August 24, 2006

Horse 620 - "The Knowledge" is Power

If you've ever been of even if you've never been to London then chances are than you will have heard of, seen or even been in one on the city's many famous iconic black cabs. The clattery diesel powered taxis have behind the wheel some of the most skilled operators in the world, for in order to qualify to even get a licence to operate a black cab they must spend a minimum of 49 weeks acquiring what is colloquially referred to as "The Knowledge".

The Knowledge is quite literally a knowledge of how to get from anywhere in the City of London to anywhere else and be able to recite it to a board of testers, bearing in mind what the shortest way to get there is and things on the ground such as one way streets, no right turn signs and the fact that in some part of London such as in Chelsea where indiviual blocks are referred to as mansions, then the name on one side of the street might be different to the other.

Various Satellite Navigation devices are now available on the market but even the best of these still pales in comparison with the London Cabbie's detailed knowledge of what is actually on the ground. Satnav devices although having been approved for use are still no match for the brain of a cabbie who it's been found via research at various universities that their Hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for spatial awareness and in particular navigation) is significantly larger than in most people.

For the average cabbie, they have to be aware of about 320 standard routes as well as the locations of about 60 theatres, 50 embassies not to mention the location of many of London's 400 odd pubs.

Let's hope that for a long time to come, that London's famous black cabs will be continued to be powered by brain power rather than Intel.

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