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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Sidekick Preference

Suppose someone was lost in a byzantine matrix of streets without a GPS, which would they prefer—a knowledgeable friend giving lengthy and detailed directions on a sheet of paper or a knowledgeable friend agreeing to assist by riding shotgun and showing the way?  I think most would rather have the friend showing the way.  This is true for several reasons.  One, of course, is that it is difficult to read detailed instructions and drive at the same time.  But another serious matter is that complex instructions are characteristically filled with lacunae.  Some details necessary for proper execution are left out from oversight or sloppiness in specification.  A third factor is confidence—which can be lacking when one does not grasp the big picture.  One feels more like a rat in a maze than a knowledgeable navigator.  A fourth factor is that written directions do not provide that a knowledgeable resource is constantly available--one cannot question a sheet of paper.  If unforeseen circumstances occur on the way, with the friend sidekick the challenges can be met.  A fifth factor is constant reinforcement and support—there is a friend to talk to and share comments about driving conditions, other drivers, or the music on the radio.  Finally, a knowledgeable sidekick can be a great time saver helping to avoid mistakes especially in ambiguous areas.  Knowledgeable sidekicks outdo GPS’s as well for a human navigator knows the best route given all driving considerations—one could say intuitively.  Often around Saint Petersburg I ignore the GPS (or on-line maps) for the route given is not the best, though it might be theoretically shorter or faster it neglects the best route by overlooking some local realities and my own driving preferences.  In many unfamiliar matters, I prefer someone showing the way rather than describing it.  Lead by example, the saying goes; two heads are better than one.

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