In the Same Package

Eliezer, again:

[…]you’d need to try far more than a trillion random reorderings of the letters in a book, to produce a play of quality equalling or exceeding Shakespeare.

Oh? How do you operationalize the concept of ‘quality’?

Computer programmers have a saying: “if you don’t understand it well enough to tell the machine how to do it, you don’t understand it at all.” I very much doubt that Eliezer understands evaluations of literary quality well enough to explain to us whether a given text is better than Shakespeare, much less program a computer to perform the function.

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2 Responses to “In the Same Package”

  1. “if you don’t understand it well enough to tell the machine how to do it, you don’t understand it at all.”

    I’ve read some of your posts here and your comments on OB, and it seems to me the above claim is not only be at the root of your objection to this post in particular, but many posts.

    But I’m not sure that the statement is true. It seems to me that there are concepts that are difficult or maybe even impossible to define, yet we still use, and there is a great degree of interpersonal agreement.

    For example, lets say I’m talking to you, we witness a revenge killing, and we are discussion whether or not it was immoral. Perhaps your threshold before you consider revenge killings moral is if the other party murdered one of your friends. But maybe for me, they would only have to kill some of my livestock before I consider it moral to kill them. So, we disagree where exactly the line is drawn, but if we witnessed someone get killed because they spat in someone’s face, this would be below both of our thresholds, and we would be in agreement that it was murder, not a justified kill.

    So I don’t think that we must always provide (or be able to provide) a complete rigorous definition for every concept we use. Many times, people will know what we mean anyway.

    In this case, for the concept of “quality”, it would probably be hard to define. I think most people know what he means though. Most people could probably judge by their own subjective notion of “quality” and his statement would still be true anyway.

    Have you never used words like quality, evil, etc?

  2. […] Rose by Any Other Name Isak made a comment that contains good points and plenty of discussion fodder, so I decided to respond to it with a […]

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