Join The Debate

If you’ve laughed at “X is not about Y”, now is the time to take it seriously, as an equal.

Over the years, many seem to have found my “X is not about Y” arguments to be enjoyably mockable. As if I would be equally likely to say “Toasters are not about toast” or “Napkin holders are not about napkins.” Which seems to suggest that while my claims might be important if true, they are too silly to take seriously.

Now I don’t mind people having fun, but I do worry about the human habit to dismiss as unworthy of attention things that have been wittily mocked. (See the movie Ridicule.) If you worry about that too, and if you’ve at least smirked some at “X is not about Y” jokes, then perhaps I can appeal to your guilt or concern to take the time now to engage the argument.

Because as of today, you can download from Kindle for $22 (or Google for $14), the readable and carefully argued book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life. by myself and Kevin Simler.

Now publishers and the media usually coordinate to talk about new books near the day when hardback copies are officially released. Which for our book is January 2. Usually ebooks are also withheld until near that date. As a result, usually the only people who can say much about a book at its official release date are elites who have been given special access to pre-release copies. Those who talk about a book weeks or months later are clearly revealed as less elites, and get less attention.

But now for our book all of you can participate more as equals in that release date book conversation. If you read our book now, and then publicly post a review or engage our argument near the release date, and indicate that you’d like us to publicly engage your response, then we will try to do so. When time is limited we will of course focus more on responses that we think are better argued. But we will try to engage as many of you as possible, without giving undue priority to media and other elites.

So please, go read, and then join our debate. Just how often is it plausible that “X is not about Y”?

GD Star Rating
Tagged as: , , , ,
Trackback URL:
  • Jacob Egner

    To provide a data point, I take “X is not about Y” pretty seriously and I find RobinHanson /signalling memes to be hilarious. In fact, this might be my favorite meme of all time:

  • Robert Koslover

    If X = “Join the Debate” and Y = “Buy my Book” then X is about Y.
    And… that’s perfectly OK with me.

  • arch1

    changing “overdue” to “undue” will I think increase your expected readership by more than one. (hint hint:-)

  • Sam Hardwick

    Google books is offering it to me for 18.07 € (in Finland).

  • CommentsCommunicationMajor

    i don’t get it. Napkin holders obviously aren’t about napkins.

  • Adam Long

    “Self-recommendation is not about recommending” (with apologies to both Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowan.) Just purchased. Can’t wait to read it.

  • Glen Raphael

    Why is the Amazon version nearly twice the price of the Google Store version?

    • I’m told the Google version is more like a pdf, and so harder to work with.

      • burger_flipper

        FWIW, the book shows up twice when you search Google Play books for it. One of then is the “Original Pages” version (pdf). The other is both “original pages” and “flowing text” (ePub, which most probably prefer for phones, e-readers, etc). Both are the same $14.39 price, so make sure you choose the one that gives both options for donload.

        The one linked in the post is the pdf only version. Dunno why Google does this. I ran into the same issue with “Surfing Uncertainty,” though the prices were slightly different.

        If you get a warning to the effect that you will have to zoom to read on small screens, you are on the PDF version.

  • SquirrelInHell

    Huh? Clearly you expect to have readers who lightly dismiss and/or mock your usual arguments, and yet will be persuaded to enter a quality debate by reading this post and the book. I am confused.

    • Tobi Alafin

      I don’t see the confusion. If he expected his readers to agree with every single post he made, then he’s not running a blog—he’s running a cult.

  • Jiro

    People are not mocking it because the claim is important if true but hard to take seriously. People are mocking it because of a type of motte/bailey: the claims can be true, and the claims can be important, but the sense in which the claims are true are not necessarily the same sense in which they are important.

  • steamboatlion

    Why is the ebook price on Google only 2/3 of the price on Amazon?

    • Probably because Google forcibly discounts ebooks, you have to trick them with a higher set price and you have to keep it updated because Google will change your prices.

  • Steve Z

    Oh, goodie. Will read with interest.

  • Russ Andersson

    Dear Robin, been a reader of the blog since it launched and wanted to thank you for providing many profound insights over the years. Sincere appreciation.

    Also read your latest book, and it is superb. The research presented was thorough, the arguments well developed, the writing clear, concise and punchy. Thank you again.

    My only comment is that the majority of these books tend to highlight an issue or phenomenon, but are light on suggestions in terms of how to fix it. For example, you have 16 chapters about the “problem”, but only 1 about potential “solutions.” That being said that chapter was very thoughtful and somewhat actionable.

    This is the case with the majority of books in the social genre .. “here is yet another human deficiency …” but then only a few actionable suggestions about what to do about it.

    So what I am looking for is more of a mental toolkit and actionable set of practices or things I can do to help address this. Not sure if this need is shared by others, but I want to be a better smarter happier person as a result of reading the book, than simply being more informed or aware of yet another internal bias that I have limited ways to remedy.

    And this would be my criticism of the blog generally, don’t get me wrong I appreciate and enjoy it, but its entitled OVERCOMINGbias but the majority of content is just about highlighting baisses.

    I personally would be very appreciative if this wise forum of readers that we have here could make actionable suggestions on how to better address this human frailty/challenge that you have highlighted so very well.

    • I’m not a big fan of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “if you believe enough it will happen for you” schools of reform. I think the main solution is better social institutions. And I do talk about those a lot.

      • Russ Andersson

        I am disappointed that we will just have to wait for society to change before we can get much practical utility from this area of research.

        Saddened that this is the best answer our leading thinkers have on the topic …

        Wake me up in 2050, when society changes …

      • There is plenty of scale between one person and our whole “society”. Local institutions can change without changing the whole world.

      • Russ Andersson

        Apart from this point and maybe that is the best answer we have … was a very interesting read, very nicely done and good luck with the project.

  • amacfied

    Congrats and thanks. And I for one find the “memes” funny but not mocking, and not an indication that the ideas are not taken seriously.

  • “Elephant in the room”: A very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato, it’s something that no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole.

    Or perhaps some other norm violation, which probably applies here. Yet I’m driven to observe that the present elephant in the room is that Robin is second author of this book. Counter-signaling, dealism, or genuine lack of concern with status?

    There is even a (mild) ethical issue here. I’m not sure it’s quite right for intellectuals to surrender credit. It clouds the intellectual history.