MetaCreation's Negative Intuitions (was: Help me find the best CF articles)

Note this reply is just to disclose some emotional/intuitive responses in case it’s helpful. I don’t really agree with my intuitions here.

My intuitive response was that your response after my reply was rude/dismissive.

You asked for help generally and I tried to be helpful.

Your response seems to be reframing the request in a way which excludes me from being relevant.

My intuition takes the response as dismissive/a brush-off after I tried to help, in particular as it didn’t acknowledge my reply explicitly.

I was briefly angry at first (and it came up a few more times while writing this). I guess part of me taking it as some form of attack and maybe taking it in a social status way.

I feel pretty stupid saying this stuff. Maybe even ashamed. I don’t know what sort of useful response someone could give.

Maybe part my intuition is something like “I want to help but it turns out I’m not good enough”. Disappointment may also be a factor.

I guess I’m taking the reframing a bit personally. I don’t disagree with the reframing or think you should take my attempt at help regardless. I guess I did actually help, just not in the way I intended, because you realised that a clarification was worth adding.

I don’t like having this much emotional response to what seems rationally like a reasonable clarification of your request.

Quotes are from Intuition and Rationality

When intuitions and arguments disagree, initially you don’t know which side is right. You shouldn’t assume you know the conclusion of a debate that hasn’t happened yet. You shouldn’t assume that the intuition is incorrect and that a solution means finding a way to get the intuition to stop complaining.

I think I’ve been leaning on the side of arguing against my intuition in this post. There’s some baseline mindset of “it’s an intuition so it’s wrong”. I think part of that is not really having better words to explain the intuition, as in I’m not convinced that it was rude it’s just my intuition saying so. Partly I think because I don’t want to care very much about rudeness, I don’t like when people (myself included) get get caught up in whether something was rude or not.

You can also question intuitions. You can ask a question and give an intuitive answer. You can consider a hypothetical scenario (or a real one) and give your intuitive opinion about it. Your intuitions can comment on questions or scenarios. If you bring up many questions and scenarios, and figure out your intuitive opinions on them, and write that all down, then you’ll have a list of data points. You can then look for patterns.

Some hypotheticals I’ve gone through:

  • If someone else had written my reply, and you had responded in the same way, would I have seen it as rude? Kind of, though I wouldn’t have had an emotional response and might not have stopped to think about it.
  • If you hadn’t replied at all what would I think of it? Wouldn’t have cared very much, you don’t response to everything (but that’s not zero caring).
  • Would it matter if you had replied with some sort of apology? I don’t think very much so, I don’t think it would change the sense of dismissal.
  • Would it matter if you had replied with some sort of appreciative acknowledgement? I think so, I guess my intuition doesn’t mind not successfully helping if at least the attempt is appreciated.

(since this relates to emotional stuff: I am not under the influence of any drugs including caffeine and I’m fairly well rested but possibly had an hour less sleep than ideal, it’s mid morning for me and I’ve been awake for about 3 hours, also some IRL stuff was frustrating and disappointing for me yesterday and that’s an ongoing background issue which I wont be able to resolve for another day at least)

@MetaCreation asked:

Do you have any specific criteria in mind for what makes something “best”?

ET’s clarification answered your question.

My intuition takes the response as dismissive/a brush-off

Answering your question isn’t dismissive. But somehow you took it worse than you would have taken no reply.

Some hypotheticals I’ve gone through:

  • If someone else had written my reply, and you had responded in the same way, would I have seen it as rude? Kind of, though I wouldn’t have had an emotional response and might not have stopped to think about it.
  • If you hadn’t replied at all what would I think of it? Wouldn’t have cared very much, you don’t response to everything (but that’s not zero caring).
  • Would it matter if you had replied with some sort of apology? I don’t think very much so, I don’t think it would change the sense of dismissal.
  • Would it matter if you had replied with some sort of appreciative acknowledgement? I think so, I guess my intuition doesn’t mind not successfully helping if at least the attempt is appreciated.

Your brainstorming shows a bias towards assuming you’re right or good, and failing to consider scenarios where ET is right or good.

You interpretation seems to be that ET withheld deserved thanks. I think that’s a recurring, unstated premise that explains your intuitions. In other words, you’re assuming that you did good and that the misunderstanding was ET’s fault. You didn’t really consider scenarios in which an apology or thanks wouldn’t be merited.

What if the misunderstanding was your fault? What if your at-fault misunderstanding was likely to confuse others?

What if you should be apologizing to ET, but he didn’t ask you to? What if you were rude but didn’t realize it? What if you made a mistake but didn’t realize it? What if ET did notice some of your mistakes but didn’t complain? What if ET’s post left out a criticism he knew? Or ten?

How would these various underlying realities change your interpretations and intuitions?

What if, instead of the reply he wrote, ET had written one or ten criticisms? How would you have reacted? How does that compare to your actual reaction? For more scenarios, you could consider this with various types of criticisms or various specific criticisms.

You could also consider neutral scenarios. What if your actions had nothing bad about them, but they also weren’t good, so you didn’t deserve any thanks?

And in general you should try a lot more scenarios. E.g. what if something similar happened but with Sam Harris instead of ET? What if it was Ayn Rand who was still alive and had a forum? Try it with some other intellectuals you like, don’t like, or are indifferent to. Vary other stuff. Try the scenario with people you see as very busy, or not. What if it was John Smith, who has no fame, no fans, who you don’t have a parasocial relationship with? What if it was an advanced biology forum or some other topic where you really don’t know anything? What if it was a single digit addition math problems forum or some other topic where you have high confidence? I think you’re capable of brainstorming most of these scenarios yourself, and lots of others, if you want and try to.

For some scenarios, you can consider if you think it’s true, false, maybe, etc.


Yes, this is a problem. Thank you for your reply, I think the feedback is helpful.

Good point. I took the first approach of trying to work out why my intuition thinks it’s right. Consciously I think I’m often dismissive of my intuitions, so I was trying to respond to it more positively and understand it better. I guess I ended up too focused on that.

This specific intuition is (and I think some others like it are) very sensitive to criticism and it’s much harder to access them if I’m not being friendly to them. I think I should at least try some more critical interpretations of them in situations like this; maybe try some friendly interpretations then one or two critical interpretations - kind of like trying to show my intuition goodwill in advance.

I did say at the beginning that I disagree with my intuition.

But I think it was bad to basically end the post with my short brainstorm, without further comment about it. I think that could confuse others. I think I hit some sort of wall in writing and couldn’t find the words to continue, and maybe took that to mean I had nothing more to say (possibly I was again dismissing one of my intuitions). When I feel like that at the end of a post about my intuition I should say so, and also I should reiterate my final position on my intuitions.

I had a pretty strong defensive intuition reading this. I think I subconsciously dropped the context when I was reading these questions and took them as accusations, instead of suggestions of brainstorm subjects. That’s something I need to be wary of. That may be a big factor in why I find it hard to access my intuition in a critical way. Even if they were accusations, they would be accusations that I should think about seriously and not be defensive about.

So I have multiple intuitions working badly there. One is taking a question as an accusation. Another is, upon receiving an accusation, to drop the context around it. Another is to be defensive about accusations. They’re all pretty bad and consciously I disagree with them. I think they happen very quickly subconsciously and I just get the emotional response as an output. It’s something I’d like to fix super fast but I don’t know if there’s a very direct way of approaching at that subconscious thought chain. I guess it’s something I just need to keep gradually challenging and talking about when it happens.

In answer to the suggestions, that’s an extra brainstorming step that I should think about in a situation like this. Not just the thing I responded to (ET’s post), but the thing I did that got that response (my first post).

That’s a good point. I think I would have taken that a lot more positively. I think my intuition took his post negatively because it took it as an implied criticism which is something I don’t like, but that’s unfair on Elliot. I think if he was actually trying to criticise me he’d say so. The fact that I inferred criticism from something does not mean the writer implied it.

I think I’m also not good at brainstorming and that’s something else I should keep working on. I don’t think I’d be capable of just doing a really good brainstorm right now. Yes those scenarios are not revolutionary ideas and they could occur to me in the right circumstances, but I think there’s some sort of skill in brainstorming and connecting up all those ideas which I’m lacking. Possibly I was worse than usual in this case owing to dealing with an intuition and having some resulting confusion and low-lying conflicts.

I’m a little wary at this point of having too many things to learn from this post alone and I’m pretty sure I’m going to repeat some of these mistakes.

Again thanks for your reply. I have a lot of growth I need to do here.

I’ll try to utilise this feedback next time I write about intuitions.

Some notes about writing about intuitions:

  • Writing about intuitions is a difficult skill to learn. I think it’s I’m going to get it wrong a lot before I get any good at it. But I want to work on it, as I think I have a lot of small conflicts like this that are distracting and take energy. I don’t have a sense of how much they add up to, but I could easily have lots of small intuitions like in this case which may add up to a lot more problems than I realise.
  • Intuitions are hard to understand, and I think people often end up with a lot of connected intuitions all activating each other. So when writing about them I think it’s important to mention connected intuitions that come up (at least the presence of them, even if the words to explain them are hard to identify).

Some notes about brainstorming (roughly about talking to people):

  • Consider multiple steps of context (e.g. not just a reply, but what the reply was following).
  • Consider scenario variants (e.g. rather than “someone else”, try specific people, try different kinds of people)
  • Consider broader contexts (e.g. in a different place/forum)
  • Consider different subjects (e.g. subjects I’m much more or much less confident in)
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You could brainstorm and consider some reasons that, if ET had criticisms, he wouldn’t have written them.

I don’t think this connects well to the specific intuitions of mine that came up here. I think if some part of me wasn’t looking for implied criticisms, I doubt I would have then wondered why there was no criticism. That part of me doesn’t always expect criticism and get suspicious when there isn’t any, rather it’s looking for implied/passive-aggressive criticism.

Still, I’m going to take the suggestion as an exercise in brainstorming. Though I’m not going to restrict this to being exclusively about ET.

Why someone might think of a criticism of another person but not say it:

  • They’re busy and don’t have time right away.
  • They don’t consciously recognise the criticism right away.
  • They don’t think it will be taken constructively.
  • They don’t think the effort of writing it will be appreciated.
  • They don’t think it’s very important.
  • Something distracts them and they forget about the crit before they reply.
  • They’re self-conscious and don’t want the attention that being critical may result in.
  • They’re tired/emotional/impaired in some other way and don’t think they could express it clearly.
  • They don’t know the words to express it.
  • They’re not sure if the criticism is accurate.
  • They don’t like the person they have a criticism of and don’t want to help them.
  • They think the other person is sensitive about the issue and don’t want to upset them.
  • They think the other person is busy/preoccupied and wont be able to take the criticism seriously.
  • They think the other person is very focused on something and the criticism is not important enough to derail the other person’s work.
  • They think the other person is being lazy and could find out about it really easily if they bothered to try (or possibly if they just stopped to think about it).
  • They think the other person has some other mistakes that are important to challenge first, as the mistake which the criticism is about rests on those other mistakes.
  • They think it will get deleted or edited by overbearing moderation policies.
  • They think they will get attacked for it (harassed/threatened/doxxed/etc).
  • They think the criticism has already been raised recently elsewhere, and the other person hasn’t responded to the previous instance.
  • They forget the criticism at first, and get shot by an intruder (or something else critical happens like a battery running out) before they can make the edit.
  • They get confused by doing multiple things at once, and end up saying the criticism to the wrong person.
  • They decide to write a separate post or essay, or record a video explaining the criticism, instead. They might find it more useful to do this impersonally and in a stand-alone way rather than limiting it to talking to one person.

Side note about brainstorming:
Brainstorming to understand subconscious ideas feels very similar conceptually to hunting for bugs in code. Also, thinking of my subconscious ideas as code (which I think they approximately are) they are practically very similar.

For example when it comes to debugging I’ll subconsciously try variations of parameters (equivalent to different people involved/different things said) and isolating methods and testing them independently or in different circumstances (equivalent to changing context). It might be useful to generalise that knowledge so I can apply it to a wider set of circumstances.

It’s not so easy to shove a debug output line into the middle of an idea though.

I think it’s roughly possible (though potentially pretty difficult) to set breakpoints in idea chains and debug them line by line. I think it’s super hard to do this in a way directly analogous to code, and at least when I do something like this it’s more like doing it backwards (catching that something has gone wrong and trying to put the immediately preceding subconscious connections into words).

I think there’s a pattern to your brainstormed ideas which shows some kind of misconception or bias.

You seem to see sharing criticism like a default outcome that needs to be blocked by some problem. But it isn’t the default. The default is saying nothing, and it takes some reason to change that.

You didn’t put “The critic has no compelling reason to share the criticism” on your list, but that might be the most common reason for not sharing a criticism.

Maybe you don’t see criticism as something to be earned. A lot of your thoughts are about the potential critic making mistakes or finding it hard to write criticism, rather than being about mistakes or problems with the person receiving the criticism.

You mention the critic’s time mattering here:

They’re busy and don’t have time right away.

But this focuses only on being busy in the short term. It doesn’t bring up the critic simply valuing their time and having other priorities. Similarly:

They don’t think the effort of writing it will be appreciated.

This sounds like people should write criticism, and it’s worth the effort, if it will be appreciated by someone else. But expending effort without getting personal benefit is often bad.

You gave lots of valid reasons that can happen. But you may be missing that one of the major reasons people don’t share criticism is that they don’t expect to get enough positive value from the interaction for it to be worth the effort. You didn’t write a bunch of variations on that common theme. People often have plenty of other things to do, on an ongoing basis, which they think will benefit them more.

Another reason to not share a criticism is that you shared a different one instead. If someone thinks of ten criticisms and does share one, they still didn’t share nine. You might view thinking of a criticism as a rare event, but it isn’t for everyone. (You can probably think of some reasons that if someone thought of ten criticisms, they might not share all ten – sharing zero or one out of ten is probably the most common. Also, some of those reasons may apply for sharing one criticism, too.)

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I like this point about lack of criticism being the default. Criticism is a gift to be earned. I didn’t notice the bias or that such fundamental/important possibility was missing from the list. It’s good for me to be reminded about how choices/actions always involve some kind of prioritization and determination of value.

Yes I think that’s accurate. When I think of criticisms I normally either think of a reason not to say them, or I say them.

I disagree.

There’s always the personal benefit of finding out you made a mistake. That’s why I default to criticise unless I have a reason not to. That’s why my reasons include stuff like:

Because if criticism isn’t taken constructively, then feedback on it wont be in good will and it wont be an honest opportunity to find out who is right.

I do. I don’t default to thinking I should criticise everyone I interact with or read. There’s some baseline stuff like they seem to write in a way that isn’t illiterate or hostile or something. But those are just a reframe of more reasons not to. Other people will have different standards of course.

I think as it stands (as I’m not convinced that the default is or should be “don’t criticise without a reason”) the only significant bullet point I missed is:

  • It isn’t a competitively interesting thing to criticise.