Tomorrow Januari 6th 2014, the first episode of a new tv show Utopia will air on Dutch commercial tv. In this show by the same people who gave us Big Brother, a diverse group of fifteen people will abandon their present life for a year to build a new community from almost nothing, just a bare warehouse on a raw piece of land , some live stock, a water and electricity connection, a cell phone and a small amount of cash. It is up to these people to build their ideal society in a place that has little physical and no social structure.
I still remember the uproar about the first series of Big Brother when I was a psych student. In the original concept people were placed in a house with nothing to do; it would surely become a public stanford prison experiment. However, all the contestants quickly subsided in general lethargy and the viewers got bored. That’s when all the silly assignments were introduced.
This concept is different, because people have to work for their survival in temperatures that are around zero degrees Celsius, without food and basic tools or even beds. The participants even had to pay a bond which they will lose if they leave before the year is up. I guess commercial tv does not have to deal with the scrutiny of ethical boards that scientific experiments have to go through.
Still the concept attracted applications of about a thousand people. The idea of building an ideal society appeals to people and the background of the participants is very diverse: a nurse, a pro-wrestler, a security guard, a homeless person and a management consultant are among them. Perhaps the events of the GFC have inspired people to want to do things differently.
If you would like to follow the show from outside of the Netherlands, you can watch videos and livestreams here http://www.utopiatv.nl/home.
What do you think? Is this an interesting experiment or completely unethical?
What will the contestants do? What choices will they make and what will be the implications for the future of this community?
NB: I have no ties to this show whatsoever.