Estimated Time of Arrival


I’ve been thinking about time and technology recently (inspired by the “In A Glass Hour” series of lectures at EMPAC). I’m interested in the phenomenon of ETA–estimated time of arrival–which seems to have become both more widespread and subtly different due to technological developments.

No longer confined to airports and train terminals and Cape Canaveral, we now get ETA information from GPS units in our cars, and something similar is at work in software within every user-interface progress-bar. And the nature of the experience seems to have changed as well, moving from discrete aperiodic estimates to a continuously shifting series of updates. The result is that the estimate is never wrong (we do, in fact, arrive at our destination precisely when the GPS tells us we have arrived) and yet it’s somehow no longer trustworthy because the myriad compensations and recalculations are hidden.

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