May 22, 2019

Signaling

How do we define success?

Scientists observed1 that turtle hunting and spear fishing men in a Meriam community in Australia, experience greater social benefits and reproductive success than shellfish foraging men.

Even though turtle hunting and spear fishing are actually less productive, measured by caloric gains per hour, than foraging for shellfish.

Then why are hunters more successful?

A daily catch of fish, carried home by hand, is clearly visible to everyone. And turtles are served at large feasts.

Members of the community know which men brought them turtle meat and fish.

They know who has the strength and skill necessary to hunt and spear.

Signaling brings these men success — not productivity.

But one wonders what the world would be like.

If we all just foraged for shellfish instead.

  1. Signalling theory, Wikipedia