Can we change the world?

(a dangerous intersection)

THAT WAS A FASCINATING CHAT I had with a young, Russian-born woman on a film set this afternoon. She’d spent childhood in a Utopia-seeking society based on precepts of revolution, so her belief in the potential for improvement in the people and things around her would rival that of your personal trainer.

Our conversation was particularly interesting to me because it took place just hours after I received word from Google Maps that I’d changed one little corner of my own world, namely their map with bicycling directions through the intersection of Interstate 35 and Valley View Lane north of Dallas. Could she be onto something?

Maybe. During my stint as Creative Director at Wisteria, I began bicycling to the office from the nearby light rail station via this intersection and saw that Google Maps was directing cyclists on the most dangerous approach. Not only did I feel obliged to do something about it, the site invited me to.

In their sidebar were these words: “Bicycling directions are in beta. Use caution and please report unmapped bike routes, streets that aren’t suited for cycling, and other problems here.” So I did and wrote in with what I thought was a much safer route. Now, a little over six months later, they’ve published that change, and I, Jim Starr, have doubtless saved thousands of cyclists from vehicular homicide, or at least kept several of them from from getting yelled at more than usual.

Yes, I want to think I changed things for the better via the interactive technology of a website. But, working with the technology available to them, so did the developer of the microwave oven, Miley Cyrus’ choreographer, and Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. So, have I really helped, or have I just greased the sliding board of our inevitable decline?