The green honey problem refers to the case when Alice has to rely on Bob to see the outside world:
The implication for Bob is pretty straight forward: Bob will be limited to what Alice can see, and on what she can express:
The real problem is on Alice:
In Homer’s Odyssey, sea is wine dark, sky is bronze, and the color for honey and hair is green (thus, green honey). The color blue has never appeared during the tale. In ancient Greek, the language can only separate the gradient of two colors, but not the hue. The word kyaneos represents blue, dark green, violet, black and brown.
Complexity of Chess vs. Complexity of color
It seems absurd that the lack of vocabulary obstruct the physical ability to see, but consider Chess game: it has been confirmed that the difference between a master player and a beginner is not due to the fact that a former has better memory, or higher speed of processing [^1]. Instead, the master has developed domain specific model of Chess, that correctly abstract to current game, which can be further processed to the model has been internalized.
[^1]: If this was true, a great master in Chess should also be smarter than the beginner outside of Chess
Better abstraction helps you to see more detail, and this is what separate master from beginner: the abstraction they have developed.
The question then become: is the combination of color to be more complex than a game in Chess? I will like to think so, there is much more information: while the complete info on random Chess game can be recorded in 64^3 (black-white-space), one of the most common way to store a visual is to take a picture, a 500x500 pixel picture has the size of 153,119 byte.
This will explain why practicing sketching makes you see more details of the world: by practicing expression, one is developing a better model to decompose the world, when these models start to become more effective, one does see more.
I used to think color names as vocabulary, but it seems to be more like a rule for abstraction. In ancient Greek, they choose to abstract gradient. With such system, only gradient information is stored in their heads, which effectively is what they get from what they see.
Taken writing system as example, try to memorized:
If you have developed a model for Russian, Chinese and Klingon, you will need very little effort to store this word; otherwise it's nearly impossible to
see the information, even though it's just in front of you.
That leads to some interesting question and insight:
e = mc^2model to us; we are somehow able to see the same thing he saw.
Derived from my talk at the Open Data Workshop 2013.