Electronic Weapons: Googled To Death

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November 15, 2010: Nicaragua and Costa Rica almost went to war recently when a Nicaraguan commander ordered his troops to occupy an island in the river separating the two countries, after he noted that Google Maps had the area marked as Nicaraguan territory. Costa Rica protested, because the area had, for over a century, been shown on official maps as Costa Rican. Google eventually admitted the error, saying their map was created from U.S. government electronic maps that had been created using software, and not double checked against official maps.

Technology increasingly causes problems like this, and computer generated maps, with minor but significant errors,  are a hassle most of us have encountered. GPS navigation devices in cars sometimes give directions that don't make sense, meaning yet another computer generated map has to be updated to reflect reality. While this is usually just annoying for drivers, it can be fatal for soldiers, sailors or pilots. Thus military electronic maps are made with much more care. But the civilian maps increasingly cause diplomatic problems, as politicians and military commanders sometimes use electronic maps without double checking the official maps created for establishing borders and such.

 

 


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