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GMHowe comments on A List of Nuances - Less Wrong

31 Post author: abramdemski 10 November 2014 05:02AM

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Comment author: GMHowe 14 November 2014 03:25:57AM *  8 points [-]

Everything is actually about signalling.

Counterclaim: Not everything is actually about signalling.

Almost everything can be pressed into use as a signal in some way. You can conspicuously overpay for things to signal affluence or good taste or whatever. Or you can put excessive amounts of effort into something to signal commitment or the right stuff or whatever. That almost everything can be used as a signal does not mean that almost everything is being used primarily as a signal all of the time.

Signalling only makes sense in a social environment, so things that you would do or benefit from even if you were in a nonsocial environment are good candidates for things that are not primarily about signalling. Things like eating, wearing clothes, sleeping areas, medical attention and learning.

Some of the items from the list of X is not about Y:

"Food isn’t about nutrition. Clothes aren’t about comfort. Bedrooms aren’t about sleep. Laughter isn’t about humour. Charity isn’t about helping. Medicine isn’t about health. Consulting isn’t about advice. School isn’t about learning. Research isn’t about progress. Language isn’t about communication."

All these are primarily about something other than signalling. Yes they can be "about" signalling some of the time to varying degrees but not as their primary purpose. (At least not without becoming dysfunctional.)