How do people respond to torture? Which age group is most adept? Are men or women more capable of multitasking? How do most people use the toilet? These are some of the questions that are tackled on the Netflix series 100 Humans: Life’s Questions. Answered.
100 Humans is reality TV dressed up as a science program. In like manner, the hosts of the show (Alie Ward, Sammy Obeid, and Zainab Johnson) are actors and comedians who wear lab coats. The premise is that the show has selected 100 anonymous people (known only by their numbers 1-100) from various backgrounds and runs social experiments to see how people react. At times the show will bring in an expert in the area under consideration to explain the results. But for the most part this is a show that isn’t so much focused on the science as it is on the entertaining people and their reactions. And this is entertaining, in large part because of some of the personalities that percolate to the top (like Human 28).
As I said, it isn’t really a science show. It is very easy to critique the experiments and as such the results. For example, the experiment on multitasking involved simultaneously stirring a pot, playing whack-a-mole and answering a series of questions being asked by one of the hosts. The only task that was being judged was questions. The women did best. Perhaps if the scores of whack-a-mole were the criterion (or at least combined with the questions), there might have been a different result. (Yeah, I’m standing up for my gender here.)
In spite of the questionable scientific method involved, some of the issues dealt with are important. They give us insight into human nature and some of the differences between us. Among those is one episode that deals with biases and prejudice. It becomes obvious through the experiments that none of us is free from bias. The humans make choices that may be surprising even to them. The entertainment that the show provides serves as an entry point for us to consider how much the humans on the show reflect our own nature and choices. It is this insight which is far more important than whether the best men dancers have the highest sperm counts. (Yes, that was one of the experiments.)
In the final episode, we meet some of the humans and hear their reflections on this experience—the way they have formed community and friendships even though they are all so different. It seemed to me that it was similar to kids going to camp. Our commonality comes out when we spend time with people of different backgrounds and outlooks. We discover that being human is often the only similarity we need to share with someone else.