Recently Survivor aired its 40th season. Compelling storylines have become a Survivor trademark and have made it a leader in unscripted reality. To better understand how Survivor has lasted 40 seasons, we must turn to Mark Burnett.
Burnett, a former member of the British Army, is an excellent planner. Burnett perfected his skills by applying them to a precursor to Survivor, the Eco-Challenge. The Eco Challenge was a reality show in the form of a multi-day and multi-discipline endurance race. Teams of four would have to trek, swim, bike or climb day and night over treacherous terrain. The team not only had to face the competition from other teams but as with any endeavour that generates extreme fatigue, they would have the fight their proverbial inner demons and those of their team members.
When selecting teams Burnett didn’t start from the beginning, he started from the end. Predicting where he believed each team member would crack. Where it would become just too much. Where the terrain would become too daunting both physically and emotionally. And then he planned backwards from there. Through this he was able to not ensure a great race but, in this pre-drone era when the camera people had to be able to follow the contestants, he was able to predict when and where and on who the camera should be focusing.
Planning backwards from the future can sound a bit like science fiction. After all, to the best of our knowledge, at least, no one has been 100% successful in predicting what the future will bring. But what science fiction allows us to do is to consider alternative realities. And these alternative realities can help us make better decisions to be better prepared when unforeseen events happen upon us. So it begs the question, how can science-fiction help us better prepare for an uncertain future?