“For example, was the 1964 stabbing death of a young Queens woman by the name of Kitty Genovese. Genovese was chased by her assailant and attacked three times on the street, over the course of half an hour, as thirty eight of her neighbors watched from their windows. During that time, however, none of the thirty eight witnesses called the police. The case provoked rounds of self recrimination. It became symbolic of the cold and dehumanizing effects of urban life.
Abe Rosenthal, who would later become editor of the New York Times, wrote in a book about the case:
Nobody can say why the thirty eight did not lift the phone while Miss Genovese was being attacked, since they cannot say themselves. It can be assumed, however, that their apathy was indeed one of the big city variety. It is almost a matter of psychological survival, if one is surrounded and pressed by millions of people, to prevent them from constantly impinging on you, and the only way to do this is to ignore them as often as possible. Indifference to one’s neighbor and his troubles is a conditioned reflex in life in New York as it is in other big cities.”
This environmentally determined explanation seems quite logical to us. The anonymity and aloofness of the metropolis makes people cruel and soulless. The truth of Ms. Genovese's story, however, is a little more complicated and much more interesting. Two New York psychologists, Bibb Latané of Columbia University and John Darley of New York University, conducted a sequential series of experiments trying to make sense of what they labeled the "outsider problem."
They staged various emergencies to see who would come to the rescue. And they were surprised to find that the main factor by which they could predict that a person would come to the rescue was the number of witnesses to what was happening.
For example, in one of their experiments, Latané and Darley asked a student who was alone in a room to act out an epileptic seizure. When there was only one person outside the door who could hear what was going on in the room, he rushed to the student's aid 85 percent of the time. But when people believed there were four other people who could hear sounds characteristic of the seizure, they helped the student only 31% of the time.
In another experiment, people who saw smoke coming from under the door raised the alarm 75% of the time when they were alone, but reported the incident only 38% of the time when they were in a group. When people are in a group, they can be said to be less responsible for taking action.
They assume that someone else will call, or they assume that since no one is acting, then the observed problem (sounds from the next room like an attack, or smoke from under the door) is not a problem at all..."—from Malcolm Gladwell's book "Turning Point. How Small Changes Lead to Global Change."
Now imagine how widely known the problem of death is! In our case, the "problem of the outsider" is taken to the extreme. It is obvious that a huge number of people are dealing with aging and, conversely, it is not at all obvious what significant contribution one person can make.
Based on the logic of Latané and Darley, for a person to begin to resist death, he must be left alone with it. As a matter of fact, this is what happens in life-threatening circumstances.
And how does one leave a person alone with death, which will come in 30 years?
Yes, this is precisely the task of transhuman art. A book, a film, an exhibition. The horror has to be real. Only by looking into the eyes of death do people begin to resist.
I am often advised to write a positive scenario of the future. To answer questions about why people should live.
On the contrary, I think the negative scenario should be shown. Just avoiding it will lead to the realization of the positive. Otherwise, we get a ridiculous situation: we persuade people to live, but they are capricious, bringing up new objections, like what if they get bored.