I found Michael Shaw Bond’s book, Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way, to be an insightful resource for understanding how we as humans orient ourselves and navigate through the world, in all it’s complexity. Bond is skilled at explaining very complex scientific concepts (in nueroscience, biology and psychology) by breaking them down into bite-size nuggets of information that can be effortlessly absorbed by a lay reader. What I find to be a peculiar trait of books like these, which straddle the boundary of popular psychology and neuroscience, is that they often focus on a very specific topic or problem, with a siloed view, which sometimes misses the broader perspective. To use Bond’s own parlance, sometimes these books “show the trees but miss the forest.” In the case of Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way, what I found interesting is that the modern day challenge of wayfinding due to our overdependence on automated navigational technology is part of a broader problem of automation and its adverse influence on human performance. From a human factors perspective this is a pervasive detrimental effect of most cognitively assistive technologies. They often reduce the cognitive effort (and engagement) of users, in a well-intentioned effort to unburden them, which results in the deleterious effects of skills degradation over time (or as Bond would put it – if you dont use part of your brain such as the wayfinding related regions, then you will lose it). Ultimately this is an automation problem which needs to be solved by better system design and application of human factors principles, which seek to optimise human performance. Including this “forest view” would have made the book more complete in my view by tying it all together and linking it back to the root cause of the problem. Without this perspective, the problem of wayfinding in the modern world seeems like an isolated phenomenon which requires unique solutions. In fact, much of what Bond proposes to remedy this problem could be extrapolated to everyday challenges of overdependence on automation. Nevertheless, I found Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way to be an enlightening read and would without reservation recommend it to anyone fascinated by the human brain and how it works.

Have you read Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way or another of Michael Shaw Bonds’ books or essays? What do you find most interesting about his writing? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks as always for visiting my blog! Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing please consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.

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