Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

A couple of weeks ago, I had an exclusive immersion training weekend with one of the smartest collections of people I have ever met.

I feel privileged and humbled. This is not training you read in a syllabus, decide to take and send in an astronomical fee and hope you are accepted. It is much more expensive than that – you can only receive it by invitation (no money is accepted).

It started on Friday afternoon and ended on Monday morning – no contact with the outside world for nearly 70 hours – a true immersion experience. The group’s clocks were even set to a different time than we use.

My head is still spinning over the things I learned and how to suggest we might hope to apply just a fraction of them in our daily lives.

This will take several columns; hence, “Part 1” this week.

Let’s start with a basic condition with which we all live. Each one of us has only 24 hours in our day. We spend some portion of that sleeping (some require more than others, some less).

Some of us have the mental acuity or talent to process more data than others (that is likely largely in our DNA, but a portion of it might be experienced based). This ability to process data, especially the time-limiting factor, is where we are in trouble. These are basic conditions that all of us live with, rich or poor, hungry or as chubby as the fatted calf.

If you want to experience the data-processing effect, go to a racetrack, get behind the wheel. At about 150 mph, you will experience the “tunnel effect” – everything in your vision narrows to barely the width of the track. Your brain cannot process as much data as your eyes are sending it, so it automatically narrows your field of vision.

On Nov. 2, 1920, 98 years ago, the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company of East Pittsburgh, Pa., introduced the world to a new service. That service was commercial broadcast radio.

That date was chosen because it was election day, and the presidency was on the ballot (Ohio Sen. Warren Harding of Marion won, defeating Ohio Gov. James M. Cox; both had a history in the newspaper business).

During the broadcast that evening, the announcer asked that, should anyone be listening and so inclined, would they kindly drop a postcard to the station and let them know they heard them. (So much for market research.)

On Monday evening, Nov. 5, 2018, I had had it “up to here” with political ads and thought I would go to YouTube and retreat into old “Newhart” episodes (the Bob Newhart show that was set in Vermont, not Chicago) and escape the world. (I realize many younger readers have no idea what show I am talking about.)

Well, if I thought this was going to be escapism, I was sadly wrong. About every 7 or 8 minutes, the episodes were interrupted with former President Obama urging me to vote for the Georgia Democratic governor candidate.

Think about it. YouTube, owned by Google, had their gee-whiz programming people plug those commercials into a 30-year-old television show, but not only did they do that, they knew I was in Georgia and hence the targeted commercial.

I’ll bet the kids doing the programming had no idea who Newhart is, either (a number of years ago, I mentioned Paul Newman in a discussion about an old movie and our youngest daughter thought he was just a pitchman for salad dressing).

I was not even safe watching old stuff on YouTube. Only 98 years after the KDKA debut, a mere speck of time in the history of civilized humankind, and I cannot escape.

This is just a tiny little snapshot of how the rapid advancements in technology affect us. And it is a creeping thing – much like the old story about boiling a frog in a pot of water (don’t tell me you haven’t heard that one).

I am worried about where we are headed. My immersion weekend opened my eyes. We’ll talk more about this in future columns.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.