Let’s get the conclusion out the way first. This is a very good book. If you have an interest for the meta-game / societal ideas I discuss on this blog then you’ll find Delusion Damage interesting. But rather than review the book the usual way I just want to expand on a feeling I had when reading it.
“I thought I was the only person who thought that”
As we progress through life we encounter many scenarios that make us think. We ruminate upon their meaning and develop our own little tricks and strategies, our analogies that help us impose a pattern upon the chaotic world. We nip, tuck and simplify. We assign helpful labels to phenomena that appear unrelated on a surface level but are thematically or fundamentally related. The main feeling I had when reading this book is the (anonymous) writer perceives the world like I do. I thought I’d exclude the really obvious commonalities – such as the evopsych basis of human behaviour or the matrix metaphors – and concentrate on the knick knacks.
Frame control as a tool in your own intellectual development: When arguing a point I never concede ground and change my mind during the debate itself. I believe holding a strong frame and repelling borders is crucial to a strong boundary function. A man who lets himself be dragged off-centre during a debate is a weak man who can be convinced of anything. Conversely, sticking to your guns over the medium term will end in delusion and hubris. I sincerely want to be right. I don’t mean my ego wants to defends the current opinions I hold – I mean that I want my map of the world to be as close to the terrain as possible. Thus when arguing I will pay keen attention to the other parties and try to understand / unpack / destroy their claims but the whole time I will store their ideas in a quarantined cage. Then, like coffee slowly perculating through a machine, in the days and weeks that follow I will deal with any intriguing ideas on my own terms to see if they can improve my map. Thus in the heat of debate I seem pig-headed, arrogant and stubborn but over time my frame survives and improves. On page 315 of Delusion Damage we see a similar process regarding telesales.
Mastery is overrated as a life skill: While I respect mastery in a skill set, I consider it to be a result of unbalanced life priorities. I used to look at top professional fighters in awe of their skills and dedication but as I started to know them I realised they were destroying themselves in pursuit of mastery. These men would look superhuman in the ring but when sitting having a drink with them they’d tell of their permanent nagging injuries that stop them sleeping well, the joys of life they miss from spending all day in the gym, and a generally shocking one-dimensional character. The same goes with the top pick-up gurus who have fucked 500+ women. Aside from the obvious questions (wouldn’t it be great to have so much sex, wouldn’t it be weird how that would affect your mind etc) I found myself thinking “given the extreme effort and sacrifice required to achieve such mastery, what on earth is missing from his life to compel him down such a difficult path”. It’s no coincidence that the people I’ve met with the highest laycounts are actually far unhappier people than those in the 50-150 lays bracket. There is a steep cut-off of diminishing returns between accomplished amateur and grandmaster. I consider life far happier when you’re accomplished at dozens of expert systems rather than master of one. Page 193 begins the Delusion Damage discussion of related issues.
Life is meaningless, so create your own way: I don’t empathise with people’s constant scramble to find external meaning in their lives such as religion, science, herd approval, or political ideology. Way back in university I went through a four year journey of self discovery in which I read voraciously on every subject of human importance throughout the human and social sciences. I was determined to answer all of the big questions of life: Does God exist, What is the best system of political organisation, How do people relate in groups, What economics creates material abundance, What is the archetype of male development. After hours in the library and many Student Union bar / seminar room arguments I found my answers. When people try to argue this stuff with me now I just switch off because I have little to learn from 99% of the people who try. I’ve already read and thought more about this stuff than them, and argued the toss with people far smarter and experienced than they are. Ultimately the best position on the meaning of life I found came from (I think) Betrand Russell. When asked if it wasn’t depressing if you believe there is no God or importance to your life he said “No. I just turn my attention to other things.” The Delusion Damage book closes with a chapter on how to maintain psychological stability when all the pretty lies have perished.
There’s loads more – throwaway sentences here and there – which perked me up with a “I do that too!” response. Try the blog and if it speaks to you, give the book a go.
Postscript: I happen to disagree completely with his economic views starting page 66. He seems oblivious to the basic problems of political philosophy and advocates a system which is communism by a different name. Simple questions like “who makes the decisions”, “how are they enforced” and “how are people motivated to replenish the pool of wealth” go unasked yet these are precisely the questions that sink resource economics. I recommend a foray into Ludwig von Mises, particularly his 1922 book Socialism. Fortunately this chapter can be ignored without undermining the rest of the book