"Avoid The Ghetto" Smartphone App Is Proving Controversial, Even Before Release

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
avoid the ghetto smartphone app is proving controversial even before release

An in-development Microsoft smart phone app designed to help drivers and pedestrians avoid unsafe neighborhoods is proving controversial among some minority rights groups that find the software potentially discriminatory.

Well, it sure would have helped Sherman McCoy and Reginald Denny, but is it good for society?

The source article is long on aggrieved quotes from self-appointed “community leaders” but short on details. PCWorld notes that

in order to create suggested routes, Microsoft’s GPS — which will reportedly be inserted into Windows Phones in the future — will use input from more varied and up-to-date sources, including crime statistics. This idea is leading some people to think it will be an insult to poor neighborhoods. The patent covers other things as well, such as helping pedestrians avoid “harsh temperatures.”

As we all know that “it’s so cold in tha D”, presumably during the winter this app will keep journalists away from the NAIAS for at least two reasons. We could fill this article with jokes about John Singleton movies and the literary work of Iceberg Slim, but the issues raised by being able to program one’s navigation system to avoid certain areas go beyond the hot-button quick-hits of alleged racism and Microsoft-bashing.

Don’t we all fundamentally agree that consumers should have the right to tailor their own personal experiences? If someone doesn’t want to drive through the “ghetto”, shouldn’t they be able to make that choice? Websites like DailyKos, HuffingtonPost, and Drudge Report are successful because they provide “filters” through which to view current events and news. The future is all about “isolation” — from the unpleasant, the unwelcome, the uncomfortable. We leave our double-paned car windows up, look at a smartphone instead of a homeless person, listen to carefully selected playlists, and discuss topics on which everyone in the car is of the same mind. It is our right. We’ve paid our money, and we took our choice.


The isolated life is fundamentally poorer in thought, experience, personal growth, and all the things which come to define us as human beings. In an effort to “Avoid The Ghetto”, we build the walls of our own intellectual ghetto and dwell there in complacent self-satisfaction. The FoxNews viewer who dismisses welfare recipients as frauds and Muslims as terrorists, the DailyKos habitue who is force-fed Christopher Hitchens and vomits Bill Maher — this is not the American experience as it was originally envisioned.

Microsoft has to the right to provide such an application, and since Microsoft has at times served as the behind-the-scenes vendor for systems as diverse as the original iDrive and the current myFordTouch, it will presumably find its way into nearly every kind of car one could imagine. If it shows up on your vehicle, consider selecting the “off” option. Make the conscious choice to engage with people who are not identical to you in birth, growth, thought, and deed. Use technology to expand your mind, not wall your garden. Not everyone in a dangerous neighborhood is dangerous; not everyone in the safe neighborhood is safe.

Still, when I’m traveling through an unfamiliar city with my son in the back of the car, I know what I am likely to do. It’s all well and good to expand one’s mind, but when it comes to protecting one’s children, the backbrain still calls the shots.

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2 of 93 comments
  • NMGOM NMGOM on Jan 20, 2012

    I can't believe all the murky commenting that has occurred on this issue. This is a simple Constitutional question: you have a right to go where you want, and not go where you don't want. Getting information to tell the difference is your right as well. If telling that difference is based on crime statistics, so be it. In the early days of our country, in NY, people wouldn't go to certain areas near the upstate borders because of violence and warfare. Where they being racist or just not stupid?

  • Dvdlgh Dvdlgh on Jan 20, 2012

    Can't wait to get it!

  • Analoggrotto As we Tesla owners receive our life energy from the greatest son of the gods of all time, Elon Musk; His cherubs and His nephilim may remove whatever they wish from us for unto him we owe all for our superiority above all the rest of humanity.
  • Kcflyer Nice to see California giving NY some competition to be the worst run state in the union.
  • Wolfwagen I see my comment was deleted (BTW nice way to censor) so i will say it again:GTFO here with the pseudo "wealth distribution" BS. A crime is a crime is a crime.Its a slippery slope, what happens next, Jail a rich guy when he kills a pedestrian and let the poor guy who kills a pedestrian walk? What about if the poor guy is a crappy driver and has the record to prove it then what?Or we could go crazy and just institute the death penalty across the board for every driving infraction. That will make people better drivers or stop driving altogether which will make the greenies happy (damm it I just gave them an idea - SOB!!!)
  • Wolfwagen No. Bring back the J80 with an inline six and reduced electronics (i.e. no giant touch screen) and they will probably sell like hotcakes
  • David S. " test vehicles sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic."??? Test vehicles are programmed by humans, HUMANS sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic, Duh!!