Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id CAA20698 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Thu, 3 May 2001 02:09:23 +0100 Message-ID: <3AF0AE50.C8C88917@wehi.edu.au> Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 11:03:12 +1000 From: wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU> Organization: The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.76C-CCK-MCD (Macintosh; U; PPC) X-Accept-Language: en,pdf To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: light-switches References: <20010502132920.AAA189@email@example.com> <3AF01077.1C260DA3@bioinf.man.ac.uk> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
Chris Taylor wrote:
> "Wade T.Smith" wrote:
> > On 05/02/01 06:56, Vincent Campbell said this-
> > >Why are light switches uniformly down to switch on and up to switch off?
> > In the US, it's up is on, and down is off. Or in is on and out is off.
> > It's the other way around in your parts?
> > Well, you drive on the wrong side of the road, too....
> > - Wade
> Stereotyping of signals is a key bit of behavioural/evolutionary biology
> (wasps for eg.) because everybody benefits.
An excellent text that covers the philosophical issues surrounding this is
Lewis, D. K. (1969). Convention: a philosophical study. Cambridge,
Harvard University Press.
Although Lewis does not explicitly mention evolutionary processes in the
way that, say
Axelrod, R. (1984). The evolution of cooperation. New York, Basic Books.
does, he draws out the ways in which coordination of arbitrary signals
and behaviours can develop without any design or intention involved. A
classic error in evolutionary biology (as in the group selection debate)
is to think that something evolves because it is of benefit to the group
(species, population or whatever). But the most obvious counterinstance
is the Tragedy of the Commons, where the group fails to benefit from
everybody maximising their own benefit. So I'd be really careful about
that sort of inference (just as I am of the hidden hand arguments for a
complete laissez faire market).
-- John Wilkins, Head, Communication Services, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia Homo homini aut deus aut lupus - Erasmus of Rotterdam <http://www.users.bigpond.com/thewilkins/darwiniana.html>
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