“Each Person Was Strapped Into The Simulator, Submerged And Flipped”

America is a plane crash now, with the most demagogic President-Elect in modern history–and an unqualified, unconscionable, indecent one–chosen by a minority of the voters. Will this disaster bring us closer together? Probably not. 

On a similar topic: Tyler J. Kelley of the New York Times has a really interesting article about Survival Systems, a Connecticut outfit that simulates plane crashes for airline employees and police officers, which is now repurposing this experience as a “bonding exercise” to foster leadership, cooperation or something among coworkers in all manner of business. Together groups attempt to escape simulated burning and drowning with the goal of becoming superior colleagues. One professional in the team-building industry offers particularly annoying analysis: “I would think this is a very millennial experience.” Let’s hope not. The kids seem so smart otherwise.

As we stand on the cusp of a Virtual Reality world, what Survival Systems offers is an actual physical exercise in a plastic and metal “craft” with real water and machine-generated winds, but it’s perhaps more interesting as a template for VR-enabled smokeless simulations. Will we have more empathy or less when we can slot virtual atrocities like slavery or the Holocaust or Hurricane Katrina right before spinning class? 

An excerpt:

The instructor talked to the class about teamwork, leadership goals and safety procedures for the activities ahead. After a lunch of pizza, the students walked eagerly to the pool deck. Everyone wore flight suits, water shoes and helmets. It was dark and foggy. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared and a disco ball lit the room. “All we need is a roller rink,” one of the personal trainers joked.

Now, the classmates jumped without hesitation from a 14-foot platform into the pool. Life vests inflated, they were given the duration of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to find a way to stay warm while floating. It turned out to be: Assume a carpet formation, arms linked, legs under the arms of the two people across from you.

Taylor Cintron, 19, an economics major at UConn, was put in charge of the next task, boarding an inflated life raft. Before the last person was on, “Singin’ in the Rain” started playing. Wind and water blasted the raft. Ms. Cintron yelled orders over the squall. Everyone got aboard and, after some scrambling, the life raft’s tent-like roof was closed against the rain.

The pop music was supposed to ease anxiety. It appeared to be working. “I’m less scared than I thought I was,” Ms. Cintron said during a break. “I hate touching people,” she said, but “this is O.K., I trust everyone that I’m with. It’s not touching for no reason.”

Finally, each person was strapped into the simulator, submerged and flipped.•