• "As our surroundings have evolved over the centuries, so too have our navigational strategies and conceptions, shaped most recently by urbanization and the advent of high-speed travel.

    "We’re now on the cusp of an even more dramatic change, as we enter the age of the global positioning system, which is well on its way to being a standard feature in every car and on every cellphone. At the same time, neuroscientists are starting to uncover a two-way street: our brains determine how we navigate, but our navigational efforts also shape our brains. The experts are picking up some worrying signs about the changes that will occur as we grow accustomed to the brain-free navigation of the gps era."

  • The brains of London cabbies have outsized rear hippocampuses, because they are required to painstakingly learn the byzantine lanes and byways of the Old World city. Not true for most of us — and especially not in the age of the GPS, writes Alex Hutchinson in the Canadian magazine The Walrus.

    Hutchinson says that with the digital navigational tool well on its way to becoming standard in every car and on every cellphone, “experts are picking up some worrying signs” about brain atrophy “once we lose the habit of forming cognitive maps.” Research is showing people, their heads in abstract spatial realms, flummoxed finding their way around in the real world.

  • "Not long ago, I started an experiment in self-binding: intentionally creating an obstacle to behavior I was helpless to control, much the way Ulysses lashed himself to his ship’s mast to avoid succumbing to the Sirens’ song. In my case, though, the irresistible temptation was the Internet."

  • For years critics have railed against these cultural complexes as pointlessly grandiose expressions of vanity — a poisonous brew of architectural egotism and excessive wealth that was destroying America’s urban centers. Why all the fancy forms, they argued? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on something more valuable, like schoolbooks?

    Yet as the dust settles on the last of these projects, what begins to emerge is a more complex image of America’s cultural values at the birth of a new century. The formal dazzle masks a deeper struggle by cities and architects to create accessible public space in an age of shrinking government revenue and privatization. At their most ambitious, they are an effort to rethink the two great urban planning movements that gave shape to the civic and cultural identity of the American city.