“Hell is Other People”

This is a quote from French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte that I came across while reading Algorithms to Live By (Yes I am still reading that, just about to finish get off my back).

What Sarte means by this is not that people are evil, but that the influence of other people’s perceived perceptions on our own perception can be exhausting and frustrating. In other words, we base our ideas of ourselves in part on how we think others perceive us.

The authors of Algorithms to Live By offer a solution that I thought was encouraging. In the chapter on game theory they bring up the idea of dominant strategies (that which makes the most sense individually) vs optimal strategies (that which leads to the best outcome overall). They talk about changing the “game” to restrict the players to choose optimal strategies. They talk about the Vickrey auction in which the optimal strategy is to be honest about what you believe that value of a particular item is.

The chapter ends on this: “Seek out games where honesty is the dominant strategy. Then just be yourself.”

We are often in control of the games we play, I want choose the ones that allow me to live authentically.



One thought on ““Hell is Other People””

  1. Love the post and it got me thinking. I agree with your takeaway. I can see how living to meet other’s expectations of ourselves can be like hell. Therefore choosing situations where we can live authentically avoids the exhaustion that comes from trying to meet needless expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

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