CBS' Survivor Presents a Conundrum from Real Life
A recent episode of the CBS television game show Survivor featured a fascinating conundrum that many people face often in their lives.
If you are not familiar with the program, Survivor is a reality genre television game show. Contestants live on a remote island and through the unique, physically challenging games and a process of making a decision of which contestant must now leave the game, the contestants compete for one million dollars.
The physical challenges they play help them win prizes such as flint to make fire or even food and other comforting prizes. They also can win immunity which is the inability for others to vote them off the island at the next session called a tribal council.
The program has its fans and its detractors, some believe it is a form of exploitation. It also has various manifestations in other languages as well.
Recently, one episode (9) aired on April 23, 2023 on CBS (US) featured a conundrum that reflects well how the real world works.
If I help others do I win or lose?
The remaining ten contestants competed for individual immunity which means the winner would not be voted out at the next tribal council if he or she won the challenge. However, if a total of four of the ten chose not to compete, all the contestants would receive well-needed nourishment—rice when they returned to the base camp.
The challenge was for each competing contestant to stand on one foot, with the other on top of it, while holding a rubber ball against a pole at arm’s length above them using a stick as long as one can. Adding to the competition, it was raining bringing forth a chilling cold. Obviously, this was a tortuous experience.
So, the choice is between sacrificing the chance to receive immunity from being voted out at the next tribal council but having food for yourself and the entire group by not participating in the challenge or focusing on getting your own advantage with no other benefit to others. Those who chose not to step down had the chance for a guarantee to remain in the game and continue on with the quest to win one million dollars, but offered no benefit for their team. Indeed, they could even vote out one of the contestants who got them food.
This means if four people sit out the challenge, the entire group of ten would have rice that night—even those who would rather everyone go without the food in order to win their slight chance at a million dollars.
Those who did not sit out the challenge and participated had to give it their all in order to have a minimum one in six chance to remain in the game and a further one in nine chance to win the million dollars. They too would be able to eat the rice the others gained for them by giving up their chance for the same immunity.
This is an interesting choice—am I going to do what I perceive is best for me or for the group? What is best for me is a 16 percent chance for immunity from being voted out at the next tribal council and a further 11 percent chance at one million dollars. Or is it better that I join three others and sit out the challenge? I gain a one hundred percent chance at food for the entire group and greater strength and nourishment to continue the game although it comes with a ten percent chance of being voted out of the game.
First I can ask what would you do assuming you were in the game—the option of not playing Survivor in the first place is not open to you in this scenario.
How often has this genre of challenge appeared in your life?
From my place at home, I can look at this as a good lesson for the real world. Are you going to do what is best for your team or for you in your life? Granted this is a game but many will tell you this is an attenuated forum of life’s challenges. The decision is between doing what will benefit the most amount of people or what may benefit you. Everyone who does not win immunity is at risk of being voted out of the game at the tribal council but only one of the ten will achieve that goal and that is after a grueling challenge. Meanwhile, everyone benefits if four or more players sit out the challenge.
This means that those who give up their chance to win food for everyone by choosing to participate in the challenge could have denied food to everyone to have their slight chance at winning one million dollars. Yet, the others who did give up their chance win immunity chose food even for those who would not to do the same for them.
You may not recognize the conundrum but it is a daily decision. Am I going to do what is best for me or for us. Am I going to do what benefits the most people or what will, in the long run, have a chance of benefitting me even at the detriment of how it affects others?
The episode reflects real situations in everyday life. Am I going to sacrifice the good of my family for my chance to be the CEO? Am I going to sacrifice what is best for my community to do what is best for my company and career? Will I seek a promotion and save the company a lot of money by moving our manufacturing operations to the nation of Podunkua on another continent? This will mean that many in our current manufacturing plant will lose their jobs but I have to do what is best for my standing in this company.
I as a legislator get quite a bit of donations from the BigWidget industry, if I vote against an upcoming bill, I could lose that money but many will benefit. Do I choose to put my campaign donations over the good of the nation?
This issue pops up all the time. Here is a question, if you watched the program and each of those ten applied for a single executive job at your company, which one would you accept?
Would you hire:
· The winner of the challenge who gave it all, won the challenge and immunity but at the expense of the chance of the others not getting rice that night?
· Would you accept the person who needed the rice because he was starving by his own admission?
· Would you accept any one of the others who participated in the challenge but did not win immunity?
· Would you accept one of those who sat out the challenge and guaranteed rice for the rest of the entire team?
Survivor is indeed an attenuated version of the real world but it also provides a look into the anatomy of decisions people make in regard to others and this particular episode serves as a great insight into these real-world decisions.
You have a good discussion for a lunch or dinner table—which of the four above would you hire?
It is also a thought for a company’s HR hiring process, showing that aspect of the episode and asking which person would you hire.
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