that not all pilots are waiting for the FAA, but are developing their own approaches. Periodically one hears of a crash where the only operating Navigation Device on board was a GPS Receiver. I have reason to believe that the last two sentences are related.
Unless some hitch develops, alias positions or reality for example, the FAA will eventually have the precision system certified and none of the present ground based system will be needed. So those who wish to rid the world of technicians. Neither will engineers be needed to design the systems, nor the bureaucracy to supervise the technicians be needed. There is also something that will not be needed on the airplane; a pilot. With an Autopilot coupled to a GPS Receiver having half inch accuracy, it could taxi, take off, navigate and land with instructions from the ground. A Transponder would tell the ground operator where the ship was. Dangerous? Pilot panic and disorientation is the major cause of loss of control of an aircraft. For a time, passenger planes will carry a man and a dog in the cockpit for the passenger's peace of mind. The man will be there to feed the dog and the dog will be there to keep the man from touching the controls. What happens if the system has a problem? What happens now if a control cable or rod, or a hydraulic system, or in the more sophisticated planes, a fiber optic or control signal wire fails? Have you heard that there are planes in the air with no mechanical linkage between the cockpit controls and the control surfaces? You pull back on the yoke, a computer decides if you really should be doing this, and, if it approves, sends a signal to a Servo-motor at the tail, the Servo-motor then moves the Elevator.
Even though pilots won't be needed on airplanes, those who wanted to could still fly for fun. Or could they? With Precision GPS in place the Highway System in the Sky with all its intersections and checkpoints will be gone. There will be a Precision Instrument Approach to every runway and Heliport in America. Airplanes under instrument control will fly directly from origin to destination. At any instant there could be an airplane on instrument approach to the runway that you want to practice takeoffs and landings on. As part and parcel of the system, every airplane will be required to have a GPS receiver and a Reporting Transponder. Wanna get out in the old J-3 for an hour or so? Call the National System Operator and make an appointment. Maybe not. Maybe when you take it out of the hanger, your transponder will report that you are in motion. A signal on your panel will tell you whether you can fly or not. If you can, it will tell you where to turn and climb. I've been saying "a GPS Receiver", actually, there will be a GPS head on each wingtip and in the tail, no Gyros need apply. Surely there will be an override system so the National System Operator can take over if you stray or get into trouble. In any event, expect a bill at the end of the month for use of the system.
GPS may lead to a more peaceful world. Fiji and Russia already rely on it almost entirely. The Figians have stopped whacking so many mountains, but the Russians continue to scar the ground. When the whole world depends upon our system for Air Commerce, is anyone likely to do something that will make us shut it down?
You may wonder why GPS can't also be used for ground transportation. Stick one in a semi and the driver becomes a clerk. Your car? Sure. For trips of less that 1,000 miles, you may find yourself taking your own car more often than flying. You could sleep or play cards or computer games. Maybe you could play with a Flight Simulator while your car drove itself. The car could get there without you of course, but there would seldom be a need to send it alone.
Most likely you would have a limited access terminal in your home to tell you where your car, and other things that you have a justifiable interest in, are at any given moment. When every car is traceable in real time, auto theft will become a thing of the past. A thief might remove the transponder, but the first time he drove through an intersection, an alarm would go off telling police that an unidentified car had just passed. If a joyrider took your car, it would come home on its own accord whenever he abandoned it.
You probably have heard of the House Arrest Anklet. It is a small transmitter that broadcasts the arrestee's proximity to a receiver in the house where she is supposed to be. If she gets too far away, the receiver calls the law. This works pretty well in cases where the person is cooperative. Extrapolate this to GPS. Accessorized with a shock collar and you could let all manner of offenders range safely. A stalker? Most of the time there will be no need to waste money locking him up. Have the Central Computer keep up with where he and his victim are. If he gets in the vicinity, say a half mile, he will get a beep. If he ignores it, warm up the spark circuit and give him a little taste of the bugger, then a larger one until he gives up. In the meantime the victim has been notified and the police are on the way. Some victims might need to be told that it would be poor sportsmanship to drive by the stalker's house at three in the morning. Those on work release, assuming there is any such thing as work by then, would enjoy more freedom of movement and not have to worry about calling their Supervising Officer if they needed to stop for a loaf of bread on the way home. Just stay away from the places and people that you are restricted from. Parents would surely want their small children to have a Tracer Only version, removal would be a later day Bar Mitzvah. The School System will probably want one on truants. You might be thinking of a variation of the full featured device for your daughter's boyfriend.
Now we know where all the crooks and kids and cars and airplanes are. Accidents and crime are way down. If someone breaks into your house and he is a prior offender, the police know who did it. An alarm would sound anytime a known burglar approached a dwelling. Since most criminals will soon learn to cooperate, there will be more space and manpower to deal with those who won't. (but) Can you get your VCR back? In the case of a second offender the police will know not only who he was, but where he took it. The machine could have been fitted with its own tracer, this would protect it from first time offenders. How small can these tracers be made? Could one fit in the nose piece of your glasses? "Computer; where are my glasses?" "Your safety glasses are by the drill press, your sun glasses are on the table by the front door, your reading glasses are on top of your head." "Computer; where is my ass?" "Your ass is in the third stall of Chavis'es Livestock Hotel."
Gun control? I don't like it but its coming. All new guns would come with the tracer installed. Existing guns? If the penalty for carrying a firearm without a tracer outside your property was 10 years of wearing a ankle tracer yourself, you would probably keep your gun at home or have it retrofited. Perhaps both, since, if it were stolen by a known criminal, the Central Computer would know who took it. If the tracer were removed or disabled, it would know who had it last. The criminal wouldn't want one on hers, but since guns used in crimes would be seized, and more criminals are being caught it will be only a matter of time before the whereabouts of virtually all guns will be known in real time.
At the beginning of this mindless screed, we put all of the ground based NavAids people out of work. Later we got rid of Pilots, Navigators and Chauffeurs. Let's see who else we can get. In the March 12th issue of the Charlotte Observer, at the bottom of page 1-D, there was a picture of a Robotic Solar Lawn Mower. It roams around the yard during daylight and clips the grass. Since it works every dry day it doesn't have to work very fast. It can maintain 13,500 square feet of lawn. It is kept in the yard by a wire buried around the border. This is a device that would adapt well to GPS. With a little tinkering it could be fitted with a claw or two and be taught to recognize flowers and garden vegetables. There go the farmers and yard groomers. A somewhat larger version could record the elevations of an area and landscape it a few clawfulls at a time. Simple instructions would do. After it maps the area and determines where the final elevation will be if all the dirt is distributed smoothly, you will know whether you have dirt to buy or to get rid of. Then tell the machine to take a load from any point it finds high and drop it on any point it finds low. It will know where to make ditches for the drainage system, if it thinks such is required, and being in contact with the Central Computer, will know if the Environmental Protection Agency will allow the project. So what if the physical work takes a month or two. How long does it take now to get a piece of property landscaped? We've eliminated the Surveyor, the Civil Engineer, the Bulldozer Operator and some Bureaucrats at EPA.
Now you want a house built. The precise coordinates for each brick, block, ounce of mortar, board and nail could be part of the plans. A modification of the Lawnmower/Earthmover could put all these things in place in the right order. There go the Masons and the Carpenters. But you would need an Architect, right? Wrong. Just pick out a rough sketch and answer a menu. The Central Computer would point out intolerable errors, covenants and code violations. If you wanted people to think that you had an real Architect design your house, you could have lawn sprinklers in the attic, or your lawnmower could come in from time to time and dump water on the floor. Out of work Architects and Construction Engineers could spend their time arguing over whose fault it was that this had come upon them.
Will any job survive?
Consider the Piano Teacher. He teaches you to look at musical notation and place your finger(s) in certain places. Guidance Modules on top of each nail, synchronized with notes flashing on a computer screen will send him to the welfare office. The Information Superhighway, and all the people put out of work so far, who are home with their children, will be eliminating most of the other teachers. Whose job will be safe? The policeman's? Criminals will soon devolve into two types: Those who will come in on their own and those who are extremely vicious. No one is needed to pick up the first type. Who would care if a high powered lawnmower or tiller went after the second.
While all this is going on, Virtual Reality is getting better and better. If you are a fan of the late Robert A. Heinlien, you probably thought "Waldoes" when I wrote Guidance Modules in preceding paragraph. Waldoes, for those who have never heard the term, or wonder where it came from, were an "invention " of the Heinlein character Waldo in the 1940's novella by the same name. (The book is Waldo and Magic Inc.) The device was a glove that communicated with another glove. The teacher wore one and the student the other. It was fitted with Motion Sensors and Guidance Modules. Waldo could, and did, teach the finer points of the Machinists trade to his employees. They didn't much like it. They also didn't call the gloves "Waldoes" within his earshot. He was as physically weak as he was mentally strong, so weak that he lived in a private space station. No one called his home "Wheelchair" within his earshot either. It was in this story that Heinlein described a nuclear fission sequence involving copper. He choose an impossible to split metal because he had already been jumped by the war department for discussing nuclear bombs. Heinlien had no way of knowing that the Manhatten Project code word for what we now call Plutonium was copper. As usual, I have digressed. Couple a full body Waldo, equipped with Motion Sensors, Guidance Modules and Tactile Stimulation Generators, with a headset providing Stereo Vision and Sound. Add to it a real time transponder. Want to go to Paris? Put on your Waldo and call your travel agent. A remote control Simuloid is waiting for you there. Pick "who" you want to be from the menu and roam around all you like. Not only do you get there quickly, you can whiz back before they make you eat the snails. The real Paris doesn't suit you? Go to any number of variations. The Paris of "Gigi" or the Paris of "1821". Go to Waterloo; be Napoleon, be Wellington. Go to Barcelona. Visit that little social club down the street from the Tequila Bar; be the Sailor, be the Senorita. Go to the bullfight; be the Matador, be the Bull. Go to the White House; be The President, be the First Lady, be the First Goldfish if it pleases you to do so. Need an operation? If the problem is anywhere below the the breakout for your arms you could do it at home. Practice a few times on a computer generated duplicate of yourself, make sure the cat is out, bring on the auto-seeking epidural, snip snip, clip clip.
Everybody or almost everybody, is out of a job now. The only ones actually doing useful work are those who maintain and continue to perfect the GPS/VR system. Eventually VR would not need the Waldo because it could connect directly to the brain. A person could even have a complete mini-lifetime in VR. You could read a script and pick the role you wanted. Entry could be made at "birth" if that was your desire. To keep from overloading your real brain and body you would have to come out of the system periodically. These times could probably coincide with your real sleeping times. Events in the real world that required your attention might come to seem dreams or nightmares.
Suppose GPS and Virtual Reality were perfected thousands of years ago... Suppose we talk about that later.
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