as you mention, food, pain, mating, etc. are pretty simple to humans, because they get to refer to sensory data, but very complex from the perspective of evolution, which doesn’t.
I chose status and cheating precisely because they don’t directly refer to simple sensory data. You need complex models of your social environment in order to even have a concept of status, and I actually think it’s pretty impressive that we have enough of such models hardcoded into us to have preferences over them.
Since the original text mentions food and pain as “directly related to our input data”, I thought status hierarchies was noticeably different from them, in this way. Do tell me if you were trying to point at some other distinction (or if you don’t think status requires complex models).
I agree, status definitely seems more complicated—in that case it was just worth the extra complexity. The point, though, is just that the measure of complexity under which the mesa-objective is selected is different from more natural measures of complexity under which you might hope for the base objective to be the simplest. Thus, even though sometimes it is absolutely worth it to sacrifice simplicity, you shouldn’t usually expect that sacrifice to be in the direction of moving closer to the base objective.