Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread

by Unnamed1 min read27th May 2010882 comments


HPMOR (discussion & meta)

Update: Please post new comments in the latest HPMOR discussion thread, now in the discussion section, since this thread and its first few successors have grown unwieldy (direct links: two, three, four, five, six, seven).

As many of you already know, Eliezer Yudkowsky is writing a Harry Potter fanfic, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, starring a rationalist Harry Potter with ambitions to transform the world by bringing the rationalist/scientific method to magic.  But of course a more powerful Potter requires a more challenging wizarding world, and ... well, you can see for yourself how that plays out.

This thread is for discussion of anything related to the story, including insights, confusions, questions, speculation, jokes, discussion of rationality issues raised in the story, attempts at fanfic spinoffs, comments about related fanfictions, and meta-discussion about the fact that Eliezer Yudkowsky is writing Harry Potter fan-fiction (presumably as a means of raising the sanity waterline).

I'm making this a top-level post to create a centralized location for that discussion, since I'm guessing people have things to say (I know I do) and there isn't a great place to put them.  fanfiction.net has a different set of users (plus no threading or karma), the main discussion here has been in an old open thread which has petered out and is already near the unwieldy size that would call for a top-level post, and we've had discussions come up in a few other places.  So let's have that discussion here. 

Comments here will obviously be full of spoilers, and I don't think it makes sense to rot13 the whole thread, so consider this a spoiler warning:  this thread contains unrot13'd spoilers for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality up to the current chapter and for the original Harry Potter series.  Please continue to use rot13 for spoilers to other works of fiction, or if you have insider knowledge of future chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

A suggestion: mention at the top of your comment which chapter you're commenting on, or what chapter you're up to, so that people can understand the context of your comment even after more chapters have been posted.  This can also help people avoid reading spoilers for a new chapter before they realize that there is a new chapter.


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Slightly edited the original post to avoid giving away what my readers have finally convinced me is, in fact, an undesirable spoiler. I also hope you didn't mind my removing the mention of FAI, because I feel fairly strongly about not mixing that into the fic. "A fanatic is someone who can't change their mind and won't change the subject"; if we can't shut up about FAI while talking about Harry Potter, we may have a problem.

8TobyBartels6yWell, you kept it out for a long time.
5NihilCredo11yAs someone who's often creeped out by LW, I approve.
4Unnamed11yThat's fine. I'm actually not that into AI, so I wasn't thinking about that problem, but you're probably right. I also made a slight edit to your slight edit so that it still sounds like me.

The fic now has a hate blog dedicated to it.

Congrats Eliezer! Now you've really made it.

The writing style seems to go for similar overkill as in XKCDSucks-blog, that is, every tiny detail is taken out of context and twisted until it is made look bad. Plain honest deconstruction and critique would be fun, as there are many things I think are quite awful with MoR, mostly I dislike the unnatural feeling every single human relationship has and how many speeches about science seem to be a bit unrelated and be there just for lecturing the reader without justification from story, and how Harry seems to be Mary Sue so very much it's actually annoying. MoRSucks however seems to go drowning real bad points into a sea of motivated cognition. It seems bad. Weird and untruthful, strawman-like, as far as I can tell, portrayal of MoR fans doesn't help.

5Democritus11yThat's a really good analysis of the problems with MORSucks. Unfortunately, people who only slightly dislike a work, or acknowledge that has some flaws but enjoy it anyway, seldom form blogs devoted to deconstructing it. In general, you have to choose between overwhelming praise and overwhelming hate.
7Jack11ySo maybe it's just me but my reaction to the fanfic was something like "Eliezer is writing rationalist Harry Potter fanfiction. That's pretty awesome. And educational!" I check it every so often to see if there is a new chapter and I've shared it with a couple people. That's pretty far from: It seemed like most people had similar reactions to mine, but maybe Less Wrongers have been making a bigger deal out of it elsewhere? We didn't even have this thread until a couple of chapters ago. Similarly: My sense was that we had almost nothing to do with the popularity. It didn't get linked to from LW until like chapter 12 or so, if I remember correctly. I know a couple people here made image macros but Eliezer's following isn't nearly large enough to generate this kind of popularity by itself, right? As for the rest of it: it reads like my mother critiquing MTV, the author doesn't understand where the author is coming from or who he is writing for and as a result totally misses his target. For example, the fact that Harry has three last names clearly isn't Eliezer making sloppy feminist statement. If anything, he's laughing at himself and the subculture he's a part of. I laughed out loud when I read it because obviously rationalist-Harry would have a compounded name. It's exactly the right amount of PC-vanity for the family of an Oxford professor with a kid too smart for his own good.
4JoshuaZ11yI was referred to initially to it by two people who are not LW readers. The individual writing the blog may be suffering from a bit belief overkill (one of my favorite cognitive biases. Someone should do a top-level post about it at some point. Many different cognitive biases can be thought of in a belief overkill framework).

Here's my take on what actually happened in the dojo incident described in chp 19.

Voldemort went there in disguise to learn the valuable martial art. He reacted badly to losing so they put him through the ordeal he described. He went along with it because he wanted to learn the martial art. The ordeal did teach him valuable lessons about losing, and he vowed to learn to control his temper and master tactics of ingratiation and supplication to better manipulate others. But he felt angry and humiliated by it (as he expected Harry to be), and also vowed to return and fulfill his revenge fantasies. So after he mastered the martial art and left the dojo, he came back openly as the Dark Lord and killed them to live out his revenge fantasies and to prevent others from learning the skills (keep science secret). He spared one student who had befriended him (and who probably stood up for him during the ordeal, like Draco to Harry), and he had that student spread the version of the tale that he wanted told (to maximize fear while hiding some of his true powers, and to deflect attention away from the value of that martial art).

For me the most natural explanation of the dojo incident is that Quirrell/Voldemort pulled a Verbal Kint. The setup is just too similar to be accidental. If you haven't seen The Usual Suspects (you should), that means ur vzcebivfrq gur fgbel ba gur fcbg gb znxr rirelbar srne uvz naq gb uhzvyvngr Uneel. I'll be quite disappointed if Eliezer's eventual explanation isn't as good as this one.

That's certainly possible, but we know Q/V does have elite martial arts skills, which he had to have learned somewhere, and studying at the world's best dojo, followed by destroying it to make sure no one else ever got training as good, seems like an entirely plausible thing for a Dark Lord to do.

8Strange711yMy understanding was that the story was true as stated: Voldemort showed up, destroyed the place, then calmed down and realized Quirrell now had the only remaining copy of the information he was looking for, so he set up some contingency to eventually put himself in Quirrell's body with the martial-arts skills intact.
4NihilCredo11yIs there any hint in MoR that Quirrel was already a total badass before Voldemort's body-snatching job, as this interpretation would require ("I was a prodigy of Battle Magic even then [at the times of the dojo]")?
4dclayh11yAgreed, except there's no particular reason for a Dark Lord to actually leave a survivor when he can just have his minions disseminate it. (Or do so himself as Quirrell; we have no knowledge of how long this story has been around.) ETA: Actually I should say my first thought was that Voldemort destroyed the dojo not out of anger, but simply to make sure that no rival wizard ever got the awesome martial arts training that he did. This seems strongly implied when he says: "You are wondering where this marvelous dojo is, and whether you can study there. You cannot."

That was a hard swat at "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas".

As for why Harry has such an exaggerated sense of responsibility, it might be that growing up on science fiction thing. A lot of science fiction is set up so that the hero can have a huge effect in a satisfying way. Perhaps Harry should have balanced it with reading history. On the other hand, he's living in fiction, so maybe he's right for his situation.

Lois McMaster Bujold has described sf as fantasy of political agency [1], and I think she's on to something.

I assume that shutting down Azkaban has a political solution rather than a magical or violent solution. This will be interesting to watch.

Why would Snape ask Harry for his take on Snape's past? One of the underlying premises of the story is that the smarter characters (possibly with the exception of Hermione) always have a deeper plan. Did Snape actually expect to get good advice? To be told that all his choices were correct? To have a reason to be angry at Harry? None of these make huge amounts of sense (to me, at least-- I have trouble keeping track of all the scheming), even though the scene was very emotionally effective.

This is basically my review posted to fanfiction.net-- let me know if there's a problem with reposting such here.

[1] The link goes to quite an interesting speech

Lois McMaster Bujold has described sf as fantasy of political agency [1], and I think she's on to something.

Thanks for that link. To rephrase: unlike romance or detective stories, many SF/fantasy stories are carefully rigged to give the "underdog" protagonists huge power over the world. It's scary how much this pattern fits.

8RobinZ11yI think he was testing the differences between Harry and his dad, and was surprised enough at the contrast to keep asking questions.
7thomblake11yQuite the opposite. I was tempted to respond to the review but had been left without an appropriate forum. I had to go back and figure out where you thought the Omelas reference was. Harry's observation just seemed obvious to me. Personally, I don't even see anything to explain. Billions of people are suffering, and at least billions are going to die, and most people are observably doing nothing about it. Harry seems to have good reason to think he's the only one that can do anything, if only because he's the only one (or one of just a few) who noticed and/or cares. Harry is right to take responsibility for the universe's troubles, as we all should. I think Harry was just using Azkaban as an example, and there will turn out to be more of a general solution to the world's problems unless Harry finds himself dealing directly with Azkaban.
6Blueberry11yI also wonder why Snape got offended. Harry's answers were extremely supportive of Snape's situation back then: which makes me think Snape wasn't really offended, just pretending to be. Maybe the whole point was just for Snape to tell Harry the unpleasant truth about his parents in an emotionally powerful way, as a way of getting back at Harry because of his parents.

Snape still loves Lily and was upset about hearing her insulted, was my interpretation.

5wedrifid11yWhat is most interesting to me is how Snape handles being offended. Snape has been portrayed in this FanFic as being extremely shrewd and self controlled. Harry even made observations along those lines himself, upgrading his respect for Snape considerably. Snape (quite rightly) downgraded his trust in Harry's cunning. I wonder if Harry downgrades his respect similarly. If Severus had the cunning of even the 11 year old Malfoy he would not 'never talk to Harry again". Any benefit that he could hope to extract from Harry is still there and Severus is enough of a political agent to work past some offence when given a few months to cool down.

It seems like the spells in the HP universe are complicated and abstract enough that they must have been designed (programmed?) by wizards long ago, who added them to the laws of the universe and left them there.

Now, if I were designing a spell like the Killing Curse, I would include a little easter egg/safety mechanism: after a thousand castings, it backfires. Choose a number large enough that only a major dark wizard like Voldemort will encounter it, so it doesn't hit some minor villain and spoil the surprise. (Alternatively, rather than counting kills, count evilness, with killing a baby counting for more evilness points than an adult. That would explain why it backfired on Harry Potter, rather than some other victim.)

This is the most sensible explanation I can come up with. Or it could be that it backfired because the third through fifteenth places of the decimal expansion of the local humidity were a prime number, or something similarly arbitrary. But I would be disappointed if it was something like that. (I would also be disappointed if his parents came up with a spell that reflected it, because everyone seems convinced that no such spell is possible.)

9CronoDAS11yYou'd think that, but in the series there are references to people inventing spells of their own. The series implies that the "science" behind spells does exist, but Rowling never explains any of it.
7Larks11y'Inventing' might mean 'discovering'.
5Eliezer Yudkowsky11yNot to mention, the ancient wizards made the levitation spell be called "Wingardium Leviosa"?
6blogospheroid11yI haven't thought about this idea completely, but a karma system can actually be maintained in a magical society. I mean actual karma, the way Hindus and Buddhists think about. What goes around, comes around. Violate it badly enough and the universe will make an exception just to get you out of the way. As another commentor put it, somebody would have tried to protect another while they were being avara-kedavra'ed, earlier than lily protecting Harry. But voldemort's karma credit really ran out. So, whoopsie, there goes the body. But of course, he had his horcruxes. But if making people realize that we have to wake up in this hostile universe is one of the goals of this fic, the above wouldn't be true in HP&MOR. Another speculation, maybe true prophecies only come when there are serious thresholds crossed.
3rastilin10yOr maybe it just doesn't work on children? No one knows because no one's ever tried it. If you could program a slaying weapon, what is the one group of people that no-one in their right mind could possibly ever want to kill? I'd say that group would be children too young to speak. Anyone going after them is certainly an absolute psycho.

If something totally crazy seemed like it was about to happen and the world was at stake, like a technological singularity was about to occur or something, and I was called to work for the team of great minds that were trying their hardest to stop the destruction of the entire universe, dropping out of high school in the process, and meeting a beautiful girl who had been living literally a few houses down from me for the last 4 years without my knowing about it, who just so happened to be doing an essay on transhumanism for her English class and would just love to interview someone who was doing work for the Singularity Institute.

Oh wait...

Seriously? Did you miss the part about "I think that the second degree of caution will suffice."?

When Harry did the experiment under the supervision of an experienced, adult wizard, he had all sorts of safety precautions in place, that he did not have when he tried it on his own.

Hermione was right, Harry could have gotten them killed by trying novel tricks without any sort of precautions. And having seen the standard precautions, Harry understood this, which is why:

"Um, Hermione?" Harry said in a very small voice. "I think I owe you a really, really, really big apology."

6lmnop11yMy problem wasn't that Hermione advocated more caution, but that she seemed to be doing so only because they were going "against the rules" (without really understanding why the rule existed). But I reread the scene with her confrontation of Harry just now and I think I didn't give her enough credit/ was confusing her with the canon version. Go Hermione ;)

It's not quite impossible. He could have roundly blamed everything on James, casting Lily as a pure, victimized, agency-less casualty of his manipulations. That seems to be what Snape does.

I just read Chapter 27. My thoughts:

"Mr. Bester" - great reference.

Harry is firmly on the 'get absolute power' path. Probably he still thinks he's being cute or knowing when he talks about becoming God. His resolution not to become the next Dark Lord doesn't look too healthy now, though.

Harry seems incapable of seeing the flaws in a moral system he apparently acquired by reading science fiction and fantasy, barring almost being Sectumsemprad by a very angry wizard. Why does he think that having read books with monomyth plots is sufficient reason to try to act like the heroes of such books - what is he, eleven years old? At the same time, he understands and can nervelessly put to use Quirrell's very subtle lesson in levels of deception. Very odd, that.

Is one of the reasons Quirrell set up those Occlumency lessons that Harry would discover for himself "how reproducible human thoughts were when you reset people back to the same initial conditions and exposed them to the same stimuli" - and thereby come to treat humans as simple machines that one can use like puppets? As a strategy to bring someone over to the Dark Side, that's brilliant.

Then we get to Harry being placed in the same conditions as Lily Potter, and reacting differently - more humanely. Because he reads science fiction! That's outrageous. Surely this kind of narrative based morality, where you imagine what the good protagonist would do and then do that, is going to be a piece of cake for Quirrell to subvert.

7gwern11yIndeterminate at this point. (By which I mean, even if Eliezer didn't intend Quirrel to have those reasons, he could easily make Quirrel have had those reasons.) The reasons given earlier are quite enough to justify the lessons: Quirrel doesn't want Harry to be easily scanned by either Snape or Dumbledore for obvious reasons, and once he threw his hat in the ring, a neutral third party was the only viable option - and such a neutral third party can only remain neutral by being Obliviated since anyone in the know about Voldemort is, eo ipso , a member of one faction or another.

Since around Chapter 20 this is actually my guess for the entire basis of magic that Eliezer is working from. That is... there's a jumble of ideas and tropes that are invented and sequentially stolen by one author after another. Someone tells stories of Vlad Tepis, Bram Stoker comes along... and N iterations later you've got Twilight with vampires having extra chromosomes and clairvoyance.

To understand a magical universe at the deepest level is to see the hands of previous authors influencing your physics and history (and possibly your future if you are in a prequel) plus a "current author" who has a measure of finer grained control over things like plotting and characterization - limited by the audience's willingness to play along.

If this theory of magic is right, rationality in a magical universe should lead you to to become genre-aware, and then the next obvious(?) thing is to go meta genre-aware and start trying to "genre hack" your universe and see if you can "tunnel" into the derivative works (or maybe just get the author to fall in love with you or something).

My current working theory is that Dumbledore as figured out a rough outline of these ... (read more)

9Eliezer Yudkowsky11yYes, well, you may have to write yourself the work you always wanted to read.
6JenniferRM11yCryptic, with a dash of sass :-) Is that a denial plus an exhortation to write it myself? Or is it a smug admission that you're writing what you wanted to read which is something in the ballpark of my guess? I'm also curious if you have plans to bootstrap out of our present situation? I've run some minor "metaphysical experiments" in the past to see if the world is as strictly "object level" as it seems to be, and I've recently tried a couple micro tests inspired by your HP story to see if "this world's story has started yet" with me as a character who can break the fourth wall and get feedback, and so far they've all come back with boring results.
9Blueberry11yYou'd probably enjoy "Sophie's World" and "Godel, Escher, Bach" if you haven't already read them. (One of the dialogues in GEB features pushing-potion and popping-tonic; pushing-potion moves you down a level into a work of fiction or art, and popping-tonic takes you back up a level.)
3Kevin11yI like your explanation, because it seems that the logical endpoint of your hypothesis would be my prediction [http://lesswrong.com/lw/20w/open_thread_april_2010/1uiq] that rationalist!Harry becomes Harry in the universe of the The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5389450/1/The_Finale_of_the_Ultimate_Meta_Mega_Crossover] . If you have not read The Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover, you probably should, because it is genre-aware of its genre awareness, maybe a few more levels of meta-ness, or that kind of infinitely recursive meta-ness of this kind of selfawareness taken to the insane logical conclusions. The spoilers for Permutation City are total -- Meta Mega Crossover contains an explanation of the ending of Permutation City. The Fire Upon the Deep spoilers aren't nearly as complete. A link to a link to download Permutation City: http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=13&t=15223&s= [http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=13&t=15223&s=].
2dstorrs10yhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Number_of_the_Beast_%28novel%29 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Number_of_the_Beast_%28novel%29] Heinlein's concept of "fictons" does exactly this.

I'm reading MOR with considerable interest and enjoyment-- and recommending it-- but.....

There's a big emotional difference between HP and MOR. In the original, Harry has no friends or allies at the Dursley's. In MOR, his family life isn't great and he doesn't seem to have any friends or anyone he's expecting to miss, but he isn't under constant attack.

Part of the emotional hook in HP is that Harry is almost immediately in a circle of friends and acquires a family in the Weasleys.

In MOR, his best emotional connection is to McGonagle, but it's complicated by his intellectual dominance. None of his close friends from HP are worth being close to (or did I miss someone?). His nearest approach to a friend his own age is Draco, and that's very much complicated by Draco having been raised to be a sociopath, and by Harry's need to manage Draco.

Part of the charm of HP was that Hermione's memory, intelligence, and conscientiousness are presented as more valuable than annoying, though the annoyance for the other characters is still there. This is a rationalist feature of HP which seems to be lost in MOR-- Hermione is interested in getting things right for the sake of status.

Her delight at ... (read more)

that's very much complicated by Draco having been raised to be a sociopath

I need to object pretty strongly to this particular phrase. Draco is not being raised to be a sociopath; he's being raised to be a high-status member of a hierarchical society. Draco and his father very much love each other, and are perfectly capable of making real emotional bonds with people that they have identified unequivocally as 'pack'. EY has actually done very well at showing Draco as what a perfectly normal child becomes in that environment.

This is an important distinction, because we need to remember that 'sociopathy' is a comparatively rare (and usually inborn) condition, while high-status machiavellian narcissism is a natural consequence of human evolutionary psychology.

5NihilCredo11yI think it's more a matter of approaching romance with the maturity and self-reflection abilities of an eleven-year-old.

I think that depends entirely on particulars that should probably not be discussed here-- suffice it to say that a male can be raped in multiple ways, just as a female can, and that rape involves emotional/mental pain as well as physical pain.

Ever since the start of this year she'd been having trouble listening in Potions.

This don't mix very well with your hypothesis.

3NancyLebovitz11yGood point.

Or likes hurting students' feelings more than he likes sex.

The hate that the Dark Lord Potter forum has on MoR is getting more than a bit amusing.

Also, perhaps it's me, but I see the story as a thinly veiled commercial for the author's blog/institute, which breaks the "doing this for pleasure and not profit" fanfiction model (as well as being a subtext that breaks the fourth wall for several readers). The author is almost certainly deriving commercial benefit from J. K. Rowling's intellectual property and his exploitation of the popularity of her fandom by routing eyeballs to his site and building his own personal fame as a voice in the field of AI. I wouldn't be surprised if his story has bumped traffic to his blog/website by an order of magnitude or two. In many regards, this practice is worse than a Cassandra Clare or Jim Bernheimer pitching their original fiction novels on their fanfiction sites, since neither author makes a living off their writing.

This story isn't parody in the traditional sense, so it's possible that a court would consider it as not falling within this protected class of derivative works. Indeed, if the legal hammer were to fall on this story, it could have fallout: consider that a single CAD letter, if

... (read more)

What happened to the Harry from Chapter 6?

"Um," Harry said, "can we go get the healer's kit now?"

McGonagall paused, and looked back at him steadily. "And if I say no, it's too expensive and you won't need it, what happens?"

Harry's face twisted in bitterness. "Exactly what you're thinking, Professor McGonagall. Exactly what you're thinking. I conclude you're another crazy adult I can't talk to, and I start planning how to get my hands on a healer's kit anyway."

A time turner is a superior to a healer's kit in very nearly every way and by a huge margin. Yet all Harry does when he loses free access to his time turner he sulks a little and that's all. He doesn't plan at all! I don't even recall one line of introspection on the subject! It takes very little ingenuity to to react:

"Harry, give me your time t..."

shit. shit. shit. Activate time turner. Escape. Then, he can spend five minutes and think up a dozen ways to retain time travel capability. Let me see...

  • Create a fake...
    • Lie to Hermione to get assistance?
    • Transfiguration not likely to work, given the teacher responsible.
  • assume that wizarding security is crap and guess (corre
... (read more)

First, Harry discovered a gag beverage that he thought could be a key to power, although he quickly realized the Comed-Tea wasn't as powerful as it seemed. A few days later he fell in love with a device that is sometimes given to students who want to take extra classes, although he has since discovered some limits to its powers. If he goes rogue over his Time-Turner's crippleware, then who knows how much other cool and useful magical stuff he will miss out on, and how much trouble he'll be in.

Plus, McGonagall had him cornered when she confronted him about returning the Time-Turner - whatever he tried to do, she'd see it. Also, McGonagall had earned some degree of trust & respect from Harry, she's correct about Harry repeatedly misusing the Time-Turner, and she'd already warned him that they'd take it away. So it's not unreasonable to go along with the punishment, and try to earn her trust back so that his Time-Turner can be restored later on.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky11y...don't take this the wrong way, but even Harry knows better than that. If you genuinely think this is a smart thing to do in real life, it makes me seriously worry about your safety and the safety of people around you.
4wedrifid11yThere is NO DOWN SIDE! It may be best to hand over the time turner but you do so after having a chance to think it through. Time turner. Plan. Decide that it is better to hand over the device for now. Write your analysis down. Give it to yourself at the appropriate time. (And give it to yourself again to make the loop stable.) I have offended you by questioning the rationality of your fictional persona. My own safety is not in any danger. Every other exceptional use that Harry put the device to is risky and I would not do any of them. But giving himself a chance to think through his options in a way that would not be detected by anyone else is the trivially correct strategic option. My own safety is secure in the short term, and medium term (human life span) but for the long term the threats to my life are human mortality and existential risk. And that's kind of what I've been counting on you to take care of (with any contribution that I could hope to make purely financial). That being the case, this conversation is quite literally scaring me. I'm not quite there yet, but the key quote from Snape is at least springing to my mind: "And I no longer trust your cunning." Examples of stupid things to do with a Time Turner: * Throw pies at people through misguided altruism. It would be better to let them break your finger. You're at Hogwarts... a 5th year Luna could fix it. * Have a dramatic stand off over a rememberall. If it is so important... use the time turner to find and or steal the thing beforehand and leave it somewhere Neville will find. I mean seriously... using a time turner in a way that is detectable is for emergencies! * Disappearing acts from a class room. Of all the things to do with a Time Turner in that situation making a bigger scene is not one of them. At the very least, if you must refuse to be bullied, write yourself a note telling yourself to not attend potions and make another arrangement. It would be much easier
6Sniffnoy11yYou seem to misunderstand how the time-turner works (or at least, how it's been suggested it works). You don't get to overwrite anything; the universe doesn't "end up in" a stable state that results from using it; there isn't any meta-time (or at least, we've seen nothing to suggest such). If he were going to use the time turner to give himself advice, he would have already gotten the advice. And having used the time-turner right there and visibly, he couldn't use it "later not use it there" and have his going back in time undetectable. A possible way he could use the time turner to help himself in this case would be to ask to go to the bathroom or somesuch, use the time turner, use the extra time to think, and then return to the room shortly after he left having thought about things. (Edit: But this would be pretty obvious, and McGonagall probably wouldn't let him leave the room with the time turner in any case.)

You seem to misunderstand how the time-turner works (or at least, how it's been suggested it works). You don't get to overwrite anything; the universe doesn't "end up in" a stable state that results from using it

My interpretation of the "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" incident was that you can try setting things up so that temporal consistency implies the result you want, but actually ruling out every other possibility whatever, including vast classes of outcomes you never even imagined, is next to impossible, at least for an 11-year-old boy, however smart. It hadn't even occurred to him that there was a problem in his reasoning when he tried the experiment that gave him "the scariest result ever in the history of science". Temporal consistency in the presence of time loops is another blind idiot god, far more swift and powerful than evolution.

Anyway, he still has the Time-Turner. All that stands between him and it is a magical lock. How difficult can that be for him to get around? No, actually what stands between him and it is the author's necessity not to unbalance the plot by giving him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

6Vladimir_Nesov11yHarry's error in the experiment was responding to "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" with the same. If he didn't have the property of responding to that message with the same, that message wouldn't appear. Actually, this whole consistency-based time travel seems to be an extremely expressive thought experiment infrastructure for thinking about Newcomb-like problems and decision theories able to deal with them. Maybe I should do a top-level post on that (I don't have a sufficiently clear picture of the setting, so I might be wrong about its potential)... Though I consider that happening unlikely, so other people who understand UDT [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2di/poll_what_value_extra_copies/26vb] are welcome to try.
3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yTime travel in this universe has a consistent single line; once McGonagall sees Harry disappear, he can't undo it.

once McGonagall sees Harry disappear, he can't undo it.

Sounds like UDT might be applicable here. Here's a time-traveling version of Counterfactual Mugging:

Harry appears to McGonagall and tells her, "If you give me 1 Galleon now, I'll go back in time and hand you 100 Galleons an hour ago." Suppose McGonagall does not recall being handed 100 Galleons an hour ago. What should she do?

Here's my analysis. Suppose McGonagall decides not to give Harry 1 Galleon, then there are two possible consistent timelines for this universe. One where McGonagall gets 100 Galleons, and one where she doesn't. How does the universe "choose" which one becomes reality? I don't know but let's say that the two possibilities have equal chance of being true, or get equal amount of "reality juice".

Given the above it seems clear that McGonagall would prefer to have pre-committed to "give 1 Galleon even if not handed 100 Galleons an hour ago" since that would make the "not get 100 Galleons" timeline inconsistent. I think that's also UDT's output (although I haven't written down the math to make sure).

ETA: I didn't follow the previous discussion closely, so this might not apply at all to it. Hopefully, in that case the above is of interest in its own right. :)

6topynate11ySeems straightforward to me. McGonagall knows that she does not recall being handed 100 Galleons an hour ago, so the three states of the world with high probability are: 1) She is not in a universe where she will hand Harry 1 Galleon, 2) She is in a universe where she hands Harry 1 Galleon and Harry breaks the agreement, or 3) She is in a universe where she hands Harry 1 Galleon and Harry keeps the agreement in a way that leaves her unable to recall this happening. By not handing Harry a Galleon, she will ensure that she is in universe 1. By handing Harry a Galleon, she will find herself in universe 2 or 3. She should therefore give Harry a Galleon if she judges it less than 99 times more likely that Harry will break the agreement than fulfil it in a way consistent with her experience. As Harry has access to a time machine, he doesn't need to decide to give her 100 Galleons before he gets the 1 Galleon, so the situation is quite different to one based on predicting her actions, as Omega does in the Counterfactual Mugging. Rather it has most of the properties of the forward-time version of the gambit: "If you give me 1 Galleon now, I'll hand you 100 Galleons in one hour", except that McGonagall has a big piece of evidence that the promise will be broken, namely that she doesn't remember it being kept.
4Vladimir_Nesov11yOnly because you termed that event "real", but the characters can't know that it is.
3Alicorn11yMcGonagall went a fair way towards earning Harry's respect, with her behavior about the med kit among other things; he is inclined to tolerate (with however much whining) her authority, particularly on school grounds.
6wedrifid11yRespect is all well and good... sure, maybe he will do some detention some time. But this is a matter of survival and something that can help him in a broad manner to achieve just about all his goals. This is compared to Snape who.... said some things that might hurt Harry's feelings. Harry isn't acting like a rationalist. He's acting like a nerdy ape.
5CronoDAS11yHe's eleven years old.
5wedrifid11yHe is a week older than he was a week ago. So again I wonder what happened to the Harry from chapter 6?

David Brin is apparently now a fan of MoR.

I can also report that I have at least two friends who started reading the sequences after encountering HPMR.

If 'free will' is compatible with physical determinism (including the quantum variety) then why can it not be similarly compatible with living in a world based on some guy's thoughts? The same principles seem to apply.

9gwern11yI think the problem is a lack of detail. Harry isn't being simulated down to the neuronal level, or even down to the brain region. 'He' is a loose set of rules and free-floating ideas that please Eliezer or survived his theories, a very small entity indeed. And the rest of his world is even more impoverished - the rest of the world may just be a few words like 'the rest of the world'. Harry can't even execute bounded loops unless Eliezer feels like formulating them and actually executing them. If Harry discovered he were in fiction, his motivation to help the rest of the world would instantly vanish. In fact, the most moral thing he could do is to hide in his trunk forever - if a rape only happens when you go to rescue the rapee and the narration follows you, if the murders only happen because you went looking for murders, then out of sight, out of mind, out of reality. In a 'real' simulation, this would not be the case, even if the author would never permit a character to test this. (He might still want to escape into our world if the author desires him to desire this, but help his world? His world can no more be helped than J.K Rowling can help Zanzibar in canon HP. There is no there there.)
9NancyLebovitz11yI think fictional characters can be more than that. I don't know how Eliezar experiences Harry, but some authors talk about their characters talking back to them, or resisting some plot twists. This suggests to me that some characters are similar to full human self-images, though with less memories.
7cousin_it11yHaha, so Harry can "truly escape" by means of Eliezer going mad and imagining himself to be the escaped Harry. Or maybe they could time-share.
7Baughn11yI believe I'm speaking for all of us in stating that I hope he isn't aiming for that end. ;)

He can't have inner dialogue during that section, it's in Minerva's point of view!

5wedrifid11yThat's a good reason. So are you saying that Harry actually did do a thorough analysis of his optimal strategy for securing the benefits of time travel for "actually 5 minutes" at some stage but we just don't hear about it? This would make the situation credible.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky11yNo, Harry's experimental result scared the hell out of him and he decided not to do any more clever experiments until he was fifteen. This is actually more rational than what you are advocating.
5wedrifid11yAre you sure you understand what I'm advocating? Your claim here suggests to me that you do not. The most probable outcome of the thought process I outlined, and I say most probable because this is what my reasoning concluded but Harry is smarter than me, is that he will go and earn enough enough money to buy a time turner just in case. I aren't advocating the use of the time turner to make reckless experiments or any of the non-authorized uses that Harry had previously used the device for. I actually made it quite clear [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2ab/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/27u3] what I thought of clever experimentation when explaining the note I would send myself. "Arrogant git" was the key phrase if I recall. What kind of usage is sane? Emergency usage. For example, I would advocate the use of a time turner when locked in a room being tortured and at a high risk of suicide if I do not prevent it. (I liked the touch with the destroying all sharp objects too.) I would also advocate the use for saving lives (including his own depending on circumstances) with minimalist interventions, many of which would be not at all experimental given what he has already safely gotten away with. It would also be extremely valuable in the reduction of risk to have an extra 36 hours available for emergency use. Many threats to Harry's world optimisation plans will come with some warning. Impending attack of some sort, etc. Having a turner on hand means that he would be able to take more time to make preparations or give th device to McGonnagal in the emergency situation and allow her to prepare. As far as either myself or Harry know she isn't wise enough to have one on hand herself. A time turner is a device that is massively useful and it is massively useful even if you use it conservatively and take no risks with it. Having one on hand does not make bad things happen unless you know you will be unable to control your foolish impulses. This is not Harry's reas

I just finished reading the Russian novel "Lena Squatter and the Paragon of Vengeance" by SF author Leonid Kaganov. It's not exactly a Harry Potter fanfic, but it's very similar to MOR in that it tries to present an explicitly rationalist hero, and IMO Kaganov has handled the task better than Eliezer.

The protagonist is an unattractive and immoral woman whose only strength is extra rationality, which she applies to the sordid and corrupt world of Moscow corporate politics. Using the familiar LW intellectual ammunition - from Pascal's Wager to evolutionary psychology - she gets people fired for talking back to her, gives and takes bribes, blatantly manipulates men (driving one to attempted suicide), and then in the end when she's found the perfect boyfriend her plans neatly backfire, forcing her to kill him and then herself. Lena's exploits are shown with a lot of detail and believability, and overall the book has punched me harder than anything Eliezer wrote. Unfortunately it's unlikely that it will ever be translated into English.

5radical_negative_one11yGiven that one of the catchphrases around here is "rationalists should win", i'm curious why the main character of this story loses in the end. Why would her plans "neatly backfire" in the end, or is it enough for us to admire her rationality that she almost achieved her goals, despite her lack of obvious assets?
5cousin_it11yShe makes a poorly considered wish to an unfriendly genie AI. As a result, she has to kill herself and her boyfriend to save the world. No kidding.

Reply to this comment if you found LW through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality!

A survey for anyone who cares to respond (edit: specifically for people who did find LW through HPMoR):

  1. Had you already registered an account before seeing this? (Edit: That is, had you already registered an account for a reason other than to reply to this comment?) If not, had you been planning or expecting to?
  2. Have you been reading through the sequences, or just generally looking around and lurking?
  3. What new rationality skills that you learned from HPMoR or LW have you found most useful? Most interesting? Most change-the-way-you-look-at-everything-ly?
  4. Have you referred anyone else to HPMoR? Have you referred anyone else to LW?
9Elizabeth11y1. Yes, I had registered an account, and had managed ten whole karma points as of this post, of which I am rather proud. 2. I have been reading through the sequences. 3. I've found a lot of the biases fascinating, particularly when it comes to testing a hypothesis, and I just finished a sequence on words and definitions, which I quite enjoyed. 4. I've attempted to refer a couple people, but found that my brother had already found Less Wrong independently (and hadn't told me about it!).
4alethiophile11yI knew of LW's existence before HPMoR, through the same source that referred me to HPMoR (ESR). 1. I registered mostly to comment on this post. 2. I've been reading the Sequences. 3. More stuff about Bayes' Theorem (my extent of knowledge before I read the Intuitive Explanation was the idea that there will be many false positives on searching for rare events). 4. No.
4fraa11y1. Yes, I made an account shortly after I read HPatMoR. 2. I've been taking peeks here and there. I mean I was aware of Less Wrong existing before. I've read stuff by Eliezer before, specifically the first contact story, and I found it fun if extremely formulaic and didactic. It was a pleasant surprise for me, that I could find something so stilted so fun. 3. I haven't noticed anything I haven't heard of before. 4. I've referred people to HPatMoR but not LW.
4JoshuaZ11yI don't exactly fit your set since I had seen LW before, but there's some good reason that I should be included in your sample. Explanation follows: I had read most of the sequences before (and frankly didn't learn that much from them. A handful of cogsci and psych classes along with a fair bit of phil sci gives one a lot of the same material) and had previously read some of Eliezer's fiction. I hadn't really taken that detailed a look at LW as a whole, until HPMR. That was partially due to a conversation with a friend that went something like Friend: So who is the author of this stuff? JZ: He's Eliezer Yudkowsky who is an all around very bright guy. He has some a bit off ideas about the Singularity. Friend: What evidence do you have of that he's bright and not just a good fiction writer? The one thing you've mentioned is something you disagree with. JZ: Um, let me get back to you. Then when reading I felt a need to register an account to make a comment, and then it has been downhill from there (I just linked an LW post to a friend who said that she refused to read it because "I'm not sure I'm willing to let myself -oh god oh god- be sucked into Less Wrong. I have heard it wastes time like tvtropes on crack." I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing). I've linked HPMR to a fair number of people, and it seems to be having some impact on some of them. Indeed, it seems that it is quite effective at getting through defense mechanisms that some people have against being more rational, because the arguments aren't being coached in an obvious way of trying to just present what is wrong with their thinking processes. I'm running into concerns about whether linking HPMR to people without telling them about that is ethical or not.

That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

(On the other hand, Michael Vassar often claims that this quote is as disingenuous as a strong man saying "That which can be destroyed by lions should be.")

7Blueberry11yI'm not sure I understand. Lions can destroy any human, no matter how strong, right? Is the implication that truth is a weapon? Or that the only people who support truth are the ones who think they're right? But people frequently think they're right when they're not.
3MadBoat10y1: No. Most of my time I was lurking. Lot of stuff on LW. 2: Following links, like I was on TVtropes 3: Nothing yet. Eliezer has a distinct way of expressing himself, which is why I enjoy HPMoR, but most of the ideas he is expressing I have heard before. 4: Yes to HPMoR, no to LW.
3BohemianCoast11yYou're not very rational for a bunch of extreme rationalists, are you? It's only possible to answer this survey if you register for the site, so excluding nearly all possible commenters (there is science on this) and presumably an even greater proportion of those who are uninterested in the ideas in LW. So that's a Big Old Fail. So, here goes: 1. No, I have registered purely for the purpose of replying to this comment. 2. I started to read through the Sequences, but they rapidly set off my nutcase detectors. So you might want to do something about that. But I was interested in who had written the fan fiction; and quickly found this thread. 3. I have learnt that there is a community of extreme rationalists who believe that humanity will soon use science to cheat death. Actually, I already knew that. But I have found one of their websites. I was already familiar with most of the philosophical tropes explored in HPMoR; I don't think it would be anything like such a good story otherwise, and I think most of the readership will be people who are already relatively rational. So in terms of 'raising the sanity waterline', an endeavour which seems to be entirely worthwhile, I am not sure it will do that. 4. I have and will referred people to HPMoR. I have not referred anyone to LW.
9Jack11yYou really think we've never talked about selection bias here? It is constantly a concern every time we do a survey. This is why ata's questions were directed at those who had registered and not at the entire group that read the fanfiction. If you know of some way we could poll everyone who read the fanfiction without response bias by all means tell us. Something about us rubbed you the wrong way. Which is fine, things about us rub me the wrong way. But I'd much rather you articulate what that was than go searching for random things to criticize us about just because you want us to be irrational. What specifically?
3CronoDAS11yPlease Elaborate.

Are you asking because you don't know, or because you want to know which ones BohemianCoast noticed?

Most of the world is wrong. Formal education is overrated. The world as we know it is may cease within a century. Lots Of Math. Simultaneously mentioning the word quantum and talking about psychology. For that matter, mentioning the word quantum.

Those are just the ones off the top of my head, and I'm not BohemianCoast. But a lot of stuff written here (and in the "Sequences") is true despite setting off nutcase detectors, not without setting them off.

9Risto_Saarelma11yThere Isn't That Much Math, Really. And none of the cargo-cultish use of mathy writing as impressive-looking gibberish that tends to mark nutcase stuff. Agree with the rest though. Oh, and also: The scientific method is poor and needs to be improved. A central notion on physics held by most practicing physicists is fundamentally misguided.
5Perplexed11yI've seen plenty of nutcase-stuff in which the math wasn't gibberish - it was correct as math but was simply window-dressing for the nutcase argument. Sometimes, it seems that EY is just using it as garnish for his arguments as well. So, I think that there is a kernel of truth in what GuySrinivasan said about the mathiness of the site. It fits the pattern. Which is not to say that EY is a nutcase. Those nutcase detectors may be returning false positives. But that doesn't mean that the nutcase detectors are defective.
2TheOtherDave10y1. Yes. I went from LW to the OB archives, I created an account to comment on an old post there. 2. I've been ignoring the Sequences as such, but have been working my way through the OB archives chronologically, which I gather covers the same material. 3. Hard to answer that question. The cognitive bias stuff is fairly old hat. The timeless-physics stuff is new to me, but isn't really a skill. I'm currently working my way through the metaethics stuff, which I'm not finding particularly convincing but haven't finished thinking about. 4. One friend, to both HPMoR and the OB archives. Not so much LW per se, which (sorry) seems to have a higher noise:signal ratio than the old stuff. I've been paying a little bit of attention to recent posts, but not a lot; mostly I've been "time-travelling" through the archives. I've been responding to posts here and there when I have something to say I don't see in the comments. I do this even though I don't expect anyone is reading old comments (though sometimes they get upvoted or responded to, so it's not a complete vacuum), mostly because I often don't really know what I think about something until I've tried to formulate a response to it.

I think that, in the first few chapters, Harry did not give enough credence to the hypothesis that he was simply insane and hallucinating. I think, given the observations he had at the time (his mom claimed her sister was a witch; he got a letter implying the same; a woman levitated his dad and turned into a cat), he should have at least seriously considered it. Certainly those pieces of information are some evidence for magic, but considering what that hypothesis entails — existing scientific knowledge about physics (even at the level of abstraction that we experience directly) is so completely wrong that it's actually possible to make the universe understand human words or intentions, or there's this incredibly advanced technology that looks like it's violating the laws of physics, and it's existed for thousands of years and apparently everyone has forgotten how it works — I think an honest rationalist would have to look into the "I'm cuckoo" hypothesis.

I'm not sure what one is supposed to do upon concluding that one is quite that cuckoo. Upon getting that far gone, what can you do? Can you even assume that your actions and words will leave your brain and impact reality in roughly the way you intend? If you are that crazy, and you try to walk across the room, will you get there? Are you in a room? Do you have legs? It might be that being as insane as all that is so game over that, whatever one's epistemic position is, one has to operate as though the observations were correct.

It would be a good idea to consider the hypothesis that one is crazy in a conventional way, such as schizophrenia. One can try to test that hypothesis. But the "anything goes"-crazy hypothesis isn't really useful.

5RobinZ11yOh, you're right - and what's more, it doesn't take much to make the "anything goes"-crazy hypothesis more ridiculous than magic. We know that human brains have limited processing power and storage capacity, so if you can produce sensations which the brain should be unable to fake, you can reduce the probability mass of the hypothesis significantly.
4DSimon11yHow can you use your brain to test if a sensation your brain is experiencing cannot be faked by your brain?
6RobinZ11yHow long would it take you to factor the number 495 967 020 337 by hand? And how long would it take you to multiply two numbers, both less than 1 300 000 [http://oeis.org/classic/a000040.txt], together? Some operations are much easier to verify than to execute.
4DSimon11yI wrote out a long response involving an analogy to a CPU self-test program, but at the end I realised that I had arrived at the same conclusion you stated. :-) So I'm voting you up and wish to extend you an Internet high-five. However, on this topic, it seems like there's no good approach for handling the scenario where your brain messes with your internal tests in such a way as to point them invariably at a false positive, i.e. anosognosia [http://lesswrong.com/lw/20/the_apologist_and_the_revolutionary/]. I agree that a good self-test of the sort you describe would reduce the probability for most kinds of anything-goes insanity, but what sort of test could be used to check against the not-insignificant subset of insanity that specifically acts against self-tests and forces them to return false positive at the highest level?
4ata11yTrue. Even if upon witnessing such absurdities he had immediately assumed he was seeing things and demanded to be checked into a mental hospital, he couldn't even be sure that there was really anyone around him to hear, or that he was really saying what he thought he was saying, etc. But then, if he's that far removed from reality, whatever he's really doing must appear crazy enough to draw the attention of those around him. Maybe he's already in a mental institution... which he imagines to be a school of wizardry! From the inside, he already sort of feels (and acts) as though he's the only sane person in a madhouse... while in reality, he's just another patient.
6simplicio11yI think David Hume said something more or less like this when discussing the likelihood of miracles; that if you witnessed a miracle, you ought to conclude you were insane. I am not sure I buy into this. For one thing, I see a problem with falsifiability. If there is nothing that I could see to convince me that magic might work, I am not objecting to the reality of magic on rational grounds, but as a sort of knee-jerk. It's like the doubleplus loony creationist types who think the devil planted archaeopteryx. There are reasons I think magic in the Harry Potter sense is not true, reasons that could be argued against (e.g., show me a plausible medium for magic to be carried in). I don't think it would be very rational to make it sort of... axiomatic that magic is false. That seems to in fact be the attitude Eliezer is criticizing in the character of Harry's father. So yeah, some probability mass goes to the "hallucination/insane" hypothesis, but not very much. Most goes to the "I don't know what's going on here at all, but she did just apparently turn into a cat" hypothesis.
5gwern8yIf he was having completely full-blown auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations (note that this is fairly unusual, for example schizophrenia apparently usually only manifests hallucinations in one modality), then what exactly could he do about it or even how would he test it?
4ata11yAddenda: 1. From the reader's perspective, it doesn't appear that that's what we are supposed to believe (though I'm still wondering...), so I'm tentatively guessing that the mechanism of magic is some kind of technology, and that the in-story universe has the same laws as this one. It does seem implausible that an ancient civilization could have invented technology advanced enough to be indistinguishable from this kind of magic, but that could be different in an alternate history, and it still seems less implausible than any set of physical laws that would actually make this kind of magic a normal, natural thing that a non-industrial civilization could invent/discover. 2. We are supposed to be wondering why magic works at all, right? It doesn't seem like Eliezer to expect us to be satisfied with an Inherently Mysterious phenomenon at the center of the story, even if it's a story based on someone else's fictional world that already had that feature... but I don't know, maybe it's a demonstration that, no matter how ridiculous the rules are, rationality will still allow you to win. But I'm still hoping that magic will be explained at some point, and I'm still looking for clues about it.
3simplicio11yI think magic will be explained as an addition onto physics: a new "force" is involved, but still behaves in an intelligible way. I can't imagine how the MoR series would explain the magic exhibited thus far as coming from current physical understanding. Unless the magicians control quantum wavefunctions directly, or something like that. Or Harry is a brain in a vat.

Or if Harry figures out that he's in a story.

4gjm11yI think something like "brain in a vat" is the best inference from observing magic. [EDITED to add: of course I mean after getting very good evidence against deception, insanity, etc.] More precisely: if you find evidence that something deeply embedded in the universe is best understood at something like the level of human concepts -- it matters what words you say, whether you really hate someone else as you say them, etc. -- then you should assign more probability to the hypothesis that the-universe-as-it-now-is was made, or at least heavily influenced, by someone or something with a mind (or minds) somewhat like ours. That could be a god, a graduate student in another universe with a big computer, superintelligent aliens or AIs who've messed with the fabric of reality in our part of the world, or any number of other things. In a manner of speaking this is obviously correct for the Potterverse (either Rowling's or Yudkowsky's): in that universe, magic works; and indeed that universe was designed by an intelligent being or beings, namely Rowling or Rowling+Yudkowsky. It probably doesn't work "internally" for the original Potterverse -- I've no idea whether Rowling has any particular position on whether within the stories the world should be thought of as created by intelligent beings -- but I'm guessing that it does for Eliezer's.
2Qiaochu_Yuan8yI agree. This is why I think the Hogwarts letter is charmed to make itself sound more plausible than it should be (which would be a sensible way to ease the transition for muggleborns). Harry explicitly wonders where his own certainty that magic is real comes from and doesn't get an answer via introspection. That sounds like the effect of a weak charm to me.

Several speculations/thoughts/questions:

First, did baby!Harry actually in fact survive the killing curse? ie, perhaps the curse successfully detached baby-Harry's-soul (presuming that something like "souls" exist in MoR... given the presence of Horcruxes, I'll tentatively assume yes), but the body was immediately made into a Horcrux... so Voldemort-soul-shard effectively inhabited that body. Essentially Rationalist!Harry is actually more like what Voldemort would have been like if raised in a loving and sci-fi and science loving family.

The Hat did say that if there was bits of the Dark Lord's mind there in addition to Harry, it would have noticed the extra "passenger"... But in this case there really is only one mind/soul/whatever. The catch is that mini-mort is all that's there.

This brings up the possibility of if this was an accident or deliberate. Perhaps Voldemort actually deliberately planned/faked his apparent "death"?

(Possible related, well, possibility: How do "we"/they actually know Voldemort even used the Killing Curse that night, as opposed to doing some other thing? ie, how is it known that he is the Boy Who Survived the Killing C... (read more)

4Unnamed11yThis is awesome. Probably not where the story's actually headed, but it would create a cool Vader-Skywalker kind of relationship and explain what Voldemort is trying to accomplish with Harry. If he wants his Harry-shard to finish the job of becoming Dark Lord, then it makes sense to come to Hogwarts to be Harry's mentor (and to be disgusted by Harry's ambition to be a scientist).
3CronoDAS11yIn canon, before he became Lord Voldemort, Tom Riddle demanded that Dumbledore give him the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, and the "jinx" on the position came about when Dumbledore refused. So teaching at Hogwarts is, indeed, something Voldemort has always wanted to do.
4PeterS11yThat's a good point... though if I recall, he is just known as The-Boy-Who-Lived. In canon, it's not revealed until book 4 that he is the only one to have ever survived the killing curse, in particular, and it's Znq-Rlr Zbbql who says this (though, in truth, it was Onegl Pebhpu We.). Onegl Pebhpu is a highly loyal Death Eater who had been in contact with Lord Voldemort, so maybe the dark lord just told him? Though it's probably more likely that everyone just assumed Voldemort had used his favorite curse. What bugs me is how they know that Harry is the first and only person to have ever survived that curse. I mean surely, sometime in the entire history of wizards and witches, somebody has sacrificed themself for a loved one who was then Abracadabra'd (i.e. did just what Lily did). /shrug edit: Redacted a name.
6taw11yWizards are far less numerous than Muggles - in world like that it's easy to be the first at something.
4Psy-Kosh11yOh yeah, forgot that it's not revealed until then. But given that he has the title of "The Boy Who Lived", that suggests that it's known or widely believed in the wizarding world. ie, It's not "They Boy Who Lived Through a Mild Flu", right?

Was there supposed to be something after that quote, or did you cast a non-verbal Protego and deflect one of my points back at my own argument? (If that's the case, I don't quite see the significance of that line. Is it that we're supposed to have the same attitude toward Draco?)

5WrongBot11yI suspect that Eliezer may be taking that statement as a challenge.

Do Singularitarians like a different type of porn than non-Singularitarians? I guess transhumanists might be more likely to like animated or photomodified porn...

I'd love to see some Singularity porn. The Prime Intellect stories might be included in this genre, thought they're a lot more than just erotica.

5PeerInfinity11yok, I just have to reply to this comment... I am a Singularitarian, and yes, I think I do like different porn than non-Singularitarians. Porn of stuff that won't be possible until after the Singularity. Porn of nonhuman beings: furries, aliens, fantasy creatures, robots... and beings of nonstandard gender. Not just remixes of the standard male and female genders, but entirely new genders too. And yes, I also like tentacle monsters :) And that's just the sorts of images I like. There's also the role playing I do in Second Life. I do stuff that's only possible in a virtual reality. Morphing my body into whatever form I happen to find convenient, creating and manipulating virtual objects in ways I find useful, and of course defying the conventions of our universe's physics. And sometimes even directly manipulating my mental state, or doing stuff like telepathically sending out waves of pleasure and happiness. And then there's books... My favourite transhuman sex scenes are from Greg Egan's novels. He did a good job of thinking of some genuinely original ways for transhumans to have sex. Most notably in Shild's Ladder, with the aliens whose genitals form new and interesting shapes by exchanging pheremones with their partner. And also Oceanic, which featured the "bridge", which allowed the inhabitants of the planet to swap genders with their partner after they have sex. And then there's the 7-gendered society in the novel Distress. And one brief scene of virtual reality sex in Permutation City, and also a couple of his other short stories... hehe, sex positions that are only possible in 4 spatial dimensions :) I didn't like Prime Intellect though, it involved way too much pain. Actually, when I read those scenes, I imagined what they would be like if the people modified their minds to experience pain as a new form of pleasure. That... was interesting :) Sorry if this is totally off-topic for LW, I just couldn't resist replying to that comment :)

I'm guessing that Blaise will shoot himself in the name of Sunshine, tying all the scores. That seems like the kind of thing Dumbledore would plot. It makes the most sense from Eliezer's point of view too, in terms of leading the story in a more interesting direction.

7JenniferRM11yAnd I think that would make Blaise the quadruple agent, with Dumbledore as the fourth faction, and Quirrell aware of the entire thing, masterminding his own little stanford prison experiment [http://www.prisonexp.org/] in order to achieve whatever ends he's ultimately aiming for. It was interesting to see how deeply Harry got into his "General Chaos" role in this light. (Also, I think Ch. 32 was the first time I've laughed out loud over the story in a while. It was getting pretty serious and this was way more fun. The "vader/emperor voices"... I was busting up! I think this kind of hilarity at the beginning is part of why the story took off the way it did.) Plotwise, I've been wondering lately if Eliezer might be laying the groundwork for Voldemort to turn out to actually be the good guy and maybe Harry's true challenge as a protagonist will be to recognize that rationalist!Voldemort will actually turn out to be good for the world, and deserves to be supported. I could image the army lessons turning out to have a positive global outcome if they ended in the right way, which would add a bit of support to this theory.
6gwern11yThis is how one of Eliezer's early stories turned out: "The Sword of Good" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/169/the_sword_of_good/]. (There are some traces of that story in MoR - Harry early on not engaging in moral relativism is similar to the hero's final understanding of the evil of the status quo of the fantasy world. But ultimately I think Quirrelmort will be evil. Voldemort killing the entire dojo and sparing only his friend is a mortal sin and Quirrel does not exhibit the kind of heroic remorse necessary to make up for mass & serial murder. Which reminds me, we don't know who Voldemort killed to get the Horcrux on Pioneer. A security guard, probably.)

Chapter 30-31: Was there a more sophisticated basic idea than appearing to be incompetent, then playing possum? I'd have expected one of the other two armies to expend a second (double tap) sleep spell on the downed, given that Neville came up with the same tactic later on.

Also, nice touch writing Neville as Bean without using a sledgehammer on the parallel.

ETA: It took me a bit to understand Draco's particular revelation: that Quirrell made sure to place all the other smartest students (and the other candidate generals mentioned in Ch. 29) on Sunshine.

Well, Hermione wasn't just appearing to be incompetent in the sense of "too stupid to calculate the correct solution;" she was appearing to be irrational in the sense of "too self-righteous to want to calculate the correct solution."

Also, note that Hermione actually did stay true to her goals: her possum tactic allowed her to avoid "unfairly" choosing who to attack first. By waiting until most other players had been sleepified, she was able to attack only the strongest or luckiest survivors, rather than the soldiers controlled by someone that she personally disliked. She was able to both win the game and stay true to her values because she (somehow) was much better at working in groups than Draco or Harry. One wonders how a girl who had no social skills in Chapter 3 suddenly became so socially adept -- has she been reading books on how to get along with people?

7sketerpot11yIt's more that both Harry and Draco were mentally handicapped here. Draco has the glamorous dream of being the dark overlord who controls everything from the top, his orders unquestioned and his name spoken in hushed tones. Harry has the habit of trying to think up an ingenious plan by himself, and it just didn't occur to him to get other people in his army to do strategy planning. Tactics, sure, but not strategy. Hermione, in contrast, is perfectly used to learning from others, and doesn't have particularly grandiose ambitions. And maybe Quirrell casually hinted that some of the people in her army were good at planning things. It seems the sort of thing he'd do, to make his plan less brittle.
5gwern11yAs I argue in the reviews for chapter 31 [http://www.fanfiction.net/r/5782108/31/1/], Hermione herself was surely not playing possum, and likely neither were her 6 soldiers. That was not their idea. (Whether Nevile is smart enough to tell Harry, or whether one of the other armies will think of it in time for battle 2, is a question for the future.)

There were 24 people per army, and 11 of Sunshine came at Harry and 12 at Draco. And Harry & Draco had their realization of what happened when they remembered that Sunshine's soldiers went down immediately at the first shot. They were playing possum (all but Hermione, who didn't want to risk it).

The 6 soldiers left is after the battle of Sunshine's return, after they've already taken Potter hostage.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yI increased the number of soldiers Hermione had left to help make this clearer.
7gwern11yBy the way, everyone, an anon on Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eliezer_Yudkowsky&action=historysubmit&diff=373199598&oldid=373181760] is disputing mention of MoR in the Eliezer Yudkowsky article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliezer_Yudkowsky], so if you see any further reviews/discussions/mentions/links of MoR by prominent people* besides ESR & Brin, please be sure to mention them here (and maybe message me about it). You may not like Wikipedia, but people go to it for information - EY's article gets a solid 1000 hits [http://stats.grok.se/en/201006/Eliezer_Yudkowsky] per month. * where I define prominent as 'has a Wikipedia article'

Good heavens, Mr. Wedrifid, you can't change time! Do you think students would be allowed Time-Turners if that was possible? What if someone tried to change their test scores?

7wedrifid11yGood heavens Mr. Yudkowsky, I thought the inventor of Timeless Decision Theory would have a better grasp on how being the kind of person who would make a certain decision can determine what happens, even when that decision never needs to get made, whether that be with Omega and his boxes or in the stable resolution of time loops. In all the previous time related events, things worked out how they did because the situation in which Harry did not use the time turner was not stable. If Harry was different (for example, by being Hermione or by not having a Time Turner) then the stable, 'final version' given by the universe-time-loop-processor would be the simple one where he doesn't go mess with stuff. But it wasn't. But lets say that for some bizarre reason Harry never found a note warning him about a stumbling risk and he didn't think to send one back later. At the very least we should find out a few seconds later that the friend fell off the building and landed on a great big padded mat.

Good heavens Mr. Yudkowsky, I thought the inventor of Timeless Decision Theory would have a better grasp on how being the kind of person who would make a certain decision can determine what happens

I do indeed.

I've written unpublished fiction about it.

From before TDT was invented, actually.

Harry has not worked all that stuff out yet.

He did work out one important principle so far.


And considering that he got that result, you seem to have missed some of the implications for how time travel works in that universe which would make it potentially dangerous to try and blackmail reality.

Time travel was the first optimization process I considered which was truly alien enough to deanthropomorphize my thinking; evolutionary biology didn't do the job, but the unpublished story I was writing about time travel did.

What you're suggesting is a bit more potentially incredibly dangerous than you seem to think.

5Vladimir_Nesov11yExactly. To make certain situations impossible, you have to be the sort of person that makes the correct actions in the impossible situations, the actions making those situations impossible. (This is also at the core of bargaining.) You are not to take the money from two boxes in the Open Box Newcomb's problem, even if you clearly see that money is there in both of them (and if you have that property, then the situation will never arise).

The events in a story fit into a narrative. If I were in a story, I might be able to make especially accurate predictions by privileging hypotheses that make narrative sense. Dumbledore did this on an intuitive level, and it is the reason for his success.

Read up to Chapter 21, commenting on chapter 2. Prediction about the physics of HP:MR.

Harry is mistaken about McGonagall's transformation into a cat breaking conservation of energy; indeed, it seems to me that he is not really putting a lot of effort into finding an alternative explanation, but jumping straight to "Everything I thought I knew was wrong". (Perhaps Lord Kelvin's not the only one who gets a charge out of not knowing something; after all Harry has been wanting to do Something Big, and the more laws of physics are broken, the better!... (read more)

6cwillu11yI think the "it's bigger on the inside" phenomenon is a better foundation to build such a spell on.
4RolfAndreassen11yAh yes! You can store the whole human body in a cavity of the cat's body, and vice-versa; lightspeed is no issue - indeed you could run the whole thing at ordinary neural speed. This might even solve the problem of how to order a cat's body around; the Animagus in effect has a cat as an ordinary part of her body, and has learned to operate it the same way she learned to operate her human body. One problem is the carrying-over of wounds from the animal to the human body, and vice-versa; this does not seem implied by the model, and requires additional explanation. Psycho-somatic damage? Since there a requirement for conscious control of which shape one is in, the opportunities for unconscious failure seem strong.
5RolfAndreassen11yIn fact, come to think of it, wasn't there an experiment recently with remote-controlled rats, using plain Muggle science and electrodes in their brains? Extrapolate that forward fifty years and add those direct-to-brain conputer interfaces, and we could do something rather similar, given lots of training to get the feedback right. "When I think like this the rat goes that way..." An Animagus might learn this almost as a child learns to control its body.

I really enjoyed the series and hope it continues. I have a few comments.

Eliezer had already stated that one intention of his was to make writing fun again, while writing his rationality book. Hence, I guess once that boost is achieved, this litlle jewel will probably lie around unattended for a while.

If the other, more important, purpose was to raise the sanity waterline, then regular updates might be expected as this would be a serious attempt at reaching people through other means.

Doing a quick drake equation analysis of this strategy

P(Positive outcome... (read more)

5Unnamed11yI think any big contributions are likely to come from HPMoR readers who are attracted to LW, become a part of this community, and then go on to do good stuff. HPMoR is just the gateway drug. Then there's the more diffuse sanity waterline effect of lots of HPMoR readers becoming somewhat more rational, and more receptive to big important ideas wherever they encounter them. Sci-fi has had that kind of effect on the development of a lot of people here, and this story can extend that kind of influence to a new audience via Harry Potter. Plus, in this case Eliezer got to fill the story with the ideas and themes that he considers most important.

The idea of promoting Less Wrong (and rationality in general) via Harry Potter fanfiction is so outside the box that I really shouldn't be surprised that it exists! What a great way to tap into a particular group of people that may not have necessarily found their way here otherwise. I wonder if we'll get any users to come out of the woodwork and say they've found LW through the fanfic?

I hope we see more projects like this (from anybody here) in the future!

wave Hello! Brand new, just discovered the site through the fanfic, and still in the looking-around stage... but yes, it does work.

It definitely helps that it is totally frelling awesome fanfic. Admittedly, I'm biased; I'm writing a Potter live-action role-playing game one of whose goals is to figure out how the heck that tacked-together universe could possibly make sense, and what would explain the observed evidence... ;)

I have to say, for a blog (?) focused on good writing and story structure, that's a really terrible essay/brain-dump - highly repetitive, problems mostly alluded to rather than described, fact & citation-free, and very very ranty. (I suspect I'd also find a number of self-contradictions if I cared to re-read.)

If it didn't have the occasional good insight, I'd never have finished reading it. I did, but I still hate essays which are intermittent reinforcement schedules.

But here's one good point. By the end, the real sin of Voldemort is not being evil, bu... (read more)

8JoshuaZ11yWould we go the Dark Side? I'm not sure. I think most people here would not murder someone to get the chance at a few extra centuries of life. And it seems that making a Philosopher's Stone is not a Dark Side event, although why no one other than Nicholas Flamel makes one is never made clear. Mass produce Philosopher's Stones maybe?
4NancyLebovitz11yThanks. I'd been wondering why I was having trouble focusing on the essay, and thinking the problem might be me. I kept reading it because I thought a lot of the zip in the series faded out in the later books, I hated the epilogue with a passion, and was hoping that I'd get some explanations for why. I think I got some partial explanations, though I got tired of the theories about what Rowling must have been thinking. Also, at the point when I'd mentioned the essay, I hadn't gotten to the material about accepting death nor the revolting chunk of resentment about how Rowling cheated to make her books popular by not concealing that she's pretty. "Accept death" is a cheap and easy way to add profundity to fantasy and science fiction. I think the anti-immortality stories are pretty much sour grapes, and there are a lot of those stories. Peter Beagle's built a big chunk of his career on them. Rebecca Ore's Centuries Ago and Very Fast [http://www.amazon.com/Centuries-Ago-Very-Fast-Rebecca/dp/1933500255/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280583490&sr=8-1] is an exception-- the main character is non-aging and a time traveler, he likes his life, and he has a pragmatic ability to enjoy it.
5gwern11yI too was tired - of his incompetence. There is a lot of value to critically sifting authorial statements over decades about multi-installment works. But his sucked. If you want to see it done right, in a way that completely revolutionizes your interpretation of the source material and gives you genuine insight, resolving all sorts of continuity issues, plot holes and whatnot, proving its case with citations and points beyond a reasonable doubt, the beau ideal would have to be The Secret History of Star Wars [http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/The_Secret_History_of_Star_Wars]. I doubt you've read it, but take this old SW fan's word for it, it was a masterpiece that that essay comes nowhere near.
3NancyLebovitz11yI was more interested in what he had to say about the books themselves rather than his guesses about what Rowling was thinking. I'm not likely to get around to The Secret History of Star Wars, but if there's a short answer, what happened to Lucas between the end of the first trilogy and the beginning of the second? He seemed to have forgotten most of what he knew about telling stories. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" is brilliant. Starting a movie with a scrolling description of the tax(?) situation isn't.
4gwern11yThe short answer is that A New Hope had nothing whatsoever to do with any grand story about Darth Vader, who was merely a mid-level flunky of the Empire. Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi frantically retcon this, but Lucas simply didn't have a decent backstory centered around Darth Vader and couldn't come up with one. The longer answer goes into the above, and also points out that Lucas's support network (of beta readers, if you will) which edited and improved his trilogy had largely fragmented or vanished by this point. For example, his wife, a very skilled film editor, had divorced him by the time of the prequels.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yJ. K. Rowling once said that Harry Potter was a story about death.

Here's what I think will happen:

Zabini stuns himself in the name of Sunshine to create a tie. And here's why:

1) The rest of the school is very partisan about their favorite army, so it's not likely that many are betting on a tie. Zabini (through a proxy or otherwise) put all of his chips on "tie." So he will return to Hell a much richer Prince of Darkness.

1a) "Aftermath" scene: Hogsmeade. Zabini meets his broker. Hogwarts is basically a closed economy, and Zabini has now walked off with the lion's share of the student body's dispos... (read more)

Sure. What would Lucius worry about disillusioning Draco? The anti-pure blood wizards don't have a leg to stand on, unlike theists and atheists.

(Think back - do you recall any good arguments made against pure blood, the theory as opposed to the believers? Rowling assumes we'll instantly identify pure bloodism == racism, and that's that. If they think any harder, most people will fall into the usual trap of thinking that exceptions/brilliant-mudbloods like Hermione Granger disprove pure bloodism, which of course they don't. The history of the Wizarding world is even more consistent with pure bloodism than not!)

2NancyLebovitz11yIt wouldn't just be about Pure Blood. It would be about not having any abstract loyalties of any sort-- Malfoys want to be in charge because it's more comfortable at the top.

IMO he's not all emo about it. He is also aware of his feeling guilty about it and agrees with Neville when he says he's silly. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall him feeling proud of it.

Awww... but that puts Harry in an impossible position. There's nothing he could have said that would have worked. If he had said Lily made a good choice, that would have directly insulted Snape. And Snape must have known that Harry would be in an impossible position, so he must have wanted to trap Harry into thinking he had done something wrong.

It is possible to respond in a less direct way. Competent social skills would suggest putting very little actual content into his answer. I am less cunning than Harry and not known to be particularly conservative... (read more)

I don't know about you, but having someone tell me I should give up something I've been overfocused on for a long time can be quite painful.

Assuming Snape was genuinely hurt by Harry's interpretation of Lily, I would expect to see a fraying between Snape and the Dumbledore faction as Snape questions why he is so faithful to Lily.

8ShardPhoenix11yYes, I suspect that was the point of that scene - to make things harder for Harry by taking away a (secret) ally. That would align with Eliezer's stated philosophy of fanfiction.

Furthermore, the major event in Aftermath 2 is that Snape reads students' minds again-something he agreed not to do under his agreement with Dumbledore. Which is further evidence that he has "gone rogue."

Were Robin here, I suspect he would point out that allowing your children to remain innocent and naive is a sign of luxury, and a signal of high status. Lucius would be embarrassed not to have his 11-year-old son appear innocent and naive.

ETA: Childhood innocence is conspicuous consumption!

It seems plausible that Malfoy wouldn't know that. Some boys never get erections before puberty. Getting erections reliably (as opposed to accidentally) before puberty might not happen either.

2ata11yAt this rate, Draco will be a master Bayesian before he figures out masturbation... (sorry, sorry)

Another point in chapter 32 that could use some explaining: Why are Harry, Draco, Hermione the only ones in the running for the Christmas wish? Do Quirrell points from battles tend heavily towards the generals? (Though I guess they were all doing especially well in the class anyway...) That, and there's only one Christmas wish, for all seven years; obviously the other years are a bit outside the scope of the story, but with no explanation it still seems a bit strange that noone from those years would even come close.

5dclayh11yYes, that was stated in a previous chapter.

Chapter one, when Petunia is talking about how she wanted Lily to use magic to make her prettier:

"And Lily would tell me no, and make up the most ridiculous excuses, like the world would end if she were nice to her sister, or a centaur told her not to - the most ridiculous things, and I hated her for it. And when I had just graduated, I was going out with this boy, Vernon Dursley, he was also fat and he was the only boy who would talk to me in college. And he said he wanted children, and that his first son would be named Dudley. And I thought to my

... (read more)
5EStokes11yMaybe I was just really unobservant reading the first time around, but rereading is really fun. Ch 29 Pffhahahaha!


"The suspect disintegrated himself," wept the overseer. "Complete nanodissolution. Now we'll never know who he was. Could have a backup anywhere."

Collapsa-T clucked. "He wept a single tear while climbing the ladder. I have retrieved sufficient DNA to extend a partial quantum snowflake." The device retrograded briefly, folding all eleven dimensions like protein. "Success!" it finally decided. "In the 312th tier of the 99th fold of a relatively low-probability third-order curve, I have foun

... (read more)

Chapter 28: I wonder what happens if Harry realizes he's living in fiction, and everything he's dealing with is made of concepts rather than atoms.

Which leads me to think about the people who say that if they found they were living in a simulation, they'd try to get out. Unless the simulation is very similar to the substrate, would it be possible to get out while remaining yourself in any sense?

Back to the story: This might be an argument for checklists: Harry and Hermione should review precautions before they try anything new, should they be doing it with... (read more)

7red7511yIt will be weak move on Eliezer's part. As it will effectively make him the god of Harry's universe, which mean that Harry's universe cannot exist without him, that it is not self-sufficient and self-contained.
5gwern11ySure. Escape into another simulation. More seriously, obviously it's not guaranteed that an organism in a simulation can just create a copy in the outside world. How would a Game of Life organism, made out of glider guns and flashers and whatnot, made an atom-based form of itself? What it could do is create something isomorphic. Whether this is possible is pretty much the same question as whether humans can make uploads. (Which is the inverse, actually - going from 'reality' to 'simulation'.)
4NancyLebovitz11yAlternatively, you keep living in your simulation, but you get enough of a handle on the substrate that you can make changes in your simulation, protect it, or duplicate it.
3wedrifid11yAnd this seems to be exactly what Dumbledore himself does. That is a lesson I hope we see Harry take on board for future experiments.

This is true, and the blood-purity issue is not entirely analogous to race. But Rowling went to quite a bit of effort to line her bad guys up with the Nazis. (Grindelwald ended up imprisoned in a place called Nurmengard, even!)

Chapters 25 & 26

Quirrell is cold. It looks like he gave Rita Skeeter a tip that something would be happening in Mary's Room so that she'd go there as a beetle and he could (literally) crush her. Is Harry going to start to figure him out (like he did with Draco after his reaction to that other newspaper headline)?

Also, does anyone know if Q/V's habit of whistling/humming a tune (appearing in both chp. 25 & 26) is based on something in canon? It sounds like a tell, when his plotting against Skeeter/Potter is going according to plan, but I'm wondering if there's anything more to it.

3[anonymous]11yI don't know about the canon, but the narrator calls it a 'small tune' or 'little tune', so I'd guess it's the Little Fugue in G Minor which Eliezer's mentioned several times here.
6Blueberry11yYou don't think it's a canon?
8gwern11yIn fanfiction? Not likely.

If you were Harry and were trying to get from "how the hell does magic work" to "omnipotent lord of the universe" what would you do?

I think my first step would be to learn how people go about inventing spells.

I would take Rick Cook's approach - look for meta-spells and figure out how to combine them into something Turing-complete. From canon, we already know that spells can operate on spells ('priori incantatem' or something like that), and I'm almost sure that some spells do logical operations.

If that doesn't work out, start making the Philosopher's Stone. I will know that it's possible, and that's half the battle. Once I have the Stone, then the question of 'fastest method to omnipotence' loses its urgency.

(If this is simply not possible for a 1st Year, then I will set my sights lower on the felix/luck potion; Harry has enough money to finance all the ingredients he could possibly waste, and once you have a vat of luck potion, you can spend it on research in the library, random generation of possible recipes, or direct attempts at creating the Stone.)

Really, you should use it to try to discover a more powerful luck potion, then take the more powerful luck potion to try to discover a more powerful luck potion still, until eventually you get a hard-takeoff scenario where ever-more-powerful luck potions are falling from the sky into your hands by pure chance every second.

After the luck-ularity, Harry can just throw a random rock up in the air, and it will hit Lord Voldemort right between the eyes, killing him instantly at the same time the Pioneer probe crashes into an asteroid.

9novalis11yYou are assuming that the luck from a luck potion tracks the drinker's extrapolated volition, rather than just the luck potion's inventor's idea of a Nice Thing to Happen. After all, you would rather not win the Quiddich match, if doing so would lead to your defeated opponent dropping out of art school to go hang out in beer halls [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_Hall_Putsch]. I guess MOR's Harry hasn't realized this yet, but readers of Less Wrong should.
9gwern11yThat's already taken care of; if it's luckier to discover a luckier luck potion than the Philosopher's Stone, then that's what I would discover. And of course, by induction, then subsequent consumption will result in even luckier potions (since luck presumably compounds so any subsequent improvements will still be luckier than a PS's discovery). If there is no luckier potion or the Luckularity would hit a plateau, then I would be better off with the PS and hence the luck and preference would line up. So seeking the PS is the dominant strategy.
8NancyLebovitz11yI would look into magic detection spells and see what I could find out about magic from them-- not just studying the spells themselves, but also see if there are subtle things about magic (does it come from somewhere, how fast does it happen) which offer clues about its nature. Also, can magic be used to increase magic? Follow that with careful thought about the implications of a magical singularity.

There's been some speculation on what a +4 spoon would do, so I figured I'd weigh in as an expert of sorts on D&D.

Really, it depends upon what it's being enchanted for. I think the default assumption is that it's enchanted as a melee weapon, and so functions as a diminutive one-handed weapon that does 1d2+4 damage - given the strength of such creatures, you're probably looking at 1d2 damage after the strength penalty, which is a modest improvement over the 1d2-4 (minimum 1) an unenchanted spoon would get you, for the reasonable price of 32,300 gold pi... (read more)

7jimrandomh11yIt gives a +4 bonus to the dexterity check to avoid dropping ice cream on your clothes, or others' clothes. However, due to a quantization issue in the laws of physics, exactly one-twentieth of all scoops still result in critical failures, and many of those failures lead to food fights, which is where the +4 to hit and damage comes in.
3Alicorn11yDon't be silly, it's just a bonus to Craft (cooking) or Profession (chef).

From reading it, I got a sense that Eliezer actually has something in mind on how magic works in the story. That would be mindblowing because it would have to be a consistent explanation how magic works, how magicians got to use it, why they loose power over time. And why no physicists stumbled over it by accident.

Is that a shared idea, or am I the only one?

Without external input such a machine would eventually make the entire planet lukewarm, and run out of steam. No violation there.

You're also assuming that the switching doesn't require energy.

I found this series much harder to enjoy than Eliezer's other works -- for example the Super Happy People story, the Brennan stories, or the Sword of Good story.

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

At first, before I knew who the author was, I put this down to simple bad writing. Comments in Chapter 6 suggest that maybe Harry has some severe psychological issues, and that he's deliberately being written as obnoxious and hyperactive in order to meet plot... (read more)

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

I suspect that a main inspiration for writing the story was Eliezer's constant shock and outrage over the fact that Rowling's characters show absolutely no interest in the inner workings of their weird Universe. I vividly remember how outrageous this was for me when I read the originals. Actually, I have only read the first two books, so when I read Eliezer's time-turner scene, I first believed that he invented the artifact and the situation as an over-the-top satire of this phenomenon. Giving young children time-machines so they could attend more classes, yeah right. When I figured out that the whole scene is almost literally copied from the original books, I screamed in shock and outrage just like rationalist Harry did.

Literally laughing out loud, here.

But just to be clear, this story represents my outrage at all scientifically uncurious characters everywhere, and even more than that, my unfilled need to read a story where for just once the alleged "genius" characters are actual geniuses.

I was not picking on J. K. Rowling in particular in any way.

It is a work of Harry Potter fanfiction for the following simple reason:

I knew I needed a rapid feedback loop to motivate my brain to write. That was why I was bogging down on the rationality book.

And to the best of my knowledge of the entire world of online fiction, if you were posting an incomplete story chapter-by-chapter, it would get the most reviews if...

...it were a work of Harry Potter fanfiction posted on fanfiction.net.


I think I know a place on the internet where you can post books on rationality chapter-by-chapter, and get much instant feedback.

Actually, on reviewing this remark later, it's not quite true. My brain generated an idea set in the HPverse because I'd been reading a lot of HP fanfiction, and I accepted it and stopped the search because it was also optimal for getting reviews. However, I've since read analyses showing that Twilight stories are getting more new reviews on FF.net than Harry Potter, and I don't think I'd have been the smallest bit tempted if I'd known the fact in advance.

I think a version of Twilight with a rationalist Bella as the protagonist would be hilarious.

It'd also be very short, though.

You should totally write one!

I'm tempted! And come to think of it, I suppose it wouldn't have to be short; I could draw it out by leaning on the right bits of canon...

But I loaned out my copy of the first book ages ago and it's still gone, so I would need to pirate a copy as reference.

5Blueberry11yHopefully Bella can join up with a few other vampires and start taking over the world. It could be very long. Sent.

All right, all right, I'll at least give this a try. In keeping with the books' title themes, what do folks think of "Luminosity" as a title? (With luminosity as a theme over HP:MOR's emphasis on science, because I don't have the background to competently pull off the science.)

I did it.

Also, I hate fanfiction.net's interface for publishing stories SO MUCH. I'm probably going to just put the rest of this on my own webspace. EDIT: I am still updating on ff.net to get readers from conventional Twilight fandom, but made the story its own website and have changed the link above.

Also-also, my only account on fanfiction.net is Alicorn24. I am not affiliated in any way with anyone else using the word "alicorn" in their username.

Also-also-also, I'm not quite as much of a review junkie as Eliezer is. However, I a) am unlikely to bother with the story if I'm the only one enjoying it, as I do have creative projects with audiences that could benefit from my attention, and b) plan to treat this as a somewhat experimental work. (For instance, the first chapter has no actual in-quotes dialogue, which I did because dialogue is my strongest suit as a writer and it was challenging to work without it.) Info on what works for readers and what doesn't would be good, as well as periodic reminders that someone's paying attention.

6RobinZ11yInteresting. You might want to revise the description a couple chapters in, once the story has its own identity, but the character seems like someone who might be entertaining to follow. (As with Harry Potter, I'm coming in with zero knowledge of the base material - Twilight bored me no less quickly than Philosopher's Stone.)
5Alicorn11yNew chapter. [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6137139/2/] Vote this comment up if you would like a Luminosity fic discussion thread here on LW analogous to the HP:MOR one, and down if you would not.
6Alicorn11yNew chapter. [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6137139/3/] I think I'm going to update daily for a while, but no promises. I'm having trouble making Bella conspicuously luminous because fictional characters in general are more luminous than real people. (Authors have perfect access to knowledge about character minds, and since the dearth of luminosity in real humans isn't known to most authors, they don't restrict the characters' access to this information much if at all.) I've resorted to some tricks, most notably the notebooks - how do people find Bella's visible luminosity?
5sketerpot11yI wonder if real people could become more luminous by occasionally narrating their thought processes from a third-person perspective, treating themselves like characters that they're writing. If nothing else, it'll be a cute gimmick for getting someone to examine their own motivations. I'm going to try this later today, while exercising. We'll see how this wild-ass idea fares. (I will define failure as not turning up anything surprising.)
3Alicorn11yThat could be interesting. Do report back.
6sketerpot11yI tried out my idea, and it worked. It wasn't too spectacular, but it was well worth the effort. I decided that, in order for this to be a proper test, I would look at something that I wasn't really comfortable with: my shyness and difficulty in social situations. I figure that there had to be some obvious irrationality clunking around my skull there. I started describing this guy (myself), and laying out the reasons for his social discomfort in a straightforward exposition dump. Several times, I had to pause and ask myself if the explanations actually made sense -- was this true, or an incorrect rationalization by an unreliable narrator? The process was surprisingly adversarial! I came to two surprising conclusions. First, the deeper cause of a lot of my problems is that I have difficulty quickly finding topics of common interest with most people in most situations, so conversations with strangers tend to end quickly and abruptly, which sucks. A previous thread had advice for improving this skill; I'll see if I can find it, and give it a try. Second, there's an even deeper problem that underlies my shyness: I want to not be disliked by anyone, but that's paralyzing and leads to crippling shyness. Far better to be more open with my personality, and accept that someone is probably going to be pissed off by any sufficiently cool person. I'm going to try letting my quirkiness out more, since some people seem to find it really charming, and I enjoy it. Even though this method worked, it seemed pretty much equivalent to the introspection method where you explain something to an imaginary person, while listening to yourself carefully for anything that sounds like bullshit. I think that method is easier since it doesn't require the third-person pronoun shift, which turned out to be superfluous. Really, the most important things seem to be: 1. Come up with an explanation for something, and put it into words. Explain clearly, as if your listener doesn't know wha
4Alicorn11yMoar. [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6137139/4/]
5rhollerith_dot_com11yHere goes. Since I had not read any of the books or seen any of the movies, I lacked confidence that I possessed the prerequisites for reading your fanfic. It turned out that I did possess the needed prerequisites (for reading Chapter 1) but I almost concluded otherwise and almost stopped reading when I got to the first reference to Charlie because I did not know who Charlie is. But then a few sentences later it became obvious that Charlie is Bella's father, and I read to the end of the chapter. In summary, my feedback to you is that this particular reader would have benefitted from a replacing of the first occurance of "Charlie" with "My father, Charlie." I want to know what happens next :)
4Eliezer Yudkowsky11yIn medias res this one. Start it in the middle of something interesting happening.
8Alicorn11yI wanted to do that - the original book does it - but I haven't yet gotten very well acquainted with my Bella and by the time interesting things start happening, I wouldn't expect her to let me hug so close to canon. I might go back and add something like that in a few chapters.
3Jonii11yIs this fic understandable for those that don't know a thing about twilight?
3Alicorn11yYes. Neither knowledge of nor affection for the original Twilight series is a prerequisite for reading, understanding, and (potentially) enjoying the fic.
3lsparrish11yI like. Rhymes with sparkles.
9thomblake11yI'm in favor of this obviously wrong use of 'rhyme'.
7ata11yIt's a conceptual rhyme. Here's a limerick following the same principle. (I think I read it in Metamagical Themas; not sure if Hofstadter was the original author.)
3Blueberry11yIt's more allegorical than wrong. "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." -- Unknown (though attributed without source [http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_02_13-2005_02_19.shtml#1108756279] to Mark Twain)

I think some of Harry's annoyingness is due to the fact that he's modeled after young Eliezer. He's a mix of wish-fulfillment for young Eliezer and an opportunity for older Eliezer to criticize his younger self. This is really apparent with the chapters involving the Sorting Hat.

6gwern11yCulture shock can be tiresome for the people not suffering it. I've been reading blogs and forum postings by expats in South Korea lately, and that constant perpetual shock & outrage? Par for the course for some people.
3EStokes11yA lot of kids are obnoxious and hyperactive. Shock and outrage are IC too. (Not that I think Harry is obnoxious or hyperactive or too shocked and outraged.)

Because the lack of skill is not transparent.

By way of analogy, it takes a reasonably uncommon bit of knowledge to be aware that human vision includes blind spots and to know how they work. Even though every single human has blind spots (if indeed they can see at all), and can determine the existence of these blind spots through easy tests, many authors will not think to write fictional characters with visual blind spots, because it is not obvious to people going about their ordinary lives and looking at things that they exist. The author knows what's wi... (read more)

For "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", I'd like to make predictions that can be eventually verified publicly in time, but won't tempt the author to change things to prevent it from coming true (as is the usual way of serial writers on the Internet). I'm therefore encrypting my prediction with the md5 hash function, so that afterwards it can be verified. (One difficulty is that I have the power to edit this comment; is there a way to make it obvious if I've done so, or store it in a less editable space?) Anyway, here goes:

July 16 (after Chapter 31): 28f9e3b2165344763c35514b473cb347

9Unnamed11yorthonormal predicts: There, that's less editable for you.
5orthonormal11yJuly 25 (after Chapter 32, prediction for Chapter 33): SHA-1: f5721b3c6010973ee195dc160d0679477401a3df
7JoshuaZ11yCopying here to verify lack of editing in future.
2orthonormal11yTranslation: End of 32 only listed 3 options for Zabini. The fourth creates a 3-way tie. Zabini shoots himself as traitor.
5Douglas_Knight11yIf you edit the comment, an asterisk will appear after the time. Compare jimrandomh's reply to the others.
5jimrandomh11yYou can have a third party create a cryptographically signed timestamp for you. For example, secure-timestamp.org [http://secure-timestamp.org] will do this. This can only be falsified by getting the timestamping server's private key or breaking its crypto algorithm. For things more important than Harry Potter predictions, you can have multiple third parties timestamp them for you, in which case falsification requires stealing all of their private keys.
4Unknowns11yIf you edit the comment a little asterisk will appear by the time stamp. Just make sure you don't do that.
4Paul Crowley11yMD5 is utterly utterly broken and recommended against for any purpose. Use SHA-1. EDIT: I should mention that SHA-1 is also theoretically broken and may see a demonstrated break soon, but nothing like as problematic as MD5. Until SHA-3 is agreed, the SHA-2 functions are a good stopgap where you need better security.
4kpreid11yDid you include your own name in the text? If not, someone else can present the same hash and there's no way to tell who came up with it.
3JGWeissman11yCan you say anything (without giving away the prediction) about when you would know if it is correct or not?
3mattnewport11yYou could use Prediction Book [http://predictionbook.com/].

I believe it was a method of predicting the future using math (such as adding values of letters of people's names).

3Mass_Driver11yWait -- then why doesn't Hermione ever explicitly predict the future in canon?
3Cyan11yThat's what it's supposed to be in reality [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arithmancy], but as a subject at Hogwart's [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogwarts_subjects#Arithmancy], that's far from clear. ETA: Maybe my use of the phrase "this universe" was ambiguous? I meant the fic universe, not the universe I'm currently existing in.
5Taure11yIn an interview, JKR confirmed that arithmancy at Hogwarts is as it is in real life. Only I would imagine that it actually works - otherwise there would be no basis to Hermione's claim that it's more robust and trustworthy than divination.

It seems like both you and Gabriel (below) have constructed hypotheses which make sense in isolation from certain relevant facts. In particular, there's a large fraction of the HP fanfic world consisting of females who write things with BDSM aspects and a dominant professor Snape. For example a dominant Snape with submissive Hermione pairing is not uncommon. Presumably whatever is going on here is in part making fun of that segment of fandom.

(I dated a girl at one point who's very much involved in the HP fanfic community and might not have picked up on th... (read more)

3CronoDAS11yYes, I too thought it was just a cheap joke at the expense of Snape/student fanfiction...

Wow. I liked 28! Well, I liked all but 1 of the previous 27 too but this one was brilliant. Just the right balance of overconfident recklessness combined with not being a stubborn fool when realizing his mistake. By right balance I mean for realism given the character. Harry being such an emotionally unstable prick was a little irritating until he started showing clear signs of being aware of his emotional foibles and the rather important ability to take care of important relationships despite his weakness.

the racial analogue is clear

It seems like a class rather than race thing to me. Maybe this is partly because class divisions are more salient to me than race divisions with my British upbringing but given Harry Potter is a British creation I think class is likely to be the the closest analogy. It's the kind of treatment that a scholarship kid from a working class background would get in a public school#Associations_with_the_ruling_class). The fact that Hogwarts is modeled after public schools lends weight to this theory.

4gwern11yI don't buy the class analogue. Aside from the racial (magical) view being perfectly consistent with everything in canon (magical/non-magical seems to override even xenophobia, witness the foreign schools' reception in Goblet of Fire), we also have a perfect example of one group of people who suffers from both class and racial discrimination: the Weasleys. The Weasleys are presented as being mocked (particularly by the Malfoys) both for being poor - lower class, note also that their red hair suggests Irish roots - and for linking themselves with Muggles and eventually intermarrying with Mudbloods. If the 2 were one and the same, we would not see any difference.

"Mudblood" is supposed to be the equivalent of "nigger".

8Alicorn11yIt doesn't seem at all clear to me that this is realistic. The victims of the insult are, just about by definition, the ones who weren't raised in wizarding culture, and no earlier than age eleven do they hear this particular insult. Even though the components of the word "mudblood" are certainly impolite, I don't think it could cut as deep as a slur that floats around one's childhood environment and that one's parents are familiar with reacting to and so on.

I mean that he doesn't want to deal with the consequences of being known to have stolen a valuable artifact; in other words, he doesn't to be a fugitive from the wizard police.

Probably no-one. And today no-one really holds nations with nuclear capabilities accountable. How are physicists any worse?

Consider that physicists have fewer potential reasons to use nuclear weapons than do nations, or to go to "war" with one another. If they attacked one another, or third parties, they would not be able to protect themselves from (non-nuclear) retaliation as rulers of nations do, because they wouldn't have large territories and conventional armies. If they won the war, they wouldn't get any economical benefits; their only possi... (read more)

See Larry Niven's "The Magic Goes Away" universe. He does not seem to have worked out "particle physics with magic" to explain how to cast spells exactly, but he does have a universe that makes more logical sense in terms of economics and sociology and so on.

Basically all atoms in his universe had an aura of mana which functioned as a non-renewable source of "magical energy" for "everything magical you've ever heard about". Some magic can also be gimmicked out of events with emotional resonance to recharge nearby a... (read more)

third law of magical dynamics

May I suggest "third law of thaumodynamics"?

True; but where does that factor come in? I mean, hallucinations can presumably be repeatable too. "I tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - and I am still Napoleon!"

From Ch. 7:

Draco snarled. "She has some sort of perverse obsession about the Malfoys, too, and her father is politically opposed to us so he prints every word. As soon as I'm old enough to get an erection I'm going to rape that bitch."

Is this a reference to some poorly-written slash fanfic? I'm assuming Eliezer knows that boys of any age can get erections, so it must be making fun of something, but I'm missing a reference.

Similarly with:

Harry burbled on. "I'm delighted to meet you, Mr. Malfoy. Just unutterably delighted. And to be atte

... (read more)
5gwern11yThe newspaper headlines are, I assure you, making fun in general (at the very least).
3pozorvlak11yYes, I found that sentence really jarring too. Even assuming that Draco was for some reason unable to get an erection, he'd hardly admit it.

It doesn't have to be FTL. You could store the cat body in Magical Britain and run the communications link at lightspeed. It would look instant to a human - the speed of neuron processing would still be the bottleneck.

7Psy-Kosh11yAlthough, given that there's already stuff like time turners, it's kinda a bit late in the game to be worried about FTL.

Speaking as someone who everyone rightfully believes about everything, MoR is awesome (at least up to chapter 21) and everyone should read it. It also might serve as the best introduction to the power of rationality, but we've yet to see that it really makes awesomeness happen in the real world, rather than just for those of us who are cheering on Harry's thoughts.

Your Google-fu is weak; a search like http://www.google.com/search?num=100&q=%22J.K.%20Rowling%22%20%22Harry%20Potter%22%20death%20interview turns up Wikipedia linking to several interviews, and then some quick C-fs turn up:

Death is an extremely important theme throughout all seven books. I would say possibly the most important theme. If you are writing about Evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who is essentially a psychopath, you have a duty to show the real evil of taking human life.

http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/1201... (read more)

It seems to me that people think rape is preceded by sickness, as in "he must be a real sick bastard". That's in large part because the common picture of rape is someone leaping out of the bushes at a random stranger, when a lot of rape is actually between acquaintances who know each other, and like or at least voluntarily spend time around each other.

I was thinking more for the benefit of those of us who only saw the older versions rather than for those of us who only saw the newer versions...

Actually, what I meant is that I cannot possibly conceive an eleven-year-old kid openly admitting that he cannot yet have an erection - he'd rather jump into a fire. It makes me wonder what kind of kids Eliezer hung out with.

In most Western societies, boys' relation with sex moves straight from "knowing nothing" to "pretending to know everything". (Wizarding Britain could be different, but there is nothing in Rowling's or Eliezer's writings to explain that.)

3NihilCredo11yAnd Eliezer has just fixed the sentence (along with a few other small tweaks to Chapter 7). Glad to see improvements!
7Furcas11yThe new sentence is a bit lacking in the original's shock value. I would have left the "that bitch" part in.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky11yI'm not sure the Draco I've been writing for the last few chapters would use the term "bitch" in front of Harry Potter, it doesn't sound dignified enough for the heir of Malfoy. (But yes I did explicitly consider that alternative. If I get enough votes for keeping the shock value I'll put it back in, or figure out something, I guess.)

the shock value

Rape isn't nearly shocking enough. We need naughty words.

5WrongBot11yThis, unfortunately, is precisely how most people's minds work.
5Eliezer Yudkowsky11yCorrect. Do I need to point out again that no one even noticed the thing with the monastery?

It is expected that villains, even in the canon of children's books, will kill and maybe occasionally torture victims in order to establish that they are bad. It is not expected that villains, especially in the canon of children's books, will permit/condone/commit rape. Additionally, the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede murder and torture are more familiar than the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede rape, and so someone unfamiliar with the actual etiology of any of those crimes finds rape less relatable and more shocking.

5ata11yAgreed. I also think the original "Which of these characters has crossed the moral event horizon?" question (in one of the Author's Notes) was a little bit misguided because, as far as most HP readers are concerned, Voldemort is already considered to have passed the moral event horizon from the outset. There's little he could do that would make us think "Wow, I didn't know Voldemort was that evil". And 11-year-old Draco, being the son of a Death Eater, might be expected to hold certain evils as justifiable or compulsory — we expect that he's been conditioned to find it acceptable to kill, torture, and exploit non-purebloods, and generally to manipulate people for his own ends. And as long as he's still young, we're inclined to be relatively lenient in judging him for those attitudes, considering he has never learned anything else, nor been allowed (or allowed himself) to reconsider it. What we don't expect is for him to talk casually about committing rape, considering that nobody in the series does, even the darkest of the canon dark wizards; it makes it seem like it's an idea he came up with on his own, like he just heard a definition of rape and thought to himself "Hey, that sounds like a fun thing to do to young female political enemies, and I bet I could get away with it, too". So I bet most of the objections were based not on thinking "that's more evil than Voldemort", but "that's way more evil than Draco is supposed to be right now".
9Eliezer Yudkowsky11yThose are the children's books version, and MoR is not a children's book, nor is most fanfiction. If you'll pardon the size of the hypothetical: If the Death Eaters actually existed, no way in hell are the males not committing rape.
4Alicorn11yThis is true. But even among works of fanfiction, the ones that point this out tend to also be the ones that are full of sex acts in general, which MoR is not.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky11yMoR points things out for the sake of pointing them out, by way of trying to teach the art of the awakened mind. Actually I'm not clear on what if anything we're arguing about at this point.
3katydee11yI see no need to limit that claim to the males.
3NancyLebovitz11yWould people be shocked if they found out that Voldemort didn't believe in Pure Bloodism and/or didn't care whether it was true-- he was just using it as a means of getting power and an excuse to kill people?
4wedrifid11yHuh? That was what I assumed when reading the books. I recall some 'blood purism' claims but thought they were just cheers. The sort of thing that only the low-to-mid level death eaters actually believe, before they evolve enough to actually 'get it'. I suppose on reflection that in a fantasy story I should expect the 'evil' to be blamed on something politically incorrect rather than on universals of human nature.
4gwern11yNo, because the books heavily imply that Voldemort didn't believe. He was not pure-blood himself (Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a very bad example of the Aryan ideal). And, I think that the discussions of how Voldemort chose to interpret the prophecy as referring not to Neville (as pureblood as they come) but to Harry (who, through his mudblood mother, is impure) specifically take this tack.
5Leonhart11yInteresting. My recollection was that as the books progressed, the plausibility of LV not caring about pure-bloodedness grew larger, but he himself didn't admit to any such thing onscreen. Then in Deathly Hallows he suddenly did care about it again, because Rowling suddenly realised that he didn't actually have a motive at all. So any old ill-fitting one would have to do, as part of the overall trainwreck. Then again, my perspective on HP has been thoroughly polluted by the brilliant essays over at http://www.redhen-publications.com/ [http://www.redhen-publications.com/].
5gwern11yVoldemort says so little on-screen that I don't really get much out of him. His minions certainly do get more pure blood-centric as time goes on - look at Dolores Umbridge even before Deathly Hallows.
4NancyLebovitz11yThanks. I really should give up on having opinions about most details in the books-- I've read them at most three times (once for the last two) and have forgotten a lot of detail. Do you think the Death Eaters really care about Pure Bloodism? Is MOR's Draco being shocked to find out that Pure Bloodism isn't true just a sign that he's young and naive?
9gwern11yOnly twice here, but I have a good memory for written material, and the ideology, physics, and philosophy of Harry Potter interested me long before MoR - so this is just an old topic for me. Some do. The Blacks and Malfoys, probably. Others are in it to 'back the strong horse', and others are in it because it gives scope to their sadism. Yes. Eliezer has written about 'nonoverlapping magisteria' before: they are transparent efforts to shrink religion to something which can't be falsified, an effort at special pleading. Even though religion (especially Western ones) have made many empirically falsifiable claims - which largely have been falsified. A very young person might take those claims seriously and be shocked that they are falsified. To not know theological explanations of the theodicy (a topic recently relevant because I finally got around to reading Eliezer's Haruhi [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5588986/1/Trust_in_God_or_The_Riddle_of_Kyon] story (which was very good)), to not 'believe in belief', to not dismiss empiricism, to lack all those sophisticated dodges and excuses that intelligent adult theists use to remain theist - this we call 'young and naive'.
4wedrifid11yThat sounds exactly right to me.
2ata11yI'd be somewhat but not entirely surprised if I learned that about canon Voldemort. I'd be pretty surprised if Smart Science-Aware HPMoR Voldemort hasn't figured it out (not sure how likely it is that he knew all along).
2NancyLebovitz11yMy deduction was that the Malfoy family culture included rape for spite, not that it was something Draco came up with.
2ata11yThe new wording — "As soon as I'm old enough I'm going to rape her" — makes it sound, in the absence of any alleged biological limitations now, like it's some sort of traditional rite of passage in the Malfoy family. (Or at least that's what it made me think of. Probably not the intended meaning.)
3NancyLebovitz11yAlso, murder can be presented in fiction with enough distance to be fun, but this isn't true of rape. Note that there are mystery weekends for solving murders, but not for solving rapes.
2Blueberry11yI vote for putting the shock value in. I'd also change it to "When I'm old enough, I'm gonna rape that bitch and knock her up" or "When I get a chance, I'm gonna rape that bitch." As well as being old enough to get an erection, 11-year-olds are old [http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119171327/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0] enough [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article3285383.ece] to rape [http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8T0PI481&show_article=1], though of course this could just be Draco's bravado.
3NancyLebovitz11yI have a notion that this bit (especially the earlier version where Draco admits to not having erections yet) was the result of story constraints. After somewhat about the Malfoys being pretty cool in ways which are important from the point of view of the story, it was necessary to shockingly remind the reader that they're also morally deficient and seriously bad news. At the same time, it was also a good idea to make this a hypothetical threat-- the story line isn't now (and perhaps not ever) about Hermione being in danger.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yRead chapter 22 and 23, then look at what you just wrote. Are you sure that's the same Draco? If the passage actually does need more shock value (and I'm not quite sure that it does, especially given the wide variance in reader taste and the number who enjoyed the rest of the fic but thought that one part was too shocking) then it has to be more in-character for the later-revealed Draco. There's a simple way to increase the shock without adding vulgarities that polite young Death Eaters don't use - namely, substitute "torture and rape" for "rape" - but I already think this whole conversation is getting a bit off-topic for LW.
6Sniffnoy11yCan we maybe get a list of these changes somewhere?

What was the wish?

"Can you make some paperclips for me?"

Hm, inconsistency: I just noticed that Quirrell says in chapter 16 that Quirrell points will determine generalship of armies. That seems to have been abandoned at some point?

Up to chapter 31 now. I don't understand how Eliezer is going to paint the central conflict. Granted, Quirrell is awesome and has had several successes already. But the main motivation of the Death Eaters is blood purism (as in canon), and Harry has already proved it to be false, and our Quirrell is rational enough to agree with the proof if he hears it. So to make the central conflict happen Eliezer has to invent something else, something secret, that makes Quirrell tick.

3NaN11yIt appears that a very large number of wizards are blood purists; Quirrel might just want power, and think that the best way to achieve that is by stirring up hatred for mudbloods.
3Baughn11yI think he may have already done so, by way of Quirrelmort's reaction to Harry's statement that he wanted to use science. Voldemort is scared of muggles. Quite reasonably so; despite Harry, there are enough of them that they'd very likely overtake the magic-users in a matter of decades on all useful fronts, and even now a conflict between muggles could squash the wizards like a bug. Basically, I think he wants to (a) Strengthen magical society to the point where they can stand up to the muggles. Harry might be helpful here, but there's a good chance their plans would conflict. Failing that.. (b) Get the hell off this rock.

Just out of curiosity, how much does a week of your time cost?

Your recommendation of the book, plus the very fact that it wasn't originally written in english and has a genie AI, makes it fascinating on a number of levels. If there was a translation, I would probably want to buy and read it.

2randallsquared11yHe has an English website: http://lleo.aha.ru/e/index.htm [http://lleo.aha.ru/e/index.htm] , which suggests that asking about buying the English-language rights might not go amiss.
5JenniferRM11yThanks for the link! I sent Leonid Kaganov an email expressing interest in a translation and directing him to this URL. Hopefully something comes of it :-)
4listic11yThanks for trying. Please keep us updated. I was thinking to introduce some English-speaking audience (represented by i.e. Less Wrong and Hacker News) to Leonid Kaganov for quite some time. I absolutely don't feel able to translate a whole novel (and I haven't read Lena Squatter yet, as it's quite recent) but I think I can pull off translating a short story or a blog post. The best story of him that I've liked so far is Predator's Epos (2001) which depicts a dramatic incident in space and tries to analyze human ethics through the eyes of an alien studying human epos and comparing it to other species'. The short story, as author noted in his blog, was written on a crunch for a short story competition, which had a theme "a knight quests for saving a princess from a dragon" and, would I say, the author had his fun with the theme. To my mind, the story remains one of his best to date. Definitely best of short stories; I haven't read the more recent of his novels; he might have improved in the recent years, but as of several years ago, I had an opinion that Kaganov is the kind of author for whom the short story format and good crunchtime is an optimum format; the longer stories I read feel watered down. I appreciate that it takes more work and skill to forge a novel while maintaining reader immersion and the pace of the story, and everyone has to start somewhere, but still - I liked his short stories and some of the blog posts best. Which brings me to the topic that Kaganov raised that I wanted to translate and link to on Hacker News. At the time when he finished Lena Squatter he wrote a very detailed blog post where he said he is at the turning point in his career where the sales of his new book (Lena Squatter) will determine whether he will be able to support his family by starting to write novels full-time or will have to earn money the other way (programming) and have little time for writing. So he asked everyone who would consider reading his books to go buy Lena

It looks from my casual observations like the difference between pirated and not pirated (as opposed to plagiarized and not plagiarized, which is a different matter) isn't whether something is in the public domain, but whether it is freely available. As long as it is easy to get a work for free from the author's preferred distribution method, there's little to no incentive to get it with more hassle from a different distribution method. So putting his prior works in the public domain probably isn't getting this author many bonus points, compared to an author who retains copyright or Creative Commons licensing but still makes the work freely readable.

There is no way that he addressed every possible concern to the satisfaction of his audience while charging money for his book. Money is a concern, and while his book might be inexpensive, adopting a general policy of buying inexpensive books when someone asks nicely isn't, and making many individual decisions about when to buy them and when not to isn't either. To an audience accustomed to getting reading material for free, a demand that they shell out money for a new book feels like extortion, and that provokes negative affect ind... (read more)

5CronoDAS11yIncidentally, some online content creators [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self-sufficient_webcomics] have been able to support themselves through means other than selling their work directly.
4CronoDAS11yYeah, things like that happen in the rest of the world, too. Creators of software are hit pretty hard, as do people who make things that are easily converted to digital format. (Printed books are kind of hard to pirate, because you have to put every single page into a scanner, one at a time, instead of just sticking a CD or DVD into a drive, but it still happens.)
4cousin_it11yGiven the generally awful quality of translations into English done by Russians, I hope the eventual translation will be by a native English speaker who knows Russian, not the other way round. That was actually one of the reasons I refused.
3dares10yAny update?

This ability is at least as dangerous as the killing curse, if not more so. People are objects. Harry can now transfigure, say, a chunk of someone else's brain into steel, or glass, or water. Turning someone else into a ferret is scary, yes, but they'll turn back little the worse for wear.

This makes Harry very, very dangerous, especially because he hasn't realized it yet.

I always thought the killing curse was overrated. Many of the spells that first years use in pranks on each other will get you a kill if you are carrying a knife in your pocket.

In 1 vs 1 combat stupefy beats avada kedavra. By about 3 syllables.

7ShardPhoenix11yDon't forget that Avada Kedavra has the advantage that it can't be blocked/mitigated/etc, whereas spells like stupefy presumably can (or that advantage of AK wouldn't be worth noting).
3CronoDAS11yIt was already described in detail, when Transfiguration was introduced, that transfiguring a living thing kills it...

You should leave the possibility open that they're more familiar with the wizarding world than you are.

I think the standard answer is that modern Quidditch is a vestigial remnant of an older version where the games typically went on so long that scoring system made sense. Do you have a different problem with the game?

The scoring system is silly but at least would function. My objection is to the practical physics involved in the all the play except that involving the quaffle and the seeker. Well, perhaps the beaters are ok too, suspension of disbelief unrealistic resistance to physical trauma. But the stuff where the chasers somehow steal the ball off ea... (read more)

I think you could say that the truth does destroy people. You can't be the same person once you've really accepted an entirely new, important idea, and rejected an old belief.

When someone says "that which should be destroyed by the truth should be" and he's talking to a Christian or a white supremacist or thousand other people defined by the silly idea they take very seriously, you are often asking them to do something a lot more scary than go up against a lion.

If you've already seen the truth and accepted it, the deck is as stacked as it could be. And if you haven't but are otherwise making your bet rationally, while the other is not, then you've still got a lot better chance.

They're related. Some argue that confirmation bias is an example of belief overkill. Belief overkill is basically the tendency for people to accept all arguments that support their opinion even if it is only in a peripheral fashion. Thus, for example, people who think that using fetal stem cells for medical purposes are moral are much more likely to think that stem cells will be really medically helpful than people who think that such use is bad. Essentially, people compile arguments for why X is Good/Bad rather than dividing questions properly. There are ... (read more)

6Unnamed11ySounds a lot like the halo effect [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lj/the_halo_effect/].
3RobinZ11yPolicy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/] is related to belief overkill, I'd say.
3NancyLebovitz11yMotivated cognition would also be a special case of belief overkill-- it's being too ready to develop and accept arguments what you want to believe. Belief overkill is the same process applied to arguments from both yourself and other people.

I previously criticized Eliezer's 'Ultimate Mega Crossover' fic on basically the grounds that it makes him/SIAI look bad, and didn't help out the cause much.

Reading through MoR, I made a point of reading the reviews and seeing what non-LW people were saying. I'm pleased that aside from AngryParsley's site stats, many of the reviews expressed interest in LW writings and Eliezer's ideas, and very few any disgust or general opinions of low status. Good job, Eliezer!

3NancyLebovitz11yHave you updated any of your underlying premises? I suggest that for a lot of the people you want to attract at this stage, consuming a lot of sf is proof of normalcy. As for fanfic, I suspect that the type of fanfic matters a lot-- if it had been slash of comparable quality to the existing work, there would have been a substantial yuck factor to surmount as well as people who were enthusiastic. I don't know what the result of HPMOR is going to be if SIAI ever wants to get bank loans-- there are a lot of steep weirdness hills to climb at that point.

It's really good. I'm on chapter 8, and so far it reads like a picaresque. I never thought anyone would turn Harry Potter into such a badass.

Well, yes, death is irreversible in the HP universe, but there's definitely an afterlife of some kind or another.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky11yWhat evidence exists for an afterlife in the HP universe? I haven't actually read the novels beyond 1-3, just fanfiction, and movies 4-6. EDIT: Since people have asked why: I read books 1-3 while I was still living in Chicago, and the whole family read them together. Then I moved out in 2000, and didn't get around to trying to read book 4 until it was time to write the fic... and found that I couldn't seem to read it. Maybe it was a change in the literary quality (I've heard others say that) or it was the fact that I'd already watched the movie and that got rid of the plot tension. Or (my personal suspicion) the fact that I'd read a lot of fanfiction aimed at a more grownup audience meant that the children's-book version of the Potterverse just didn't feel right to me any more. I feel guilty about not reading the later books, obviously, but my brain doesn't want to do it and one of the major points of this whole endeavor is that it's fun, not something I have to make myself do. So I've been getting along on movies 4-6, other fanfiction, and above all the Harry Potter Wikia. Mentioning this because TV Tropes is now giving me a "Did Not Do The Research" trope, which is supposed to be for people who didn't care enough to find out something they could've gotten in 10 minutes, and that stings a bit. I tried, I really did, and now I read the Wikia and try my best to get things right, but I'm just not enjoying the original Potter novels. Not every children's book, even ones that have taught millions of children to enjoy reading, ends up being enjoyable to every adult. "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" is in the Potterverse because I was attracted to the universe of Harry Potter fanfiction.
7Kaj_Sotala11yCurious - how come you haven't read the remaining books?
6ShardPhoenix11yYou're doing a good job of fanfic for someone who hasn't even read all the books! I'd recommend reading book 7 though just so you know what's up. edit: you obviously have some idea of what happens in book 7 from whatever other fanfics/spoilers, but still, it's another thing to read the original source.
6JoshuaZ11yIn the last book one of the Deathly Hallows is used to communicate with the dead. You should read 7 (among other things it helps one appreciate how utterly incoherent JK Rowling's notions of morality and heroism are).
3Blueberry11yCan you please elaborate on this? Do you know the interpretation where Harry dies in the duel and everything after that is in his head as he's dying?
5JoshuaZ11yI'm aware that people have tried to interpret it that way. I'm also very sure that that's not at all what Rowling intended. It simply doesn't fit with her general approach in the books. The heroism objection is that there's such a large deal made about Harry's willingness to sacrifice himself. But he's just found out that there's a happy afterlife where he'll get to be with his parents and everyone else who died in the books. Given that, the sacrifice is much less impressive.
4Blueberry11yIt's been a while since I've read the books, so forgive me if I'm missing something. But I thought Harry wasn't sure if there was an afterlife. He even expresses doubt whether the "afterlife" conversation is something he's just imagining in his head. Also, I think that argument proves too much: it would apply to every soldier, terrorist, freedom fighter, activist, and martyr who believes in an afterlife. Even if you intellectually believe there's an afterlife (or even if you intellectually believe your sacrifice is right) it's still difficult to overcome the instinct to stay alive.
3JoshuaZ11yI'm rereading that section now. ROT13ed: Uneel guvaxf gung gur nsgreyvsr pbairefngvba jvgu Qhzoyrqber zvtug or va uvf urnq. Ohg ur qbrfa'g guvax gung gur pbairefngvba cevbe gb gung jvgu gur Erfheerpgvba Fgbar jurer ur gnyxf gb Wnzrf, Yvyl, Fvevhf, Yhcva vf va uvf urnq. Vg frrzf gb or gnxra sbe tenagrq nf erny. Gura, Uneel znxrf uvf fnpevsvpr naq gura orpnhfr bs gung fnpevsvpr vf noyr gb pbzr onpx. True, but Harry's certainty in an afterlife is much higher than that of any of those people, and his certainty about the nature of the afterlife is also much higher. Moreover, he's been specifically told that death isn't a big deal. Fvevhf says that it is a smooth transition. If someone is that certain about the afterlife and the nature of the afterlife, then it does substantially reduce the heroism of such sacrifices.
5JoshuaZ11yAnother reason to read the other books, you are occasionally making minor contradictions with her magic system that wouldn't occur if you read the other books. In particular, in the latest chapter where Hermione and Harry experiment together "If you didn't tell her at all what the spell was supposed to do, it would stop working" is contradicted by canon in Half-Blood Prince.
4Kevin11yBook 7 spoilers ROT13'd, though I tried to be nonspecific. Gurer vf n cerpyvznk rkpunatr va obbx 7 gung vf onfvpnyyl pbzzhavpngvba orgjrra bar bs gur yvivat punenpgref naq bar bs gur punenpgref va gur UC havirefr nsgreyvsr.

Given that his attitude was more or less the same in canon, I'm pretty sure he just hates the idea of a successful mudblood.

One more thought, this time money related stuff:

On the one hand, the magical and muggle economies are sufficiently separated that Gringots seems to not even notice the possibility of arbitrage...

But on the other hand, we're told that anyone who transfigures stuff to look like money, even muggle currency, is legally at war with the goblins. If the goblins are tracking muggle money enough to at least notice this sort of thing and care about it, that seems at odds with them being sufficiently ignorant of the muggle economy to not notice the arbitrage possibilities.

9Baughn11yYou shouldn't neglect the possibility that it's a law written because it seemed like a good idea, without any real way of enforcing it in general. There are certainly plenty of those around.
4Psy-Kosh11yProfessor McGonagall more or less explicitly said though that they have ways of finding out, that this matter isn't an abstract law but is very very enforced.
6Baughn11yYes, but wouldn't it be reasonable to think they only have ways of finding out when presented with the money in question?
8JoshuaZ11yThe goblins may only use that to check for Muggle currency that wizards try to turn in to the goblins. They may also have methods that just track objects transfigured to look like Muggle money. If goblins have similar cognitive flaws as humans, then they might be able to keep track of the economy for this one very specific purpose and not even realize that arbitrage was really a useful practice.
6CronoDAS11yThere might also be some laws restricting trade between the wizarding economy and the Muggle economy. In other words, if you take a bunch of Galleons and try to sell them to Muggles, you'll probably end up arrested or something. Part of the whole "Muggles can't be allowed to know about wizards, unless they're close relatives of wizards" thing.
4Cyan11yYou could avoid selling Galleons per se by melting them into bullion first. Maybe Galleons are unmeltable? Or the gold turns into leaves and gorse blossoms when handled extensively by Muggles? It seems like with magic at one's disposal one doesn't have to rely on mere law to prevent wizard/Muggle arbitrage.
7gwern11yNo, that wouldn't work. In MoR, the routineness of coining Sickles implies that it's routine to coin ordinary gold into Galleons; if the coinage were irreversible, then you would see Gresham's law [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham%27s_law] start to operate. Ordinary gold would be more valuable then an equivalent weight of Galleons because you could at any time turn the gold into Galleons but with ordinary gold you have all the other decorative and magical uses of gold available. As Galleons are created and not destroyed, ever more inflation of Galleons and deflation of gold would happen. (Have you ever bought funny money, like the Mickey Mouse money at Disney World? The Galleons would be like the Mickey Mouse money, and gold like regular dollars. Except worse.)
3Cyan11yI am edified and grateful for it.
8gwern11y(Magical) code is law [https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Code_and_Other_Laws_of_Cyberspace] , but the laws of economics are more akin to laws of logic than legal laws - try to bend them, and you'll either accomplish nothing or it'll bite you somehow. You need subtler tactics than just unmeltable coins or disappearing specie.

...Giant SquidxHogwarts?

It's too bad fanfiction.net doesn't provide a Google Reader friendly RSS feed for new story chapters. The author feed doesn't show up as updated when there are new chapters, and Google Reader's page scraping trick for generating a feed doesn't seem to be allowed on the domain.

8Unnamed11yTo get email notification, register at fanfiction.net with that email address. Then go to your account page, to the Alerts tab, to Story Alerts, and put in the story ID (5782108).
3NancyLebovitz11yYou can get email notification of new chapters.

Chapter 21

Draco's choice of subject. Expected, but unfortunate. It would be fun to know the physics of the magical universe. The biology is not completely exempt from the physics, of course. Also, there can be many fun incidents introduced when they are trying to sample people. Imagine trying to get a skin sample from albus dumbledore, the most powerful wizard around or trying to figure out why Aberforth wasn't that great.

The Dark Mark - They would have thought about it. My guess is the dark mark came around only after a certain power threshold was already... (read more)

  • Talking animals
  • Beanstalks of unusual size
  • A pair of boxes, one containing $1000 ...
  • Black comedy
  • Poetic justice
  • People living happily ever after.

Chapter 34:

I totally think the "completely wrong ship" alluded to in the author's notes is Hermione/Griphook. It makes sense!

Chapter 33:

I'd come up, before, with the hypothesis that HPMoR Voldemort was actually Necessarily Evil after the fashion of Eliezer's proposed supervillain gambit, but I dismissed it by assuming that Voldemort had crossed the Moral Event Horizon already. This chapter, though, makes it very plausible again via an explicit motivation (and a Shout Out to Foundation, as well). On the other hand, Quirrell could just be playing one level above that explanation.

One thing, though: is it public knowledge that Lucius Malfoy had been a Death Eater? Because it seemed... (read more)

2gwern11yI believe canon states that Lucius was tried in the post-Voldemort purges & Lucius's defense was that he had been under the Imperius curse. EDIT: The Harry Potter wikia, which ought to know, seems to agree: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Lucius_Malfoy#First_Wizarding_War [http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Lucius_Malfoy#First_Wizarding_War]
[-][anonymous]11y 4

Is there an annotated version of this anywhere? I know that the sequences cover most/all the stuff and am reading and have read a lot of the sequences but it seems like it might be fun to read this with descriptions of the maths/science/concepts alongside it as well as all the literary allusion noted.

Oh, I was more of hoping we could prod Eliezer into supplying us with a list of such. :)

Alternatively, male sexual development might be more varied than is commonly believed.

Or the Malfoys might put a lock on their kids' early sexuality to make them easier to control. Something like that might make arranged marriages less prone to drama.

I think this might actually be feasible. Malfoys are probably not likely to have intimate enough conversations with children from other families that something odd is going on, and could write off what other children imply as just big talk.

Or the children could find out the truth relatively early, and buy into a family belief that this is the sensible way to do things rather than an imposition.

2NihilCredo11yGiven how much emphasis a Malfoy education places on preserving your status and appearance of power, it's fairly silly that Draco would so openly and freely reveal such an important (at least symbolically) deficiency.

If you don't believe me, do a google search. Lots of people on "ask the community" websites like Yahoo answers have asked whether prepubescent boys could get erections. Some of these people are adult men. In any case, obviously Eliezer didn't know that or he probably wouldn't have included that tidbit!

You know, as I was reading chapter 32, I started thinking about how the three generals had their various weaknesses. Draco is savvy but weak against complexity, Hermione is bright but not exactly street smart, and Harry is clearly brilliant yet arrogant. It was only after I'd read it all that I realised each had fallen prey to their own specific weakness. Hermione was surprised by the combined 'For Sunshine!' Gambit against her, Draco didn't realise he was with the wrong Patil, and Harry encouraged earlier betrayal amongst his crew in order to protect him in the final battle, only to be surprised at the end. I figure this was probably a deliberate bit of writing on Eliezer's account, in which case I just want to say-Good job!

3NihilCredo11yDraco -> Terran Hermione -> Zerg Harry -> Protoss ?
4gwern11yAre you mad? You are assigning the happiness & sunshine army general to the Zerg, and the general of chaos to the Protoss? I'm starting to think you aren't actually a Starcraft player.
3NihilCredo11yI went by frozenchicken's words rather than by my (single-player and replay-watching only) knowledge of Starcraft. "Clearly brilliant yet arrogant" is a lock for Protoss, and "bright but not exactly street smart" cannot be Terran. Now, chaotic fighting indeed doesn't fit with the Protoss at all. But Hermione's strategy is by far the one that most parallels a hive-mind, and for all we know the semi-sentient Zerg really are all happy-go-lucky on the inside.

Ch. 32. I don't know what Eliezer will have Blaise do, but if I were in that position I'd flip a coin between Harry and Draco, get rewarded by the winner and counterfactually mug the loser. (Hoping, of course, that that Draco wins, since Harry is clearly more likely to pay off a counterfactual mugger.)

ETA: That is, of course, assuming that Blaise isn't working for Dumbledore (which his chapter-ending line would seem to point to).

Assume that Draco and Harry both value victory at $1000. Now if you demand $800 from the winner, the loser "would have" gained only $200 in the counterfactual case, so he will pay you $200 at most. So you could have just demanded $1000 minus epsilon from the winner. We could probably prove a theorem that says counterfactual mugging can't help you extract more of the surplus economic value that you create.

5Strange711yJudging by the Author's Notes, my guess is that the final result is a three-way tie caused by Blaise self-terminating in the name of Sunshine.
[-][anonymous]11y 4

Edit: Ah, wait, they can't change their allegiance as targets, can they? Otherwise Zabini wouldn't be able to choose the victor at the end.

Chapter 32: Why didn't they (visibly) use change of allegiance for defense in the second phase? If you turn yourself into a soldier of the enemy, then the enemy will lose a point for shooting you. Thus, everyone should hold allegiance to the enemy except for the exact moments they fire (which would be quite hard, since you'd need to find someone with enemy's allegiance who is not loyal to your team).

So, it should've bee... (read more)

Alchemist's Stone

Philosopher's Stone, or in the American version, Sorcerer's Stone. Although it does belong to an alchemist.

Chapter six on ff.net; on my webspace (navigation and prettyfulness coming soon).

4Alicorn11yI made Luminosity its own website [http://luminous.elcenia.com/index.shtml]. Also, chapter seven [http://luminous.elcenia.com/chapters/ch7.shtml] exists now. If you prefer e-mail updates over RSS, fanfiction.net will continue to update with new chapters, and it is still the correct place to put reviews, but for other purposes I believe my site will be better.
3katydee11yCould we please not have white text on a black background?
3arundelo11yI don't mind the color scheme, but here's a tool called Readability [http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/] that tries to reformat websites to be more readable. (Among other things, it uses [nearly] black text on a [nearly] white background.)

620 comments is very unwieldy, especially when threaded. A new post per chapter would be less likely to cause brains like mine (that is, unlike Eliezer and Harry's, who seem to have brains built like the TARDIS) to go into terminal explosive overload.

She has a lot of kitten paraphernalia. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she kept an actual cat that simply never made it into a scene of the book.

cheap mnemonic device

Yes, it seems to work great for that. I find myself saying things like, "As Lucius Malfoy would say, that sounds like the sort of plot that would work in a story but not in reality." or "That's like the time Harry Potter..."

Or, disillusionment with the one girl he found attractive has finally pushed him out of the closet.

Presumably that at least allows him to break through any locks. Mastering this wandlessly will make it impossible to effectively restrain him while leaving conscious. The choice to make it possible is still on the author, because the Magic could make it impossible regardless, as it holds lots of conceptual knowledge already and can impose map distinctions of its own, however the wizard conceptualizes the situation.

6JGWeissman11yUnless the restraints are protected against transfiguration.
8Alicorn11yIf the ability to transform just portions of objects is completely novel, those protections might or might not extend to it.
4wedrifid11yIf you can prevent apparition by powerful wizards you can quite likely prevent transfiguration via a similar mechanism.

I'd dispute your claim about Hermione - I get that way about breaking rules sometimes, particularly when I am tired.

Ok. Almost pure physics.

A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad physicist. Fortunately, if trolley ran down different track, it would activate timeturner that would send it 10 seconds back in time and then trolly would flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to timeturner. And also a bystander runs to flip a switch.

Possible stable states.

  1. Bystander stops and wait for trolley to appear from nowhere. Trolley kills 5.

  2. Bystander stops and wait for trolley t

... (read more)

Though Godel was interested in time travel loops, that's not the type of consistency that his Second Incompleteness Theorem discussed (it's limited to formal axiomatized systems that can describe arithmetic).

I think it may be a bit of both. A large part of the negative sentiment towards muggleborns seems to come from the purebloods viewing them as interlopers into a superior culture that has no place for them, for which the nouveau riche are the perfect analogy. But at the same time, the conflict has a great deal to do with ancestry and heredity; Voldemort and his coterie, evil bigots that they are, want to stop the muggleborn outsiders from diluting their superior bloodlines, a clear echo of various racist ideologies. The tie is made even more explicit by Row... (read more)

What does matter to the universe is whether the agent in the time loop is interacting with the time loop in a way that is complex and improbable. That is, factoring large primes should give unpredictable outcomes, long detailed tricks like throwing pies and playing with bullies should be slightly safer, giving yourself a time out simpler again and pre-scheduled study and sleep breaks right down at the bottom of the scale.

This "scale" sounds extremely anthropomorphic.

I'll suggest that the Wiemar republic may be a better analogy than any period in American history.

The anti-Mudblood campaign is revving up in Lily's time, and it's reasonable to see a serious threat there.

However, it's conceivable that Harry simply doesn't know much about wizarding world history. He's certainly been busy enough with other things.

Mudblood can only be used to refer to muggle-born witches and wizards, making it a strictly racial and not socioeconomic term; many muggleborns, including Hermione, are actually quite well off. And it is definitely a big deal. Did you miss the gigantic brawl that ensued after Malfoy first called Hermione a Mudblood? I believe Ron was vomiting slugs for a day afterwards.

I feel almost certain that Harry is living in a computer simulation. I know he ruled it out because he decided the existence of the Time Turner renders the universe non-computable, but how can he be sure that he's actually going backwards in time instead of the universe "simulating going back to the past and computing a different future?"

8Baughn11yTime-travel doesn't make the universe uncomputable, is the thing. Time-travel makes certain laws of physics uncomputable, but there are any number of equivalent, far more complex sets of laws that would look the same to humans but remain computable - Eliezer's mind is running one, for starters. When writing a simulation, you would use one of those.

I don't think MOR explicitly mentions wizard-born squibs, but the original HP canon defines "squib" as a nonmagical child of magical parents. The existence of the word implies a certain minimum frequency of the phenomenon. I assume anything true in canon is true in MOR unless explicitly contradicted.

I, too, originally thought that it couldn't be a single gene trait, for exactly the reason you mention, until I realized just how rare muggle-born wizards were.

Other models have been proposed in the fanfiction.net comment thread. For example, there co... (read more)

Chapter 23: I wonder when Harry will realize that the reason he's an idiot isn't that he doesn't have a perfect emergency kit (though that's important), it's that he doesn't have a gut level understanding that the wizarding world is very dangerous, especially the Malfoys.

I read a fanfic a while ago involving a journey to afterlife (set after 5 and written before book 6 had come out) involving a journey to the underworld to try to get Sirius back. Hermione had apparently read enough mythology and other works to become genre savvy about what to expect. The end involved dealing with a creature that had been promised a pound of flesh from Harry and she then used the standard trick from The Merchant of Venice to deal with it. When the others are impressed she explicitly stated where it was from and gave a brief rant about how wizards should read more Muggle writing.

How does all this exactingly correct pronunciation stuff interact with accents, speech impediments, having just been socked in the face, or otherwise having issues with getting exact sounds out?

For that matter, what do mute wizards and witches do? Do they just have to learn to cast everything nonverbally? Or can they cure muteness with magic such that it never comes up?

4alethiophile11yThere's mention in the fifth book of canon that Neville gets a fat lip and is unable to pronounce spells in battle (he ends up just stabbing someone with his wand).

Yes, but it won't stack with the enhancement bonus for masterwork, if it's a weapon. Incidentally, these bonuses do stack on at least some skill enhancement items, like musical instruments, because they give different bonuses ("circumstance" and "competence", IIRC).

So far many chapters managed to up the ante. Meaning there is way more depth than i expected initially. The story wouldnt loose much if there is no magic explanation, but well. it would be mind blowing if there is. And of course Harry will research till he hits the solution or a dead end.

I made up a few trivial sounding solutions for all the patterns shown in the story (trivial for LW/OB readers) but do not want to invite too much speculation.

Another thing I really liked was the depth of characterization. Usually in SF thats not too well done. Here the nic... (read more)

I'm not sure, considering the number of different kinds of story there are even in our world, and especially considering that entities which could create our world will probably have sorts of fiction we haven't thought of, and may have sorts of fiction we can't think of.

However, Eliezer may come up with something which would plausibly convince Harry.

Eliezer previously considered the idea of a cabal of physicists keeping nuclear weapons a secret in this post. The idea turns up again in this chapter of Three Worlds Collide. Any thoughts? Would you feel safer if only super-rich physicists had access to nuclear weapons?

4Baughn11yNot particularly. Apart from uncertainty of whether that would actually reduce threats in general, in the particular case of nuclear weapons it's relatively easy to argue that their existence has reduced suffering, overall.
4simplicio11yI'm not sure the temporary peace they bring is worth it considering how they up the ante. Sure, they probably prevented the Cold War getting hot. On the other hand, one nutcase or terrorist can erase all that utility pretty goddam fast. Hallelujah.

The answer appears to be no. There were a few articles in Scientific American: Mind about it a while back. Experiments show that the flaw causing stuff like people denying they can't move their arms is part of their logic processing; they proved this by figuring out they could reset their thinking for a short time, at which point people were able to clearly state that they were paralyzed and they were surprised at their earlier thinking.

After a minute, the effect wore off and the patient returned to an earlier state. So the effect appears to short circuit the decision making process on a hardware level.

Erm, yeah. I thought we all understood the hash scheme.

Try echo -n.

I imagine rape is way, way, way more painful for girls than for guys.


Oh, wait. You mean rape of males by females without the use of any paraphernalia.

My impression of approximate rape statistics was along the lines of 90%/9%/1% male->female/male->male/female->male. I don't know where female->female fits.

"Involuntary heterosexual coitus" is the last think of when evaluating the relative expectations of pain.

If you are the sort of person who would do that Harry will assume that you lie if presented with that evidence unless you also successfully fool Harry as to what sort of person you are (and presumably he will default to not trusting you if unsure). Otherwise you are just wasting your time.

Is Harry learning how to lose?

Chp 19 is when Harry went through the ordeal with Quirrell to learn how to lose.

Chp 21 he lost the textbook reading contest with Hermione and acted like a whiny sore loser, suggesting that he hadn't really learned much. He acted like such a brat that I had to assume that he'd failed to learn some basic social skills in his solitary homeschooled childhood (e.g., you should at least act like you've lost gracefully, by congratulating the winner and not complaining).

Chp 32 Harry seems to be trying to goad Draco and Hermione into ... (read more)

2Unnamed11yChp 33 provides more support for this take on chp 32. Draco & Hermione threaten to cooperate against Harry if he accepts traitors, Harry openly proclaims that he'll accept traitors and challenges them to cooperate, and Quirrell is surprised by Harry's response. This makes the most sense if Harry is thinking outside the game and seeing his tactic as win-win: either he gets Draco & Hermione to cooperate (win in life), or they fail to cooperate and he has an advantage in the battle (win in the game).

Regarding the author's notes for chapter 32: I assume the complexity class you're looking for at the end there would be something like PromiseNP? Also, the trick really is more general than that, seeing as you can actually use it to do anything in PSPACE.

That makes sense, I suppose (although I must have too high standards - it would never have occurred to me that this was a step up). I wish we had more background on how Snape treated student crushes.

I am going to assume provisionally that you do not mind answers from people other than Alicorn.

Situations that have probably caused me to become less aware of the true reasons for my thoughts and actions:

  • needing to stand up for myself, i.e., to argue on my own behalf, in what a friend of mine referred to as a "pecking situation," i.e., one where ordinary people without a strong commitment to epistemic purity constantly try to one-up me and each other;

  • needing to sell myself, e.g., in a long series of job interviews or dates;

  • living for months

... (read more)

The link works for me. I'm not sure what might be wrong with it. I will fix the typo, but FF.net takes for-freaking-ever to push adjustments to content. Here are the chapters extant on my own webspace, where they should behave. (I will continue to update on FF.net too in order to attract the attention of more conventional fic readers.)

"Allude", perhaps?

The part of her that wants to do that is the part that's fantasizing about special detentions; the instinct that says "bad idea" is the part that doesn't think this is one of those.

Okay, if no one on LW got Aftermath 2, even after working out that the aftermath was supposed to display a change in Snape, then it was too subtle.

My hypothesis is that thus far he's considered poor Alissa to be the most inconsequential thing ever to intrude on his thoughts; and having thought more deeply about what happened with him, Lily, and James when he was a kid, he now decides he ought to her to nip her affections in the bud for clearly stated reasons, rather than letting them fester without suitable closure for, perhaps, an unduly long time as his have. His only closure was that he insulted Lily and felt guilty about it forever (as apparently, from his perspective, this was the only thing standing between him and getting to be with Lily); Alissa's could be the end of school, without the issue ever being directly addressed.

The problem with this hypothesis is that it has Snape thinking that student crushes on teachers are persistent sorts of things, and this isn't typically the case.

3Sniffnoy11yWell, he could well be generalizing from one example [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/]...

Will we get a hint?

Well... we don't have much of a baseline to compare this version of Snape to.

8pjeby11yYes, but what part was the change? That he dislikes student affections? That he tells them about it? That they have affections? That he's previously been taking advantage of students in slashy ways? If anything, I would've expected it to be him actually taking advantage, if he were taking Harry's advice to... oh. Wait. Maybe he is taking Harry's advice and has started looking for deep instead of pretty? If so, it was definitely too subtle. ;-)
7jimrandomh11yGiven the number of theories so far, I'm surprised no one has suggested this one: Aftermath 2 is in fact meant to demonstrate that Snape's behavior has not changed, by displaying behavior that is entirely typical and expected of him; but now that Harry, Minerva, Dumbledore and the readers are all primed to look for changes, they will find them even where they shouldn't.
6Nisan11yWhatever it is, it must have something to do with this:
5orthonormal11yHe may have had his mental discipline upset by the events of the previous chapter, causing him to be less in control of his Legilimency in some fashion. I did note the significance of the command to "restrain your eyes henceforth". But yeah, even if I'm on the right track I don't feel confident of it. Too subtle for this reader.
5Blueberry11yHarry told Snape that Lily only liked James because of his money and looks. So is it that Snape now thinks his students only like him because of his position and power, whereas before he thought they liked him for who he was? Has he become even more cynical? More inclined to reject people? ETA: Some reviewers thought it was a reference to Snape performing Legilimency, but of course it doesn't take a mind reader to notice a dreamy-eyed girl.
5Tyrrell_McAllister11yThis is what I figured. And there was the comment by Dumbledore (or Minerva?) that Snape wouldn't hurt Harry because Snape loves Harry's mother. So I'm now assuming that Harry managed to convince Snape that Harry's mother is not love-worthy, which means that Harry is now stripped of that protection.
3Psy-Kosh11yHrm... So far best I can come up with are two possibilities, one more charitable and one less charitable toward Snape: First: From his conversation with Harry, he perhaps concludes that making one's feelings (or lack theirof) to someone that may have feelings for you absolutely clear rather than leaving it ambiguous may be a good idea. (ie, in his own way, he wanted to protect his student from ending up in a situation similar to himself) Second: He was sufficiently POed at Harry that he's no longer keeping his agreement to not legilimens the students. I'm not really assigning all that high credence to either of those hypotheses, but they're more or less all I could come up with so far. So... give us a hint? :)
3red7511yAnalysis of Harry's conversation with Snape in ch. 27. Possible Snape thoughts: "He implies that I wasn't even a friend of She. How dare he!?" ... consideration of different ways of mutilation ... then "Oh! He can't possibly be like his mother. She had a very high standards for Her friends. Maybe his stepparents taught him this indiscrimination of friends." "SHE was shallow!? ... But She married that brat Potter. Was Her standards high after all? Maybe not. And I gave all the power I could have for her..." So I think Snape became misogynous. Thus Alissa's affection became irritating for him. I don't know what implications it will have for storyline however. Edit: Analysis is done by Type 1 processing with Type 2 postselection, so no justification is given. :) Edit: This hypothesis seems to be insufficient for explanation of emphasis on "wrong" in Aftermath 2, maybe there's something more. Edit: 1. "Wrong" can mean, that she was aware, that Snape isn't kind of person young woman is supposed to crush on. I'm not sure that this is true for Slytherin. Anyway Snape isn't handsome guy, it's not deserve emphasis to hint that. 2. "Wrong" can mean, that she feels it's bad for her to show affection now. Fits my hypothesis, but not wording "There was probably something really wrong with her...", which imply that she knew it all the way. Some part of puzzle seems to be missing.
6pjeby11yThe "wrong" is presumably that the wizarding world isn't much familiar with, or accepting of, urges tending towards BDSM. A student of her age would be unlikely to be familiar with the idea of such a thing not being "wrong", given their lack of internet access. ;-)

I interpreted it as stating that they had actually performed the experiment, and gotten a positive result. Am I misinterpreting something?

I should really have mentioned this back in the appropriate chapter, but..

Remember how Harry complains that adding (consistent) time-travel makes the universe uncomputable? Leaving aside how I'm not exactly convinced of that myself, I thought I should point out that such consistent time-travel has recently been experimentally demonstrated.

Have a look at http://arxiv4.library.cornell.edu/abs/1005.2219 . It was published way too late for Harry to read it, unfortunately. :P

Interesting-- I think this chapter has the least unsatisfactory presentation of Hermione so far.

It's at least plausible that she'd be less self-assured than the canon version-- she's in a much weirder situation.

Harry's knuckles had gone white on his wand by the time he stopped trying to Transfigure the air in front of his wand into a paperclip. It wouldn't have been safe to Transfigure the paperclip into gas, of course, but Harry didn't see any reason why it would be unsafe the other way around. It just wasn't supposed to be possible. But why not? Air was as real a substance as anything else...

Well, maybe that limitation did make sense. Air was disorganized, all the molecules constantly changing their relation to each other. Maybe you couldn't impose a new form

... (read more)

All of the above. Decision making is just physics.

It's more complicated than that.

Shouldn't Slughorn be trying to get Harry into his social circle very soon after Harry's substantial victory over Snape?

6gwern11ySure, but how many days have passed? Not very many. And Slughorn is retired. Harry's exploits in books 1-5 are even more impressive than this Harry's maneuvering, and yet look how late on Slughorn is first introduced.

"Bloody" is not a terrible swear word in the UK. It is an old fashioned (1950s*) accentuator of other swear words. Typically bloody hell. It has lost its potency, which is why ron weasely can use it, or so Urban dictionary claims (I forget what happens in HP).

Edit: * 1950s was my guess at the last time it was considered bad, although there appears to have been controversy in the 60's and 70's

He was trying to create a stable time loop, which had consequences along the same lines as the Outcome Pump - there's no way to know which stable time loop you'll get.

However, if he was using a "being the kind of person" strategy, we might expect he'd avoid being the sort of person who would pass along "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME".

3Sniffnoy11yYes, to repeat what I said earlier, this seems easy to avoid by replacing his "blank paper" condition with a more general "anything other than a pair of numbers in the given range" condition. I have to suppose Eliezer had him get that specific message because it wouldn't be good for the story if Harry noticed this fact. Though even if he does take that approach, as with the outcome pump, there's still other possibilities, because they can screw with Harry's ability to execute his intended algorithm.
3Vladimir_Nesov11yYes, like it turning out that he was predetermined to die at the time of the experiment, and never complete it.
[-][anonymous]11y 3

The idea appealed to me because it meant you were protesting that the villain was not an author mouthpiece at the same time as he was whistling your favourite piece of music while contemplating murder. As an act of contrariness, it would've been of a kind with writing "colder than zero Kelvin" when you were still arguing with the reviewers who didn't get the "divided by zero" joke.

Just because I never read the original material - in Chapter 27:

"And you wanted to see the results of your test firsthand," said Harry. "So. Am I like my father?"

A strange sad expression came over the man, one that looked foreign to his face. "I should sooner say, Harry Potter, that you resemble -"

Severus stopped short.

...is the name he doesn't say Remus Lupin?

6Vive-ut-Vivas11yI think it's supposed to be his mother, Lily.

Just read Chapter 27. Haven't read the original books, but Wikipedia says Snape was a secret agent of good because of his past love for Lily. Nice job turning Snape dark, Harry. Considering your friendships with Draco and Quirrell, I don't see what you're doing out of Slytherin.

No, no, this mistake suggests the opposite. No Slytherin with Harry's preferences, intellect and level of development would ever make such an idiotic mistake. A Ravenclaw might. Harry gave the wise, or at least what he considered to be the correct answer, given very little regard... (read more)

I'm rather pleased with myself for figuring out why there's a Slytherin house-- if you were setting up a school, would you have a quarter of it devoted to evil?

Even 'now' the Slytherins aren't all evil. It is just that most evil came from Slytherin. I would describe Slytherin as somewhat exaggerated but otherwise realistic. People with that kind of ambitious do tend to congregate together in exclusive groups. In most cases they will not be labeled 'evil' by society. They will end up in socially powerful positions within the system. But when you have a s... (read more)

Chapter 25: Couldn't magical genes evolve if magic (call it matter being susceptible to intent) exists? Vision is a complex thing, but from one angle vision evolves because light exists.

If magic is artificial and magic genes can't evolve, this implies that all the magical species were invented.

I don't suppose anyone has been archiving the author's notes? I missed those from Chapter 24.

3AdeleneDawner11yYou didn't miss much: While we're on the subject, I don't have any of the notes before chapter 18, and am also missing chapter 19. If anyone has those, I'd like to complete my set.

Ah, in that case, I must spend too much time on the Giants in the Playground Forum where a statement like that would seem perfectly natural.

Really? It seemed that she's just a bit genre savvy. She's an 11 year old who's main understanding of how the world works is from distilling tropes.

In Chapter 6, when Harry was buying the trunk: his whole speech about planning fallacies and collaborators ... wasn't really necessary, was it? Even had he not stolen his own money, I doubt that the proprietor would have refused a down payment accompanied by a request to hold the trunk overnight, pending the remainder of the sum to be payed in the morning.

That said: what if he had simply withdrawn the eleven Galleons and presented them as a fait accompli, without preface?

8LucasSloan11yI don't believe the true reason for the speech was to get McGonagall to agree with his actions - It was to assert his dominance over her.

I had one in my comment-- that respectability varies more between mainstream culture and the people who are likely to read HPMOR than you realized.

5gwern11yHarry Potter fanfiction and its readers is way closer to mainstream culture than the sort of people who could read that crossover fic; keep in mind, Harry Potter fanfiction novels have been published as have entire books just predicting what would happen in book 7 or comprising dictionaries of Harry Potter-ania (you may remember the lawsuit over the latter).

That is just awesome. Made my day! While reading the story i hat to laugh out loudly on almost every third sentence, much to the annoyance of my neighbors. Thats a feat no other story has accomplished so far, not even discworld - which would be the close contender.

I was also happy to learn that i figured out the solution to Harry's sleeping problem right about when it introduced. But i didn't solve the confusing morning riddle.

Ch. 21

Where is the tentacle rape exactly? The only thing I found in the ballpark was the burbling fountain of ooze, which suggests a Shoggoth, hence tentacles and tentacle rape, but that seems really weak.

9Eliezer Yudkowsky11ySearch on "tentacle".

For the lazy:


Harry knew now how people felt when they were tired of running, tired of trying to escape fate, and they just fell to the ground and let the horrifically befanged and tentacled demons of the darkest abyss drag them off to their unspeakable destiny.

Unpack "unspeakable".

You're welcome.

Is someone who has never read any of the Harry Potter books and is not a fan of the movies likely to appreciate this work? I'm somewhat curious to read it but suspect I'd have trouble following the references.

I probably need to write up a "For those who have never seen the books" summary page of years 1-7, containing all the information that will be needed mixed with enough other information that it looks like a summary instead of "here is exactly and only what you will need to know".

5thomblake11yThat sounds helpful, even to those who've read the books but many of them long ago. Just don't let it stop you from writing chapters. ETA: Outsource?
9cousin_it11yI never read any of the original Harry Potter books but found the fanfic quite enjoyable overall. At least one big plot point utterly confused me until I looked up "Quirrell" and "horcrux". Also Eliezer chose to make Harry a badass a la Ender Wiggin, which I thought was in very poor taste, but I guess most people can just ignore this.
6JoshuaZ11yDon't worry, he's made up for it by making his villain much more badass than in the books.

I'm not complaining about story balance. I just don't enjoy this particular brand of wish fulfillment - fantasizing about a nerd that could stare down five big bullies and still stay a nerd.

I wonder if Eliezer has or should read this review of Ender's Game (a book I never read myself, but the reviewer seems to provide a useful warning to authors).

Ouch! I -- I actually really enjoyed Ender's Game. But I have to admit there's a lot of truth in that review.

Now I feel vaguely guilty...

9CronoDAS11yThere's a pretty obvious defense; even if it is just pornography that appeals to a different emotion, it's still damn good pornography!
6cousin_it11yYeah, I was wondering when this link would come up. Not sure about Eliezer, but I read this review sometime ago and it matched my impressions of the book perfectly.
3anonym11yMe too, though I had many of those same misgivings while reading the book. The difference between me and everybody else in my peer group -- who loved Ender's Game -- is that I first read it as an adult, and they all read it first as teenagers or before. To gather some actual data, I'm curious how many people there are here who first read it as a young teenager and didn't love it, or first read it as an adult and did love it.
8MichaelVassar11yI read it as a teenager and didn't love it. Many things annoyed me, but most of all the insanity of training Ender and company exclusively in skills other than the ones they would actually use (people floating in space with hand-held lasers) rather than the skills they needed. Also the absence of anything that looked AT ALL like a bell curve distribution of ability. The battle school kids are all supposed to be massively well selected and trained, yet only Ender, Bean, Valentine and Peter really matter. The battle school kids in general are all an absurd backdrop just to train "the one" who has been identified ahead of time. Finally, overly complex plans working annoyed me a bit and extreme military/governmental competence annoyed me more. True Names and other Dangers is a weird case of an anarcho-libertarian writing a story showing extreme military/governmental competence.

Probably a stored rant here, but the thing that put me off most from Ender's Game (which I'd read as an adult) was that the adults con a child into pushing the button which wipes out an alien race, and with the intent of absolving themselves from responsibility. IIRC, Ender actually does accept (partial?) responsibility in a later book.

Even though I've become more cynical since I read that book, I still think the adult behavior was well outside the human range. The normal thing is to blame the aliens for humans thinking it made sense to wipe them out.

8JenniferRM11yI think its trickier than that - the adults are portrayed as being incapable of the "necessary" brilliance and/or ruthlessness. They put Ender in the hotseat because they hope he'll do "something to win" without really visualizing what that something might entail. He's simultaneously their "more powerful optimizing process" and (using LW terminology that makes me a little uncomfortable) their shabbos goy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1zv/the_shabbos_goy/]. Its possible that the first two books were written specifically to explore the structure of moral reasoning in situations like this. How do people morally process a genocide that no specific person directly and obviously intended, especially if their theory of moral reasoning hinges primarily on intent? I don't mean to pull a Godwin, but there may (intentionally?) be a strong set of correspondences between Ender and Hitler, with a literary goal of getting people to "identify and forgive Hitler" - that is, the whole book may be a literary "Godwin prank". I should note that this is not my original analysis, in part because I know almost nothing about "Hitler scholarship". The original insight came from Elaine Radford [http://peachfront.diaryland.com/enderhitlte.html], I heard about it via a K5 post by a friend of hers telling the story of how Orson Scott Card freaked out [http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/5/28/22428/7034] and tried to bully her into not publishing the analysis after book two but before book three (which was massively delayed, possibly because of the review if you buy the K5 story). The analysis was later cited in Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender's Game, Intention, and Morality [http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_000.htm]. For reference, I read Ender's Game and really liked it when I was about 12. After my brother and I read it we tried to get our mom to read it and she stopped like 20 pages in because the horrific child abuse turned her stomach.

"Also the absence of anything that looked AT ALL like a bell curve distribution of ability. The battle school kids are all supposed to be massively well selected and trained, yet only Ender, Bean, Valentine and Peter really matter. "

If you select out the right end of the bell curve from the general population, then you won't have a bell curve anymore, but rather a fat lower end.

Also, the training was supposed to be a sort of abstract sport to select for leadership skill, coolness under pressure, etc - it wasn't supposed to be actually training them to fight in space. They did training of the actual spaceshippy stuff later. You could certainly argue they should have started that earlier though.

8arundelo11yAnd to give them experience thinking about tactics three-dimensionally.
6MichaelVassar11yYou should have something that looks like the right end of a bell curve, e.g. very little variation, especially with feedback loops from ability shaping environment shaping ability cut short by the tight external control on environment.
3grendelkhan10yI read it in middle school, and, though I know there's a tendency to see my earlier self as having the benefit of hindsight, I swear that while I really enjoyed the cathartic nerd-violence, I also had an awareness that there was something creepy and wrong with the whole thing, even if I couldn't put my finger on it. I was both attracted to and horrified by the book. I had a faint sense that feeling that self-righteous is a very dangerous sign. I then largely forgot about it (it seems to have strongly influenced a lot of people who read it at that age, but not me) until I reached adulthood and stumbled on criticism from Kessel and Radford, whereupon it all fell into place and I congratulated myself on having seen that there was at least something there to criticize.
3arundelo11yRead it as an adult (sometime in the second half of my 20s) and loved it. (Still do.)
3Blueberry11yI loved Ender's Game, and think that that review is far more "pornographic" than the book. I pretty much disagree with every sentence of the review. That reviewer took one theme of a complex story, a theme he apparently didn't like, and vulgarized it and ridiculed it to the point of absurdity.
4Kutta11yBut hey, it's not primarily nerd wish fulfillment, it's a rationalist's glowing aura of awesome. It's winning in general, not winning despite being a nerd.
7cousin_it11yHarry's aura of awesome is not only due to his being a rationalist. He also survived Voldemort's attack, has a prophecy about him, and possesses "the killing spirit" - neither of which were caused by his rationality. Why not make him exceptionally strong and irresistibly handsome as well? Or something.

In Magical Britain, the halo effect actually works.

That sounds like it would work much better as a series of "In Magical Britain" jokes.

In Normal Britain, fundamental attribution is an error. In Magical Britain, all error can be attributed to someone's fundament!!

4thomblake11yA lot of cognitive bias has tie-ins with "magical thinking". If you're living in a world where sympathetic magic works, why not the halo effect or gambler's fallacy?
3Psy-Kosh11yThe "killing spirit" thing is being depicted as ambiguous at best rather than necessarily a good thing. Recall also that when Harry goes back and watches himself defend Nevile, he concludes that there's something "very wrong with Harry Potter"