Google Maps but not Religious



I may work at Apple, but I don’t think even Tim Cook would dispute that Google Maps still superior. Yes we’ve made a lot of progress adding public transport, but the inability to enter an arbitrary starting point for a journey is absurd.

Anyway, it turns out that in addition to being a superior app, Google Maps is a rich metaphor for the human mind, and by extension the basis for my new, non-metaphysical definition of the word “spiritual.”

Let’s take a look at this Google map of California.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 4.49.18 AM

that’s “the I-5” and don’t you forget it

Most of the features you see on the map correspond to an object out in the real world:

  • blue stuff on the left => Pacific Ocean
  • grey line at bottom => Mexico border
  • orange line going up the middle => I-5
  • green bumps => Sierra Nevada

Within the map that is our mind, analogous features would be basic facts and opinions:

  • “the sky is blue” => blue sky
  • “traffic sucks” => accident up ahead
  • “snow quality is great” => 6 ft fell last month

Of course, a map can only capture a fraction of what’s in the Territory, so this map is missing smaller towns like Fremont and Santa Monica.

Likewise, the map in our head doesn’t bother tracking useless info, such as the license plate number of the car in front of you.


remember when Google cars were cool? and then Tesla came along

And of course, Google expends great effort to curate its maps to ensure accuracy by sourcing data and sending out those ridiculous looking camera cars.

Likewise for us, we ensure our map of thoughts and beliefs accurately reflect the real world: that process of curation is called science.

OK, so what’s spirituality?

Take a look at this Google Map again, and notice all the things that don’t correspond to objects out in the real world:

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 12.50.33 PM

although you probably will see Prince’s sign all over Castro

  • labels: nowhere in Cole Valley will you see letters “C-O-L-E-V-A-L-L-E-Y” hovering it
  • scale: you won’t see a “2000ft______” line in the Mission
  • handles: nor a giant “+” or “-” sign near 24th street
  • route: Frederick Street is not actually different in color, brightness, or visibility from adjacent roads

In other words, there are map features which do NOT correspond to anything out in the territory. Let’s call these subjective map elements, in contrast to features that DO correspond to the territory, which we’ll call objective map elements.

If “science” is the cultivation of objective map features, then “spirituality” is the cultivation of subjective map features. And while the goal of the former is to improve accuracy, the goal of the latter is to improve usability.

Next post: putting the Google Maps model of spirituality in practice

PS: Holy shit, I just reduced spirituality to UX. Totally didn’t see that coming



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