Science & Technology

Humans are terrible to actually navigate the city, studies of more than 14,000 people show

We design the city. We live in them. We work in them and have fun in them. But hey, we’re not good at avoiding them.

According to data from more than 14,000 mobile phones in our daily lives, humans are terrible in calculating the shortest route through the streets of the city. And the reason is really simple. Our brains want to face the direction we are heading, even if it is not the most efficient way to reach our destination.

An international team of researchers, led by MIT, calls this the “most pointed path” and believes it happens because our brains prioritize other tasks at the expense of navigation efficiency. I am.

“There seems to be a trade-off that allows the computing power in the brain to be used for other purposes, 30,000 years ago, to avoid lions, or now to avoid dangerous SUVs.” Architect and engineer Carlo Ratti says MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory

“Vector-based navigation does not generate the shortest path, but it is close enough to the shortest path and very easy to calculate.”

The seeds of the study were planted 20 years ago when Rathi was a student at the University of Cambridge, England. He found that he had moved to his department’s building along one route, but returned to his room using another route. Of course, one route is shorter than the other, but the pattern of behavior is maintained.

Since that time, technology has changed – and now we have the tools to collect vast amounts of data about our activities. Many people in many cities now have small, powerful computers that can track their movements. This is an absolute treasure trove for scientists who want to know why we choose the path.

This was used by researchers. Fully anonymized data from over 14,000 pedestrians. This data was recorded with GPS coordinates as it traveled through the cities of Boston, Massachusetts, Cambridge, and San Francisco, California for a year. It contains over 550,000 paths. This is enough data to identify some patterns.

Sure enough, an attractive pattern appeared.Pedestrians overwhelmingly chose to follow a more direct route rather than choosing the shortest route. Towards Their destination is as much as possible-even if they turned aside, they would have been taken there sooner.

The researchers then went one step further and generated a model that predicted the irrational pathways that appeared in the data. This confirmed that people really like to face their destination.

“Instead of calculating the minimum distance, we found that the most predictive model was not the one that finds the shortest path, but the one that tries to minimize the angular displacement, even when traveling at larger angles. , Point directly to the destination as much as possible. It’s actually more efficient. ” Computer scientist Paolo Santi said Of MIT and the Italian National Research Council of Italy.

“We have proposed to call this the sharpest path.”

In addition, when making round trips, people tended to choose different routes for their destination and return trips. Just like Rathi was doing at Cambridge University.

The sharpest roads were not only observed by humans. It is also recorded in animals, Vector-based navigation.. These studies suggest that the brain navigates by computing vectors. Most of us don’t have a top-down map in our brain to navigate like GPS, so vector-based navigation seems to be the next best strategy.

This is because evolution doesn’t seek optimization, but “yes, it works. I’m not dead.”-“Survival of the appropriate“.

While research results may help design better cities, they also emphasize the need to understand the different ways in which the brain and machines work.

“Computers are perfectly rational. Computers do what the code tells them to do, while the brain achieves” bounded rationality “of” sufficient “and the necessary compromises. As these two different entities become more and more intertwined and clash, it’s important to remember how Google Maps, Facebook, or self-driving cars – how they differ from each other. ” Ratty wrote for conversation..

“The more people are crazy about technology, the more important it is to create technology that addresses human irrationality and peculiarity.”

The study is published at Nature Computational Science..

Humans are terrible to actually navigate the city, studies of more than 14,000 people show

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