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The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

This book will make you uncomfortable. Using modern cognitive psychology, it argues that our actions are evolutionarily driven by building alliances so that we've learned to lie to ourselves and others about motivations. We're not rational, in the sense that about causes we care about, we're more motivated by feelings than effectiveness. We're driven by our own interests, which were formed over a long time to align—often—with group interests.

Finally, you should read more Kevin Simler. He pitches the book better than I can. Highly recommended.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

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