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Jed_Harris comments on Tsuyoku Naritai! (I Want To Become Stronger) - Less Wrong

111 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 March 2007 05:49PM

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Comment author: Jed_Harris 14 April 2007 07:29:47PM 0 points [-]

The discussion about the "dissipation" of knowledge from generation to generation (or of piety and trust in God, as ZH says) reminds me of Elizabeth Eisenstein's history of the transition to printing. Manual copying (on average) reduces the accuracy of manuscripts. Printing (on average) increases the accuracy, because printers can keep the type made up into pages, and can fix errors as they are found. Thus a type-set manuscript becomes a (more or less reliable) nexus for the accumulation of increasingly reliable judgments.

Eisenstein's account has been questioned, but as far as I've seen, the issues that have been raised really don't undercut her basic point.

Of course digital reproduction pushes this a lot further. (Cue the usual story about self-correcting web processes.) But I don't know of any really thorough analysis of the dynamics of error in different communication media.