Sunday, February 1

#5 - solitude

A wealthy industrialist knocks on your door one day, prepared to offer you a million dollars to participate in yearlong social experiment. He gives you two options on how you can spend the next year to qualify for the money. Another individual of similar age and background has also been selected for this study, and will be enlisted in whatever option you do not choose for the purposes of comparison.

You spend the year alone on a deserted tropical island. A relatively impressive shelter (from a desert island perspective) exists on the island, with a decent mattress and running water. The island is free from both predators and poisonous plants. And though you will have access to different types of fruit trees as well as trapping and fishing equipment, you will be able to make special food orders once a month. Additionally, though you are separated from civilization in many ways, you will be free to write letters, which will be collected for speedy delivery once a week. Any messages addressed to you will also be be dropped off at this time.

You spend the year confined to a large glass case in the middle of Manhattan. The case contains all of the features of a small loft-type apartment. The bedroom and bathroom areas of your dwelling are hidden from the outside, but otherwise, you are in full view of passers-by and vice versa. You will be provided a weekly stipend to use as you see fit to place orders for food or other consumer products (and copies of the Sunday Times will be dropped off once a week). While in your glass house, you will be unable to communicate with those outside. No e-mails, letters, or phone calls. Someone could easily enough stop by the outside of your dwelling, but the walls are designed to prevent any transfer of sound.

Under either option, your health and mental well being will be monitored throughout the year. You will have checkups once a month and will be returned to society at large if you require urgent medical attention (though this will mean forfeiting the $1,000,000).

You will have a 24 hour phone connection to a concierge of sorts (who you have never met). This person can pass along any of your requests and will respond in case of emergency, but will not engage you in conversation. Attempts on you part to "chat" with the concierge will disqualify you from the study.

You will also be allowed to bring a packed suitcase to the island or the glass case, filled with clothes or other items you think will be of benefit during your 365 day seclusion.

Do you accept the offer? Which option do you choose?


Stephanie said...

oooo! this is a good one!

HeatherR64 said...

I know myself better than to think I could handle either of those things, no matter how much I would profit from it. Though I feel I could get used to being on display, I wouldn't be able to handle the isolation in either of the scenarios. If I had to choose, I would pick the second one and learn sign language (and everything else I've ever wanted to read about, since I'll apparently have no job).

Wayne said...

The deserted tropical island for me. It'd make for some pretty cool retreats of silence. Maybe I'll (attempt to) grow a beard like Tom Hanks and get myself a volleyball friend. And it'd be fun to learn outdoor survival skills. There's no way I could survive in a glass case in the middle of Manhattan -- I'd feel overexposed.

James said...

If you had said that I had internet access and a computer, I'd pick the glass apartment. I'd invest a year of my life working on some kind of website, and my life wouldn't be too different than the people who work on their own startups. Lock yourself in a room for a year, sounds about right, and I have some ideas for websites already.

But with no internet the glass apartment is pointless, and I'd be more productive on the island. Granted, I wouldn't be making a website anymore, but I'd maybe work on artistic things. Like writing. I'd try to get a book deal or something, and mail in the letters to my editor once per week. Oh this sounds awesome.

Another thing to consider is the money. One million dollars is not worth a year of seclusion, I don't think. Well, it MIGHT be worth it now assuming I am a single grad student, but if I'm married or attached, or if I'm making decent salary (so I don't need the money), it's probably not worth it.

Andrew said...

I'd take the island. Why would you want to be in a box in the middle of Manhattan.

On the island I'd read, write, exercise, and take photos (with my camera and generous supply of memory cards and batteries that I brought along for that purpose).

My biggest issue would be the lack of power. I guess I could pack some sort of solar powered iPod/laptop/camera charger, so I'd probably be fine. A solar-powered satellite phone would be even better!

Of course, there's the completely separate question of whether I'd do it at all. If I wasn't married I would (because I don't see it as any great hardship - I think I'd quite enjoy it, and it would be good for me); however being married I'd have to consult long and hard with Erica about whether it was worth being apart for a year for a million dollars. At least we'd be able to write to one another though.

Amy said...

How big is the glass cube?

Sheila said...

Manhattan. It's not like there's no privacy at all - you still get your bedroom and bathroom for solitude, and I'd much rather have the choice of only occasional solitude rather than have really no option of seeing anyone on the deserted island. Watching everyone pass the city by from that case would be absolutely incredible. You would imagine stories and lives for the people you see every day. For most people in Manhattan, I (in the glass case) would be just as fascinating to them as they would be to me (if not more so). Although there would be more verbal communication through the island letters, the case would allow for constant potential nonverbal communication - just a look from a stranger could speak 1000 words! It would probably be the perfect environment to write a great novel...

But, I ditto everything Andrew said about how being married changes everything, so I probably wouldn't do either. Darned vows. ;-) (Just kidding.)

Annie said...

Island. I think that even this extrovert could psych herself up to do it for a year. I'd write and work on all the projects I'm too distracted to finish these days.

Matt said...

Let's say the glass case is the size of a small studio apartment.

I sorta imagined this question as a choice between being totally isolated from civilization but still able to communicate versus being in the center of all the activity but unable to communicate.

I'll also say "island". Though it'd be interesting to watch the world pass by my windows every day, I think eventually I'd get overwhelmed by cabin fever.

I like the idea of writing letters to correspond with people and I feel I'd come away from the year on the island as a more capable human being.

And at this point, there is no doubt in my mind that $1,000,000 would be enough to get me to do this.

Joe said...

With Sheila's permission, I think I'd do this, and I'd opt for the Manhattan route. Why?

Honestly, mainly because I don't like the idea of missing out on a year of important news. I always hated it when I went to Cedar Campus for a week and the world changed dramatically when I returned on Saturday evening. Sure, they had newspapers, but they always showed up a day late, and there was no TV. I know people can make a compelling argument for the importance of disconnecting for a week and connecting with God, and while I think that's very important, I don't know if I could do that for a year while still feeling like a responsible and informed citizen. I think I would have been inconsolable if I would have missed watching Obama on Election Night and Inauguration Day. I know I wouldn't be able to hear it, but at least a video feed would be something memorable. Plus, I'm hopeful that people would bring a TV and set it outside of the cube so that I could watch my beloved Browns, Cavs, and Indians.

Plus, Manhattan is a very happening place (at least from what I've been told...I've never been there) and I'm sure it would be great for people watching. I think I would also try to use my cube and the attention that would accompany my presence to raise attention to important causes. Would hanging up a piece of fabric on which I wrote stuff about important causes (inner city education, animal rights, etc) to raise attention to these issues be considered communicating with the outside world, considering that it wouldn't be a direct communication to a specific person (i.e. it's not like me telling Sheila to come and stand outside of the cube so that I could see her beautiful face). It's not an email, letter, or phone call...but I would just want to make sure before I stepped into the cube

Pietro said...

This is a no brainer for me. I would definitely accept the offer to participate in the social experiment and probably would still do it for even a fraction of the million dollars. I like social experiments, minus all the drama and lies that reality TV and shows like ‘Lost’ add into it.
And there is no question I would take the island over Manhattan glass studio. I’ve lived in enough of big cities to know that watching the mob mentality of the pedestrians of Manhattan wouldn’t be fun very long. Besides I’d feel like the city’s pet gerbil that has to live in an old leaky aquarium or something. People would stop to watch me eat or run on my treadmill (a.k.a. hamster wheel).
No, I’d take the island. Then I can hone all the survivor skills I’ve learned from my man-crush Bear Grylls. And if I can survive on my own, I can always use the weekly food delivery. Plus being on the island will have plenty of more options for me to do things. I could try and build fancy water delivery contraptions like Robinson Caruso, exercise, read all the books I haven’t had time for, write a journal of my experiences, and finally learn to swim. And I’d probably bring a musical instrument in my suitcase. It doesn’t matter which one, I’ll teach myself during the year.
Plus the solitude on the island would let me gain a better appreciation for all the people in my life and luxuries. If I was in the glass box, I would only experience the impersonal visual connection between humans as they pass by my box concerned on getting to their destinations. If I was stuck in the box all year I probably come out disliking mankind more than when I went in. Actually you’d probably have to pay me double if you said I didn’t have a choice and had to go in the glass box, otherwise I probably wouldn’t even want to be a part of the experiment.
(speaking of not wanting to participate I didn’t like last week’s question, so I decided to abstain from participating.)

Joyce said...

island. no question.

trese63 said...

aww the island sounds amazing. somebody take me there! just kidding, i think i need to finish med school first.

Ry said...

Island. Easy call. In fact, if I knew that all my financial needs were being met, I'd be willing to do it for far less money, or none at all, but I wouldn't tell my benefactor that. I'd just take the money, invest the pile of it, then go enjoy paradise for a year.

(This is assuming I can include toiletries like toothpaste and shaving cream on my grocery list. And maybe scuba gear)

Holly said...

I think the glass case scenario sounds like sheer torture (no pun intended. I would definitely choose the island. I think being able to view civilization but not interact meaningfully would be taunting and profoundly lonely. At least on an island there would be peace around, options for communication with those you love, and sand. I would take a lot of books and a lot of paper/writing utensils. Who knows, maybe something of a little worth might actually result if I had no other pass-time.