A glass half-full: Brian Skyrms's signals

Economics and Philosophy 28 (1):73-86 (2012)

Authors
Kim Sterelny
Australian National University
Abstract
ExtractBrian Skyrms's Signals has the virtues familiar from his Evolution of the Social Contract and The Stag Hunt. He begins with a very simple model of agents in interaction, and in a series of brief and beautifully clear chapters, this model and its successors are explored, elaborated, connected and illustrated through biological theory and the social sciences. Signals borrows its core model from David Lewis: it is Lewis's signalling game. In this game, two agents interact. One agent can observe which of two equi-probable states the world is in, but that agent cannot act directly and profitably on that information. However, the informed agent can act in a way that will be perceptually salient to a second agent: say, by raising a red or a green flag. The second agent does have the capacity to respond appropriately to each state of the world. If that second agent chooses the right option, given the state of the world, both are rewarded. If the second agent fails to choose the right action, neither are. Obviously, the two agents are best off if they have a practice in which the informed agent regularly chooses a distinct, salient cue in response to each of the two world states, and in which the powerful agent uses that cue to select the rewarding act. Less obviously, agents with simple trial and error learning capacities can learn to signal and respond: neither explicit negotiation nor cognitive sophistication are required. Likewise, if individual agents do not have the capacity to learn, but if they breed true but with some variation, the evolutionary version of trial and error learning can take a population to one of the signalling system equilibria. View HTML Send article to KindleTo send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply. Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.A GLASS HALF-FULL: BRIAN SKYRMS'S SIGNALSVolume 28, Issue 1Kim Sterelny DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266267112000120Your Kindle email address Please provide your Kindle email.@free.kindle.com@kindle.com Available formats PDF Please select a format to send. By using this service, you agree that you will only keep articles for personal use, and will not openly distribute them via Dropbox, Google Drive or other file sharing services. Please confirm that you accept the terms of use. Cancel Send ×Send article to Dropbox To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox. A GLASS HALF-FULL: BRIAN SKYRMS'S SIGNALSVolume 28, Issue 1Kim Sterelny DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266267112000120Available formats PDF Please select a format to send. By using this service, you agree that you will only keep articles for personal use, and will not openly distribute them via Dropbox, Google Drive or other file sharing services. Please confirm that you accept the terms of use. Cancel Send ×Send article to Google Drive To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive. A GLASS HALF-FULL: BRIAN SKYRMS'S SIGNALSVolume 28, Issue 1Kim Sterelny DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266267112000120Available formats PDF Please select a format to send. By using this service, you agree that you will only keep articles for personal use, and will not openly distribute them via Dropbox, Google Drive or other file sharing services. Please confirm that you accept the terms of use. Cancel Send ×Export citation Request permission.
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DOI 10.1017/s0266267112000120
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References found in this work BETA

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.Daniel C. Dennett & Jon Hodge - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):435-438.

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Citations of this work BETA

Arbitrary Signals and Cognitive Complexity.Ronald J. Planer & David Kalkman - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz018.
Evolutionary Explanations of Simple Communication: Signalling Games and Their Models.Travis LaCroix - forthcoming - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie:1-25.

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Review. [REVIEW]Brian Skyrms - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):627-629.

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