A game-theory perspective on morality
It just sounds like you have a preference for an election denier over someone woke. More seriously, I don't think college signaling has changed all that much. Not at all for those with engineering, physics or math degrees. Little or not at all for most of the other sciences and economics. Might want to stay away from most with sociology related degrees though. Or at least look closely at what courses they took. And maybe there's a few colleges to avoid their graduates but I don't know if that's at all dependable or which ones. College still has a lot of positive signals.
A few more may look for alternative signals (mostly to find cheaper employees rather than better ones) but that probably won't have any better success. And it seems to me that jobs requiring a college degree are increasing
Virtue signals are complicated and have always had mixed success and gaming. I'd agree we typically know less about others than in the past so we are more dependent on weaker signals and gaming is easier. But they aren't going to go away.
Question: Would have employers and a subset of intellectuals back in the early 70s argued against hiring graduates from schools protesting against the Vietnam War? Either way, is that different than what you propose?
Surprised not to see your 2012 review of Schneier's _Liars and Outliers_ linked here; I still think of that book as the best reference on this subject.
I agree that this a great argument. I might suggest that one-way businesses and colleges can check for cooperative people is to review resumes and applications for activities, particularly sports teams or military experience.
Great argument. And, it makes such an obvious point that I needed to pause several times and wonder if (or why not) had I already intuitively recognized certain ethically virtuous signals (or, signals of consciousness such as education) in the most basic game sense. After all, I am a big fan of Caplan’s ideas on education, right?!! What gives thy brain? Anyway, the abstraction feels elegant and organizing. Great read to start the day.
I feel that the whole area of this discussion may be improved by adding in the time variable. An individuals short term self-interest is not the same as his long term self-interest and self-interest is a strong driver of cooperate or defect decisions in the game of "life".
There is a certain validity in old statements like "what goes around, turns around" when it comes to a long series of game theory decisions. Societies sub-groups split up over time and you find that all the A-holes of your youth are no longer part of your life. Cooperators associated with Cooperators and all the defectors end up associating with defectors. Having started on the wrong side of the tracks, it is easier for me observe these changes over time.
The defectors always want to disguise themselves as cooperators, which makes long time observation and history of individuals relevant. The defectors spots don't change easily.
This is the sort of thing I come here for.
re: "yet I might still regard your pledge to “eat local” as a signal that you care about virtue and will deal honestly with me. (Alternatively, I might regard it as a signal that you are not a reliable partner in a transaction, because you over-estimate your virtuousness.)"
Minor point, I'm most likely to consider it to mean they care about virtue *signaling* as opposed to meaning they necessarily care about virtue.
I'm also likely to consider it to mean that there is a good chance they don't truly care about actual virtue as opposed to signaling. I'd assume if they truly cared much that they'd have cared enough to do the research to discover it isn't a good thing to do (which may or not be part of what you meant to include in via your point about "over-estimating" their virtuousness).
Admittedly they may have researched things and come to a different conclusion than I have about the issue, perhaps because their values differ rather than that their conclusions about the impact of local eating differ: but I'd estimate there to be greater odds by default that they hadn't bothered to do the research (unless I personally know them to be among the rare atypical types who do research things like that by default, as many reading your Substack are). I guess some less intelligent people I might give the benefit of the doubt to: that they truly do care but don't view themselves as capable of doing the research, that its not merely that they didn't care enough to spend the time to do so.
"But from a Darwinian fitness standpoint, morality differs from looks or intelligence. Strictly speaking, it is not in my interest to actually be more ethical. It is in my interest to appear to be more ethical."
There is an ongoing Red Queen race between deception and detection of deception. One can design an institution that is relatively free of corruption, but deceptive strategies will evolve within it (i.e. appearing to be cooperative while not actually being so). People figure out ways to deceive while avoiding detection, or disincentivizing others from calling it out, or avoiding punishment. In many large institutions now, the deceptive strategies seem to have pulled ahead. Keeping incentives higher for cooperation than defection requires ongoing effort and evolving strategies.
I believe Garett Jones has suggested that IQ tends to correlate with cooperativeness, but it's interesting to consider how and at what margin this correlation breaks down. Maybe we're seeing an example as you point out regarding higher education trends.
This is a very clear argument that I expect will resonate with most people. I printed it out and will share with my 17 year old grandson. Thank you.