- In 1580, Sir Francis Drake completed a circumnavigation of the globe without maps using nothing more than a compass, sextant, and his wits.
- For centuries, Vikings navigated the North Atlantic as far west as Canada without the aid of a compass. They had only the sun and stars to guide them.
- At the same time, Polynesian explorers were traveling the far vaster Pacific Ocean without even being able to see the North Star.
- In 1928, Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, and their crew flew from Oakland, California to Brisbane, Australia with stops on tiny specks of land called Hawaii and Fiji. This first transpacific flight navigated by dead reckoning.
- In 1969, Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and Michael Collins crossed the 240,000 miles of space, landed on the moon, and returned safely to Earth using computers less powerful than a modern $12 pocket calculator.
It isn't that our machines are getting smarter than we are. They are not. It is that, with each passing generation, we as a race are getting dumber. Things humans could do a thousand years ago are beyond us now. Even with our machines, we stand flummoxed by tasks our forefathers could do with ease. Think about this the next time you can't find your car in a shopping mall parking lot.
My thanks to His Frogness at Blognonymous for finding this.