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ArisKatsaris comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

130 Post author: Yvain 24 December 2010 09:26PM

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Comment author: ArisKatsaris 28 December 2010 04:46:15AM *  10 points [-]

Muddled thinking is when your line of argumentation "painting contributes to museum, museum contributes to education, education contributes to productivity, productivity contributes to charity" implies there's some single metric each of these increase, which can be traced from one to the other simply, step by step.

An original painting may contribute to museum's "quality", but it needn't contribute to the educational quality of the museum, so you can't transfer that sort of contribution down that next step.

An art museum contributes to education, but it needn't contribute to education in such a manner that it becomes the sort of "productivity" that saves lives. Art is about aesthetics, which contribute to quality of life, but not the preservation of such. Art contributes, but it contributes differently - and you were told that already.

Education may contribute to productivity, but depending what you're educated to value, it may increase or decrease the amounts of charity provided. For example, if you're taught to value the presence of original paintings, you'll probably give money to keep original paintings in your nation, not to save lives.

Wanting an original painting, as opposed to a copy, isn't about educating, it's about satisfying a fetish. A national fetish in this case, much the way that Greece was obsessing with Olympic Games and museums to house the unreturned Parthenon marbles, while in the meantime its economy was going down the crapper.

In that way I could easily argue that the original is of less utility than a facsimile, exactly because it encourages such unproductive fetishes, while being aesthetically identical.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 December 2010 05:37:19AM 2 points [-]

Upvoted, but disagreed with:

In that way I could easily argue that the original is of less utility than a facsimile, exactly because it encourages such unproductive fetishes, while being aesthetically identical.

It seems to me that scarcity and authenticity can both play into aesthetics, but besides those two contextual variables that's spot on.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 December 2010 07:30:55AM 1 point [-]

I don't think the preference for original paintings is just a fetish. Accurate color reproduction is hard [1], and in many cases, it's possible to get close enough to the original to see the brushstrokes and texture. I don't think we're at the tech yet for really excellent reproductions, but please let me know if I'm missing something.

Originals vs. reproductions may not be worth the cost, but that's a different question.

[1] The colors in a painting may change with time, but reproductions add another layer of inaccuracy.

I don't know how good color reproduction can be if a major effort is made. I do know that if I go to the museum shop after an exhibition, I'm always struck by how far off the colors are compared to the paintings.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 28 December 2010 08:59:44PM 1 point [-]

Texture reproduction is actually an easier problem than color reproduction, and is pretty much solved at less than a $5000 cost. Color is hard partially because people want the painting to look the same under all lighting conditions; under just one, we can solve the problem pretty well, but under all, we nearly need to use the same materials as were originally used. Needless to say, the cost of reproductions scales with the quality, and can become quite high.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 December 2010 01:16:45AM 0 points [-]

I wonder if enough people would go to a museum of high quality reproductions to make it worthwhile.