Trivers and Chomsky on Deception

The following is a conversation between Noam Chomsky, famous linguist and political dissenter, and Robert Trivers, evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist. Trivers is best known for his groundbreaking work in reciprocal altruism, self-deception, parent-offspring conflict dynamics, as well as parental investment theory and the subsequent implications for sexual selection: the sex making the largest expected investment in future offspring will be proportionately more discriminating in its choice of sexual partners than the parent of the opposite sex (this is why guys will basically sleep with anything that moves...).

The first part of the conversation is monopolized by Chomsky, and is rather dry. Trivers tries to make it a bit more interesting by proposing some very interesting questions, but Chomsky kind of escapes the intellectual pursuit and concentrates instead on politics, surprise surprise...

Starting at about the 18th minute, though, Trivers starts to get more ideas in, and to relate them to the evolution of self-deceptive mechanisms. Unfortunately there is not a lot of work done on this subject yet, but it seems to me this field could be very productive because there are many instances in which it is rather easy to imagine how a mechanism that deceives its host could produce a great evolutionary advantage for itself, even at the expense of the host: you!

Think of having children as the perfect example: it is not in any one individual's best interest to have children, since they produce a higher cost than any benefit the parent might derive from them. The benefit doesn't go to the individual: it goes to the genes that get to replicate themselves in the next generation. That we normally think children are worth all the pain and sacrifice we may have to go through speaks volumes about this self-deceptive mechanism, I think.

Anyway, here is the video:
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