Neutrality

Strive to be neutral, unless you have a solid reason to not be. Learn to say “I don’t know” and to be indifferent. It makes debates and life in general easier.

Most of the time the distinction between good/bad or right/wrong or fair/unfair are based on emotional responses, the usefulness of which can vary depending on what built up the emotions in question. Emotions are heuristics, quick evaluations of the subject, however complex it may be, and as such inherently imprecise. They work well for simple and low-risk decisions, but not for much else.

Most of the time emotional response is based on prior experience. But not always with the subject provoking a response. It can be based on someone else’s opinion, be it of an individual or the surrounding society. But it’s not very useful on its own. The best explanations don’t try to push a particular opinion directly, but present the data that caused that opinion to form to reproduce the same opinion (at least that’s what the presenter might aim for). Now, whether the data is to be trusted is another question, but accepting the opinion on its own can easily create inconsistencies. Creating a new opinion through combining the data of others with your own is much less error-prone for at least two reasons: (1) there is an additional layer of indirection that is harder to construct in bad faith, (2) data tends to be more verifiable and immutable (past events have happened, data on them can be incomplete, but cannot change, opinions can change over time).

But even the response was shaped by experience with the subject itself, one has to consider the sample size before establishing an opinion. It’s easy to make a drastic conclusion based on a single event, but the reality is that you could get unlucky and experience one of the unlikely extremes. Normal distribution applies surprisingly often.


Generalities

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