I read The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson.
This is an interesting and important topic to me and there seem to be good ideas about it in the book.
From the Introduction:
Here is the thesis we’ll be exploring in this book: We, human beings, are a species that’s not only capable of acting on hidden motives—we’re designed to do it. Our brains are built to act in our self-interest while at the same time trying hard not to appear selfish in front of other people. And in order to throw them off the trail, our brains often keep “us,” our conscious minds, in the dark. The less we know of our own ugly motives, the easier it is to hide them from others.
So throughout the book, we’ll be using “the elephant” to refer not just to human selfishness, but to a whole cluster of related concepts: the fact that we’re competitive social animals fighting for power, status, and sex; the fact that we’re sometimes willing to lie and cheat to get ahead; the fact that we hide some of our motives—and that we do so in order to mislead others.
I think they’re right that “we’re competitive social animals fighting for power, status, and sex”, that these motives permeate much of what we do, and that we often hide the motives from ourselves and from others.
(I question “we’re designed to do it” and “Our brains are built to…”, but that seems like a minor point.)
I want to go through the book more carefully. I have some ideas about what to try to do with the book this time through:
- think and write about what things in the book I agree with and what things in it I don’t agree with
- think of and write examples and maybe counter-examples to what they say
These might be too vague or too hard for me. I’ll give it a try, though. I’ll also try to think of easier ways I could learn from and interact with this book.