Mapping the world, Part 2

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

You heard it here first! I took a bit of what my British friends call "stick" a while back when I wrote (see here) about a scheme that seemed to me to hold real game-changer promise: the what3words.com project of mapping the entire planet into 3 x 3 meter square blocks of space and giving each a unique 3-letter "name" (or is it an "address"?):

So the Capitol Rotunda is in "shall.spider.bake"; the Empire State building in "heaves.wipes.clay"; the Camp Nou, home of the world's greatest soccer team, FC Barcelona, is at "comb.bombard.cooks"; the corner of Hollywood and Vine at "gently.fears.lives," etc. [You can play with their interactive map, which is surprisingly engaging, at the what3words website here.]

Along comes news (here) that Mongolia has now adopted the system and will use it for the government-run postal system—the first government to do so (though apparently a U.N. disaster relief agency has also been using the system for the purpose of directing humanitarian aid to disaster victims).

It's pretty interesting and pretty important. As I wrote back in January:

Hundreds of millions, and more likely several billion, of the world's people live in a world in which few or none of the places that are important in their lives—where they live, where they work, where they catch the bus, where their kids go to school, where they go for a drink or to watch the movies—has an "address," a unique and commonly understood designator indicating their actual physical location. Think of just the inhabitants of the slums and favelas in and around the great world mega-cities—Sao Paolo; Mexico City; Shanghai; Istanbul; Mumbai; Jakarta … and multiply that many times over.

And think … of how difficult (or impossible) it would be to get utility service or request an ambulance or report a crime or obtain public services or get a product delivered or start a business or open a school or call a meeting of your neighbors or find the voting booth you're supposed to go to … without the ability to refer to precisely where any of that is supposed to happen.

So I'm thinking this might be a little bit of good news—for the people of Mongolia, at least, and maybe beyond.

[Thanks to Byron Walker for the pointer.]

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