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the social graces still escape me

I wish people were more willing to converse on arbitrary topics. That they had unbounded curiosity, and were willing to discuss things they know little about in the hopes of being educated.

I want to be able to walk up to someone at a party and start talking about why investing in space technology is a good idea (There are finite resources on Earth, and finite amounts of energy that we are able to harness. Though this is still true of the universe at large, there are enough orders of magnitude of difference even within the solar system that we shouldn’t need to worry about resource starvation for a long time to come. No, we don’t have the technology yet to harvest these, but we can at least lay down the infrastructure which will dramatically ease the process when the technology arrives. Furthermore, the act of laying down the infrastructure will spur development of the tech. needed for more ambitious projects.), and have them contribute. I want more than just nodding and smiling and letting me rant, I want people to come up with points that I hadn’t thought of. I want people to shoot down my ideas as completely impractical! But I want them to be willing to explain to me why my ideas won’t work.

I don’t have a very complete understanding of the theory of relativity. I know two tenets: the speed of light is an absolute limit, and speed is relative to the observer. This means that if I have a reference point, and send off two probes in opposite directions, each at .9 of the speed of light, their relative speed will not actually be 1.8 times the speed of light, that being impossible. What I don’t understand is exactly what their relative speed will be, why it will be so, or how to compute it.

The thing is, I can only ask so many questions. What’d be really nice would be if people would be willing to educate each other about their areas of interest in the context of casual conversation, so that I could learn arbitrary interesting things without having to go seek them out. I’m sure that everyone’s got something to focus on, something that they are expert in which might potentially be interesting. Maybe any one person will have only a few of these topics; I can talk about computers, games, computer games, and science fiction. But in a culture in which it’s acceptable to just offer discourse on something you like, there are enough people around that surely something would find something interesting to say.

I often have a hard time in casual conversation with strangers, because I don’t watch TV, rarely see movies, and thus have nothing it’s socially acceptable to talk about except the weather. The weather is, at best, a limited source of conversation. How do I get people to respond to the things I’m interested in? How can I talk about extremely high-level computer languages (meaning, more near natural languages) without someone changing the subject before the third sentance?

Do I really have more varied interests than the common person? I don’t think so, or at least I hope not. I want to think that if there was a social convention for it, I really could talk about the things I find interesting and have people respond intelligently, even if they have no training in the area. I want other people to be talking about the interesting things they think about, so that I could occasionally think about something different.

The basic problem is that I’m not sure how to accomplish this.

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