I’m not one for mystical novels, but Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game is class. It revolves around a future utopia in which all the most gifted people are sequestered from the rest of society, and spend their whole lives devoted to mastering The Glass Bead Game. Hesse never actually describes The Glass Bead game in detail, but he does hint that it involves synthesising loads of random skills:
The rules of the game are only alluded to, and are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. Essentially the game is an abstract synthesis of all arts and scholarship. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics. (Wikipedia)
Basically, the master of The Glass Bead Game – ‘Magister Ludi’ – is the ultimate and most revered bloke in all the land – i.e. the best person in the world. This Glass Bead Game idea got me thinking… Why is there not a game like that around now? I mean, everyone gets unreasonably excited about people singing bad songs on X Factor. But forget ‘best singer’ – what about a real competition, a competition that decides who is just the absolute, ultimate, no-further-questions best person in the world?
Idea #16: The Best Person in the World Competition
While The Glass Bead Game is a fantastic concept, I feel that the name is somewhat…shit. Let’s call our best person in the world competition X MAN.
X MAN is primarily just a competition to find out who is the best person in the world, because that’s something worth knowing. But since I know a lot of people read Ideas Exist for business ideas, let’s not pass up the opportunity for a little TV show too. Or should I say, the most successful TV show ever made. The best part about that is we will supplant the worst person in the world – Simon Cowell – from his current role as the bubonic plague of prime time TV. Our show will have a presenter much more worthy of the position. As I see it, there are several contenders:
- The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Stephen Hawking
I’m going for Stephen Hawking as I think he would bring the right degree of gravity to the show. He also nicely straddles the boundary between extraordinary human and robot – only someone like this can claim any authority over a gaggle of potential best person in the worlds.
But how do we decide who is the absolute best person in the world? Let’s do it in unashamedly X Factor style, since people seem to like that. X MAN begins with regional then national tournaments where competitors can earn themselves points in a diversity of events – these can also form their own national TV shows – then culminates in the international final, which ends up becoming the 21st century’s better version of the Olympics. Why’s it better? Because, a la Glass Bead Game, it’s combines scholarship, arts and sport – one challenge per episode:
- Mixed martial arts cage fight
- Make a short film
- Ironman triathlon plus survival situation
- A David Blaine-style unusual endurance feat e.g. standing on the top of a pole
- Music writing and performing
- Machine building
- Orchestrate a bank heist
That should do it. Whoever wins is the best person in the world.
A bit of clarification:
Make a short film – the candidates for best person in the world are just told, “Make a film.” They then have a week to do it, and viewers vote on which is the best. Same with the music writing and performing. If they are the best, they can do it.
Kindness – assessed using hidden cameras, e.g. a dirty old tramp approaches the contestants individually to ask for kindnesses of increasingly demanding nature, like “Please take me to your house for a bowl of soup”, then “Would you mind if I stay here for a week or so?” etc. The best person in the world can’t not be kind.
Machine building – like Scrap Heap Challenge but for individuals, contestants must build the required machines then race or battle with them. The best person in the world can’t not be able to build machines.
Speeches – in this round, would be best person in the world must show themself as the global leader they are about to become (the prize is presidency of Sudan), and make a rousing Obamaesque speech to the world setting out their vision.
X MAN will not be decided by a stupid vote. Rather, there will be a final round with especially loads of points to be won. What is the final challenge? Danny Thompson, in a submission to Ideas Exist, has revealed it:
Get the contestants to turn up at the track and tell them to run as fast as possible over 50 meters. Record the quickest time. Now tell them to run into a wall. If they can do it at at least 90% of their top speed, they win the prize! The wall should look very real, but doesn’t have to be
And the winner is the best person in the world. Official. (Anymore ideas for challenges to feature in X MAN? Leave a comment!)