Tag Archives: Psychology

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life by Rory Sutherland


  1. There is a time and place for the “illogical” in complex human affairs. Not everything is bound by the laws of physics and it may benefit us to sometimes consider the magic which is cheap, illogical, and effective. “The whole point of this book is that just because something is irrational doesn’t mean it’s not right.” 

Key Takeaways

  1. Overview
    1. Can avoid many mistakes by being silly and playful. Seeing things from a variety of angles and always keep top of mind that people are far less logical than they appear and that this drives much of our decision making. “Psycho-logic” aims for utility rather than optimality. It operates in the background of our consciousness and is far more powerful and pervasive than we realize 
    2. The trick is not understanding all universal laws, but seeing where those universal laws don’t apply. Doesn’t rely on logic but on things that work. Just because something makes sense does not mean it works. This 2×2 is important to keep top of mind. What works and doesn’t and what makes sense and what doesn’t. By trying to rely only on things which we can rationalize, we eliminate a very useful quadrant where the solutions to our problems may lie
    3. In an age of extreme logic it is likely that the problems that have been able to have been solved by logic already have been. So, those that remain may require illogical solutions
    4. Those in positions of power today are nearly all logical so someone illogical someone like Donald Trump can we hold tremendous power because he is unpredictable
    5. Don’t criticize something just because you don’t understand it. Something may be valuable but not valuable all the time. Nature doesn’t take shortcuts and what may seem nonsensical to us may be perfectly logical from an evolutionary perspective. Often a more important question is not whether something makes sense but rather, does it work? The trick is always to remember and ask if something is smart both logically and psycho-logically
    6. An unconventional rule that nobody else uses can yield greater results than a “better” rule that everybody else uses.
    7. Logic is a good way to explain post hoc but it is not always a good way to arrive at creative solutions. If everyone is using logic, aim for the psycho-logic. With things in scarce supply, it can be beneficial to be a bit eccentric, to value things others don’t or overlook. The author prioritized architecture in his home rather than size or location and ended up with a small but beautiful and overlooked piece of real estate 
    8. Alchemy is not only what we do but what we don’t do. Approaching problems rationally is one club in the bag but we should also take into account psycho-logic and understand how people actually behave rather than how we think they should behave. We need time to disengage, to think, to wander, to play. Sutherland wrote most of this book on days where he wasn’t at work and his best work came when he was daydreaming. The modern workplace is incompatible with alchemical solutions. 
      1. Amazing story from Henry Ford: a visitor was walking through the Ford office with Mr. Ford when they passed the office of a senior executive whose feet were up on the desk. The visitor asked why Mr. Ford kept such a man on at such a high expense. Mr. Ford replied that this man had an idea several years ago which saved him $10 million dollars and as he remembered it, his feet were in that exact position.
  2. There are four reasons why people behave seemingly illogically or psycho-logically: signaling satisficing, psychophysics, subconscious hacking
    1. Signaling
      1. Economists seem to hate branding and advertising because they don’t understand it, but evolutionary biologists get it immediately. Expensive signaling has been around for millions of years and infers fitness and/or trust. The high upfront cost is expensive and unlikely to be undertaken unless repeat business is desired (flowers have expensive signaling for bees). Overcoming short term the desire for short term gains helps build trust and is done through signaling
      2. Must be willing to ask the obvious and childish questions. Are you really trying to solve the problem or merely seem like you’re solving the problem? Most people care more about making a decision that they can defend rather than a successful decision 
      3. How you ask the question impacts the answers you get
      4. A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points and the inability to change perspective is likely associated with stupidity
      5. Never assume that 1×10 is the same as 10×1. In physics and math it is, but psycho-logically it is not. For example, it is much easier to fool 10 people once than one person 10 times
      6. The process of discovery is not the same as the process of justification. There is way more serendipity and experimentation involved in discoveries than is often attributed to it
      7. Creating a name for something drastically reduces pushback and increases acceptance. Creating a name creates a norm. 
      8. The conscious mind thinks it’s the oval office when in fact it is the press office. Post-rationalization is a huge part of human nature
    2. Satisficing
      1. Satisficing – much more worried about avoiding a disaster than making the perfect choice, so we choose something we trust which is “good enough.” This may seem lazy but it can also be robust in a Complex system. If there are strict metrics and incentives to meet, others will be neglected and perhaps fatally so. Having some “I inefficiency” may actually be very wise. People seem to bug and make decisions not necessarily because one product is better, but because it is less likely to be disastrous. This is a hugely important distinction and illuminates why expensive brand advertising works
    3. Psycho-Physics
      1. Psycho-physics is the neurobiology of perception between different species and how that impacts our view of reality
      2. An admission of inferiority adds credibility and trust to your product or service
      3. The IKEA Effect is found everywhere adding a little bit of difficulty or friction increases peoples perceived value of the product or service
      4. Perhaps it logically behavior comes first and then our attitude not the other way around. It is only the behavior that matters focus on that and I’ll peoples reasons behind it and you can harness alchemy
      5. Give people more options and information and they will come out with an optimistic reason that serves their situation. For example, in the second and third years of the author’s university, there is a ballot for choosing rooms. If you’re at the top of the list in your second year, you choose first. However, if you’re on the bottom of the list, you get to choose your room first during your third year. What was amazing was that nobody was ever disappointed with this system
      6. What works well on a small scale works on a large scale. Human behavior is amazingly fractal so the trivial details we pick up on in every day situations can help us better understand how to approach big decisions
    4. Subconscious Hacking
      1. Never denigrate an action as irrational until you consider what job it really serves. People spend an enormous amount of time money and energy advertising to themselves and once you understand this much irrational human behavior makes much sense. many of these things fall into placebo effect territory and the author argues that they often have to be expensive silly logical or rational in someway in order to work
      2. It has been evolutionarily beneficial for us to be able to deceive ourselves so that we can more convincingly and consistently deceive others. That is why trial and error and then seeing what works is more fruitful than simply looking at what makes sense
      3. To be truly customer focused you must ignore what people say and instead focus on how they feel because this impacts what they do
      4. We cannot influence subconscious processes through a direct act of logic or will. It speaks a different language. Instead, we must tinker and change the things we can control which impact the things we don’t. We can change or design our environment to influence our emotional state. Evolutionarily, it is much more effective to bake in emotions rather than reason – instinctively afraid of snakes rather than each generation having to teach it to the next. This phylogenetic knowledge is not software, but hardware. It is on the Motherboard
  3. How to become an alchemist
    1. Given enough material to work on, people often try to be optimistic.
      1. Example of economics department choosing office and parking spots Jura lotto and those who got the highest number got first choice in office but last choice in parking spots this allowed people to focus on where they did well and over-emphasize that    This is an extraordinary finding in how to divided limited resources amongst a group of random people in order to maximize happiness.
      2. The admission of a downside can help you convince people
    2. What works on a small scale works on a large scale 
      1. Human behavior is surprisingly fractal. Adding cute animals helps increase sales and while this may seem like a silly example, using the lesson behind this can be helpful even on the largest scales
    3. Find different expressions for saying the same thing
      1. The way you ask the question impacts the response you get to the question
    4. Create gratuitous choices
      1. People seem to like choices for their own sake
      2. Give placebo choices as often as you can
    5. Be unpredictable
      1. The logical answers, while safe and conventional, have likely been tried. So, if you’re still in a bind, you may need “psycho-logic” rather than logic
    6. Dare to be trivial
      1. Best Buy’s $300m button – rather than forcing people to sign in or create an account, Best Buy allowed people to continue to checkout rather than having to register. This shows that what matters is not what we’re being asked to do, but the order in which we’re asked to do them. The same thing can be seen as good or bad depending on context and framing
    7. In defense of trivia trivia
    1. The devil is in the details so it often benefits us tremendously to pay attention to them
    2. The most important clues often seem irrelevant
  4. Other
  1. With psycho-logic, the opposite of a good idea can be another good idea
  2. People are great at rationalizing regrets. Sour grapes or sweet lemons. Either believing it’s not worth it or putting a positive spin on a bad situation
  3. Context is everything. It is impossible to wholesale import a food, liquor, culture, or even political system from one context into another unexpected to work flawlessly
  4. Think through the counterintuitive because nobody ever does
  5. Akio Morita, founder of Sony, made the first pocket-sized radio but, rather than pushing the limits of the technology and making the radio smaller, he made the pocket on his employee’s shirts larger 
  6. The “Jacks of All Trade” heuristic makes people assume that something that does one thing is better than something which claims to do a lot of things plus that one thing. Many world-changing products arose from the removal rather than the addition of features. Sony Walkman first did not have a record function because they wanted people to understand exactly what the Walkman was for – they later introduced the record button. Google is Yahoo without all the crap, Twitter is blogging with a maximum text amount…
  7. People will pay a high premium to remove uncertainty. The amount of time you have to deal with uncertainty impacts how likely you are to make a decision. Credit card companies approve or deny applications in less than 12 hours because they understand this human nature
  8. The behaviors we adopt influence our attitude more than our attitude can influence our behavior. Behavior comes first and attitude later changes in order to keep up, keep consistent
  9. Never think something irrational until you understand what the person is optimizing for 
  10. When Prussia was going through an economic downturn and war, the wealthy chose to make iron rather than gold desirable. The wealthy only wore iron jewelry and this trickled down to everyone else. Iron showed that not only were you wealthy (because you had gold that you traded for iron) but also that you were selfless and fighting for a greater cause
  11. Prussia wanted to become less reliable on bread so they tried introducing potatoes. It failed miserably until someone (probably Frederick the Great) chose to have an “exclusive” royal patch of potatoes which was “loosely guarded.” Local people broke into the garden, stole the potatoes, and spread the potato to the masses
  12. Getting people to do the right thing sometimes means giving them the wrong reason

What I got out of it

  1. An extremely enjoyable book on human nature and psychology and how we can use “psycho-logic” to get better outcomes even though they might not be logical. Focus on what works over what is logical and “makes sense.” Nature favors utility and fitness over rationality and accuracy/objectivity 

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates


  1. The story about traders on Wall Street, how the body and mind react to stressful moments, and how the mind does it so quickly that we aren’t consciously aware of it. It is the biology of stress and risk that the author will analyze and explain

Key Takeaways

  1. When there is a bull market or potentially a bubble, there are excess profits and this tends to lead to excessive risk taking, overconfidence, and general mania for those who are benefiting from it. 
  2. Some fascinating questions have been raised whether the increased use of anti-depressants and other drugs could have been so widely and regularly used in the early 2000’s that it changed the brains and risk-aversion tendencies of the traders who used them, exacerbating the dot com bubble
  3. Women were relatively unaffected during the dot com boom and the author argues it is because of their lower levels of testosterone which leads to lower risk taking and more independent thinking when everyone else around them is losing it
  4. Mistakes are made when we artificially separate and silo systems which are truly united. This happens in economics when we assume a perfectly rational human and, in this case, the author argues that the mind and body should be considered one – what happens in the mind affects the body and what happens in the body affects the mind
  5. The feelings we experience during stress comes about because our body is changing, preparing itself for physical movement
  6. There is a hypothesis that when fuel is running low our bodies and minds function by a last in first out methodology meaning that the things that evolve last such a self-control are the first to go when food is scarce
  7. Importantly, novelty, uncertainty, and situations which are out of our control can have as big of an effect on our bodies and minds as real danger does
  8. Goes deeply into the effects that cortisol and testosterone have on the body. Too little and we’re lethargic but too much leaves to overly risky behavior. Have to find the happy medium, flow
  9. The best traders, like the best athletes, are able to toggle between high stress moments and deep relaxation. The more amateur are in a consistent level of stress, never able to relax. The different physiological changes is also manifested in higher HRV in the higher level traders and athletes 
  10. Physical exercise, especially very intense and short spurts and cold exposure, can help us train our physical and emotional toughness 

What I got out of it

  1. Some decently fun stories about finance, risk taking, intuition. I’d recommend Sapolsky’s Why Zebra’s Get Ulcers if you’re interested in this

The Courage to Be Disliked by Fumitake Koga, Ichiro Kishimi


  1. The Courage to Be Disliked follows a conversation between a young man and a philosopher as they discuss the tenets of Alfred Adler’s theories. This book presents simple and straightforward answers to the philsophical question: how can one be happy?

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Key Takeaways

  1. Past doesn’t matter
    1. None of us live in an objective world, but instead in a subjective world that we ourselves  have given meaning to. The world you see is different from the one I see, and it’s  impossible to share your world with anyone else.
    2. PHILOSOPHER: If we focus only on past causes and try to explain things solely through  cause and effect, we end up with “determinism.” Because what this says is that our  present and our future have already been decided by past occurrences, and are  unalterable. Am I wrong? YOUTH: So you’re saying that the past doesn’t matter?  PHILOSOPHER: Yes, that is the standpoint of Adlerian psychology.
  2. Trauma doesn’t exist
    1. YOUTH: Wait a minute! Are you denying the existence of trauma altogether?  PHILOSOPHER: Yes, I am. Adamantly. YOUTH: What! Aren’t you, or I guess I should  say Adler, an authority on psychology? PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, trauma  is definitively denied. This was a very new and revolutionary point. Certainly, the  Freudian view of trauma is fascinating. Freud’s idea is that a person’s psychic wounds  (traumas) cause his or her present unhappiness. When you treat a person’s life as a vast  narrative, there is an easily understandable causality and sense of dramatic development  that creates strong impressions and is extremely attractive. But Adler, in denial of the  trauma argument, states the following: “No experience is in itself a cause of our success  or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences—the so-called  trauma—but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not  determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.” We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences.  Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself,  and you are the one who decides how you live.
    2. “People are not driven by past causes but move toward goals that they themselves set”
  3. The first step to change is knowing.
    1. The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that  equipment.
  4. Unhappiness Is Something You Choose for Yourself
    1. Yes, you can. People can change at any time, regardless of the environments they are in.  You are unable to change only because you are making the decision not
    2. Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be  blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just  lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.
    3. Adler’s teleology tells us, “No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it  should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.” That you, living in the here  and now, are the one who determines your own life.
  5. All Problems Are Interpersonal Relationship Problems
    1. The feeling of inferiority is a kind of launch pad? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. One tries  to get rid of one’s feeling of inferiority and keep moving forward. One’s never satisfied  with one’s present situation—even if it’s just a single step, one wants to make progress.  One wants to be happier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the state of this kind of  feeling of inferiority. There are, however, people who lose the courage to take a single  step forward, who cannot accept the fact that the situation can be changed by making  realistic efforts.
    2. The condition of having a feeling of inferiority is a condition of feeling some sort of lack  in oneself in the present situation. So then, the question is— YOUTH: How do you fill in  the part that’s missing, right? PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. How to compensate for the part  that is lacking. The healthiest way is to try to compensate through striving and growth.
    3. You’re saying that boasting is an inverted feeling of inferiority? PHILOSOPHER: That’s  right. If one really has confidence in oneself, one doesn’t feel the need to boast. It’s  because one’s feeling of inferiority is strong that one boasts. One feels the need to flaunt  one’s superiority all the more. There’s the fear that if one doesn’t do that, not a single  person will accept one “the way I am.” This is a full-blown superiority complex.
    4. Adler himself pointed out, “In our culture weakness can be quite strong and powerful.”  YOUTH: So weakness is powerful? PHILOSOPHER: Adler says, “In fact, if we were to  ask ourselves who is the strongest person in our culture, the logical answer would be, the  baby. The baby rules and cannot be dominated.” The baby rules over the adults with his  weakness. And it is because of this weakness that no one can control him.
    5. 20. YOUTH: So life is not a competition? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. It’s enough to just  keep moving in a forward direction, without competing with anyone. And, of course,  there is no need to compare oneself with others.
    6. A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to  others; it comes from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.
    7. Human beings are all equal, but not the same.
    8. Does that mean you dropped out of competition? That you somehow accepted defeat?  PHILOSOPHER: No. I withdrew from places that are preoccupied with winning and  losing. When one is trying to be oneself, competition will inevitably get in the way.
    9. There are probably a lot of people who feel mystified by seeing a child who cuts his  wrists, and they think, Why would he do such a thing? But try to think how the people  around the child—the parents, for instance—will feel as a result of the behavior of wrist  cutting. If you do, the goal behind the behavior should come into view of its own accord.
    10. Once the interpersonal relationship reaches the revenge stage, it is almost impossible for  either party to find a solution. To prevent this from happening, when one is challenged to  a power struggle, one must never allow oneself to be taken in.
    11. So when you’re hung up on winning and losing, you lose the ability to make the right  choices? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It clouds your judgment, and all you can see is imminent  victory or defeat. Then you turn down the wrong path. It’s only when we take away the  lenses of competition and winning and losing that we can begin to correct and change  ourselves.
    12. In Adlerian psychology, clear objectives are laid out for human behavior and psychology.  YOUTH: What sort of objectives? PHILOSOPHER: First, there are two objectives for  behavior: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. Then, the two objectives  for the psychology that supports these behaviors are the consciousness that I have the  ability and the consciousness that people are my comrades.
    13. Work that can be completed without the cooperation of other people is in principle  unfeasible.
    14. There’s no value at all in the number of friends or acquaintances you have. And this is a  subject that connects with the task of love, but what we should be thinking about is the  distance and depth of the relationship.
    15. If you change, those around you will change too. They will have no choice but to change.
    16. You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations, and neither am I. It is not  necessary to satisfy other people’s expectations. When one seeks recognition from others, and concerns oneself only with how one is  judged by others, in the end, one is living other people’s lives.
    17. One does not intrude on other people’s tasks. That’s all. In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other  people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on. Carrying out the separation of  tasks is enough to change one’s interpersonal relationships dramatically. There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think, Who ultimately is going to receive  the result brought about by the choice that is made?
    18. You are the only one who can change yourself.
    19. One can build them. The separation of tasks is not the objective for interpersonal  relationships. Rather, it is the gateway. YOUTH: The gateway? PHILOSOPHER: For  instance, when reading a book, if one brings one’s face too close to it, one cannot see  anything. In the same way, forming good interpersonal relationships requires a certain  degree of distance. When the distance gets too small and people become stuck together, it  becomes impossible to even speak to each other. But the distance must not be too great,  either. Parents who scold their children too much become mentally very distant.
    20. As I have stated repeatedly, in Adlerian psychology, we think that all problems are  interpersonal relationship problems. In other words, we seek release from interpersonal  relationships. We seek to be free from interpersonal relationships. However, it is  absolutely impossible to live all alone in the universe. In light of what we have discussed  until now, the conclusion we reach regarding “What is freedom?” should be clear.  YOUTH: What is it? PHILOSOPHER: In short, that “freedom is being disliked by other  people.” It’s that you are disliked by someone. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom and  living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.  YOUTH: But, but . . . PHILOSOPHER: It is certainly distressful to be disliked. If  possible, one would like to live without being disliked by anyone. One wants to satisfy  one’s desire for recognition. But conducting oneself in such a way as to not be disliked by  anyone is an extremely unfree way of living, and is also impossible. There is a cost  incurred when one wants to exercise one’s freedom. And the cost of freedom in  interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people. The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. When you have gained  that courage, your interpersonal relationships will all at once change into things of  lightness.
  6. Community, Praise/Punishment/Encouragement
    1. If other people are our comrades, and we live surrounded by them, we should be able to  find in that life our own place of “refuge.” Moreover, in doing so, we should begin to  have the desire to share with our comrades, to contribute to the community. This sense of  others as comrades, this awareness of “having one’s own refuge,” is called “community  feeling.” When Adler refers to community, he goes beyond the household, school, workplace, and  local society, and treats it as all-inclusive, covering not only nations and all of humanity  but also the entire axis of time from the past to the future—and he includes plants and  animals and even inanimate objects.
    2. It is necessary to make the switch from “attachment to self” to “concern for others.”
    3. People who hold the belief that they are the center of the world always end up losing their  comrades before long.
    4. Physical punishment is out of the question, of course, and rebuking is not accepted,  either. One must not praise, and one must not rebuke. That is the standpoint of Adlerian  psychology. In other words, the mother who praises the child by saying things like “You’re such a  good helper!” or “Good job!” or “Well, aren’t you something!” is unconsciously creating  a hierarchical relationship and seeing the child as beneath her. You must simply encourage
    5. As you may recall from our discussion on the separation of tasks, I brought up the subject  of intervention. This is the act of intruding on other people’s tasks. So why does a person  intervene? Here, too, in the background, vertical relationships are at play. It is precisely  because one perceives interpersonal relations as vertical, and sees the other party as  beneath one, that one intervenes. Through intervention, one tries to lead the other party in  the desired direction. One has convinced oneself that one is right and that the other party  is wrong. Of course, the intervention here is manipulation, pure and simple. Parents  commanding a child to study is a typical example of this. They might be acting out of the  best of intentions from their points of view, but when it comes down to it, the parents are  intruding and attempting to manipulate the child to go in their desired direction. YOUTH:  If one can build horizontal relationships, will that intervention disappear?  PHILOSOPHER: Yes, it will. Concretely speaking, instead of commanding from above that the child must study, one  acts on him in such a way that he can gain the confidence to take care of his own studies  and face his tasks on his own.
    6. Being praised is what leads people to form the belief that they have no ability. YOUTH:  What did you say? PHILOSOPHER: Shall I repeat myself? The more one is praised by  another person, the more one forms the belief that one has no ability. Please do your best  to remember this. You convey words of gratitude, saying thank you to this partner who has helped you with  your work. You might express straightforward delight: “I’m glad.” Or you could convey  your thanks by saying, “That was a big help.” This is an approach to encouragement that  is based on horizontal relationships. YOUTH: That’s all? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. The most  important thing is to not judge other people. “Judgment” is a word that comes out of  vertical relationships. If one is building horizontal relationships, there will be words of  more straightforward gratitude and respect and joy. YOUTH:
    7. This is a point that will connect to our subsequent discussion as well—in Adlerian  psychology, a great deal of emphasis is given to “contribution.” YOUTH: Why is that?  PHILOSOPHER: Well, what does a person have to do to get courage? In Adler’s view,  “It is only when a person is able to feel that he has worth that he can possess courage.”
    8. So the issue that arises at this point is how on earth can one become able to feel one has  worth? YOUTH: Yes, that’s it exactly! I need you to explain that very clearly, please.  PHILOSOPHER: It’s quite simple. It is when one is able to feel “I am beneficial to the  community” that one can have a true sense of one’s worth. This is the answer that would  be offered in Adlerian psychology.
    9. I should start? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Without regard to whether other people are  cooperative or not.
    10. This is a very important point. Does one build vertical relationships, or does one build  horizontal relationships? This is an issue of lifestyle, and human beings are not so clever  as to be able to have different lifestyles available whenever the need arises. In other  words, deciding that one is “equal to this person” or “in a hierarchical relationship with  that person” does not work. YOUTH: Do you mean that one has to choose one or the  other—vertical relationships or horizontal relationships? PHILOSOPHER: Absolutely,  yes.
  7. Excessive Self-Consciousness Stifles the Self
    1. There is no need to go out of one’s way to be positive and affirm oneself. It’s not self-affirmation that we are concerned with, but self-acceptance. YOUTH: Not self-affirmation, but self-acceptance? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. There is a clear  difference. Self-affirmation is making suggestions to oneself, such as “I can do it” or “I  am strong,” even when something is simply beyond one’s ability. It is a notion that can  bring about a superiority complex, and may even be termed a way of living in which one  lies to oneself. With self-acceptance, on the other hand, if one cannot do something, one  is simply accepting “one’s incapable self” as is and moving forward so that one can do  whatever one can. It is not a way of lying to oneself.
    2. This is also the case with the separation of tasks—one ascertains the things one can  change and the things one cannot change. One cannot change what one is born with. But  one can, under one’s own power, go about changing what use one makes of that  equipment. So in that case, one simply has to focus on what one can change, rather than  on what one cannot. This is what I call self-acceptance.
    3. The basis of interpersonal relations is founded not on trust but on confidence. YOUTH:  And “confidence” in this case is . . . ? PHILOSOPHER: It is doing without any set  conditions whatsoever when believing in others. Even if one does not have sufficient  objective grounds for trusting someone, one believes. One believes unconditionally  without concerning oneself with such things as security. That is confidence.
    4. Well, I see what you’re getting at—the main objective, which is to build deep  relationships. But still, being taken advantage of is scary, and that’s the reality, isn’t it?  PHILOSOPHER: If it is a shallow relationship, when it falls apart the pain will be slight.  And the joy that relationship brings each day will also be slight. It is precisely because  one can gain the courage to enter into deeper relationships by having confidence in others  that the joy of one’s interpersonal relations can grow, and one’s joy in life can grow, too.
    5. To take it a step farther, one may say that people who think of others as enemies have not  attained self-acceptance and do not have enough confidence in others.
    6. Contribution to others does not connote self-sacrifice. Adler goes so far as to warn that  those who sacrifice their own lives for others are people who have conformed to society  too much. And please do not forget: We are truly aware of our own worth only when we  feel that our existence and behavior are beneficial to the community, that is to say, when  one feels “I am of use to someone.” Do you remember this? In other words, contribution  to others, rather than being about getting rid of the “I” and being of service to someone, is  actually something one does in order to be truly aware of the worth of the “I.” YOUTH:  Contributing to others is for oneself? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. There is no need to sacrifice  the self.
    7. Acceptance: accepting one’s irreplaceable “this me” just as it is. Confidence in others: to  place unconditional confidence at the base of one’s interpersonal relations rather than  seeding doubt.
    8. For the sake of convenience, up to this point I have discussed self-acceptance, confidence  in others, and contribution to others, in that order. However, these three are linked as an  indispensable whole, in a sort of circular structure. It is because one accepts oneself just  as one is—one self-accepts—that one can have “confidence in others” without the fear of  being taken advantage of. And it is because one can place unconditional confidence in  others, and feel that people are one’s comrades, that one can engage in “contribution to  others.” Further, it is because one contributes to others that one can have the deep  awareness that “I am of use to someone” and accept oneself just as one is. One can self-accept.
    9. They probably try to justify that by saying, “It’s busy at work, so I don’t have enough  time to think about my family.” But this is a life-lie. They are simply trying to avoid their  other responsibilities by using work as an excuse. One ought to concern oneself with  everything, from household chores and child-rearing to one’s friendships and hobbies and  so on. Adler does not recognize ways of living in which certain aspects are unusually  dominant.
    10. On such occasions, those who can accept themselves only on the level of acts are  severely damaged. YOUTH: You mean those people whose lifestyle is all about work?  PHILOSOPHER: Yes. People whose lives lack harmony. 
    11. Does one accept oneself on the level of acts, or on the level of being? This is truly a  question that relates to the courage to be happy.
    12. For a human being, the greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself. Adler came  up with an extremely simple answer to address this reality. Namely, that the feeling of “I  am beneficial to the community” or “I am of use to someone” is the only thing that can  give one a true awareness that one has worth.
  8. Happiness is the feeling of contribution.
    1. If one really has a feeling of contribution, one will no longer have any need for  recognition from others. Because one will already have the real awareness that “I am of  use to someone,” without needing to go out of one’s way to be acknowledged by others.  In other words, a person who is obsessed with the desire for recognition does not have  any community feeling yet, and has not managed to engage in self-acceptance,  confidence in others, or contribution to others.
    2. What Adlerian psychology emphasizes at this juncture are the words “the courage to be  normal.” YOUTH: The courage to be normal? PHILOSOPHER: Why is it necessary to be  special? Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. And it is precisely for this  reason that when being especially good becomes a lost cause, one makes the huge leap to  being especially bad—the opposite extreme. But is being normal, being ordinary, really  such a bad thing? Is it something inferior? Or, in truth, isn’t everybody normal? It is  necessary to think this through to its logical conclusion.
    3. This conception, which treats life as a kind of story, is an idea that links with Freudian  etiology (the attributing of causes), and is a way of thinking that makes the greater part of  life into something that is “en route.” YOUTH: Well, what is your image of life?  PHILOSOPHER: Do not treat it as a line. Think of life as a series of dots. If you look  through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what  you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is  actually a series of dots; in other words, life is a series of moments.
    4. If life were a line, then life planning would be possible. But our lives are only a series of  dots. A well-planned life is not something to be treated as necessary or unnecessary, as it  is impossible.
    5. You should be on a journey the moment you step outside your home, and all the moments  on the way to your destination should be a journey. Of course, there might be  circumstances that prevent you from making it to the pyramid, but that does not mean  you didn’t go on a journey. This is “energeial life.”
    6. The greatest life-lie of all is to not live here and now. It is to look at the past and the  future, cast a dim light on one’s entire life, and believe that one has been able to see  something.
    7. And Adler, having stated that “life in general has no meaning,” then continues,  “Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.”
    8. No matter what moments you are living, or if there are people who dislike you, as long as  you do not lose sight of the guiding star of “I contribute to others,” you will not lose your  way, and you can do whatever you like. Whether you’re disliked or not, you pay it no  mind and live free.
    9. Philosophy refers not to “wisdom” itself but to “love of wisdom,” and it is the very  process of learning what one does not know and arriving at wisdom that is important.  Whether or not one attains wisdom in the end is not an issue.

What I got out of it

  1. I think the narrative format is really helpful to make some concepts very concrete and memorable – all problems are interpersonal problems; you can be happy today; you are the only one who can change you; happiness is contribution; past doesn’t matter; trauma isn’t real – we are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give to them; separation of tasks; courage comes from the confidence that you can contribute, that you are worthy; only encouragement and not praise

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler


  1. Human behavior is not always what it seems as it tends to be driven by multiple motives and some of these motives are subconscious or we are at least not fully aware of them. We are designed this way so that we can chase selfish motives while attempting not to appear selfish to others. Our brains try to get past this by keeping us in the dark – the less we know, the less we’ll give away. We are strategically self-deceived – individually and as a society. In a word, the “elephant in the brain” is selfishness and this book shows why only by confronting it can we begin to deal with it and what’s really going on. This book shines the light on certain real world examples where self-deception is rampant 

Key Takeaways

  1. Elephant in the brain – an important but unacknowledged feature of how our mind works, an introspective taboo
  2. We pretend like we know what we’re up to but we often don’t and this gets us into trouble 
  3. People are judging us all the time. Namely, our motives. Because people are judging us, we downplay our selfish motives and make our selves look as good as possible. This applies not only to our words but also our thoughts. In some areas of life we are more likely to point out selfish motives (politics) but in others (medicine) we are more likely to gloss over and act like everyone’s intentions are pure 
  4. By studying primates we can get a good idea of what our social interactions really mean. Distance gives perspective. Social grooming in apes is about hygiene but also politics, prestige, status, hierarchy, and reciprocation. Similar for humans 
  5. The major social interactions which fall into this category for humans is sex, hierarchy and politics. Inter-species competition is at the root and is rarely discussed. Collaboration is the flip side of the same coin. A lot of energy is wasted with competition. Imagine how much shorter redwoods could be and how much energy they’d save if they could agree on a height maximum. This is one of our species superpowers – turning wasteful competition into fruitful collaboration. Norms define these behaviors and is part of what we try to deceptively overcome. We hold ourselves back collectively for the greater good. The norm isn’t defined by how it is explicitly defined but by which actions are punished and to what degree. Weapons originally and later gossip and reputation helped keep people in line and follow norms. However, everyone cheats and it is intentions even more than actions which are judged. Humans are incredible at spotting cheating because our brains are adapted to it – meaning humans have always cheated as it gets you the reward without the cost if you can pull it off. A little discretion can go a long way if you’re trying to cheat – think of the brown paper bag used when people want to drink in public. 
  6. The most honest signals are expensive to produce but even more expensive to fake. 
  7. We deceive ourselves but blame others and project our own failings or guilt onto others. Self-deception can be used to protect ourselves but if our mental models help us navigate the world, why would we have evolved to react this way? Information is the lifeblood and you’d think that with less or incorrect info we’d be worse off. This is the old school of thought. The new school is that self deception is used for manipulation and is self-promoting. We deceive ourselves to better deceive others. Lying is hard to pull off, is cognitively demanding, and we are afraid of getting caught so not admitting it to ourselves is easier. We are not as opaque as we believe and our thoughts can be quite transparent to others but if we don’t know something, others won’t be able to see it. Modeling the world accurately isn’t the be all, end all of our brains. It is reproduction and in this case self deception helps us further this goal 
  8. 4 types of self deception in mixed motive scenarios 
    1. Madman – you’ll do anything to attain your goal and others know it. Intimidation
    2. Cheerleader – a form of propaganda where you try to change other people’s beliefs 
    3. Loyalist – shows commitment and belief and will go along with the party or person no matter what. Earned trust 
    4. Cheater – turning a blind eye so you have plausible deniability. Throw people off our trail 
  9. The main cost of self deception is that it can get us to act suboptimally
  10. Our saving grace is inconsistency as one part of our mind’s “system” can be aware of something but be hidden from others. Our brains architecture keeps some of our baser evolutionary motives hidden from full view and allows us to act hypocritically without truly realizing it. Our mind is built to help us advance socially. Shame, guilt, and other negative emotions is our brain’s cue to avoid those neural pathways, putting our true desires even further out of grasp 
  11. The most important self deception is about our own motives. 
  12. We don’t always know the “why” behind what we do but we always think we do. We can rationalize anything we do The brain can be thought of as a press secretary – giving internal and external interpretations of the experiences. Your brain is not the king of decisions like we’d like to think, but merely the rationalizer of them. Every time we give a reason we may just be making it up. We know ourselves less than we think. We cherry pick and celebrate our most pro social reasons and hide away the anti social ones 
  13. We are also intentionally blind to many non-verbal cues such as body language because being consciously aware of and in control of them would give away too much and make us feel too manipulative. Body language is an honest signal and is it the sense that it is more costly to fake them produce so we can use it effectively and should rely upon it in many different situations to get a better feel for how others are feeling rather than relying on what they’re saying. Eye contact (an even ratio of eye contact while listening and speaking conveys dominance and high social status), open postures, contact, lean in or back, pheromones, proximity, touch, how relaxed we seem, social status, and more. The beauty of nonverbal communication is that it allows us to pursue illicit agendas with a smaller risk of getting caught and accused as the actions are harder to pin down than outright actions are. That is why being aware of them is slightly dangerous and is why we don’t teach them to our children 
  14. Laughter is designed for social situations, it is a sound which is always used for communication purposes, and laughter occurs in other species. This inter and intraspecies communication indicates to self and others our playful intent and happy mood. This allows for safe social play even when the behavior could technically be dangerous or serious – it is a play signal. Flirting with violating a norm or actually violating it tends to be found funny. Context is extremely important as the same event can be seen very differently. Humor is extremely informative and showing us what is acceptable and what is transgressive, showing us where the boundaries are and are norms and how far we can push it. Since laughter is in voluntary and deniable it is a great window of truth because we can’t hold it back as easily as we can with language and it gives a safe harbor to be able to explain things away if what we laugh it seems inappropriate to others
  15. Language and speech 
    1. Speaking gains you social status if you prove you’d be a powerful ally who knows something which is new and/or useful to you. When you speak you can show off your verbal and mental “tools” which make you a strong ally. That is the subtext to every speech. Speaking well gains you prestige as prestige can be equated with being a strong allies others want to partner with 
    2. This may be why people tend to speak more than listen although listening might be the best thing you can do as you can learn more 
    3. People are more impressed with others who have something interesting to say regardless of where the conversation goes rather than being led to a specific topic the speaker knows a lot about 
  16. Conspicuous consumption influences everything we do, what we buy, how we judge others, it conveys our status, values and priorities
  17. People have forever been obsessed with gossip, news, and media. And although they may say it is for staying on top of global events, the subtext is that they want to be able to know what others are talking about and chime in in conversation 
  18. Art is an impressive display in the sense that it is meant to impress others. Evolutionarily it is hard to describe or explain because it is costly takes a lot of time and does not directly do anything to enhance our survival but one thought about what it signals to potential mates the fact that we have surplus time, energy, health, and wealth to pursue these sorts of things it makes more sense. The gower bird is a great example because the male builds some impressive structures and collects hard to find artifacts and colors to put within the structure which shows the female he has surplus energy and proves he is a qualified mate. What makes this even more interesting is that after they mate the male does not help raise the young at all. His pre-mating structure speaks to his genes more than anything else he could do. Art therefore needs to be impractical in order to succeed as it shows the fitness of the individual who is performing it
  19. Charity, like everything else discussed, is not done for pure charitable reasons or else people would donate differently. There are five main factors which influence what we do and how we give it including: visibility, peer pressure, proximity, relatability, and mating motives. Being generous signals that we have a surplus of wealth time and fitness and we want our leaders to be generous because it shows that they don’t play zero-sum games, that they know how to share, and that they are socially aligned 
  20. Education in large part is the signaling mechanism to show that you have the capability to learn a broad swath of information, prioritize and work hard. It does not necessarily mean that you know these topics very well. Education is a form of conspicuous consumption too as it tends to be expensive and going to college shows you can afford it. It shows which students can learn well but not necessarily how much they know. Colleges also are in some fashion propaganda machines and also serve to “domesticate” young people
  21. As is this case with many of these hidden mode of explanation, things which seem like flaws for the stated function are in fact features of the hidden one
  22. Bringing food to people who are sick is a universal but in today’s age, far more important is that it is homemade – showing you took time out of your busy schedule to make this
  23. Americans spend too much on medicine in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses”. It is hard for most people to act in the belief that doing less or maybe even nothing is the best course of action no matter if it has been proven that it can be better. More is thought of as better because it signals that we care and are cared for. People don’t actually care as much about if something works – they want the best doctors doing the most expensive treatments. Sleep, rest and eating well is not received well when we’re sick. 
  24. We worship and believe in religion because it helps us socially by forming a cohesive community. We become accepted by a group which helps us survive and reproduce. While the skeptic may think of religions as delusions, it is hard to argue against their benefits. Sacrifice is very socially beneficial to show your loyalty and fitness. The boredom experienced in sermons may be a feature and not a bug – you are conspicuously sacrificing your time for the group 
  25. Groups of nice, trusting people tend to out compete groups of nasty people. This has deep implications if you think about it

What I got out of it

  1. Fun read with deep implications. We keep ourselves in the dark to many of our selfish motives in order to better deceive others

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

  1. Robert Greene draws on a multitude of different resources to highlight the laws of human nature. The examples are timeless, universal, and profound. By acknowledging these human universals, to what extent they impact you, and how they are prevalent in others, you will become more aware and better able to mitigate and control them in yourself and others. “Human nature is deeply ingrained within our genes, within our brain’s structure, and has evolved over millions of years. It is partly responsible for how we make decisions, how we manage our emotions, and it controls, unknown to us, the vast majority of what we do and think. Human nature has helped us survive and determines much of our emotions and how we think and behave.  Understanding how we are wired will help us better deal with others and better see through when they’re trying to manipulate us, take advantage of us, charm us, or otherwise. We developed extreme sensitivity so that we could better read and judge others and to this day, although we don’t realize it, we are finely tuned to register how others react, to their voice, their body language, and more. This book is an attempt to draw together the vast store house of knowledge from many different fields to describe and give examples of some laws of human nature. They are laws in the sense that people tend to react quite consistently in similar situations. Becoming aware of these laws will make you a calmer and better observer of human nature, more able to notice and decipher the subtle cues everyone emits, and become a greater judge of character.”
Key Takeaways
  1. It is important to realize that these laws of human nature impact, affect, and influence you as much as other people and by truly understanding them, they will help build your empathy, allowing you to simply see other points of view better and more clearly, giving you the opportunity to focus on what’s important – helping others and having having an impact. You will be able to train yourself to be present, to let go of preconceived notions, and to continually adapt your understanding of the people around you. This understanding will help you become more empathetic and more effective in everything that you do
  2. The Law of Irrationality – Master Your Emotional Self
    1. Realize that people often act the opposite of how they feel – someone loud and obnoxious is often insecure
    2. Emotions taint our thinking and behaviors, not allowing us to see and act in accordance with reality, leading to bad decisions, pain, and stress. By admitting and embracing this rationality we can slowly tame our emotions, become more rational, thereby making us more effective and insightful as we can align with reality, to see things as they really are and not as we wish they were
    3. The first step to tame your rationality is to admit that you are irrational. As you become more introspective, the calm inner voice will grow more confident and louder, allowing you to see things more clearly and accurately. You first recognize the biases in yourself and work towards giving yourself the space and time to think and act how you want, and not simply react emotionally
    4. The goal of rationality is not to eliminate emotion, but to channel it in order to become aware of why you are feeling what you are feeling – to take advantage of it and use it to further what you want to do
    5. You can become more rational by becoming more aware of low grade irrationality or what happens in the subconscious, and high-grade rationality (what happens in your conscious). Over time, you will be able to train your emotions so that you become be less reactive over time. You improve your rationality by first knowing yourself thoroughly – knowing your strengths and weaknesses, how you react under pressure, and when you’re flattered. Next, you must improve your reaction time giving yourself space to think and not just react instinctively. Then you must accept people as facts and not try to change them but just accept who they are, understand them, and how you have to deal with them
    6. We must learn from our mistakes. The point of memory is to not repeat mistakes but so few people take the time and energy to really dive into what caused him to err.  We have to become aware in the moment of things that make us react and dive into why we feel that way – is it a childhood trauma, something our parents told us, or why do we just react emotionally?
    7. People‘s true character and ability shine through under stress. You have to find time, space, and quiet in order to be able to think and gain perspective. Don’t think you are above stress and that it doesn’t impact you – it does!
    8. Be weary of groups as it doesn’t stimulate rationality and independent thought but rather the much deeper and more ingrained part of us that wishes to belong – leading to herd behavior
    9. Don’t think that we are in a steady path towards rationality as a species. The pendulum swings back and forth between rationality and irrationality. It is part of the cycle of human nature. Irrationality won’t always look the same but it will always come back. Improving rationality is something to be done at an individual level and not at a species level
  3. The Law of Narcissism – Transform Self-Love into Empathy
    1. We must be honest with ourselves and grow and come to love a cohesive self or risk falling into narcissism
    2. Turning your attention outwards to others rather than inwards like most people do will help you grow your empathy muscle and give others the attention they so gravely seek
    3. Shackleton in the toughest of times drew out very specific daily tasks to give everyone meaning and focus. In addition, he understood each man so well that he knew what to talk to them about, when, and how to keep them happy, their morale high and content. This empathy was literally life and death as it is for us, although it’s not as clear
  4. The Law of Role-Playing – See Through People’s Masks
    1. People hide their true feelings and intentions so you must become an expert reader in other people and at the same time learn how to play your role as convincingly and consistently as possible
    2. Milton Erickson was diagnosed with polio at a young age and to occupy his mind he observed others extremely closely and through this knowledge and pattern recognition came to see an incredible world of nonverbal cues, motions, gestures, the importance of tone of voice, and everything beyond what is simply said. Observe, observe, observe. People tell you so much with their walk, tone of voice, how they sit, their micro expressions, and more.
    3. Negative emotions leak out through body language and they must be observed and weighed more than whatever mask people put on
    4. Be authentic, humble, open minded and generous – “saintly” and above reproach
  5. The Law of Compulsive Behavior – Determine the Strength of People’s Character
    1. Gravitate to those who display strength. One best reads people’s character in stressful and difficult times
    2. Character comes from the Greek word meaning “stamped upon”. Our character is ingrained in us and is composed of our genetics, our earliest relationships and quality of attachments, and from habits and experiences. We can learn to compensate any harmful traits but for the most part they’re hard to rid
    3. People are quite bad at judging character but the most reliable way to assess someone is through their actions (people never do anything just once, actions are truer and can’t be rationalized by words), how people handle small and simple affairs, how people handle power and responsibility. Try to only work with people of strong character for those with weak character will negate all their other good qualities and will cause more headache than you want. People who are strong of character are as rare as gold and you should hold onto them is if you found treasure
    4. It is impossible to change one’s or others’ character but you can mitigate them by going deep within yourself, admitting your flaws and weaknesses, and doing all you can to strengthen them up and act in such away to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. The goal is not to become someone else but to be thoroughly and authentically the best version of yourself
  6. The Law of Covetousness – Become an Elusive Object of Desire
    1. Realize that most people, no matter how often it is said, don’t really want truth and facts, they want their imagination lifted and their ego boosted
    2. Realize that the grass is rarely greener on the other side
    3. Learn when and how to remove yourself. You also want to be a little cold and ambiguous so people can’t get a great feel for you
    4. It is not possession but desire that drives people. By becoming a scarce commodity and playing on other’s covetousness, you can become highly desirable
    5. In the end, what you must covet is a closer relationship to reality, bringing calmness, knowledge about yourself, an understanding of what you can change and what you can’t, and being OK with both
  7. The Law of Shortsightedness – Elevate Your Perspective
    1. Learn to judge people by the breadth or narrowness of their vision and seek to surround yourself with those who can understand the consequences of their actions and have a bold vision
    2. With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to achieve almost any goal
    3. When people’s horizon shrink to days or weeks, they lose the ability to see the consequences of their actions and they become manic
    4. 4 signs of shortsightedness:
      1. Unintended consequences (have at least one person focus solely on consequences)
      2. Tactical hell happens when you can’t back out of everyday battles to get detachment, perspective and the long-term view (strategists will always beat tacticians)
      3. Ticker tape syndrome (need to know instantly drives short-termism, avoid the noise as much as possible)
      4. Lost in trivia (know what’s most important and spend most of your time on that)
  8. The Law of Defensiveness – Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-Opinion
    1. Learn to tame your stubbornly held positions and come to see other’s points of views and beliefs. This will open them up, making them more open to your suggestions
    2. It’s hard to ignore a man who makes you feel good. When you have valuable information and can get things done on top of it, you’re a force
    3. LBJ knew he had to rein in his more aggressive and bullying qualities in order to win over key allies and learn from them. Having one key ally near the top of the mountain can make a lot of things happen. He never asked for favors but did others favors, if his allies had any interests he would cultivate an interest in that too, he was always willing to help and work hard, knew what others wanted and needed and figured out how to make himself the gate between those things, he made it in other’s interest to hand over power to him
    4. Influence over people is often gained in the opposite way than we imagine. Put the focus on others and make them the stars of the show. Always step back and assume a subtle inferior position. Then do some small favors for them and they’ll begin helping you, expanding your influence. Bring out the cleverness of others and make them feel good when they leave you
    5. People have a self opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate. 3 universal traits: I’m autonomous, intelligent, good and decent. These affect everyone’s self opinion and playing into these and validate them make them feel good. Avoid confronting people’s self opinion.
    6. 5 strategies of master persuaders
      1. Be a deep listener and be aware of subtle nonverbal cues
      2. Infect people with the proper mood (acceptance of others unconditionally, calm, enthusiastic)
      3. Confirm their self opinion (people choose to help you)
      4. Know what people are insecure about and compliment that
      5. Use people’s resistance and stubbornness against them (channel their aggressive energy in order to make them fall on their own – use their emotions, their language, their rigidity)
    7. Praise people for their effort and not their talent
  9. The Law of Self-Sabotage – Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
    1. Our attitudes are self fulfilling and paint everything we see, experience, learn and do
    2. See yourself as an explorer – always curious, open to new things, having weakly held convictions, you are always trying new things and want to learn
    3. See adversity as opportunities to improve and to get better, not something to be avoided. Understand that you can’t change people – embrace and enjoy who those people are and make the most of it. When you do this people, come to love you, accept you, and see you as a leader
  10. The Law of Repression – Confront Your Dark Side
    1. Embrace your dark side and integrate it into your personality. You’ll become a more complete and authentic person and radiate that to others – attracting them into your circle and influence
    2. Depression and anxiety comes from not being aware of your dark side and not letting it shine through in a positive way. By denying that side and repressing it, it only becomes stronger and comes out stronger in ways that you will come to regret
    3. Most hatred stems from envy and is a way for the subconscious to release some energy
    4. Steps to bring about and integrate the shadow:
      1. Become self aware and see the shadow (others can often see your shadow better than you can so ask them for their opinion)
      2. Embrace your shadow
      3. Show the shadow
  11. The Law of Envy – Beware the Fragile Ego
    1. You must become a master decoder of envy and those who are predisposed to being envious.
    2. People are status-seeking animals and constantly monitor their relative position in the hierarchy. People must have an adequate position to be comfortable and happy
    3. Always emphasize the role of luck in your life. Enhance your flaws in order to make yourself more relatable and to mitigate envy. As you gain power, keep humbling yourself and asking for the opinion of those below you
    4. Be wary of mass – spread the love, the relationships, and the wealth and you’ll have people pushing for you to rise rather than trying to put you down
  12. The Law of Grandiosity – Know Your Limits
    1. You must be aware of your tendencies towards grandiosity and how important that is for you. If you feel the temptation, you must mitigate this by realizing your weaknesses and how big a role luck has played, becoming more realistic and grounded
    2. Be aware of your grandiosity needs, concentrate that energy on a particular task or goal, create a dialog with reality and be open to the flaws in your plan, find appropriate challenges which test you but aren’t too much, occasionally let yourself take on huge challenges
  13. The Law of Gender Rigidity – Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You
    1. By blending in the opposite side, what you’re most lacking, you’ll become more complete, fluid, whole, and authentic, drawing other people to you as you merge the different sides of your personality.
      1. This is a far more effective tactic than trying to become a purer version of what you already have
  14. The Law of Aimlessness – Advance with a Sense of Purpose
    1. We must be open to our internal, primal traits that make us unique. They not only help set us apart and get us on a path towards mastery but also helps the community at large as it fosters diversity and helps spur creativity and innovation in others
    2. Operating with a high sense of purpose which aligns with who you are and what you want is the force multiplier – allowing you to achieve more and have a more meaningful and impactful life. Discover this sense of purpose and find as many ways to connect with it as possible – this will draw others towards you and open up opportunities that you would have thought impossible
    3. Discover your calling by going back to your roots, your childhood, the primal inclinations which set you on fire – the things which you got very enthusiastic about and couldn’t stop thinking about. Things which are so fun or easy for you are good signs.
    4. Surround yourself with as many people as possible with the deep and true sense of purpose. They will help teach you, guide you, energize you, and motivate you
    5. Have a long term goal but also build in small, shorter term goals which build up to the ultimate goal. This will keep you moving in the right direction and mitigate anxiety
    6. You must get into deep flow as often as possible in order to progress quickly and in the right direction. It takes a lot of work and is difficult as it takes sacrifice and dedication but is the only way to get there
  15. The Law of Conformity – Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
    1. Develop self awareness and the changes that occur to yourself and others when in a group. One of the greatest threats to our survival thousands of years ago was being ostracized so today fitting in and being accepted in the group is one of our greatest concerns. We fit in by accepting the norm and imitating and following the group. The danger is that we stop thinking for ourselves and simply imitate the group and lose what makes us unique and gives us power
    2. All people have evolved to see hierarchies and this gets exaggerated in groups. We lose our rationality and go with the herd, often leading to dangerous or poor outcomes
    3. You must be aware of the effect that groups have on people as individuals and the broader group dynamics – hierarchies can lead to cliques, factions, and power mongering
    4. In any group you have to understand the culture and the fact that an older company and a bigger group will likely control you rather than you control it. You also have to understand the group dynamic and the hierarchy – who is moving up and down relatively
    5. You can make factions and cliques less attractive by creating a positive, unifying, and uplifting culture that people can go all in on
    6. You must understand and be really realistic with yourself and how big of an influence the group has on you. You’re not as much of an individual thinker as you think you are. You must be able to detach yourself from the group and be a realist – this is more important today than ever
    7. Bad culture drags everyone down. You can’t focus I’m trying to improve individuals – you have to fix the dynamic. Improving the culture this will lift everyone up. When the group can face reality head on and kick-ass, that is when you have a great culture. Instill a collective sense of purpose (no matter what field, quality and excellence are key factors – money and success are byproducts). This higher purpose is rare to come by so people will go all-in and police themselves when they find it. Assemble the right team of lieutenants (avoid the petty details which cause confusion, competence and character are vital, know their roles and make sure they have complimentary skills, you must treat people equally, get rid of those who don’t fit the mold, and lead from the front), let information and ideas flow freely (frank and diversified information, open communication, transparency on how decisions were made), infect the group with productive emotions (lack of fear, courage, calm, openness to new ideas), forge a battle-tested group (group who rises in tough times and doesn’t wilt)
    8. A group willing to face reality with a great culture help rise people up, it is one of people’s most memorable experiences to be part of a group like this. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process
  16. The Law of Fickleness – Make Them Want to Follow You (an amazing chapter on leadership)
    1. People are always ambivalent about powers and leaders. Authority is the delicate art of wielding power while making people feel like you are working for them
    2. As the leader you have to embody and practice all the traits that you would want in a leader. You must work hard, lead from the front, be fair, be consistent, courageous, wise, and calm and difficult situations
    3. As a leader be very aware of how fickle people are and how history is riddled with examples of great leaders who start showing some signs of weakness, arrogance, or whatever else which leads their people to turn on them and sometimes put them to death or ostracize them
    4. The fundamental role of the leader is to provide a far reaching vision to unite the group. We must avoid seeming petty  and our focus needs to be on others, on the culture, and the vision.
    5. Toughness and empathy are the twins pillars of leadership. They are not mutually exclusive but inextricably bound. You must have both or people will begin to lose faith in you as a leader
    6. You must be a consummate observer of people and these traits of leadership and hierarchy, coming to embody and practice them consistently in all situations
    7. Most people run away from the dangers and responsibilities of leadership but you must embrace it. This skill is increasingly rare in today’s world so the more you can run towards it, the more you’ll stand out. The essence of leadership is that when people willingly follow, you will not need force, rah rah speeches or to punish people. Your leadership style most authentically arise out of your personality and character you can be authentic, a founder, the deliverer, a visionary artist, healer, pragmatist, etc – but it must be natural for you
    8. Turn your focus outwards so that you’re always looking to help others and then you work to earn people’s respect – never assuming it will be given to you. What drives you is bringing the greatest meaning and utility to the largest group – never on your ego or selfish desires.
    9. Having a vision allows you to work backwards from the future to the present and determine the steps that you need to take in order to get there.
    10. You have to lead from the front and show early that you’re tough. Have high standards for your own work and  if there are sacrifices to be made, you have to be the first to make them, and they can’t simply be symbolic. If you take things away, make it known that it is only temporary. Be in a position where you can be generous
    11. Never overpromise
    12. Finally, we like to focus on the psychological health of individuals, and how perhaps a therapist could fix any problems they might have. What we don’t consider, however, is that being in a dysfunctional group can actually make individuals unstable and neurotic. The opposite is true as well: by participating in a high-functioning reality group, we can make ourselves healthy and whole. Such experiences are memorable and life-changing. We learn the value of cooperating on a higher level, of seeing our fate as intertwined with those around us. We develop greater empathy. We gain confidence in our own abilities, which such a group rewards. We feel connected to reality. We are brought into the upward pull of the group, realizing our social nature on the high level it was intended for. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process.
  17. The Law of Aggression – See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade
    1. John D Rockefeller is the role model and story for this. He would use his will to outdo, outthink and outwork his opponents. Hostility is within every human and don’t be fooled to think anyone is too nice. Rid yourself of the denial that this doesn’t exist in people.
  18. The Law of Generational Myopia – Seize the Historical Moment
    1. Transitions can be seen over decades and seem to be universal across time and indicate that they are bigger than any one generation. It is part of human nature the pendulum swings in the trends follow
    2. We must develop generational awareness understanding how our own generation impact our thinking in view of the world and have generations overall impact people across time
    3. You must understand and honor how much the time period and generation you were born into affects you. For example, millennials care more about teamwork than individualism, and security rather than risk because of the financial crisis. If you can define the zeitgeist for each generation, you will better understand the people within it and how to work and get along with them. Taking different perspectives will help your creativity and calm you. Once you have a sense for the zeitgeist, look back in history and find a parallel. Associate yourself with heroes of the past
    4. Always work with the spirit and don’t critique or try to change it. Always evolve and adapt, don’t become a caricature of the past. Modernize your spirit, adopting your experience and perspective with some of the traits of the younger you agree with
    5. You must develop deep relationships with people from various generations
  19. The Law of Death Denial – Meditate on our Common Mortality
    1. Realize that life is short, that most people are terrified of death and have not confronted that within themselves.
    2. If you live everyday, there is more than enough time
What I got out of it
  1. Deep self-awareness is the cornerstone. Once you can face reality and admit your flaws and weaknesses, you can address them and mitigate them. As much as you can, put others before yourself, put your energy and attention on them rather than yourself

Propaganda by Edward Bernays

  1. Edward Bernays is the father of propaganda and this book takes a deep look into how governments, corporations, “people behind the scenes” control how we think and act using Bernay’s principles. This manual of mass manipulation provides a detailed examination of how public discourse and opinion are shaped and controlled in politics, business, art, education, and science, making it an essential read for all who wish to understand how power is used by the ruling elite of our society. (I stumbled on this book after watching Century of the Self – a bit dark and disturbing but educational if you’re interested in this space)
Key Takeaways
  1. Background and Fundamentals of Propaganda
    1. Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea, or group.
    2. The first mass use of propaganda was for WWI and it forever changed business and government, making public relations scientific for the first time. The “manufacture of consent” was needed in the public sphere in order to get buy in for the war and for people to sign up to fight
    3. Only through the active energy of the intelligent few can the public at large become aware of and act upon new ideas
    4. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality
    5. The public relations expert seeks to make a gradual impression, after long research and sober planning. In the hearts of such methodical manipulators there would seem to be no streak of mad commitment, as their enterprise is not infuriating and millenial but businesslike, mundane, and rational. And yet those who do such work are also prone to lose touch with reality; for in their universe the truth is ultimately whatever the client wants the world to think is true. Whatever cause they serve or goods they sell, effective propagandists must believe in it – or at least momentarily believe that they believe in it. Even he or she who propagates commodities must be to some extent a true believer. To advertise a product you must believe in it. To convince, you must be convinced yourself.
    6. The counsel on public relations, after he has examined all these and other factors, endeavors to shape the actions of his client so that they will gain the interest, the approval, and the acceptance of the public. The means by which the public is apprised of the actions of his client are as varied as the means of communication themselves, such as conversation, letters, the stage, the motion picture, the radio, the lecture platform, the magazine, the daily newspaper. The counsel on public relations is not an advertising man but he advocates advertising where that is indicated.
    7. The whole basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances to manipulate and sway the public
    8. Father’s of propaganda – Bernays, Trotter, Le Bon, Wallas, Lippman
    9. No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership. If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial demands, commercial firms will meet the new standards. If it becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals more intelligently. Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.
    10. Men do not need to be actually gathered together in a public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious, he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences. Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word.  In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits, and emotions. In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology. It operates in establishing the rising or diminishing prestige of a summer resort, in causing a run on the bank, or a panic in the stock exchange, in creating a best-seller, or a box-office success. But when the example of the leader is not at hand and the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences.
    11. Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions. The successful propagandaist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do. It is not sufficient to understand only the mechanical structure of society, the groupings and cleavages and loyalties.
    12. Instead of removing sales resistance by direct attack, the propagandaist is interested in removing sales resistance. He creates circumstances which will swing emotional currents so as to make for purchaser demand. The modern propagandaist therefore sets to work to create circumstances which will modify the custom. He appeals perhaps to the home instinct which is fundamental. The interests of the client, service, product, idea, etc. and the communities which it impacts mutually interact and feed one another. The ideas of the new propaganda are predicated on sound psychology based on enlightened self-interest.
    13. Propaganda’s great enemy is inertia
    14. Continuous interpretation is achieved by trying to control  every approach to the public mind in such a manner that the public receives the desired impression, often without being conscious of it. High-spotting, on the other hand, vividly seizes the attention of the public and fixes it upon some detail or aspect which is typical of the entire enterprise. When a real estate corporation which is erecting a tall office building makes it ten feet taller than the highest skyscraper in existence, that is dramatization
    15. There is no detail too trivial to influence the public in a favorable or unfavorable sense
    16. Public relations should often be put in the hands of an outsider for the correct approach to a problem may be indirect
    17. Propaganda may be abused, it may be used to over-advertise an institution and to create in the public mind artificial values. There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse
    18. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
    19. Napoleon was ever on the watch for indications of public opinion; always listening to the voice of the people, a voice which defies calculation. “Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything.”
  2. Propaganda in Government
    1. Governments, whether they are monarchical, constitutional, democratic, or communist, depend upon acquiescent public opinion for the success of their efforts and, in fact, government is government only by virtue of public acquiescence. Public opinion is the unacknolwedged partner in all broad efforts
    2. Nowadays the successors of the rulers, those whose position or ability gives them power, can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses, they find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval
    3. Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses
    4. There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes. Now, what is still more important, the extent to which our thoughts and habits are modified by authorities. In some departments of our daily life, in which we imagine ourselves free agents, we are ruled by dictators exercising great power. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government
    5. Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously wants to hear
  3. Propaganda in Media
    1. The media by which special pleaders transmit their messages to the public through propaganda include all the means by which people today transmit their ideas to one another. There is no means of human communication which may not also be a means of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding between an individual and a group. The important point to the propagandaist is that the relative value of the various instruments of propaganda, and their relation to the masses, are constantly changing. If he is to get full reach of his message he must take advantage of these shifts of value the instant they occur. The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions. The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment. Another instrument of propaganda is the personality.
  4. Propaganda in Business
    1. Business realize that its relationship to the public is not confined to the manufacture and sale of a given product, but includes at the same time the selling of itself and of all those things for which it stands in the public mind. To make customers is the new problem. One must understand not only his own business – the manufacture of a particular product – but also the structure, the personality, the prejudices, of a potentially universal public. Modern business must study on what terms the partnership can be made amicable and mutually beneficial. It must explain itself, its aims, its objectives, to the public in terms which the public can understand and is willing to accept. The relationship between business and the public can be healthy only if it is the relationship of give and take
    2. Big business studies every move which may express its true personality. It seeks to tell the public, in all appropriate ways, by the direct advertising message and by the subtlest aethetic suggestion, the quality of the goods or services which it has to offer. A store which seeks a large sales volume in cheap goods will preach prices day in and day out, concentrating its whole appeal on the ways in which it can save money for its clients. But a store seeking a high margin of profit on individual sales would try to associate itself with the distinguished and the elegant, whether by an exhibition of old masters or through the social activities of the owner’s wife. The public relations activities of a business cannot be protective coloring to hide its real aims. It is bad business as well as bad morals to feature exclusively a few high-class articles, when the main stock is of medium grade or cheap, for the general impression given is a false one. A sound public relations policy will not attempt to stampede the public with exaggerated claims and false pretenses, but to interpret the individual business vividly and truly through every avenue that leads to public opinion.
      1. Lateral networks, who the customer cares about impressing, is so important
    3. Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion
  5. Edward Bernays
    1. He sold the myth of propaganda as a wholly rational endeavor, carried out methodically by careful experts skilled enough to lead “public opinion.” Consistently he casts himself as a supreme manipulator, mastering the responses of a pliable, receptive population. Conscious and intelligent manipulation, invisible governors, they who pull the wires which control the public mind, shrewd persons operating behind the scenes, dictators exercising great power, and, below them, people working as if actuated by the touch of a button – these are but a few expressions of the icy scientific paradigm that evidently drove his propaganda practice, and that colored all his thinking on the subject. The propagandaist rules. The propagandized do whatever he would have them do, exactly as he tells them to, and without knowing it.
    2. His vision seems quite modest. The world informed by “public relations” will be but a smoothly functioning society, where all of us are guided imperceptibly throughout our lives by a benign elite of rational manipulators. As the population has grown and whose members – by and large incapable of lucid thought or clear perception, driven by herd instincts and mere prejudice, and frequently disoriented by external stimuli – were not equipped to make decisions or engage in rational discourse. “Democracy” therefore requires a supra-governmental body of detached professionals to sift the data, think things through, and keep the national enterprise from blowing up or crashing to a halt
    3. He had no equal as a propaganda strategist. Always thinking far ahead, his aim was not to urge the buyer to demand the product now, but to transform the buyer’s very world, so that the product must appear to be desirable as if without the prod of salesmanship. What is the prevailing custom, and how might that be changed to make this thing or that appear to recommend itself to people? The modern propagandaist sets to work to create circumstances which will modify that custom. Bernays sold Mozart pianos, for example, not just by hyping the pianos. Rather, he sought carefully to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home – selling the pianos indirectly, through various suggestive trends and enterprises that make it de rigeur to have the proper space for a piano. The music room will be accepted because it has been made the thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a music room, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea
      1. Must think of the customers’ lateral networks and how they influence the buying decisions, downstream effects…
    4. In his universe, it is pre-eminent consensus which determines what is true
What I got out of it
  1. Quite scary how this one man and his ideas impacted generations of people, companies, movements and ideas. Becoming aware of these principles can help you guard against them if needed. I think the context in which this was written is also important to keep in mind. People are rarely truly aware of what drives them to act and make the decisions that they do and, because of human nature, this is unlikely to change – although the medium may differ

Solve for Happiness: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

  1. Mo Gawdat uses his engineering and mathematics background to study happiness and make it replicable and scalable
Key Takeaways
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations (of situations, people, work, etc…)
    1. Shows that it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy. Changing our thoughts can make us happy
  2. Happiness is never reached but is a continuous process that never ends. It is reached internally and is actually our default state
  3. When you know what you are looking for, the quest becomes easy
  4. Success doesn’t elan to happiness but happiness contributes to success
  5. Think of things which make you happy and create a happiness list. Consult and add to this list as often as you like and do these things often. Can also create a pictures folder on your phone to consult at any time
  6. People tend to be happy when life seems to be going their way and unhappy when reality doesn’t match their hopes or expectations
  7. True happiness comes when you are in perfect harmony with life and have the proper expectations. At this point, all thought and mental chatter is made irrelevant as you know bumps will come in life and you deal with them with equanimity as they are expected
  8. What matters is not how much you know but how accurate what you know is
  9. Understand you control nothing but your attitude, actions, and reactions
  10. The true joy lies in giving it. The more you give the more you get and the more it will be attracted to you. Love everything and everyone. Love yourself. Be kind and spread your gifts selflessly and without expectation of getting anything in return
  11. Forgiving is the ultimate form of giving
  12. 6 – 7 -5
    1. 6 illusions
      1. Thought – you are not your thoughts and it is important to detach self and happiness from thoughts. Reduce this voice, this mental chatter.
      2. Self – You are neither your inner voice, body, emotions, achievements, or possessions. You are simply the observer
      3. Knowledge
      4. Time – Don’t be a slave to time. Always be in the present, it is the only thing that exists, don’t think too much about the past or future
      5. Control – don’t try to control things but find things which feel effortless to you – this is what is right for you. Effort needed to live our life grows exponentially which is why it is so important to simplify and surrender. Life can be easy but we make it difficult. Search for the path of least resistance
      6. Fear – The damage you do thinking about your fear is almost always worse than simply facing it. Thinking through both the worst and best case and are helpful exercises to help you get over your fear
    2. 7 blindspots
      1. Filters
      2. Assumptions
      3. Memories
      4. Labels
      5. Emotions
      6. Exaggerating
      7. Predictions
    3. 5 ultimate truths
      1. Choose to believe in the side that make you happy
      2. Now is the only thing that’s real – brings awareness by reducing doing and mental chatter
      3. Grand design
      4. Nothing is random
      5. Life generally follows patterns, laws, rules, or science
What I got out of it
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations and therefore it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy, create a happiness and picture folder list, happiness comes down to expectations

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes by Frans de Waal

  1. An incredible insight into the takeovers and social organization of a chimp colony in the Netherlands. “The behavior of our closest relatives provides clues about human nature. Apart from political maneuvering, chimpanzees show many behaviors that parallel those of humans, from tool technology to intercommunity warfare. In fact, our place among the primates is increasingly a backdrop of substantial similarity. Our uniqueness breaks down as we study our relatives.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Simplified conditions, like the one found at Arnhem Zoo with this chimp colony, allow researchers to see more because there is less. A totally wild environment is too dynamic, too chaotic to be able to closely observe some of the interactions which are dissected in this book
  2. “Every country has its Dick Cheneys and Ted Kennedys operating behind the scenes. Being over the hill themselves, these experienced men often exploit the intense rivalries among younger politicians, gaining tremendous power as a result. I also did not draw explicit parallels between how rival chimpanzees curry favor with females by grooming and tickling their young and the way human politicians hold up and kiss babies, something they rarely do outside the election season. There are tons of such parallels, also in nonverbal communication (the swaggering, the lowering of voices), but I stayed away from all these. To me, they were so obvious I am happy to leave them to my readers…The social dynamics are essentially the same. The game of probing and challenging, of forming coalitions, of undermining others’ coalitions, and of slapping the table to reinforce a point is right there for any observer to see. The will to power is a human universal. Our species has been engaged in Machiavellian tactics since the dawn of time, which is why no one should be surprised about the evolutionary connection pointed out in the present book.”
  3. Only in harmonious groups are adult males solicitous and tolerant of kid’s behavior
  4. When excited or aggressive, their hair stands on end so they appear larger than life and often this behavior can be seen as much as 10 minutes before by inconspicuous body movements and changes in posture
  5. The group dynamic is one large web and the alpha male is just as, if not more, ensnared in the web as the rest
  6. Since they don’t need to forage for food as they do in the wild, there is considerably more time to socialize and the close quarters, especially in the winter months, which leads to nearly twice as many aggressive incidents as in the summer months
  7. “Experts sometimes choose to create the impression of knowing nothing. They act in exactly the opposite way from the young teacher, who held forth with such conviction. Both attitudes lead nowhere, but unfortunately I will not be able to avoid them completely.”
  8. “Everyone can look, but actually perceiving is something that has to be learned. This is a constantly recurring problem when new students arrive. For the first few weeks they “see” nothing at all…Initially we only see what we recognize. Someone who knows nothing about chess and who watches a game between two players will not be aware of the tension on the board. Even if the watcher stays for an hour, he or she will still have great difficult in accurately reproducing the state of play on another board. A grand master, on the other hand, would grasp and memorize the position of every piece in one concentrated glance of a few seconds. This is not a difference of memory, but of perception. Whereas to the uninitiated the positions of the chess pieces are unrelated, the initiated attach great significance to them and see how they threaten and cover each other. It is easier to remember something with a structure than a chaotic jumble. This is the synthesizing principle of the so-called Gestalt perception: the whole, or Gestalt, is more than the sum of its parts. Learning to perceive is learning to recognize the patterns in which the components regularly occur. Once we are familiar with the patterns of interactions between chess pieces or chimpanzees, they seem so striking and obvious that it is difficult to imagine how other people can get bogged down in all kinds of detail and miss the essential logic of the maneuvers.”
  9. When chimpanzees are frightened or distressed, they bare their teeth much further than when they put on the so-called play-face
  10. When males are displaying and trying to intimidate, it is not uncommon to see females take away their weapons
  11. Side-Directed Behavior: behavior toward opponents and behavior toward companions or outsiders
    1. Seeking refuge and reassurance – the most common form and an excited or frightened chimpanzee clearly has a need for physical contact
    2. Recruitment of support
    3. Instigation
    4. Reconciliations – after conflict, the opponents are attracted to each other like magnets! They had to physically connect to make up and tension and hesitancy remains as long as the opponents had not reconciled their differences. This action serves to repair valuable relationships
    5. Coalitions – when two apes fight or threaten each other, a third ape may enter the fray and side with one of them. Sometimes this escalates and larger coalitions are formed. However, this does not cascade – chimpanzees never make an uncalculated move and the top position in a group may depend on aggressive cooperation (highest form of strategy, dominance) and, often, it was the females who were the most important part of helping their chosen male get into the position of alpha
  12. Social Intelligence Hypothesis
    1. Chimps developed such high intelligence in order to deal with an increasingly complex group life. The evolution of primate intelligence started with the need to outsmart others, to detect deceptive tactics, to reach mutually advantageous compromises, and to foster social ties that advance once’s career
  13. Alpha males
    1. Hair is constantly slightly on end, even when not actively displaying and walk in an exaggeratedly slow and heavy manner – all meant to make one look larger and heavier
    2. The submissive greeting is the most special form of behavior indicative of social order – deep bows, grunting, looking up at the alpha, kiss his feet/neck/chest. Alpha reacts to this by standing taller and making his hair stand on end which makes the contrast even greater
    3. Dominance manifests in two different ways – social influence (power, who can defeat whom and who weighs in most heavily when a conflict in the group occurs) and formal dominance (ones actual rank within the colony)
    4. Physical strength is only one factor and almost certainly not the critical one in determining dominance relationships
    5. A leader who hesitates in defending his proteges might very well have problems defending himself
    6. Tantrums are indicative of the beginning of the end but familiarity breeds contempt. Tantrums which are thrown too often are ignored
    7. Tend to think that the outcome of a fight determines the social relationship, whereas here the outcome was determined by the social relationship. The same was seen in later dominance processes. The prevailing social climate affected the self-confidence of the rivals. It was as if their effectiveness depended on the attitude of the group (rather like a soccer team playing better at home than away).
    8. Speed and agility are just as important as strength
    9. Alpha males experience a physical and emotional change when they become the alpha – hair on end, a “policy” of trying to stabilize the group after the shake up in hierarchy
    10. Pattern Recognition – an older alpha had a better eye for potentially dangerous social developments and realized better than his partner that such developments must be nipped in the bud
    11. One of the new alphas, Nikkie, received great resistance from the females and never had secure rule. He was “greeted” and groomed and obeyed but he lead from a position of fear rather than respect. Must have the backing and support of the females or else your power is fragile
  14. Chimps overcome basic competitive tendencies more than other animals and achieve a high degree of cooperation. They cooperate in order to create a common front against the neighbors – the psyche is one of both competition and compromise and this is what makes chimp society so much more recognizable to us than the social structure of the other great apes
  15. Chimpanzee males avoid looking at each other in moments of tension, challenge, and intimidation. In moments of reconciliation, on the other hand, they look each other straight and deep in the eyes. After a conflict the former opponents may sometimes sit opposite each other for a quarter of an hour or more, trying to catch each other’s eye. Once the opponents are finally looking at each other, first hesitantly but then more steadily, the reconciliation will not be far away. Often, a “sense of honor” would need to be overcome before the reconciliation begins and often it was a third party who would help them out of the impasse. This third party was always one of the adult females
  16. After a fight, contact and conciliation is so important than the winner can blackmail the loser. The winner refuses to have anything to do with the loser until he has received some respectful grunts
  17. A stable hierarchy is a great sign of peace and harmony in the group but only partially ensure peace in the social system. Horizontal developments – in which children grow up and social ties are established, neglected, or broken – inevitably affect the temporarily fixed “vertical” component, the hierarchy. Western “ladder” view of social ties compared to Japanese “network” view. Hierarchical stability cannot be equated with stagnation and monotony, dominance must constantly be proven (Red Queen Effect)
  18. Loser-supporters: a third individual who intervenes in a conflict on the side of the party who would otherwise have lost
  19. Young males of superior fighting ability cannot usurp power without the support of a sizable portion of a group. You have to have the group buy-in and back you – can never do it alone
  20. The chimps have incredible awareness of their social cues. During one of the fights, both sides were bluffing about how brave they were and could be seen holding their hands in front of their mouths so that nobody could see them bearing their teeth (a sign of fear, excitement, nervousness
  21. In all the time studying the apes, the researchers never once witnessed a conflict between the two highest ranking females
    1. Key for stability within a hierarchy to have the top women on the same page?
  22. There are often issues when there is ‘dual leadership’ or a second person who feels they are entitled to respect and power just as much as the true leader. As Machiavelli reasoned, “He who attains the principality with the aid of the nobility maintains it with more difficulty than he who becomes the prince with the assistance of the common people, for he finds himself a prince amidst many who feel themselves to be his equals, and because of this he can neither govern nor manage them as he might wish.”
  23. The males are incredibly tolerant of children. They cannot risk getting upset and losing the support of the females
  24. Sex
    1. The formation of territories is one way of demarcating procreational rights; the formation of a hierarchy is another. There is a definite link between power and sex; no social organization can be properly understood without knowledge of the sexual rules and the way the progeny are cared for. Even the proverbial cornerstone of our society, the family, is essentially a sexual and reproductive unit. Sigmund Freud, speculating about the history of the unit, imagined a “primal horde,” in which our forefathers obeyed one great chief, who jealously guarded all sexual rights and privileges for himself
    2. A female can only be fertilized by one male. By keeping other males away from her, a male increases the certainty that he will be the father of the child. Consequently, children will more often be sired by jealous than by tolerant males. If jealousy is hereditary, and that is what the theory assumes, more and more children will be born with this characteristic, and later they in turn will attempt to exclude other members of the same sex from the reproductive act.
    3. Whereas the males fight for the right to fertilize as many females as possible, the situation for the females is totally different. Whether she copulates with one or one hundred males, it will not alter the number of children she will give birth to. Jealousy among females is therefore less marked. Female competition occurs almost exclusively in pair-bonded species, such as many birds and a few mammals, such as humans. Men get most upset at the thought of their wife or girlfriend having sex with another man, women dislike most the thought that their husband or boyfriend actually loves another woman, regardless of whether or not sex has occurred. Because women look at these things from the perspective of relationships, they are more concerned about a possible emotional tie between their mate and another woman
    4. If a female does not want to mate, it is usually over. Persistent males run the risk of being chased by the female they approached and some of the other females too. Consequently, it is the females who largely engineer the evasion of the rules that exist among males
  25. If the number of individuals in any colony becomes unnaturally alrge, the system collapses (Dunbar’s Number)
  26. Triadic Awareness (Lateral Networks)
    1. Just as individual recognition is a prerequisite of a stable hierarchy, so triadic awareness is a prerequisite of a hierarchy based on coalitions. The term triadic awareness refers to the capacity to perceive social relationships between others so as to form varied triangular relationships. For example, Luit knows that Yeroen and Nikkie are allies, so he will not provoke conflicts with Yeroen when Nikkie is nearby, but he is much less reluctant to do so when he meets Yeroen alone. What is special about this kind of knowledge is that an individual is not only aware of his or her relationships with everyone in the group, but also monitors and evaluates relationships that exist in the social environment so as to gain an understanding of how the self relates to combinations of other individuals. Elementary forms of three-dimensional group life are found in many birds and mammals, but primates are undoubtedly supreme in this respect. Mediation with a view to reconciliation, separating interventions, telling tales, and coalitions would all be inconceivable without triadic awareness
    2. If any of this sounds simple, it is because triadic awareness is second nature to human beings, and we find it hard to imagine a society without it
    3. Dependence on third parties plays such a prominent role in the chimpanzee hierarchy that the basic relationships are completely overshadowed. This is not only true for the complex balance of power in the male triangle. A small child, for example, may chase away a full-grown male. He is able to do so under the protection of his mother or “aunt.” Like the children, these females are basically inferior to the males, but they, in turn, can rely on the support of other females and sometimes can appeal to dominant males for help
  27. The Female Hierarchy
    1. The basis of hierarchical positions is sex-related. Among males coalitions determine dominance. The male dominance over the females is largely determined by their physical superiority. Among females it is above all personality and age that seem to be the determining factors.
    2. Conflicts between females are so rare and the outcome is so unpredictable that they cannot be used as a criterion for determining rank.
    3. The female hierarchy in our chimpanzee group seems to be based on respect from below rather than intimidation and a show of strength from above
      1. Perhaps why it is so stable and powerful – get buy in and respect from the bottom
    4. Our understanding of ape hierarchies is further complicated by the fact that there is a third type of dominance that exists alongside formal dominance and power. For example, when the alpha male places a car tire on one of the drums in the indoor hall with the intention of lying down on it, one of the females may push him away and sit down herself. Females also remove objects, sometimes even food, from the hands of the males without meeting with any resistance
    5. They have things to offer that cannot be taken by force, such as sexual and political favors, and their silent diplomacy, which helps to calm tempers. This provides the females with a good deal of leverage: if being popular among the females is critical for the stability of a male’s leadership, he had better be lenient and accomdating towards them
    6. Quite the opposite from subhuman primates, a man must be generous to be respected
  28. Mutual fear as the basis of alliance formation makes nations weigh in on the lighter side of the balance. The result is a power equilibrium in which all nations hold influential positions. The same principle applies to social psychology and is known as the formation of “minimal winning coalitions.”
  29. A rational choice is based on an estimate of the consequences.
  30. The hankering for power itself is almost certainly inborn. The question now is, how do chimpanzees achieve their ambitions? This too may be hereditary. Some people are said to have “political instinct,” and there is no reason why we should not say the same of chimpanzees. I doubt, however, whether this “instinct” is responsible for all the details of their strategies. Experience is needed to use innate social tendencies as a means to an end in the same way that a young bird born with wings to fly needs months of practice before it has mastered the art. In the case of political strategies, experience can play a role in two ways: directly, during the social processes themselves, or through the projection of old experiences into the future
  31. Sympathy is related to intimacy and familiarity
  32. Sharing
    1. For the adult male, the amount that he himself possesses is not important. What matters is who does the distributing among the group. (However, this only applies to incidental, extra food. Main meals and hunger can cause chimpanzee males to quarrel violently, as the Holloman colony showed.) Females, on the other hand, tend to share mainly with their own children and best friends and do not get into quarrels with other group members. Taking food by force is extremely rare in our colony; sharing is something apes learn young
    2. Their control rests on giving. They give protection to anyone who is threatened and receive respect and support in return. Also among humans the borderline between material and social generosity is scarcely distinguishable. Observations of human children by the psychologists Harvey Ginsburg and Shirley Miller have demonstrated that the most dominant children not only intervene in playground fights to protect losers but also are more willing to share with classmates. The investigators suggest that this behavior helps a child to command high status among peers. Similarly, we know from anthropological studies of pre-literate tribes that the chief exercises an economic role comparable to the control role: he gives and receives. He is rich but does not exploit his people, because he gives huge feasts and helps the needy. The gifts and goods he receives flow back into the community. A chief who tries to keep everything for himself puts his position in jeopardy. Noblesse oblige, or, as Sahlins said, “A man must be generous to be respected.” This universal human system, the collection and redistribution of possessions by the chief, or his modern equivalent, the government, is the same as that used by chimpanzees; all we have to do is replace “possessions” by “support and other social favors.”
      1. Honor this golden rule of generosity in all areas of life. Give more than you receive in every manner
  33. Reciprocation
    1. The influence of the recent past is always overestimated. When we are asked to name the greatest human inventions we tend to think of the telephone, the electric light bulb, and the silicon chip rather than the wheel, the plough, and the taming of fire. Similarly the origins of modern society are sought in the advent of agriculture, trade, and industry, whereas in fact our social history is a thousand times older than these phenomena. It has been suggested that food sharing was a strong stimulus in furthering the evolution of our tendency to reciprocal relations. Would it not be more logical to assume that social reciprocity existed earlier and that tangible exchanges such as food sharing stem from this phenomenon? There are indications of reciprocity in the nonmaterial behaviors of chimps. This is seen, for instance, in their coalitions, nonintervention alliances (A remains neutral if B does the same), sexual bargaining (A tolerates B mating after B has groomed A), and reconciliation blackmail (A refuses to have contact with B unless B “greets” A). It is interesting that reciprocity occurs in both the negative and the positive sense. Nikkie’s habit of individually punishing females who a short time before joined forces against him has already been described. In this way he repaid a negative action with another negative action. We regularly see this mechanism in operation before the group separates for the night. This is the time when differences are squared, no matter when these differences may have arisen. For example, one morning a conflict breaks out between Mama and Oor. Oor rushes to Nikkie and with wild gestures and exaggeratedly loud screams persuades him to attack her powerful opponent. Nikkie attacks Mama, and Oor wins. That evening, however, a good six hours later, we hear the sound of a scuffle in the sleeping quarters. The keeper tells me later that Mama has attacked Oor in no uncertain manner. Needless to say Nikkie was nowhere in the vicinity. Negative behavior hardly enters into the theories about reciprocity that anthropologists and sociologists have developed. Despite the emphasis on powerful exchanges there has not been much theoretical progress
    2. Every individual voluntarily enters and stays in any relationship only as long as it is adequately satisfactory in terms of rewards and costs. Interactions between humans have been regarded as a kind of trading in advantageous and disadvantageous behavior. Here too reciprocity is an important theme, not only in the positive form but also in its negative form.
    3. This give-and-take mechanism is a very old, and very fundamental feature of our species and of chimps. Much of the process may take place in the subconscious, but we all know from experience that things come bubbling up to the surface when the difference between costs and benefits becomes too great. It is then that we voice our feelings. By and large, however, reciprocity is something that takes place silently. The principle of exchange makes it possible actively to teach someone something: good behavior is rewarded; bad behavior is punished
    4. Life in a chimpanzee group is like a market in power, sex, affection, support, intolerance, and hostility. The two basic rules are: one good turn deserves another and an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
  34. The major themes found and discussed in the chimpanzee colony
    1. Formalization – ranks are formalized. When they become unclear a dominance struggle ensues, after which the winner refuses reconciliation as long as his new status is not formally recognized
    2. Influence – an individual’s influence on group processes does not always correspond to his or her rank position. It also depends on personality, age, experience, and connections. I regard our oldest male and oldest female as the most influential group members
    3. Coalitions – interventions in conflicts serve either to help friends and relatives or to build up powerful positions. The second, opportunistic type of intervention is seen specifically in the coalition formation of adult males and goes hand in hand with isolation tactics. There is evidence for a similar sex difference in humans
    4. Balance – in spite of their rivalry, males form strong social bonds among themselves. They tend to develop a balanced power system based on their coalitions, individual fighting abilities, and support from females
    5. Stability – relationships among females are less hierarchically organized and much more stable than among males. A need for stability is also reflected in the females’ attitude toward male status competition. They even mediate between males
    6. Exchanges – the human economic system, with its reciprocal transactions and centralization, is recognizable in the group life of chimpanzees. They exchange social favors rather than gifts or goods, and their support flows to a central individual who uses the prestige derived from it to provide social security. This is his responsibility, in the sense that he may undermine his own position if he fails to redistribute the support received
    7. Manipulation – chimpanzees are intelligent manipulators. Their ability is clear enough in their use of tools, but it is even more pronounced in the use of others as social instruments
  35. To my eyes, the most striking result is that there seem to be two layers of social organization. The first layer we see is a clear-cut rank order, at least among the most dominant individuals. Although primatologists spend a lot of energy discussing the value of the “dominance concept,” they all know that it is impossible to ignore this hierarchical structure. The debate is not about its existence but about the degree to which knowledge of rank relationships helps to explain social processes. I think that, so long as we concentrate on the formal hierarchy, the explanations will be very poor indeed. We should also look behind it, at the second layer: a network of positions of influence. These positions are much more difficult to define, and I consider my descriptions in terms of influence and power only as imperfect first attempts. What I have seen, though, is that individuals losing a top rank certainly do not fall into oblivion: they are still able to pull many strings. In the same way, an individual rising in rank and at first sight appearing to be the big boss does not automatically have the greatest say in all matters. If it is hard to explain this duality of the social organization without using human terms, it is because we have very similar behind-the-scenes influences in our own society. When Aristotle referred to man as a political animal he could not know just how near the mark he was. Our political activity is part of an evolutionary heritage we share with our close relatives. What my work at Arnhem as taught me, however, is that the root of politics are older than humanity
  36. Human’s daily dabbling in politics are not always recognized as such because people are past masters in camouflaging their true intentions. Politicians for example, are vociferous about their ideals and promises but are careful not to disclose personal aspirations for power. This is not mean to be a reproach, because after all everyone plays the same game. I would go further and say that we are largely unaware that we are playing a game and hide our motives not only from others but also underestimate the immense effect they have on our own behavior. Chimps on the other hand, are quite blatant about their “baser” motives. Their interest in power is not greater than that of humanity, it is just more obvious
  37. To compare humans with chimps can be taken to be just as insulting, or perhaps even more so, because human motives seem to become more animal as a result. And yet, among chimps, power politics are not merely “bad” or “dirty.” They give to the life of the Arnhem community its logical coherence and even a democratic structure. All parties search for social significance and continue to do so until a temporary balance is achieved. This balance determines the new hierarchical positions. Changing relationships reached point where they become “frozen” in more or less fixed ranks. When we see how this formalization takes place during reconciliations, we understand that the hierarchy is a cohesive factor, which puts limits on competition and conflict. Child care, play, sex, and cooperation depend on the resultant stability. But underneath the surface the situation is constantly in a state of flux. The balance of power is texted daily, and if it proves too weak it is challenged and a new balance established. Consequently chimpanzee politics are also constructive. Humans should regard it as an honor to be classed as political animals.
What I got out of it
  1. Female support counts for as much as nearly anything, coalitions/reconciliation as important in chimp’s life as in human life, much more about cooperation than simply brute strength/size/speed, aggressive cooperation is one of the highest forms of strategy, the need for physical contact is crucial for social bonding and reconciliation, power is truly comprised of two things: social influence and formal dominance, must get buy in from the bottom of the group in order to have a stable hierarchy, man must be generous in order to be respected, stability vita for a well functioning group and hierarchy, hierarchy is a cohesive and a constructive factor which put limits on competition and conflict

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memory of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

  1. JD Vance wrote this book not because he’s accomplished anything extraordinary, but because he’s accomplished something ordinary. His poor upbringing and difficult childhood indicates he’d never escape but he was able to graduate from Yale Law School.
Key Takeaways
  1. There is of course inequality but there is also a lack of agency, of responsibility, of accountability that JD has found in his cohort
  2. The honor culture of the south leads many into violence and revenge, not being able to let an insult go
  3. For most hillbillies, the only way up is to move out. There are astonishing numbers of people moving away from the Appalachian region every year, in pursuit of a livable wage
  4. People don’t expect much of themselves because the people around them aren’t doing very much
  5. Despite all the social and peers pressures, JD received a different message at home that it was alright to learn and to strive and that made all the difference to him
  6. Parent’s desire for their kids to do better didn’t just relate to education, work, and pay, but to relationships too. Low expectations for those living in the Appalachians is hurting every generation
  7. JD had no role models for relationships and thought that screaming, violence, and hitting was how adults spoke to each other
  8. We are all very bad at judging ourselves
  9. His grandma was his most important positive influence as she showed him not only what was possible but how to get there. She helped him raise what he expected out of himself
  10. The instability in JD’s life was so disruptive. He was in several different homes with several different father figures in only a couple of years. Once he had a safe, stable place with grandma, he was able to focus and do his work
  11. JD enlisted in the marine corps and graduating was his proudest accomplishment. He got out of his learned helplessness and it made him see and question things once he returned home
  12. Sometimes those in power try to help the helpless without truly understanding their situation, which often ends up with negative consequences
  13. When a group believes that hard work will pay off, they all work harder and go all-in, often with amazing results
  14. The predominant emotion in lower middle class working white Americans is a sense of pessimism and a lack of accountability. They’re not willing to work hard and be consistent and blame others or the government for their problems
  15. Most successful people don’t even play the same game as the people JD grew up with. He had no idea how important networking, one’s social capital, was for one’s prospects. He learned this during his time at Yale Law and going through the interview/admissions process
What I got out of it
  1. An amazing dive into the life of poor Appalachians and the struggles they face. JD told his story in such an open, transparent, vulnerable way and gave me insight into situations I didn’t appreciate or know much about before. Inspiring how hard JD worked to escape his situation, his learned helplessness

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

  1. Although it may not seem like it, violence has seen a steady downward trend over the last several hundred years and we may in fact be living in the most peaceful time in our history. This book describes why this has occurred
Key Takeaways
  1. Hard to make any real progress when you are constantly worried about being attacked and pillaged. Changes not only how life is lived but also how life is understood
  2. Decline in violence has been paralleled by changes in the perception and glorification of violence and brutality, letting “the better angels of our nature” shine through and gain the spotlight
  3. Humans are not innately good nor bad – we have inner demons and angels and, along with culture and history, these guide men in their use of violence
  4. 6 major trends
    1. Pacification process – Shift from anarchy of hunter gatherer to more organized, agricultural life.
    2. Civilizing process – consolidation of land into feudal territories with a central authority
    3. Humanitarian revolution – progress towards removal of group-wide violence such as slavery and despotism
    4. Long peace – after WWII, major world powers have stopped waging wars on one another
    5. New peace – organized wars of all kinds have been on the decline
    6. The rights revolutions – more and more groups are gaining undisputed universal rights
  5. 5 inner demons
    1. Predatory violence
    2. Dominance
    3. Revenge
    4. Sadism
    5. Ideology
  6. 4 better angels
    1. Empathy
    2. Self control
    3. Moral sense through culture
    4. Faculty of reason
  7. 5 historical forces which have driven decreasing violence
    1. The Leviathan – legitimate use of force is encouraged by the central power and makes people feel they are on the right side of the angels when they use violence
    2. Feminization – increased respect for women and women’s rights
    3. Commerce – exchange of goods and ideas allowed quicker spread of more enlightened culture and is not zero sum
    4. Cosmopolitanism – literacy, mobility and mass media allow people to absorb different cultures and move away from immediate surroundings
    5. Escalator of reason – force people to reframe violence and see it as something which we can reduce
  8. Describes in gruesome detail the violence and its common occurrence during the hunter gatherer and early agricultural times. Especially as it’s depicted in the Bible
  9. Honor is a strange thing in that it exists only because we believe others believe it exists
  10. The US has a much higher homicide rate than Europe and most other developed countries and southern US far higher than northern. The author says that a culture of honor which was passed down from herders is the reason. Most southerners descended from herders and herders have a quicker anger trigger and are more likely to retaliate because livestock is easy to steal whereas land, which is what most northerner’s wealth was tied to, isn’t.
  11. One universal constant of violence is that 15-30 year old men conduct most of it
  12. Nature abhors a lop sided sex ratio
  13. Government does not deter violence because its citizens feels like Big Brother is always watching but because there is a reliable and consistent system in place where there is a good shot that you’ll get caught and punished if you commit a crime
  14. As books became more abundant after the printing press, the “bubble of empathy” was inflated as people were more commonly learning about secular rather than only religious topics and able to take fresh perspectives through novels and travel books
  15. War has steadily been decreasing in number but increasing in its total damage
  16. Wars declined substantially in the 18th century as many of the world powers shifted from conquest to commerce.
  17. Democracy, trade and intergovernmental ties reduce violence due to intermingling and inter-reliance
  18. To kill millions, more than weapons, you need an ideology
  19. The author believes that the single greatest catalyst of the rights revolution was the increasing spread and usage of technology which fostered noble action.
  20. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the most important ideas / explanations of the 20th century. It has found that the “tit-for-tat” strategy most often leads to the best outcomes. If you mirror what the other party does, you get the most cooperation and benefits. An even superior strategy, which could be taken advantage of if there are too many “defectors” or “freeloaders” is tit-for-tat with added forgiveness. Mirror what the other person/team/company/etc. does and if they make a decision once which hurts you, forgive them (once).
  21. Increasing self-control over the last several centuries is a key reason for the huge drops in violence we have seen. A culture of honor shifted to a culture of dignity where men were more respected for their self control than for lashing out for any offenses
  22. Intelligence and self-control are the best predictors of success and decreased violence in both individuals and states. Reason has shown to negatively correlate to violence and the Flynn Effect (increasing intelligence seen over periods of decades rather than generations) have helped decrease violence
What I got out of it
  1. A deep and fascinating book. Does a great job of taking a big picture historical overview to describe many trends which have led to decreasing violence