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The WAZE Navigation System & Jewish Values

Friday, 14 June, 2013 - 7:38 pm

400px-Waze_3.5_Screen.jpgThis week the NSA has been in the news quite a bit as the startling revelations about the ability for the agency to gather and collect data of random individuals and businesses continue to stun the public. Google itself has had a busy week explaining itself as to how it collects data, gathers info, and is not just another government agency collecting info on your personal life.

However, despite all the news about spying tactics and gathering of intelligence, Google actually became a much stronger company that now knows where it is going. The reason for this is since Google just signed a $1.2 billion contract and bought the Israeli mobile navigation company WAZE that was founded in 2008. Waze’s mobile app is a crowd sourced Mobile App which was first used in Israel, which solicits input from almost 50 million users to improve directions and display traffic and road-hazard details (Read More about the deal), (WAZE website and downloads).

WAZE is different than your typical GPS device as stated in Wikipedia “it is a community-driven application and learns from users' driving times to provide routing and real-time traffic updates. It is also free to download and use, as it gathers map data and other information from users who use the service. Additionally, people can report accidents, traffic jams, speed traps, police and can update roads, landmarks, house numbers, etc. Waze also helps users find the cheapest, closest gas station around them or along their route.

How ironic, that in the same week that we see a massive uproar about surveillance and data gathering on personal calls and internet usage, we also have a massive buyout of an extremely popular APP that is fed volumes of data by its users just by their road activities and reporting.  Perhaps this is a reminder that ultimately anything in the world that can be misused can also be used in a tremendously positive way.

WAZE and its great story got me thinking about its success and the method and strategy that it works by. As we drive and navigate our way through life, we also have our various navigation systems that we go by.  Just  like there are navigation tools such as Guessing Your Way, AAA Maps, GPS Navigation Systems and WAZE, so too life itself is full of different navigation systems that we can use to move through life.

As Jews, our Torah and Jewish teachings have always served as our personal and communal navigation system through life.  In a sense we are quite lucky, being that we don’t need to just guess our way through life and hope our choices will lead us to the right destination,  as we have a navigation system that is very good with directions and has a solid track record. This system has already had its big buyout back at Mount Sinai when the Jewish nation accepted the Torah and its mandate and we became its stockholders.

Yet like all navigation systems, there are various ways to use it. The guidance system may be on a piece of paper that is independent of myself and I may not always be in sync or in the same place as the navigation system. It will still be helpful but only to a limited extent.

Then there is the GPS System, which perhaps is reflective of someone whose guidance system is in sync with where he is at, but it may just deal with the general directions and not with the real time challenges and obstacles and methods of circumventing them. This is definitely a deeper level of connection to the Jewish navigation system, and means that our connection with the Torah and its teachings is more than just a piece of paper, and instead it is something we look to and use all the time, also in the middle of our journeys and experiences. Yet at the same time that level of connection has its drawbacks.

Then there is WAZE, which is Judaism and Torah that is not just about my personal experience, but rather a relationship and spiritual path that is crowd sourced and fed by many others besides myself. WAZE is reflective of Judaism and learning that is done as a community, and a reflection of Judaism and a passionate path in life that has been tested by millions of others for hundreds of generations. It is reflective of a Judaism that is not only about looking out for ourselves, rather one where our own spiritual path and challenges are used to help others overcome theirs. It is reflective of a relationship with our spiritual heritage that is a deep part of who we are, and one that can quickly deal and respond to the various obstacles that we face and deal with at each juncture of life.

The success of WAZE is inspiring and makes me proud of Israel. Unfortunately, I am not a stockowner of WAZE although I am happy for everyone who is. Yet at the same time, WAZE reminds me of our own spiritual navigation tools in life, and reminds me that crowd sourced navigation system of the Jewish people,  has been proven to work for many centuries, and is the most effective and productive way to navigate on a personal level and a communal level.

Good Shabbos and good luck navigating!

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