How GPS is Changing Our World

Greg Milner

Published: 1 June 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781847087096

Other Editions

Trade Paperback

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Published: 7 July 2016
Trade Paperback, Royal PB
153x234mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781847087089

Ebook Available


Over the last fifty years, humanity has developed an extraordinary global utility which is omnipresent, universal, and available to all: the Global Positioning System (GPS). A network of twenty-four satellites and their monitoring stations on Earth, it makes possible almost all modern technology, from the smartphone in your pocket to the Mars rover. Neither the internet nor the cloud would work without it. And it is changing us in profound ways we've yet to come to terms with.

While GPS has brought us breathtakingly accurate methods of timekeeping, navigation, and earthquake tracking, our overwhelming reliance on it is having unexpected consequences on our culture, and on ourselves. GPS is reshaping our thinking about privacy and surveillance, and brings with it the growing danger of GPS terrorism. Neuroscientists have even found that using GPS for navigation may be affecting our cognitive maps - possibly rearranging the grey matter in our heads - leading to the increasingly common phenomenon 'Death by GPS', in which drivers blindly follow their devices into deserts, lakes, and impassable mountains.

Deeply researched, inventive and with fascinating insights into the way we think about our place in the world, Pinpoint reveals the way that the technologies we design to help us can end up shaping our lives. It is at once a grand history of science and a far-reaching book about contemporary culture.

About the author

Image of Greg Milner

Greg Milner has written on music, film and technology for Spin, Salon, the Village Voice and Wired, among other publications. He is the co-author (with Joe Berlinger) of Metallica: This Monster Lives. More about the author


‘[A] riveting story of how the Global Positioning System evolved from a US military project to make bombing more accurate into a global utility underpinning the world's communications and transport infrastructure. Milner also makes fascinating side excursions, for example into the ancient navigation systems that guided Polynesians around Pacific islands and into the way satnav affects the human brain.’ Summer books round up



‘A deeply researched book with fascinating interludes... [Milner] explains the technological principles lucidly’ Steven Poole

‘A joy to read... a strong contender for my science book of 2016’ Clive Cookson

‘An informative yarn for those readers who [...] would like to know more about the invention.’ James Anthony

‘GPS guides our world. Here at last is the amazing and well-told story of where it came from, how it works and where it - and we - are going’ Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author

‘In Pinpoint, Greg Milner gives us a much-needed account of GPS, its history, philosophy, and the overwhelming consequences of its success. Funny, scary, and tremendously readable, Pinpoint will be an eye-opening thrill for anyone who has watched their blue dot dance around an online map’ Andrew Blum, author

‘In this startling and persuasive book, American journalist Greg Milner shows how [GPS] saturates our experience... [Milner] suggests that GPS is as potent and pervasive a force as the Internet - if much less well understood’ James McConachie

‘Mr Milner is a brisk and funny guide to the bureaucratic and technological infighting in the US military, which created GPS over the course of several decades beginning in the immediate aftermath of the 1957 launch of Sputnik’ Konstantin Kakaes

‘No technology has transformed the human landscape so completely, yet been taken for granted so quickly, as GPS. The reason that brains are so good at storing maps is because the brain is a map, and our collective internal map is now migrating somewhere else. Greg Milner's Pinpoint is a fascinating chronicle of how this happened and why - captured before the details had a chance to escape’ George Dyson, author

‘One of the most mesmerising and exhilarating, yet alarming modern technology books I've read. These days most of us have become stealthily addicted to GPS, not just when driving but also when performing many functions with our smartphones and other devices.’

‘Seldom have I learned so much so effortlessly as from Greg Milner's entirely brilliant history of that most loved-and-loathed new technology, GPS. Every page was a treasure-house of fascinations: my temptation after finishing was to begin the book all over again, there is being so much to absorb, all of it crucially important to understanding our world's dependence on one of modern civilization's new-made fundamentals’ Simon Winchester, author

‘Such an interesting read’ Editor's Choice

‘Whenever people theorize about the collision of technology and culture, the Internet tends to consume all the oxygen in the room. But there is another global system that's taking over our lives in an even more insidious fashion, with stranger implications for the future of humanity. Pinpoint dissects the modern age of mapping and shows the hidden dangers of a world where nothing is hidden at all’ Chuck Klosterman, author

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