Thursday, November 15, 2012

On blogging

Suddenly I realized that writing here (and also writing comments to other people's blogs) is mighty hard for me exactly because I blogged for so long in Russian. And not even because of the language (it's a problem, but an unrelated one). It's because of the difference in cultural biases and assumptions.

In Russian I am habitually controversial and provocative. But I can afford that exactly because I know what the assumptions of my readers are (on average at least), and what they are taking for granted, and what they can tolerate, and what they can't. Every now and then I make a mistake in one direction or another, but overall I know where we are, and where I'd like to lean, so I do it.

But when I try to write in English, suddenly I find that all my "default cultural settings" are wrong! I'm not even sure if what I say is acceptable at all. Because I can never be sure people would understand me. Let me give you one example: I'm really interested in human population genetics, and in human evolution is accelerating over last several thousands years, in ever increasing speeds. And how weird and unpredictable our evolution has become, with all these cities, diseases, personal choices, economical considerations, etc. It's fun, it's interesting, and I think it is a good topic (even if provocative) that can be discussed.

And I know for sure that it is being discussed in some way or another. I know of a great blog on this topic; I know of some books about it. It is possible.

Yet when I feel like saying something, or even worse - try to say something, it turns out quite awkward. Like in these discussions on PhDs having, or opting out of having kids for example:

I really wonder what the effects of "PhD being the best contraception" could be, in terms of genetic drift. But at the same time I am aware of the long and uneasy history these kinds of questions had in the US, with all this eugenics and other horrible stuff. So can I even muse on the impacts? Or is totally socially unacceptable? On those instances when I talked about human evolution with fellow scientists sometimes I got pretty harsh rebuttals that I feel I did not deserve. And my guess is that mostly it happened because of the different baseline assumptions. It's funny and sad at the same time.

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