Dangerous Conversations

There are things that need to be discussed. Important things that are critical to smoothing out the road ahead. These topics are often dangerous. By that I mean uncomfortable, prone to incite emotional reactions. The old adage about never discuss politics and religion at a family function is accurate, but incomplete. There are tons of topics that are off-limits and it can be a risk to your career and social status to breach these boundaries. I am not going to use up space here by listing examples of these but a quick internet search will show a variety of examples. In all fairness many of these are the result of the presenter being insensitive or even tone-deaf, but many are also over reactions to information presented with good intentions. The bigot and the social justice warrior can often be as far from rationality as the other. Even when arguing for the side of “right” straying too far is as poisonous as those at the far other end of the spectrum.

That being said these conversations need to happen. People like Sam Harris and the Weinsteins and a host of others, sometimes referred to as the intellectual dark web are attempting to hack through this jungle paving the way for many to follow. Introduce topics of discussion based off of race or gender and you are likely to find yourself at the risk of being attacked, protested, and possibly fired and/or deplatformed.

This is dangerous. I am all for improving the sensitivity of how these conversations occur, as it will inevitably increase their social value and participation rate, but it cannot be done at the expense of extracting maximum value from the topic. Nothing swept under the rug has ever improved the world. We have to be able to discuss uncomfortable topics and situations so we can all improve the way that we handle uncomfortable topics and situations! Words are easier to engage with and have less impact than actions do, so lets talk about these things with a little more openness.

Recent explosions have come from interpretations about things like race and I.Q. The fact of the matter is science is cold and indifferent, and we cannot take things personally when data strikes a nerve. The most powerful antidote to this is the realization that science is uncaring, and that data does not mean ANYTHING in and of itself. It is simply the results of experiment. The best use of data is to ask better questions not to validate opinions or to be used as a political tool. It is simply ingredients into an expanding soup of knowledge that we can all draw from to live more informed lives. Informed lives leave no room for things like isms. Isms thrive in ignorance. There are way too many bad actions occurring for any resources to be wasted on stifling constructive conversations regardless of how uncomfortable they are.

Being brave enough to engage in uncomfortable topics and engaged enough to avoid the traps so common in today’s hyper sensitive landscape is critical. It is the only way we can learn these lessons without the aforementioned pains of trial and error. Conversation cannot be off-limits if we are to succeed.

We are all just trying to figure out how to understand and get along with one another in a world that is changing at breakneck speed while experiencing exponential population growth. How hard can it be?

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