This is a philosophical thought experiment designed to increase our empathy towards others in the world.
A plane crashes on a stranded island. You are one of one hundred survivors, all strangers. After searching around for a while, you discover that there is no source of food anywhere in sight, and everyone is in danger of starving to death.
Then, you come across a giant mountain. Since this is the only place you haven’t been to yet on the island, everyone decides that trying to climb it is the only hope left for finding some sort of food supply to survive. But this mountain is extremely dangerous to navigate, and it is uncertain if anyone will even be able to get to the top.
Fortunately for you and nineteen of the other survivors (ten women and ten men in total), you are expert mountain climbers. On the way up the mountain, the other 80 people try as hard as they can, but are physically unable to make it to the top. Some are old, some are young, and some are physically or mentally handicapped. Others are just not physically gifted enough to make it up.
You and the nineteen other climbers finally make it to the top. When you get there, you discover a giant lake, with rows of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It is more than enough food to feed all one hundred survivors for the foreseeable future. You and the other climbers who made it are ecstatic, realizing that starvation will no longer be an issue, and that you can now relax a little.
While searching around the mountaintop, you come across a field full of grapes. The grape vines are some of the longest and strongest vines you have ever seen. Then, you remember that the other 80 survivors are still stuck down at the bottom of the mountain, and that if you tried hard enough, you could figure out a way to use these vines to help the others reach the top.
Here comes the million-dollar question. Do you:
A) Use the grape vines to help the other 80 survivors make it to the top of the mountain, even though doing so would mean risking the possibility that you fall off, increasing how fast you use your food supply, and exerting lots of time and effort?
B) Go on just relaxing and living your easy life with the other climbers who made it, and say that it’s survival of the fittest, so it sucks for the rest of those who couldn’t make it to the top?
(By the way, the majority of the people atop the mountain with you have chosen option B. So if you choose option A, you will likely be considered someone with unpopular and strange views that diverge from the mainstream. Additionally, you will find very little help or support from others, and constantly have to deal with ridicule and intentional setbacks from others who do not want to see things change.)
Give this scenario some thought. Can you figure out how this is relevant to the world we live in today?
Through the years, 100% of people surveyed have responded that they would choose option A. Not one person has said that choosing option B is the right thing to do.
Here’s the real reason why I created this question:
-Right now, nearly half of the children on our planet do not have food.
-50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.
-80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day.
Anyone who is reading this likely:
-Has food and water.
-Has the time, money, and energy to lift people out of poverty.
We are the top 20% of people who made it up the mountain. There are many people out there who desperately need our help. In a simplified hypothetical scenario, every one of us is risking our lives and dedicating ourselves to lifting people out of poverty. Are we actually living up to these ideals in real life? Are we summoning the courage to look outside of our social circles and societal norms to do what we know deep down is right, even if this means potentially having to challenge the beliefs of all of the people we’ve ever known? If we are not doing these things yet, what changes should we be making right now? These are the real questions we each need to ask ourselves.
If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us:
It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It
The Poverty Wiki
Moments of Awareness
Why Everyone Should Try Meditation
Knowledge is Power
First World Problems