Most of my friends are in the 30-45 year age bracket and generally represent the full socioeconomic spectrum. The majority live in the northern panhandle of West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania. Most are married. Most have children. Many have college degrees with a wide variety of occupations. I have no reason to think they’re radically different from other social groups.
When I explain the concept of artificially generated stampedes, I get three typical reactions. I’d like to examine each of them because I believe my friends are a fair cross-section of society.
First, the selfish response.
I’d say this accounts for roughly 25% of the reactions. There’s a simple, straightforward disavowal. “This wouldn’t impact me. I don’t attend those kind of events because I don’t like large crowds.” They’ll often shift the conversation to something about their family or friends, preferring to discuss work, weather, sports, gossip, or other more personal concerns. In a similar vain, I often hear, “I’d prefer not to think about it.”
Perhaps some people just don’t wish to discuss these things. Since it involves life-threatening scenarios, they might consider it to be an uncomfortable discussion, much like religion or politics. Some just might not enjoy talking to me. I can accept that. But for whatever reason, about a quarter of the people I engage simply don’t wish to discuss the concept of artificially generated stampedes. Fair enough.
Second, the skeptical response.
I’d say this accounts for another 25% of the reactions. “Even if I received a panic-laden message and/or saw others running for their lives, I would remain calm and let the situation play itself out.” They wouldn’t join the crowd. They’re cognizant of their surroundings and know the difference between a credible threat and a hoax. Simply stated, they’d just know better.
Although I might question their self-described ability to remain perfectly calm and rational during an unfolding crisis, there’s no way I can prove they would behave differently. However, I do believe the general population is unaware of or vastly underestimates the power of the genetically ingrained herding instincts we share with other mammals. Once again, it’s my opinion that some of these people are “kidding themselves.”
Third, the “whoa… I never thought of that” response.
I’d say this one is the most common. Inevitably, we discuss the multitude of ways an event like this could transpire. Needless to say, it tends to be an eye opening conversation when you start offering real-world examples and examine the progression of recent history, particularly regarding communications technology.
There’s a reason I wrote this article. I believe there’s a certain “discernible inevitability” to the artificially generated stampede. In the most basic of terms, at some point in the foreseeable future, instead of shouting “fire,” someone will text “bomb.” And it will result in a human stampede. And factoring in the progression of malicious intent, there will likely be more than one.
So when people purposely refuse to engage on a subject (with potential ramifications along the scale of 9/11), simply because it’s uncomfortable or could be detrimental to their personal interests, I believe this to be morally unacceptable. If a dominipede were to take place, this is simply not an acceptable outcome.
As I stated earlier, when I broach the subject of artificially generated stampedes, the “whoa… I never thought of that” is the most common reply. The public knows about the harmful effects of drugs, obesity, drinking and driving, forest fires, etc. At the core of it all, this is a simple public safety issue. So until I’m convinced that a reasonable majority of U.S. citizens are familiar with the concept of artificially generated stampedes, I will continue with these electronic newsletter updates as well as a general awareness campaign.
It all comes down to one basic question. Does the general population have a fundamental right to know this information? I believe they do.