How do you convince someone to stay away?

The feverish but resilient Megan McArdle refers us to a problem in signaling theory:

Slate ponders how to communicate the danger of radioactive waste to the far future.  The problem is, if they can't read English, or recognize the radiation trefoil, anything you do sounds more likely to intrigue future anthropologists than to warn them off…

Juliet Lapidos at Slate writes:

Even if future trespassers could understand what keep and out mean when placed side by side, there's no reason to assume they'd follow directions. In "Expert Judgment," the panelists observe that "[m]useums and private collections abound with [keep out signs] removed from burial sites."

…Likewise, a scavenger on the Carlsbad site in the year 12,000 C.E. may dismiss the menace of radiation poisoning as mere superstition. ("So I'm supposed to think that if I dig here, invisible energy beams will kill me?") Hence the crux of the problem: Not only must intruders understand the message that nuclear waste is near and dangerous; they must also believe it.

How can we solve this problem?  Similarly, if an attractive woman tells you "You don't want to go out with me" do you believe her and act on that?  What other problems have this structure?


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