Artificial intelligence in the outdoors?

All of the talk about artificial intelligence in the last few weeks has me baffled. First I must ask have none of these people ever used a GPS for directions?
Granted the leap in technology has changed everything. I think about the things that Maine Outdoors now does using new technologies and how it has impacted your experience. Trip descriptions are online for all to read including prices with no need to figure out what is included or involved, reservations can be made online quickly and easily, you can see what is available in my schedule at any moment, trip details are easily communicated via e-mail, GPS make finding the location where we will start a snap and since we now all have cell phones a quick call or text can clear up location details or notify me of a delay.
During the trip our phones are our cameras making the even the digital camera I carry obsolete. The fish finder on the dash of the boat that tells us the water depth, temperature and where we are on the chart or map. Along with the travel speed and direction or the makeup of the bottom under us. If an emergency should occur the phone is right there and if that does not connect a satellite communication device is always along. At the end of your trip, payment is simple using a credit card that processes through my phone. I am even upgrading that to touchless payment this summer and am working through those details now. Finally a thank you follow up by e-mail and a chance to sign up for the newsletter or leave a review on the website. Electronics are a big part of all of this from a Chartplotter/ fishfinder on the boat to the dog collar that tells me the location of a dog and what she is doing. If fact now even the trolling motor knows where it is and can hold the boat in this exact spot. A handy feature when the wind is blowing and someone has a fish on. Of course online scheduling and credit card processing over my phone all pretty wiz bang stuff that helps every day.
Until it does not. My cell phone cannot get tower to process credit cards or issue a fishing license many times a summer and sometimes the dog collar does not connect with the handheld right away. Neither earth shattering but twice in the last two years my chartplotter did not know where it was in a very thick fog. Not the best of times for confusion to be sure. After running aground on a mudflat (a very low tide) I realized that the machine was off by about a half a mile and had me on the wrong side of the channel. The problem disappeared when I realized where I actually was, after that I still had a compass on the console and had run up and down the river for many years using it and a watch. Trip saved but lesson learned. The initial screen says plainly that it is not to be used for navigation, they were not kidding.
 I am old school and want a compass in my pocket in the woods. That was confirmed for me when I began using the latest Lund. The compass I had ordered had not shown up until well into my season. The sense of relief I felt after placing the compass on the boat console was unexpected. None of those electronic gizmos gives me the same confidence that I get from looking down and seeing the compass heading right in front of me. Surprising because when I am on freshwater where navigation is usually not a big issue even on the foggiest of days. Still the comfort of knowing the correct compass heading and seeing that I am on it is one that is important to me and the safety of my clients while on the water.
None of that existed thirty seven years ago and all of it makes it possible to easily spend time outdoors experiencing something that simply can not exist in the digital world. But can a smart machine really provide a safe meaningful experience in the outdoors?
Last summer I had a striper fishing trip, when I met my clients it was already raining and I offered raingear. They put on the gear and off we went. Fishing was lackluster near the harbor so I headed off downriver. About halfway to where I was intending to go the rain really started to come down. I turned back and stopped in quiet cove along a protected shore. Fish still ignoring the lures.
Something about the sky just made me think thundershower; nothing I could put my finger on. Maybe a cloud to the north that looked a little like the roll cloud ahead of a storm maybe the wind shift. I had not heard any thunder. Still something made me tell my folks that we were heading back to the harbor. We arrived ahead of the harder rain that was now apparent in the direction we had just come from. After the clients had returned the rain suits and driven away (I’m sure for a hot cup of coffee) the rain arrived and the thunder started.
I still have no idea what made me think that a thunderstorm was in the offing beyond a feeling. Argy tells me that it is a simple case of trusting my gut. I expect that it is a combination of experience over time and knowing what those clouds with the wind out of that direction means. Just one of the many reasons you hire an experienced guide. At the end of the day clearly the technology that serves most dependably is the simplest even if there are remarkable new things.
Human knowledge experience and sixth sense will not be replaced by a machine certainly not in my lifetime if ever.
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