I was particularly struck by one of the comments on my blog Tunnel Vision Navigation, by Dieter Kreuer from Germany. Sadly, our web software removes paragraph breaks from comments, making long ones hard to read. So I'm reproducing it here, with permission and a few minor edits.
I agree with absolutely everything that Dieter has said — except that anybody who thinks that all streets in the U.S. are geometrically laid out and well signed has never been in Boston! I particularly admire the way he took my metaphor of automobile navigation and turned it around. Yes, driving a car while reading a map is incredibly dangerous — no doubt about it.
On balance, I have no doubt that GPS devices in cars and Go To drives on telescopes are good things. At the same time, it's clear to me that they have serious downsides. And the good and bad seem to be inextricably linked.
Anyway, here is Dieter's comment:
It's certainly true that reading a GPS device can distract the driver and cause serious accidents. However, so can reading a printed map while driving! I would even say that a GPS device mounted with a suction holder to the windscreen and giving additional vocal directions distracts less than a map held to steering wheel or lying on the co-driver's seat (unless you have an actual co-driver giving the directions!).
In Europe, where streets are not geometrically laid out and well tagged with names as in the US, even looking around to find the correct turn may be a distraction, which is lowered a lot by using a GPS. But yes, there are stories of people misinterpreting GPS directions and ending up on railroad tracks, and even down ferry ramps into rivers. And very often trucks get stuck in front of bridges or tunnels on streets much too small for them. So checking a map before the trip is certainly a good idea.
To get back on topic, the same is true for watching the skies. Tony's point is certainly that some people use their Go To scopes without the slightest idea how to get around in the skies, which is a valid argument. Every amateur astronomer should learn the constellations, star names of bright stars and locations of the most important sky splendors. I too have done so for more than 30 years, but I'm really thankful that Go To now enables me to spend most of the time with watching my desired target rather than finding my way to it.