Journal Article

Deterministic Chaos and the Evolution of Meaning

Elliott O. Wagner

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 3, pages 547-575
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Deterministic Chaos and the Evolution of Meaning

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Common wisdom holds that communication is impossible when messages are costless and communicators have totally opposed interests. This article demonstrates that such wisdom is false. Non-convergent dynamics can sustain partial information transfer even in a zero-sum signalling game. In particular, I investigate a signalling game in which messages are free, the state-act payoffs resemble rock–paper–scissors, and senders and receivers adjust their strategies according to the replicator dynamic. This system exhibits Hamiltonian chaos and trajectories do not converge to equilibria. This persistent out-of-equilibrium behaviour results in messages that do not perfectly reveal the sender's private information, but do transfer information as quantified by the Kullback–Leibler divergence. This finding shows that adaptive dynamics can enable information transmission even though messages at equilibria are meaningless. This suggests a new explanation for the evolution or spontaneous emergence of meaning: non-convergent adaptive dynamics.


2Lewis Signalling Games and Information Transfer

3Evolution and Lewis Signalling Games

4Signalling Games with Opposing Interests

5Dynamics of Zero-Sum Signalling Games

6Deterministic Chaos and Information Transfer


Journal Article.  9497 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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