Book Review: The Elephant in the Brain

Trying to decide whether I will like this…

This is a very good video by one of the authors.


  1. The book seems to support the hypothesis that we do things because of the signal it sends to other members of our species about us rather than for the direct, obvious reason. The authors appear rather non-committal about it, at the same time.
  2. I preferred watching a one hour video to reading an Oxford University Press book. Times are changing, indeed! Having said that, my motivation (as far as I can tell) wasn’t just laziness, but also tiredness from the whole behavioural econ/bias stuff after it was that was so brilliantly explored by Kahneman and the fact that this is a recent book, in a time when I would prefer to read something more tested 😦

Don't Worry About the Vase

We don’t only constantly deceive others. In order to better deceive others, we also deceive ourselves. You’d pay to know what you really think.

Robin Hanson has worked tirelessly to fill this unmet need. Together with Kevin Simler, he now brings us The Elephant in the Brain.

I highly recommend the book, especially to those not familiar with Overcoming Bias and claims of the type “X is not about Y.” The book feels like a great way to create common knowledge around the claims in question, a sort of Hansonian sequence. For those already familiar with such concepts, it will be fun and quick read, and still likely to contain some new insights for you.

Two meta notes. In some places, I refer to Robin, in others to ‘the book’. This is somewhat random but also somewhat about which claims I have previously seen on Overcoming Bias

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