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This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 85The previous thread  has long passed 500 comments. Comment in the 15th thread until you read chapter 85. 

There is now a site dedicated to the story at, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on 

The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: 12345678910111213, 14, 15.

As a reminder, it’s often useful to start your comment by indicating which chapter you are commenting on.

Spoiler Warning: this thread is full of spoilers. With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13. More specifically:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it’s fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that “Eliezer said X is true” unless you use rot13.

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HPMOR is making me rethink human nature -- because of how people react to it. This is a story full of cunning disguises, and readers seem reluctant to see past those disguises. RL rkcerffrq chmmyrzrag ng ubj many readers took forever to decide Quirrell = Voldemort; I think I now know why.

I suggest that humans are instinctive "observation consequentialists." That is, we think someone is competent and good if the observed results of their actions are benign. We weigh what we observe much more strongly than what we merely deduce. If we personally see their actions work out well, we'll put aside a great deal of indirect evidence for their incompetence or vileness.

In HPMOR, Quirrell's directly observed actions are mostly associated with Harry getting to be more of what he thinks he wants. Even rescuing Bellatrix amounts to Harry getting to save a broken lovelorn creature in terms of what we directly observe. To believe Quirrell evil we have to bring in all kinds of expected consequences to weigh against those immediate positive observations.

Does the resistance to saying Quirrell=Voldemort maybe reflect a broader unwillingness to overlook what we directly witness in favor of ab... (read more)

Additionally, abusive relationships persist because the victim just can't help but forgive the abuser when the abuser is choosing to be nice. It can be hard to even believe your own memories of abuse when the abuser is smiling at you and giving you compliments.

I try to recall Quirrell murdering Rita Skeeter in cold blood every time I catch myself feeling like he's the good guy in the story.

I don't think anyone failed to see the signs that Quirrel is Voldemort in HPMOR. There are just those of us who believed it to be a Red Herring, because "that's how stories are supposed to work." If a potential solution to a mystery seems very obviously true in the first quarter of the story, then in most stories it's probably not the true solution. . Of course, at this point there's just no denying it.

I think the reason I was reluctant to accept that Quirrell is Voldemort is that Harry is a lot smarter than me and he trusted Quirrell.

That's actually a surprisingly good reason. In real life, the best rationalist you know is probably not a character in a story and feeling a sense of opposing pressure when you disagree with them is probably a pretty good idea.

This should cause you to update down your view of Aumann's Agreement theorem. (I am reminded of many professional scientists tricked by charlatans when magicians were not fooled- because the scientists knew where to look for truth, and the magicians knew where to look for lies.)
I have updated by learning of it's existence.
Could you explain what you mean by this? I'm having trouble parsing "update down your view of".

Could you explain what you mean by this? I'm having trouble parsing "update down your view of".

Aumann's Agreement theorem is a neat true result about fictional entities. Its applicability to real entities is subjective, and based on how close you think the real entities are to the fictional entities. Increasing that distance makes AAT less relevant to how you live your life, and increasing that distance is what I mean by "update down your view of."

My feeling is that those entities are really distant, to the point where AAT should not seriously alter your beliefs. "I trusted X because Y trusted X" is a recipe for disaster if you trust Y because of different domain-specific competence, rather than their deep knowledge of X.

Right, ok. I'd already thought that AAT is essentially irrelevant to actual human behavior, so I was confused what brought it up. ETA: No idea why you were downvoted so far.
2Paul Crowley10y
On fictional evidence?
Or it's just the halo effect, since Quirrell is awesome and of course awesome people are always good. You are making things up!
This suits extremely well with both local communities relationship to known criminals and to historical figures. Politics is a mind-killer and so on, but a lot of heroes of different nations have done some downright nasty stuff, but managed to keep their reputation due to perceptions about their personal manner. It has recently been used by leaders such as Chavez and Khomeini, but American presidents have also used this effect extensively (why kiss babies?) and historical figures from Cesar to Richard Lionheart and countless of medieval kings have also garnered good will by the actions they have undertaken in public while at the same time doing something in the opposite direction of way greater magnitude through their institutions of power.
I'm skeptical that people who've taken a long time to accept that Quirrel is Voldemort constitute a significant proportion of HPMoR readers. Sure, I've noticed a considerable number of them too, but HPMoR has a lot of readers. There's a risk of availability bias here; a reader who expresses skepticism that Quirrel is Voldemort automatically attracts attention from anyone who thinks it's obvious, whereas other people who think it's obvious don't. Personally, I've had no trouble at all accepting that Quirrell is evil ever since his first class, where he praised Harry's killing instinct. Villains pointing out and encouraging protagonists' darker impulses is a time honored trope, and praising an eleven year old in front of a whole class of other children for his drive to kill seems pretty indicative of evil to me.
Part of the problem is what 'he is Voldemort' really means: he isn't like canon Voldemort or even with how MOR Voldemort is reported to be. As for his obvious evil: it's too obvious, he seems to be the sort who enjoys playing the cynical villain but is actually, if not nice, at least nice to his friends. And Harry seems to be a friend. If he was trying to manipulate Harry he wouldn't have called it intent to kill, he'd have called it being decisive or intelligent or somesuch. Oddly enough, open villainy can be a great cloak for subtle villainy.

To be honest, I'm not even sure if Voldemort is Voldemort, in the sense of being the man behind the proverbial curtain here. Everything about him from the name up screams "assumed persona": he's far more theatrical a figure than a blood-purist demagogue would need to be, and some aspects of what he does even look counterproductive in that context. And while the canon Tom Riddle did all the same stuff and all for no particularly good reason, in the context of MoR I think we can assume that there's an agenda behind it.

I don't know for sure what that agenda is yet, but a good first step seems to be this question: why would you want to pose as a supervillain? As it happens, Eliezer has touched on that before.

Quirrell and Harry are both horcruxes of Voldemort, and there is a decent chance that Quirrell has guessed that this is the case by now, if he didn't always know. Quirrell thus has a very good reason to be nice to Harry...they are partially the same person. But just how much similarity does hpmor Voldemort bear to cannon Voldemort? Intelligence boost aside, both Harry and Quirrell have the exact same motives as canon Voldemort (power and immortality). The only difference between them is that Harry has an ethical component to his utility function - that's pretty much the only difference between Harry and Quirrell. Tom Riddle for his part is not against ethics - he just doesn't care about them. There are different varieties of evil: let's not confuse amorality with sadism. So there is absolutely no reason why Quirrell should view Harry as an enemy, except where Harry interferes with his plans because of his morality. If Harry succeeds at all his goals, so does Quirrell (to some extent. There is still the "dominance" component of power, which is a zero sum game. It's hard to tell how much Quirrell cares about that.) Harry's view of Quirrell is slightly more problematic. Because of Quirrell's lack of ethics constraints, Quirrell has many more options open to achieve his power/immortality goal than Harry does. So while Harry doesn't need to kill Quirrell, he does need to prevent him from achieving is goals in unethical ways. In fact, my current prediction is that Harry will "win" by achieving Quirrell's goals ethically, thereby making it unnecessary for Quirrell to behave immorally.
Some thoughts... When reading through the first time, it did seem really obvious that Quirrell was an improved, much more rational version of Voldemort; so blatantly obvious that it made me think if it was a clear red herring. (In the same way that Snape is the canon red herring.) I wondered if Eliezer had reversed things, so that Snape is the real villain and Quirrell the real good guy... However on re-reading, my prime suspect is now Professor Sprout (Chapter 13):
Of course, everyone knows that, just like they know Dumbledore's not really insane, it's just a cover!
Exactly! That's just like what all the most infamous dictators did, and what Machiavelli recommends in The Prince.
Your third sentence (at least up to the semicolon) should be rot13ed, although the proposition it expresses is pretty well known.
How about the first five words?
OK, I guess.
Could someone who has been reading HPMOR more assiduously than me say whether and where it has been explicitly revealed, in the story itself, that Quirrel is Voldemort?
It has not.
Ah. In that case, I choose to discount gur qr-choyvfurq nhgube pbzzrag ba gur znggre and predict that Quirrell, as we have seen him so far, is neither Voldemort, nor Voldemort's puppet. ETA: Edited only to rot13 something and correct Quirrell's name.
I further predict, more speculatively, that Harry will wrongly come to the opposite conclusion, betray Quirrel, and only too late realise his mistake in turning against his strongest ally. Furthermore, Harry will make this mistake through applying what he has learned from Quirrel about good and evil to Quirrel himself. All predictions based solely on my reading of the published story.
And furthermore, as a result of this, Harry's eventual victory will come at far greater cost than it otherwise would.
Beware the conjunction fallacy. Your scenario is complicated enough that its probability must be small, and also detailed enough that your brain is likely to try and overestimate that probability.
Of course. As I said in another comment, I rate the combined probability substantially below 0.5.
I think Quirrel is dying. He has lapses where he goes into "zombie-mode" and what is that, really? It could be some kind of disease or magical illness- perhaps at the end of the year Harry permanently loses his mentor because the illness has finally killed Q or put him in a coma.
What odds would you give for that?
I'm not interested in a monetary bet, but when I reach into the unknown depths within and pull out a number, it's 80%. For my more speculative predictions, I'd put the chance that I am right in every detail substantially below 50%. I shall be most gratified if it turns out that I nailed it.
Neither am I; I should have said "probability". ...Wow. Really? Bearing in mind that Eliezer is on record as saying he does not deceive his readers with red herrings?
Yes, really. Certainly, Quirrell has some significant relationship to Voldemort, and the questions of who Quirrell really is and what that relationship is have been raised in the fic. But I don't think Eliezer has been deceiving the readers.
Some bits of the foregoing discussion really ought to be rot13ed.
You deserve far more karma than what you received, my friend. By the way, could you link me to the argument expressed here?
Right here.
I don't understand why this was downvoted... the original source has been deleted but Glumph posted a link to an accurate copy of it.

Is it me, or does Harry's solution to this dilemma seem rather... half-assed? Ignoring potential the loss of effectiveness from his resolving to suddenly switch directions the first time things get bad, is he really going to know the first time someone dies as a result of his war? How will he know the difference? He's already gotten someone killed by his actions (Rita Skeeter, who he doesn't even know about) and another person gravely injured (that auror hurt by the rocket, who he doesn't know about but admittedly he thought the whole affair was a mistake afterward anyways). How about opportunity costs, the fact that if you handed me 100000 galleons demanding I save at least 10 lives with it I could hand you back 99000 in change. And that's before the "war" even "started"; hostilities are going to get more open and more direct from here. It's madness to think you can finish war, even a weird semi-geurella war like this, with zero casualties, or that you'll know about every one.

With the condition he gave himself anyone should be able to see that "failure" is a foregone conclusion. And there's very good odds he's not going to learn that what he's doing isn't working until he's racked up a far worse bodycount than one.

He's already gotten someone killed by his actions (Rita Skeeter, who he doesn't even know about)

Not for any realistic sense of the phrase 'by his actions'. Quirrel squished Rita of his own accord for his own purposes and Harry's presence there is damn near irrelevant.

Morally he didn't do it, and maybe Quirrel even had a desire to kill her sitting on a back burner before Harry got involved, but her death was caused by her interaction with Harry. It is no stretch to say that there is at least one hypothetical sequence of actions Harry could have taken, even given knowledge at the time (not realizing she worked for Lucius or was an animagus) which would not have resulted in her death. Heck, doing nothing would have resulted in her not death.

That is the level of challenge Harry is taking upon himself. Not just to not kill anyone, not just to keep your hands clean, not just to save people when he can. He's declaring that if any innocent person anywhere dies and there's something he could have done differently to save them, that's his failure condition. You can't do that.

That said, I thought about it a few minutes more and it could be his resolution is really about knowing he doesn't know how bad the situation is. It's certainly possible to get through, say, a political power struggle with someone like Lord Malfoy without anyone getting killed. Harry considers it possible but doesn't yet believe that his opponent is Voldemort. If his opponent is Voldemort avoiding casualties is impossible. If his opponent is someone less evil (though still pretty nasty), and the scope of the conflict is much smaller, he might be able to pull it off.

but a single nameless innocent bystander who catches a Cutting Curse

It seems that he promised himself to stop trying to save everyone even if a minor character dies accidentally. In that case it wouldn't matter if he considered himself directly responsible for the death of Rita Skeeter.

You can't do that.

Indeed. I don't see how he could manage not to compromise his 'every human life is precious' principle in a war. He's hesitating between two possible courses of action -- doing the math or playing Ghandi -- and neither seems like a satisfying choice. He really needs to become omnipotent or at least avoid the necessity of making such a choice.

Quirrel squished Rita of his own accord for his own purposes and Harry's presence there is damn near irrelevant.

Kinda-sort of.

Harry inadvertently gave Fred&George the idea of making up rumours about Quirrel (by telling them he doesn't like rumours, and asking them to leave Quirrel out of it). Which Rita Skeeter published.

And the prank he actually commissioned gave Quirrel a plausible explanation for Rita Skeeter's disappearance.

Morally Harry is not really responsible IMO. But causally, eh... her death would have probably not have happened if he hadn't talked to the Weasley twins about her.

Morally he still deliberately ruined her, regardless of whether he thought it would cause her death. Doing something to ruin the reputation of someone who lives by their reputation is morally bad even if you didn't think through all the consequences. --edited for language and clarity.

Morally he still deliberately fucked her, regardless of whether he thought it would cause her death.

Different language would be more appropriate to the context. Not because I have qualms with foul language, but because I actually got the impression that we were considering rape-ethics or philosophy in magic-mediated edge cases till I followed the link.

Only if she doesn't deserve to have her reputation wrecked. Skeeter did - I don't think Quirrell's murder is justified, but the phrases he had Harry repeat are all basically accurate.
The irony of this statement is overwhelming--I do hope it's deliberate.
Your opportunity cost point is more obvious to me than your Rita Skeeter point. Harry just sacrificed several lives, not just in people he could save today but almost certainly in people he could have saved once the war started. Potentially justified if Hermione is nigh-irreplaceable in the project of discovering the underlying structure of magic, which might give a hint as to where the plot's going. But I'm not sure Harry could reasonably predict that.

Okay, after thinking a few minutes about the Batman-Joker/where do you put Dark Wizards if you're determined not to use Dementors anymore problem...

Unbreakable Vow anyone? Just give Dark Wizards the option "either you take an Unbreakable Vow to never knowingly kill/torture/Imperio a human being ever again, nor to ever knowingly assist in such, or we just execute you right now".

I can think up of possible ways out of this meta-problem, in order to sustain the dilemma: Perhaps really powerful Dark Wizards require too vast a portion of magical power to sustain the vow. Perhaps there are dark rituals whereby using them, Dark Wizards can break out of even an (ill-named) Unbreakable Vow. Perhaps Dark Wizards tend to have made other rituals that already make them immune to Unbreakable Vows... Perhaps unbreakable vows need be really really specific in some weird manner like "I will not kill Bill Weasley", and "I will not kill Charlie Weasley" necessarily are two separate vows, so that "I will not kill any human" isn't enforceable...

But these are additional problems that are not yet mentioned/listed/foreshadowed in the story. Ugh, Unbreakable Vows seem something of a game breaker right now.

Sidenote: Whenever I think of something such, I worry that the author will think he'll have to rewrite/revise everything he had already planned, and that we'll never get an update again. Not my intention, I swear.

Unbreakable Vows are ridiculously broken, as Harry briefly observes in Ch. 74. They're even more ridiculous in fanfictions where people can just grab a wand and swear something on their life and magic and thereby create a magically binding vow. I had to nerf the hell out of their activation costs just to make the MoR-verse keep running. I can't depict a society with zero agency problems, a perfect public commitment process and an infinite trust engine unless the whole story is about that.

I mentioned this in the TVtropes thread, but Merlin did not think through his interdict all that well - If you are going to compromise everyones mental integrity to end a cycle of magical destruction, then limiting information spread is an asinie way to do it - it would make infinitely more sense to subject all wizards to a magical prohibition against large scale destruction and killing. Phrasing it so that it wards agaist Dunning-Kruger fueled magical accidents without shutting down experimentation entirely is an interesting exercise, but should be possible.

Frankly, we don't know enough about why Merlin did what he did to judge his action either way -- we don't know what danger was being foreseen, we don't know the limitations of his own powers. There's really no sense in criticizing him or praising him at this point of time - we lack crucial information.

It's possible that the Interdict is a natural property of the Source of Magic, and was swept up in the legend of Merlin as time passed. We have no real evidence for a time when people could record spells indefinitely, AFAIK.
I understood Merlins Interdict to be interfering with The Source of Magic, not with "everyones mental integrity", which would seem much much harder to do. Magic seems to function by checking prerequisites, like "waved magical active stick in spatial pattern X", "said wingardium leviosa with exact pronounciation Y"- Just add to this list of prerequisites of sufficiently powerfull spells a call of a function which checks wether the user is authorized; if not, check wether user should be authorized. If ve is, add to list of authorized user, if not, deny.
Doesn't work. It's not that powerful spells are known but can't be cast, the function of the Interdict somehow causes powerful wizards' notes to be unintelligible to the uninitiated.
Not just notes. - All written instructions on how to do spells above a certain level just flat out fail unless someone explains the spell to you in person at least once. Which has to be a mind hack, and if you are willing to alter peoples minds to remove the risk of idiots or madmen blowing up the planet/opening the gates of hell/ect, then picking this specific modification is very.. odd. Hold up.. checking assumptions. Can anyone think of a way for the edict of merlin to do what it does without tampering with peoples minds?

Back up one step further: what evidence do we have that the Interdict actually exists? As opposed to, say, all powerful wizards simply having the same inclination toward secrecy and self-discovery. How did Quirrell put it...

The fools who can't resist meddling are killed by the lesser perils early on, and the survivors all know that there are secrets you do not share with anyone who lacks the intelligence and the discipline to discover them for themselves! Every powerful wizard knows that!

I've never received the impression that wizards powerful enough to be subject to the Interdict have actually tried to circumvent it. If all known examples of written instructions for powerful spells were gibberish to begin with, would the world look any different? Not to mention, why would it be necessary to cast a huge mind-altering spell to make people do what they were inclined to do anyway?

Trivial. Someone explaining to you in person is the same as someone authorizing you to use a piece of software. You can still speak the words of the spell, still do the sacrifices, but the computer is just not going to listen to your commands unless you've been given those privileges.
Yes, that would be a possibility for controlling distribution of powerful spells, except that the Edict of Merlin explicitly doesn’t do that: you can’t speak the words because you can’t understand the writing. If you could read and speak the spell (and whatever else the spell requires) presumably you could cast it. (Otherwise Merlin needn’t have bothered making the texts unintelligible as well.)
If by “tampering” you mean just “permanently modifying”, the Source of Magic (TM) could just watch wizards’ minds(1) to detect when they’re writing in sufficient detail(2) high-level(3) spell descriptions, and enchant the written artifact.(4) (1:) I can’t think of a way it would act the way it does—i.e., trigger wand-less and wordless spells, as well as accidental magic—without reading wizards’ minds at all times (or tampering with their minds at birth), anyway, at least not while following Harry’s genetic marker theory. (2:) It needs to act only when the description tells you what to do, not what it does. Presumably it lets a historian describe what wondrous feats Merlin did as long as he didn’t describe how the spell was cast. (3:) I’m really curious how that works. It’s clear that some spells are “harder” to cast, and some are “more powerful” than others (not sure if the two are perfectly correlated), but AFAIK it’s never described what that really means, except for trivial things like complex wand patterns and not-really-helpful stuff like “only first-year student magic level”. (4:) Basilisks turn you to stone when you look at them, the Mirror-of-I-can’t-remember-who-it-was showed you what you wanted when you looked at it, so it’s clear that magic effects can be triggered by looking at the magical item. (4b:) Exactly what “written artifact” means would be kind of hard to figure out. If it also applies to non-textual artifacts—sound recordings, encoding a description with smells and colors, planting a row of trees of two species to spell the description in ASCII—then it’s really complicated. It might just look at what people intend to do, but then it would be vulnerable to complicated attacks like encrypting the description with a key, giving the encrypted text to a scribe who knows the described spell but doesn’t know the key nor what the encrypted text is, and asking them to write the encrypted text, then writing the key separately—or even unintentional r
With Unbreakable Vows, the... arbitrator?... sacrifices a portion of their magic permanently yes? One issue is that, after you die you might need that magic for something, like the more magic you have the more pleasant (or less!) magically created heaven is. In any case, even if magical society was fine with sacrifices, they might reason thus, and not use unbreakable vows. Such a society would make investigation (magical!) into potential afterlife a top priority, so lack of use of such a ritual might be compensated by finding out there is a heaven (or hell).
This is a society that has no problem using dementors as prison guards. I'm sure they would be willing to compel each criminal to act as the binder for one other criminal. It seems like a very small price to pay.
Since there seems to be some confusion on this point: in canon, at least, an "Unbreakable" Vow didn't actually stop you breaking it, it just killed you if you did. If a person is willing to sacrifice their life - and if you resurrect using a horcrux, that could easily be worth it - you can still commit crimes. And if you swore to obey the law - is being found guilty is now an automatic death sentence, even if you honestly thought it was legal? I doubt a working legal system based on Unbreakable Vows is trivial to come up with. That said, they are unquestionably broken in canon. Very, very broken. Few are willing to stake their life over, say, business deals, but there are loads of situations in which they would be a massive game-breaker.

You could just strip their magic.

If there exists any ritual that happens to permanently remove a portion of somebody's magic (Unbreakable Vow), then you could just repeat that ritual meaninglessly until that person was completely stripped of magic permanently. Or you could use other rituals which require similar permanent sacrifices until you achieve the same effect. Keeping a permanently magicless wizard imprisoned is a trivial task, and obviates the need for dementors.

Side Note: That's actually my pet theory on why Dementors as prison guards are acceptable to the public. It could be that governments used to use rituals to permanently strip prisoners of magic before imprisoning them. This would make them a revenue center instead of a funds sink. This would naturally encourage the magical government to find more and more excuses to imprison people, similar to how the 'tough on crime' cycle is accelerated by the for-profit prison systems in some places. A police state would be soon to follow. Then, after a cultural revolution, Dementors were adopted as the less evil option to house criminals. It also helps explain why so many rituals are banned. It's unlikely to be true in HPMoR, but it'd be a nice thought for another fanfic.

Another problem with this system is the permanence. People get sent to Azkaban for less than lifetime sentences, but if you use this to strip someone of magic it's gone forever. I suppose you could use degrees of magic removal as punishment but that seems hard to balance to different powerlevels of wizard.

4Rob Bensinger11y
A permanent loss of magic is probably much more ethically justifiable than a temporary period of torture.
This statement contains at least three assumptions that need to be unpacked before it is of any use. 1. What do you mean by ethically justifiable? 2. What do you mean by temporary and torture? 2a. To reduce it to absurdity, I would rather be slapped than lose my hand painlessly. Where do you draw the lines on temporariness and tortureness? Is living without magic after having it a form of torture? How much life expectancy does it take before a permanent disability is worse than a temporary pain? 3. Why is "probably much more ethically justifiable" a fact about either of these things rather than a fact about how you feel about them? Sorry for the slow response, I was at gencon. Also, welcome to posting!
2Rob Bensinger11y
Thanks, drethelin! 1. How deep of an analysis do you want? Ultimately, what I mean is that torture tends to foreseeably decrease the net positive valence of all experience to a greater extent than does incapacitation. 2. We both know those are fuzzy terms. And as a utilitarian I acknowledge that some extremely minimal torture could in principle be more justifiable than an especially severe incapacitation. But everyday cases of what we call 'torture' are intuitively much more painful and dehumanizing than, say, permanently depriving a person of a firearms or automobile license. Do you think that one's long-term ability to use magic would tend to cluster on the other side of torture, on a scale of resultant human suffering? 3. Descriptively, most ethical systems would, I think, agree with my assessment; so if 'ethically justifiable' just means 'able to be justified under what various people take to be the right ethical principles,' it is an empirical statement. But I'll instead take the approach of stipulating what I mean by ethical justifiability in psychological terms, the felt positive and negative valence of experiences. If this is a real property of mental states, what I call 'ethical justifiability' will rest on the distribution of those states. I am responsible for how I use my words, but my words are not on that account 'about me.'
Based on your description it seems more sensible to put torture on a continuum with incapacitation rather than holding it separate, as if it decreases future positive utility it seems like another sort of incapacitation to me. At this point I think we're down to math/data on happiness of post torture experiences versus post incapacitating experiences, which because it is 1 am and I have already taken melatonin I am too sleepy to want to look into. My intuitive leaning is that the effects of torture fade with time more than the effects of incapicitation, eg because I might eventually begin to forget how bad being tortured was but can never forget how I have one fewer limb, but this is only an intuition.
0Rob Bensinger11y
Our ability to fruitfully debate this issue, while we remain in fiction, is probably very limited. It may be underdetermined whether losing one's magic feels more like losing a driver's license or like losing a limb. If I'm conceiving of magic loss more in the former terms (magic as a toolbox), you more in the latter terms (magic as an intimate part of the magician), then it's unsurprising that we'll arrive at different intuitions. That said, I'm unclear on what your argument is for treating torture and incapacitation as a 'continuum.' I of course think they can be placed on a continuum of suffering; and I concede that their distribution over the continuum partly overlaps, though I think the bulk of torture involves more intense aggregate suffering than does the bulk of incapacitation. But you seem to be making a different claim now -- that torture IS a kind of incapacitation, or that incapacitation is a kind of torture. The latter claim I can understand, but reject; incapacitation can sometimes be used to torture someone, but it does not follow that incapacitation itself is always just watered-down torture, for the same reason that the existence of 'Chinese water torture' does not imply that drinking water is, in any interesting sense, on a continuum with torture. The former claim, that torture is a kind of incapacitation, seems more paradoxical. Is the suggestion that inflicting involuntary pain on someone is nothing but depriving that person of a certain ability -- the ability, presumably, to be happy during the torture, or the ability to not suffer flashbacks afterward? I'm not sure this is a useful reframing, though it is interesting.
It's not my argument, I thought it was yours. When you talk about torture decreasing future positive utility of all experiences that seems pretty clearly to me the same reason to dislike disability.
0Rob Bensinger11y
The reasons to dislike acute torture and superpower incapacitation are the same only in the very reductive way in which any two bad things are, given a monistic meta-ethics, bad for 'the same reason.' Sexual assault and poor dinner etiquette, if (monistically) bad, are bad for 'the same reason' in some attenuated sense. But for practical purposes this is not very informative, and I was trying to be at least a little practical in comparing the costs of torture and incapacitation. Likewise, superpower incapacitation can be worse than torture mostly in the sense that any two generic acts can be dustspecked. This falls out of quantitative sensitivity in ethics (especially consequentialist ethics) as a boring side-effect, just as reducibility of reasons falls out of monism as a boring side-effect. In both cases, it has no special relevance to the topic at hand, and noting these general features of utilitarian tradeoffs doesn't prevent us from also noting that typical real-world torture tends to produce more net suffering than typical real-world superpower incapacitation. (To make magic loss a counterexample to this trend, one would need to better flesh out what one takes magic to be.)
Beware political examples where they are not necessary.

Azkaban is commentary on Muggle prisons. I really hope people got that.

I've been reading about muggle prison conditions lately, and while I've understood that "prison conditions are terrible and torturing people is pointless etc" for both systems, it did not occur to me that you were making a commentary.

It actually made me sit and think for a minute (though not the full five - oops) about whether there was any way I could contribute to improving conditions in prisons, that was comparatively low-cost, that I had overlooked. I didn't think of one, but it's worth thinking about some more, probably.
In general, how does one determine whether X in HPMOR is supposed to [represent / be commentary on] Y? I could make up a connection between Azkaban and Muggle prisons, probably by running it through my black-box mental model of Eliezer, but I don't feel any kind of justified in the connection.
Usually it more or less outright says it in the title.
It seems much more like a commentary on the American prison system than anything else. The Western European systems don't generally suffer many of the problems of American Muggle prisons, or the problems they do share are often to a smaller degree. Britain is one of the middle range countries in this regard, but this may be enough for some people to not get the point.
While American prisons may indeed be worse (on average) than their Western European counterparts, the latter are still more than bad enough for the commentary to apply. In any case, most of the suffering of imprisonment is psychological and derives from having one's freedom restricted and status reduced (to put it mildly). So the (physical) conditions of the facility may be almost beside the point (despite the fact that this is what it is most socially acceptable to focus on).

So the (physical) conditions of the facility may be almost beside the point (despite the fact that this is what it is most socially acceptable to focus on).

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that massive institutionalized rape is not beside the point.

Ahem: ...not to mention the fact that the behavior of persons is arguably not within the scope of "the (physical) conditions of the facility". In short, the comment contained more than enough hedging to preclude such a retort.
Even if it did, orthonormal's point contains a significant subclass of the suffering that occurs in prisons. Hence ignoring it or sweeping it under a hedge seems somewhat strange.

Let's back up. Here is the history of this conversation:

  1. Eliezer stated that "Azkaban is commentary on Muggle prisons".

  2. JoshuaZ replied:

It seems much more like a commentary on the American prison system than anything else. The Western European systems don't generally suffer many of the problems of American Muggle prisons, or the problems they do share are often to a smaller degree. Britain is one of the middle range countries in this regard, but this may be enough for some people to not get the point.

Notice what this says: Western European prisons are so good that Eliezer's commentary is really only about American prisons. (Also note the implication that the Muggle world is partitioned into two regions: Western Europe and the United States.)

3. I -- having become familiar with the similarities and differences between the U.S. and European criminal justice systems as a result of the Amanda Knox case -- disputed this, in a comment whose point was to argue that Western European prisons are not pleasant places. They are, in fact, really awful places. Yes, they may not be as bad as U.S. prisons, but they are still bad: places of torment, suffering and despair, despite... (read more)

It's not under the scope of "having one's freedom restricted and status reduced", either. Sorry if I misinterpreted you, but it looks as if I'm not the only one who thought you were omitting the most significant part of the horror of modern prisons.
I thought it was a nice commentary, but I hadn't realized it was intentional (on either your or Rowling's part). If you want anyone to get it, you need to slip in anal rape or something, and even then most readers will miss it.
IAWYC but don't actually make it a rape.
I think the "anal rape" was a joke on Gwern's part; I oppose such jokes on political grounds.
Do you oppose jokes involving rape because of social consequences of rape being found to be funny, jokes involving rape because of direct consequences on people hearing the joke, jokes about prison rape because of consequences of prisoners, or something else?
All three of those, and I could probably think of other adverse consequences given time.
I was quite serious. And why not? Murder is worse than anal rape, and that has already been included; besides that, people have argued we see at least one kind of rape already in MoR.
Especially those of us who deliberately try to avoid drawing conclusions about authorial intent from text. Whether the author is trying to make an analogical point with a fictional construct is not something I think about too much while reading fiction, though of course correspondences I notice (intentional or not) inform my reading.
What specific commentary were you trying to make? The possible commentaries that I can think of: a) prisons are too brutal. If so how brutal do you think prisons should be? b) prisons should be replaced with a different form of punishment. If so what punishment do you have in mind? c) criminals shouldn't be punished at all. d) I haven't really thought about these issues at all but saying "boo, prisons!" is a great way to signal that I'm compassionate. The people who seem to agree with Eliezer's commentary should feel free to specify which commentary they agree with.

Here's one more option:
e) People don't think enough about the level of brutality in prisons, and when they do think and talk about it they find it easier to applaud brutality; because anyone who spoke against it "would associate themselves with criminals, with weakness, with distasteful things that people would rather not think about", while speaking in its favor make you look tough on crime.

Given political discussions I've partaken in other forums, I know full well that whenever I condemned prison rape and suggested ways in which it might be reduced/prevented, the typical response was something to the effect of "Why do you love criminals so much?"

For example: Punish rapes among inmates in the same manner that other rapes of citizens by other citizens. Punish rapes of inmates by wardens in the same way with the additional loading that should be applied to all abuses of authority, particularly state sanctioned authority. But to do that we would need to replace Uncle Sam with Uncle Ben.
That would be by sending them to prison, which is not much of a punishment to someone who's already in prison.
Yes it is. Not all sentences are life sentences. Then there are the obvious differences in types of imprisonment - including level of security and whether they have access to other prisoners or are confined to solitary.
Not all, but entirely too many. If someone is already going to be in a big concrete box for the next ten years no matter what they do, and doesn't expect to survive more than five years in that environment, what more can you do to them?
Put them in a smaller concrete box and with other prisoners that lower that estimate of their lifespan?
Assume they're already in the worst box that various legislation (mostly related to human rights) permits you to construct, or the closest cost-effective approximation thereof.
At that point, if they are not already, they should be put into solitary. Some would consider it reward, but if they prey on others, then they should be put somewhere that they can't--that's (ostensibly) why they're there in the first place, at least in part.
Locking criminals up for years, away from everyone else, seems like a horrible way of scaring others into not committing crimes. Following this train of thought, ideally prisons should be replaced with a more public/visible type of punishment. Maybe caning?
I dunno. In the real world, I know a lot of people who seem awfully frightened of prisons. But sure, maybe they'd be more frightened of public caning.
My $0.02: there are several different functions person A can perform by punishing person B for some action C. For example: (a) lowering B's chances of performing C in the future (b) lowering the chances of observers performing C (c) encouraging observers to anti-identify with B (d) encouraging observers who anti-identify with B to support A (e) encouraging observers who identify with B to oppose A IME, conversations about how prisons should work become really confused because people aren't very clear about which of those functions they endorse. Personally, it seems clear to me that (b) is by far the most valuable of these goals. That said, prison policy has almost no influence on (b); law enforcement and courts are far more relevant, and their current implementation pretty much screens off the effects of prison policy. People who are interested in (a) and also value B's continued existence will tend to be interested in punishment as a behavioral modification tool, and will happily set it aside in favor of more effective behavioral modification tools as science develops them. People interested in (a) who don't value B's continued existence will be uninterested in punishment, since simply killing B is more efficient. AFAICT, the folks who establish the policies that govern prisoner punishment (as distinct from prisoner restraint) are primarily motivated by the desire to obtain political support, which suggests minimizing (e) and maximizing (d), which does seem to be what most of our prison policies are designed to do. Maximizing (c) is one way to minimize (e), though there are many others.
This isn't obvious at all. In particular if prisons were extremely nice, their deterrent effect would be much less no matter how law enforcement and the courts worked. One could argue that the policies in the current Overton window aren't significantly different from each other, but that argument would have to be made.
Agreed that if prisons were extremely nice, their deterrent effect due to the threat of punishment would be lower than it is now. That said... when the mechanism that results in my being punished for an act is perceived as unreliable and capricious (including, but not limited to, cases where it is unreliable and capricious), the correlation between the severity of the punishment and the intensity of the deterrent effect is much, much lower than when the mechanism is perceived as fair and reliable. So if law enforcement and courts were perceived as fair and reliable (that is, reliably assigning punishment to criminals and not assigning punishment to noncriminals), I expect making prisons equally unpleasant would create a much greater deterrent effect (to being a criminal) than it does now. If my goal is to maximize deterrent effect, then, I expect that I would do better to invest my efforts in increasing the perception of law enforcement and courts as fair and reliable than to invest them in increasing the perception of prisons as unpleasant. But, as I say, I don't think many people involved in setting prison policies are primarily motivated by maximizing deterrent effect.
Depending on what you mean by "unreliable and capricious", I find this dubious. At the very least it seems to me that brutal dictatorships are much better at reducing crime (at least the crimes they care about) than democracies. For example, Mussolini's successful campaign against the Sicilian mafia.
What I mean by enforcement being unreliable and capricious is, roughly. that agents believe that their performing the act is not well-correlated with their being punished. It sounds from that wiki article like Mussolini created an environment where people believed that being a mafioso would reliably result in being punished. I suspect they also believed that not being a mafioso stood a good chance of being punished, which has other consequences; when punishment occurs in the absence of a reliable and controllable cue, the result is learned helplessness. But if we care about deterring criminals and we don't care about the effect on noncriminals, punishing 90% of criminals and 5% of noncriminals can work OK, even if only 5% of the people we punish are criminals. Of course, if we care about things in addition to deterrence, that may not be a great policy, but that's another conversation.
So what you're saying is that in modern developed states committing crimes is not well-correlated with being punished? I find this highly dubious.
At the very least, I'm saying that that's the perception: most crimes go unpunished. But yes, I also suspect that perception is true. I haven't done any research on the matter, though, and attempts to find statistics via cursory Googling failed. If you have any cites handy, I'm happy to be corrected.
Eugine said: TheOtherDave said: These aren't actually in contradiction. If a criminal committing a "mid-size" offense has a 25% chance of being caught for each crime, then being a career criminal is likely to end you in jail, but most crimes will still be unpunished. My sense is that most crimes (and most dollar-loss to crime) are small/midsize thefts; hundreds or thousands of dollars, not more. Thefts big enough to set you up for a lifetime are freakishly rare compared to the number of criminals. And that means to have a tolerable lifestyle as a criminal, you have to commit lots of offenses -- so even a small chance of being caught for each mugging or burglary starts to add up.
Yeah, I agree with this. I'd be surprised if the chance was as high as .25, but the principle is the same; career criminals can count on eventually being arrested. That said, the original context of this discussion was the behavior-modification effects of prison policy on the not-yet-arrested population, and from a behavior modification point of view a punishment that usually fails to kick in for the first several crimes doesn't do much to deter those first few crimes. And making the punishment more and more severe doesn't help the deterrence factor all that much in that situation, which was my original point.
Disagree. It deters the first crime. It's deterrent power will decrease for subsequent crimes (until caught) unless the criminal has friends who have been caught.
Can you say more about the mechanism whereby increasing the severity of a punishment I am confident won't apply to my first crime deters my first crime? That seems pretty implausible to me.
If committing a crime required playing Russian Roulette, a gun with a bullet in it would be more of a deterrent than a gun with a paintball in it. Yes?
The law-enforcement/courts system has significantly better first-time odds than Russian Roulette. For most crimes, the odds that I will be arrested and convicted and sentenced to significant jail time for a first crime are significantly lower than one in six. "But Dave," someone will now patiently explain to me, "that doesn't matter. An N% chance of death is always going to be significantly worse than an N% chance of a paintball in the head, no matter how low N%. It's scale-invariant!" Except the decision to ignore the psychological effects of scale is precisely what I'm skeptical about here. Sure, if I make prisons bad enough (supposing I can do so), then everyone rational does an EV calculation and concludes that even a miniscule chance of going to prison is more disutility than the opportunity cost of foregoing a crime. But I don't think that's what most people reliably do faced with small probabilities of large disutilities. Some people, faced with that situation, look at the magnitude of the disutility and ignore the probability ("Sure it's unlikely, but if it happened it would be really awful, so let's not take the risk!"). Some people look at the magnitude of the probability and ignore the disutility ("Sure, it would be awful, but it's not going to happen, so who cares?"). Very few look at the EV. That said, if we restrict our domain of discourse to potential criminals who do perform EV calculations (which I think is a silly thing to do in the real world, but leaving that aside for now), then I agree that doubling the expected disutility-of-punishment (e.g., making prisons twice as unpleasant) halves their chance of performing the crime. Of course, so does doubling the expected chance of being punished in the first place . That is, if I start out with a P1 confidence that I will be arrested and convicted for commiting a crime, a P2 confidence that if convicted I will receive significant prison time, and a >.99 confidence that the disutility of signific
It seems rather difficult to actually affect those people, though. The difference between P1=.04 and P1=.08 would have dramatic effects on an EV-calculator, but very little effect on the sort of person who judges probabilities by 'feel'. I would suppose the D1 advocates would argue that the hidden costs of increasing P1 are higher than you think, or possibly they just value them more (e.g. the right to privacy). I admit I've never heard a good argument that what the US needs is to greatly increase the likelihood of sentencing a convict to significant prison time.
I would expect it depends a lot on the algorithms underlying "feel" and what aspects of the environment they depend on. It's unlikely these people are choosing their behaviors or beliefs at random, after all. More generally, if I actually want to manipulate the behavior of a group, I should expect that a good first step is to understand how their behavior depends on aspects of their environment, since often their environment is what I can actually manipulate. Edit: I should add to this that I certainly agree that it's possible in principle for a system to be in a state where the most cost-effective thing to do to achieve deterrence is increase D. I just don't think it's necessarily true, and am skeptical that the U.S. is currently in such a state. Sure, that's another possibility. Or of P2, come to that. Is this not the rationale behind mandatory sentencing laws?
I can't think of a response to this that isn't threatening to devolve into a political argument, so I'll bow out here. Sorry.
Yeah, but due to the politics is a mind-killer thing, we don't really comment on it... just like a lot of other political hints are left alone (at least on my behalf) and I try to focus on making predictions and figuring out where the agents in this story will go given their apparent rationality (or lack thereof) and value sets. That's the reason why I read this: it's well-written entertainment I can use to train my ability to predict and phrase said predictions. Plus I like to see theories put to practice.
By the way, I believe the rescue of Bellatrix was around the point in the story that Amanda Knox had gotten to when she made it out of Muggle Azkaban herself.
Really? I understood from the human interest fluff pieces I tried to avoid that she had used her time in Azkaban very well, learning Italian to a high level and catching up on a great deal of high-quality reading. I don't think Bellatrix would regard their stays, pound for pound, as equivalent.
I think you misunderstood me: by "point in the story she had gotten to" I meant literally the point in the actual story (MoR). It wasn't some kind of figure of speech about her experience. (I wonder how many other people misunderstood my comment in this way; it's an interpretation that never occurred to me. I thought people knew she was a MoR reader.) However, her experience itself was no picnic, fluff pieces notwithstanding.
It's been mentioned in Author's Notes. For what it's worth, I thought gwern's comment was a non sequitur on first reading.
I took your original post to mean this, and looked for other information about it, and found none.
See here.
I wasn't aware that was a particularly politically charged example since it's not currently on either side's discussion plate. I do think it's somewhat relevant with them both being profit motivations that encourage increasingly stricter laws and enforcement. Then again if I'd been able to notice the problem I wouldn't have put it in there in the first place. Taking your advice, do you think I should edit it out and remove the example? Or better yet, could anyone think of an example that's not so politically proximate that illustrates the same effect? I'd image a similar thing would occur in ancient Rome with slaves, or maybe colonial-era governments with indentured servitude, but I'm not quite as familiar with those. Edit: And thank you for reminding me, I've edited.

Perhaps there are dark rituals whereby using them, Dark Wizards can break out of even an (ill-named) Unbreakable Vow.

Well, they can die. I've seen nothing to suggest that Vows destroy Horcruxes.

I wonder if this fact is possibly relevant to some Cunning Plot in which - perhaps just as one among many positive results - Voldemort "died" and resurrected via horcrux in order to escape an Unbreakable Vow. I remember in response to chapter 84, people were wondering what, if Voldie's apparent death at Godric's Hollow was intentional, was in it for him.

But will they come back free of the Vow? It seems entirely plausible to me that it would follow them into their new incarnation.
They could still break it once per incarnation.
… thus killing one human per incarnation, thus creating one horcrux per incarnation. Now, if there were some way to automate the whole getting-a-body-business …
Not in the specifications. They just say, 'anyone who breaks the Vow dies.' Ending with death is a feature. Though if the people who first found the spell really thought that way, they must not have truly believed anyone could stay in their world after death.

Unbreakable Vow anyone? Just give Dark Wizards the option "either you take an Unbreakable Vow to never knowingly kill/torture/Imperio a human being ever again, nor to ever knowingly assist in such, or we just execute you right now".

I don't think it would be that easy. This is isomorphic to making wishes with an evil genie--or coding a human-level AI with a list of deontological commands. It could be done, but probably not in an EY fanfic and probably not without a skilled magical lawyer.

The difference is that evil wizards are not, as a rule, a different intellectual order than we are. We have some idea of their set of options. Not so for a powerful AI. A dark lord is at least somewhat bounded by the human imagination.

are not, as a rule, a different intellectual order than we are

Yes they are— in the sense that they will have decades to spend ruminating on workarounds, experimenting, consulting with others. And when they find a solution the result is potentially an easily transmitted whole class compromise that frees them all at once.

Decades of dedicated human time, teams of humans, etc. are all forms of super-humanity. If you demanded that the same man hours be spent drafting the language as would be spent under its rule, then I'd agree that there was no differential advantage, but then it would be quite a challenge to write the rule.

also, unlike the case of an AI where you have to avoid crippling it, lest it becomes pointless to build it in the first place, using unbreakable wows as a punishment for grand crimes against humanity means that the restraints can be nearly abritarily harsh. The people writing the wows have no need to preserve the decision space they leave their victim or respect their autonomy. TLDR: Voldemort would not be able to spend decades thinking of ways around the wow, because doing so would violate any sensibly formulated wow. (stray toughts, sure, you have to permit that, or the wow kills in a day. Sitting down and working at it? No.)
Only in an extremely weak sense. Humans can do and think things that cats just can't, even if they think for a long, long time, or have a bunch of cats working together. The power of a truly superhuman intellect is hard to imagine, and easily underestimated. In any case, the drafter of the rules would have an enormous comparative advantage, because he can unilaterally enforce dictates on the other party, while the other party has no such authority. It's not guaranteed he'll cover all the angles within the human domain, but it's at least possible, unlike in the case of an AI, where such a strategy is basically guaranteed to fail.
Kill them. With great power comes great getting-held-responsible-if-necessary. Oh, no, this is much better. Magical evilness castration.
I thought Dumbeldore said that he found a way to imprison Grindelwald without dementors but I can't find were he says that. edit fixed major spelling error can->can't

"Are there Dementors in Nurmengard?"

"What?" said the old wizard. "No! I would not have done that even to him -"

The old wizard stared at the young boy, who had straightened, and his face changed.

"In other words," the boy said, as though talking to himself without any other people in the room, "it's already known how to keep powerful Dark Wizards in prison, without using Dementors. People know they know that."

That seems like a significant plot point. Do we know how that is done?
In canon it's definitively done. But how? I'm pretty sure that both canon and MoR are silent on how it's done, which is a real pity. In canon there is a scene where Voldemort breaks into Nurmengard to ask Grindelwald where the Wand is, and then kills him. In a non-magical world I'd say that the fact that somebody can break in means that somebody can break out too, with help from the outside. Even if that's not the case in a magical world, it means that his followers could continue to communicate with him. Not good. On the other hand there seems to be magic in canon that cannot be broken or circumvented, except for a very specific trigger. Think of the Fidelius charm, which hides a building from everybody, except those that the secret keeper has told the location. Or the potion in the cave that must be drunk, and cannot be vanished, transigured or otherwise "magiced". Maybe a similar kind of "absolute" magic exists that can be used to imprison people reliably. So reliably that no Auror need to stand guard, and are tortured with humming.
There is the issue of wands. Wandless magic is, at least for humans, much less powerful than wand magic. So it's perfectly conceivable to me to have obstacles that are virtually impossible to overpower if you're wandless, but possible to overpower if you're a wand and are a good wizard (which Voldemort surely is). The "his followers could continue to communicate with him" is indeed a real problem. But it seems (both in canon and in MOR) Azkaban itself is not so hard to break from the outside, only (almost) impossible to escape from inside.
Dumbledore doesn't come right out and say it, but it's there in Chapter 77;
Wands as Oath Rods? I'm ok with this. ETA: Apparently the relevant historical use is under binding rod. Same thing.
RE: the game breaker opening example: Iron vs bronze weapons is a game breaker? Hardly. The difference in weapon quality there is minor (and even arguable). Bronze vs Steel... sure, that's a big deal but even then not worthy of 'game breaker' accolades.

The Killing Curse is unblockable, unstoppable, and works every single time on anything with a brain.

Professor Quirinus Quirrell, HPMOR chapter 16. Unless he's wrong or lying, nonsapient animals are killed by it just fine. (In canon, doesn't the Fake Defence Professor Du Jour use it on a spider in, er, book 3 or thereabouts?)

Which reminds me of something. At (IIRC) that point in canon, the teacher who's introducing the Killing Curse says something like "It kills absolutely anything, every time. Only one person has ever survived one, and he's right here in this classroom". Here in HPMOR we have Quirrell introducing the Killing Curse in a classroom that's got Harry Potter in it, and everyone knows the story just as much as in canon, and he conspicuously doesn't make any such remark.

Maybe it's just coincidence. But (assuming, as is customary, that Q=V) it looks to me like another bit of evidence that in HPMOR what happened at Godric's Hollow was not that V. attempted to AK Harry and failed.

Not related to the current discussion, but I was always very unsettled by that kind of affirmation. From both canon and MoR, the Killing Curse looks like missile spell. A bolt of green light flows from the wand to the target, and kills it. But the bolt can't get around material objects, it doesn't go through them, and it doesn't switch directions to avoid them like a seeker missile could do. It can't be blocked by raw magic (Protego and similar) but what prevents Actio, Wingdarium Leviosa or Free Transfiguration to be used to create a physical barrier to block the spell ? And going even further, couldn't armor be made to block the spell ? It kills through clothes, but can very thick clothes prevent the effect ? If you make an armor with two layers, physically separated, the outer layer kept from touching the inner layer through electromagnetic forces or magic, would the outer layer count as an obstacle ?

The grim version of an ongoing joke in some potter circles is that you could strap a bunch of puppies to your body and use them as living armor.

My favorite mental image is covering yourself in bees. What can I say? I'm a fan of Eddie Izzard being able to beat the Dark Lord.

Yeah, it's yet another thing JKR didn't think out very well. It's said to be a super-extra-deadly unblockable spell, but in practice there's nothing in what actually happens to show that it's any more dangerous than any number of other spells.
What she probably meant is that it's exceptionally good at penetrating innate resistance, magical barriers, that sort of thing. So, the prime spell for killing serious targets. Something that min-maxing DnD players would find useful in a duel.
Nothing. Indeed, Dumbledore blocks the killing curse in canon (Order of the Phoenix) by animating a statue to jump in front of it. So if AK is in any way unblockable, it is unblockable only by magical means.
Well, we know that either harry has an actual means of blocking it, OR, that Quirrel and Harry's magical dissonance can disrupt the killing curse.
Oh, correct. I didn't do my homework here. This implies that nonsapient animals do have a soul, which I didn't expect in the MoR-verse. Quirrellmort not saying that Harry survived the killing curse might indeed be evidence for V. not failing to kill Harry, but intuitively, it seems like a very tiny bit of evidence.

This implies that nonsapient animals do have a soul, which I didn't expect in the MoR-verse.

Or simply that the “separate the soul from the body” is just a mumbo-jumbo explanation from people that believe in souls.

The introspective morality-dump chapters are not my favorites (eg. I find the 'imagine distant descendants' to be entirely useless intuitively, and would prefer versions of the update-now argument which are more like 'decide now how you would update your beliefs based on predictions you make now failing or succeeding, since once they actually fail or succeed you'll be embarrassed & biased'), but oh well let's begin analysis.

A year ago, Dad had gone to the Australian National University in Canberra for a conference where he'd been an invited speaker, and he'd taken Mum and Harry along. And they'd all visited the National Museum of Australia, because, it had turned out, there was basically nothing else to do in Canberra. The glass display cases had shown rock-throwers crafted by the Australian aborigines - like giant wooden shoehorns, they'd looked, but smoothed and carved and ornamented with the most painstaking care. In the 40,000 years since anatomically modern humans had migrated to Australia from Asia, nobody had invented the bow-and-arrow. It really made you appreciate how non-obvious was the idea of Progress. Why would you even think of Invention as something important,

... (read more)
Burn them.
If you knew that a woman in your village was communing via socially unapproved rituals with a transhuman intelligence of unknown nature and preferences, would you convince your village to burn her to death? Ideally you'd just use the Object Class: Roko Containment Protocol, but then her own soul remains at risk—burning her alive at least gives her strong incentive to repent.

Object Class: Roko Containment Protocol

But where would we get that many D-class personnel?

For the record, I don't think that was a good idea under any of the plausible scenarios. Edit: do the people upvoting this have any clue what I'm referring to?
It was a question of expectation, not preference.
My theory would be they just have some weird powers and never really find out what it means to be a wizard. Various Mediums are probably unknowing Muggleborns.
While it is clear that the Tasmanian aborigines did lose a lot of technological know-how, there's some dispute over whether they actually lost fire. Unfortunately, I don't have a great source for this. The claim is sourced in the relevant Wikipedia article, but the citation is to a dead-link.
As I pointed out to the person who brought that up in the discussion I linked, the dispute is pretty desperate pleading.

Hmm, reading your argument there I'm convinced. The tertiary nature of the sources claiming they had fire-making, combined with the well-documented preservation of fires are both pretty strong arguments.

I've heard (I forget which of two sources it was so I can't cite) that per anthropological theory, the Tasmanians had taken not a retrograde, but an alternative, approach - that there are two branches humans have taken in regard of technology. One is to have a maximal technology base, growing as new ideas are learned and maintained down the generations by apprenticeship and later by writing. Even at the flints-and-shells stage this requires specialism to get things done expertly. The other is to have a minimal technology base, one kind of pot, one kind of weapon, windbreaks instead of fire, and all made out of things that can be expediently rustled up from common materials when needed and casually discarded when not, and which can be taught without effort and without specialism. It means that the species can be scattered down to the least grouping, and lose nothing. It means the individual is complete, alone and naked. They can drop everything and recreate it afresh at need. The Tasmanians (and to a lesser extent, the aboriginal Australians) took that path. It wasn't some sort of massive technology fail. It was a different way to be successful.

That theory is possibly the most elaborate sour grapes I've ever seen.

I don't follow, care to explain? FWIW the expedient technology route is the one taken by all other species that have any technology at all. A chimp drops his ant poking stick when he's done poking the ants. It's clearly capable of being an evolutionary success.

The Parlevar were wiped out entirely. Both species of chimp have an ICUN Red List status of Endangered. I would suggest that being wiped out or nearly so by competitive pressure brought to bear by close genetic relatives who took up a different strategy is not a marker of a strategy being an "evolutionary success".

Inability to cope with technology maximizing societies is kind of a special case. It applies to basically ALL animals, birds, fish, plants, and even to other humans who decided on being expedient technologists. If you can't call the Parlevar successful ("Before British colonisation in 1803, there were an estimated 3,000–15,000 Parlevar" -- Wikipedia) then you can't call any of the species successful that we wiped out or massively reduced.
"Before British colonisation in 1803, there were an estimated 3,000–15,000 Parlevar" -- Wikipedia

That sounds kinda awesome in a "specialization is for insects" way, but at the end of the eon you're still dying of appendicitis.

Nick Szabo discusses similar ideas here with regard to Polynesians.
This is the same instance, it's word for word the same as her previous nightmare, this chapter just continues it a little farther and shows that there are people all over the globe who are also having visions of bad things to come. Unless my memory has totally failed me.

If your argument is simply "brutality acts as a deterrent," it's almost certainly true. If your argument is, "Therefore the current level of prison brutality is optimal," or, "we should be happy with prison brutality," the only counterargument needed is that nobody's provided any evidence at all for those positions.

But if either of those is the assertion, here are some counterarguments: 1) There is a countereffect: longer (and therefore more brutal) prison sentences increase rates of recidivism. 2) Flogging and caning are brutal deterrents. Many (most?) people will take a punishment of flogging over a punishment of a long prison sentence when given the choice. Ergo at least for many, prisons are more brutal than literal torture. 3) From a cursory glance at stats, violent crime rates don't seem to be much lower in countries with higher incidences of prison rape or prison hospitalizations. I would like to see some rigorous analysis on this. 4) Violent crime rates don't seem to be much higher in countries that employ flogging or caning. Again, not a rigorous statistical analysis, but weak evidence nonetheless. 5) Let's not forget that we're trying to mini... (read more)

Perhaps a better suggestion is that his "down time" involves synchronisation of his memories/program state between Horcruxes, and it gets worse the further Pioneer moves from Earth... Even with magic, there's no way round speed of light limits.

Quirrell probably wasn't expecting that, which could explain why his days as a Dark Lord are numbered (and also explains why he's desperate to train up Harry as a replacement, assuming his goal of uniting the wizarding world is sincere).

I'm also wondering if the 6 hour limit of Time-Turners is a crucial variable somehow, so that he could synch at distances up to 6 light-hours, but not otherwise. Does anyone know when the Pioneer 11 probe got more than 6 light-hours away from Earth? Was it around 1991/1992??

As of February 8, 2012, sunlight takes 11.9 hours to get to Pioneer 11 at its approximate distance. (Wikipedia)

It's been on its way since April 1973 (for right about 39 years), so assuming a steady speed, it would've passed the six-hour limit roughly 19,5 years ago, or in late 1992.

Pioneer 11 is moving at a speed of 11.4km/s relative to the Sun. The Earth's orbital speed is around 30km/s. Hence it's possible that the Earth-Pioneer distance increases to over six hours for a while and then drops again.
What time is it in terms of Potter Time? The books take place a few decades ago but I forget exactly when.
April 1992.

Given that Pioneer fooled around in the Solar System for a while, making flybys of Jupiter and Saturn, our calculation should be a bit different. 1992 is a useful lower bound, which we arrived at by calculating what would happen if Pioneer took a straight path out into interstellar space. In fact, it flew by Saturn in September 1979. A bit of trigonometry tells me that if it left Saturn in a straight line tangent to that planet's orbit, it would probably reach the critical distance some time between '95 and '97, depending on Earth's own position in its orbit. This rough map seems to suggest that it did take that approximate path, but it's hardly accurate. If Pioneer skirted closer to the sun again, inside Saturn's orbit on it's way out then the critical distance comes later, but if it veered away harder then it comes earlier.

I had typed my calculations up, but I lost them just now when I accidentally pressed the back button. Hell's bells and buckets of blood.

Anyway, basically what this tells us is that Quirrel probably has at least a few years of grace before Pioneer gets too far away, if that is in fact what's going on. I think there's a fair likelihood that this theory is correct, but given what I've said here, I don't think the timing of the Pioneer's critical distance should be counted as strong evidence in favour of that.

Thanks for the calculations... I had a rough guess that 6 light-hours was reached some time in the 90s, but didn't know enough about the flight-path to check this. I believe that the 6 light-hour limit only makes sense as a theory if Quirrell is going to hit it in this school-year (and it explains why it is impossible for him to continue as a teacher next year). If he's still got a few years grace it doesn't work so well, and I suspect that Eliezer would have done a detailed calculation if he was relying on this theory, rather than a rough-and-ready / linear interpolation calculation. However, I still like the idea of Quirrell being hoisted by his own genius petard (and by his hatred of science, since if he'd bothered to study it, rather than just using it, he might have avoided that mistake).
How's he supposed to know that the Horcrux connection craps out at six light-hours? Presumably he's the first to have a Horcrux anywhere but Earth.

From Chapter 61:

(weighing, Minerva knew, the possibility that he might want to go back more than two hours from this instant; for you couldn't send information further back in time than six hours, not through any chain of Time-Turners)

If information cannot travel back more than six hours, and a "soul" (stored on a Horcrux) is information (as Quirrell describes it), then it is a reasonable guess that the soul cannot travel over a spatial separation of more than 6 light-hours. Further than that, and it seems the soul parts must fall out of synch, though exactly what happens then is anyone's guess. Does Quirrell die? Are there two separate Quirrells, one stranded permanently on Pioneer, and the other on Earth? Can the one on Earth be killed, even if the one on Pioneer is never destroyed?

If information cannot travel back more than six hours

This does seem to be a constraint that exclusively affects the time-turners. Otherwise prophesies wouldn't be possible. It also seems like it's an artificial rule rather than a deep law of magic because after the Stanford Prison experiment, Bones tells Dumbledore that she has information from four hours in the future and asks whether he'd like to know it. That there is relevant information from four hours in the future is information from the future - she would not have said that if it were otherwise, so it seems there must be exemptions of that kind.

Alternative hypothesis: prophesies are jive, and Eliezer didn't think of the other thing.

That's information to a careful logical thinker. There's a lot of evidence that magic to a large extent acts as a naive person might expect reality to act. Broomsticks and the bag of holding are both examples of this.

If information cannot travel back more than six hours, and a "soul" (stored on a Horcrux) is information (as Quirrell describes it), then it is a reasonable guess that the soul cannot travel over a spatial separation of more than 6 light-hours.

More then 6 hours in what reference frame?

Returning to this thread after a few months... I see Eliezer has responded in a way which kills my theory stone cold. (Though it was dead anyway if the 6 light-hour separation by Pioneer wasn't reached in 1992.) But basically what I was thinking was this. Consider any two space-time points x and y. Either they have a time-like separation, or a space-like separation or a null separation. If they have a space-like separation then there is a particular inertial reference-frame in which they are only separated in space, not in time. If the spatial separation in that frame is > 6 light-hours, then information cannot travel from x to y. (Or, if you want to think of it in terms of a causal graph, and Pearl's intervention calculus, then every intervention to the graph at x will leave events at y unaltered.) Incidentally, this formulation implies the rule that "information can't go back in time more than 6 hours" and implies it in any inertial reference frame. For if information could travel from x to a point z, more than 6 hours in the past of x (but at the same place) in some reference frame, then it could be sent further along a future-pointing null vector from z to y (by an ordinary light-beam), where y is > 6 light-hours from x in the same reference frame. So the restriction of "no spatial jumps > 6 light-hours" neatly implies "no temporal jumps back > 6 hours". Basically, this looks something like the Minkowski interval formulation: there is no privileged reference frame, just a new constant of nature (i.e. whatever 6 light-hours translates to in Planck lengths).
The reference frame of the Heart of Magic, naturally.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky11y
Why the heck is this being voted down? It's a perfectly valid question! You could have some Minkowskian interval that Time Turners can't go further back than, and it would make sense in terms of Special Relativity, but there's no obvious analogy for a maximum spacelike separation being built into the laws of magic. I may be willing to put Time Turners in my fic - I may even be willing to swallow the single-world interpretation of QM which that necessarily implies - but even I'm not going to give magic a privileged reference frame, or talk like "hours" are an intrinsically meaningful measure. Special Relativity is... I mean... it's over the local properties of the variables on which everything else is built, it's the stuff that the fabric of reality is locally made of. It's like having Harry not be made of atoms.
If you're not willing to have a privileged reference frame, how do time turners know where to go? (Especially thorny is that the surface of the earth accelerates upwards relative to inertial reference frames; if you stay in your inertial reference frame played backwards through time, you don't lose the earth in space, but you do oscillate through it like a mass on a spring. I personally think this is a really cool way for time travel to work, but it's clearly not how time turners do).

If Time Turners went backwards in intervals of 81 minutes, instead of an hour, that'd fit with the "you fell to the center of the earth and oscillated back" method of inertial time travel.

The time turner remembers its worldline and jumps back along it, in a perfectly relativistically invariant way.
That's perfectly well defined, but you also wind up inside yourself 6 hours ago, which is an issue.
That's not your original objection! Also, my model (elsewhere in this thread) defines time-turners as world-splitters, which avoids the time loops.
I'm not saying it's my original objection, it's a new one. It's addressed by having them be world splitters, but I didn't know you had posted about that elsewhere.
... and that's why TTs only go back in increments of one hour :D More seriously, 'tis magic. It works how the person who made it expected it to work, if Harry is correct, whether that's Aristotelian acceleration or just our intuitions about how "moving backwards in time" should look. (Maybe it simulates a "marker" sitting in your position as the timeline is rewound. What happens if you travel to somewhere a wall was just built?)
Could you re-explain this? I don't even konw what search for in google so that I undestand it: special relativity?

First, imagine yourself in a spaceship far away from any gravitational sources. If your rockets are off, objects inside the ship left at rest relative to it will stay at rest. In this situation, your ship is in an inertial reference frame, so called because in it the law of inertia is valid. (By contrast, if your rockets are on, objects left at rest will start accelerating towards the back wall, unless there is some countervailing force acting on them).

Now imagine your spaceship close to Earth, within its gravitational field. What is an inertial frame now? Not the situation of the ship at rest relative to Earth: in this situation, objects will accelerate ("fall", as we usually say) towards the bottom of the ship. The ship is in an inertial frame only if it is freely falling towards Earth[1], like an elevator when the cable breaks: then, objects left at rest inside it will stay at rest relative to it absent countervailing forces (because they will be "falling" at the same universal rate g = 9.8 m/s^2).

So a frame accelerating towards Earth with g is an inertial frame. If we abstract away all other forces that will come into play when the ship crashes hitting the E... (read more)

Really thank you, Alejandro1, you clarified the "inertial reference" point. Going a little bit beyond, what the heck the gravity has to do with time turners and time travel? My knowledge is pretty restrict in this area (almost zero), so if you can't answer this in a simple way [1]; just saying "go study X" will work fine,too, if that's the case. [1] As Feynman says, if you want to explain something complicated for someone, you can rephrase or use analogies as long as the person has an (or a few) equivalent model of that topic in their reality. So, if the topic requires some model that I don't own by not knowing lots of relativity, just point that out so that I can study and not lose good threads like this in the future. Thanks.
So, in this fic, you time travel and you wind up in the "same place" as you started. The concept of "same place", however, is actually really complicated. The earth is spinning and orbiting the sun, which is itself orbiting the center of the galaxy, which is in turn.... My first intuition was that, if you traveled in time, you would wind up floating in space. However, it's not at all obvious that a reference frame where the sun is stationary is better than any other, which is how I got to using your current stationary inertial reference frame: it's the only one that's unique from all the other possible ones, and yields the behavior above.
I got it! wow, it feels great ;) thanks again.
Imagine you're on a merry-go round. You could calculate physics as if you and the merry-go-round were rotating, and that will be fine. Alternatively, you could pretend you're not rotating (choosing a non-inertial reference frame). However, if you want physics to still work, you have to introduce centrifugal and coriolis forces to make everything work out properly (this is the force you feel "pushing" you out to the edge). Now in general relativity, inertial reference frames are those that are in free fall. An example of an inertial reference frame would be an orbiting satellite. Note that there is no gravity in an inertial reference frame like a satellite. Now, you can pretend that standing on the surface of the earth is an inertial reference frame (ignoring totally the rotation for now), but to make everything work out properly, you need to introduce a new force accelerating you downward: gravity.
General Relativity, actually. You could also look for "gravity as a fictitious force".
Yeah, I guess one future key ability will be know how keywords use to solve a problem. Using the google, of course.
Unless MoR is going to include an explanation of how magic is implemented in terms of known (or new and deeper) laws of physics, Harry might as well not be made of atoms. After all, modern technology conveniently doesn't work near magic so we can't investigate the matter... Which should Harry believe at this point: that the Ultimate Law is better described as fundamentally Muggle physics with a Source of Magic built on top; or that the Ultimate Law is an alien, magical, human-intuition-confirming system where someone once cast a big spell that specified the Muggle laws of physics? Hell, if the existence of magic is actively erased from the minds of Muggles, maybe we shouldn't put too much trust in the Muggle evidence for the natural evolution of humans, or for the age of the world.
I might be missing something obvious, but I don't think it implies single world quantum mechanics. It certainly makes it messier thou.
You could put something sorta like a Time Turner in MWI. But I don't see any way to do it that would reliably result in consistent time-loops, as opposed to people observing different results in their second pass than they remember from the first.
Could this constraint apply in other ways? Suppose magic is the result of something that responds to the wishes of witches, as suggested at one point. If that something is Earth-based, perhaps a wizard on an outbound spacecraft would stop being able to do magic when he reaches 6 light-hours out. An interesting experiment. Harry might be able to realistically do an experiment similar to this as a first year if there is a magic spell that lets you communicate with an object. He could use a spell to accelerate that object to a very high speed and then check in on it as it approaches the 6 light-hour point.
Idea: Dumbledore says Maybe the Pioneercrux is dragging the shade-part into space.
...I meant April 1992 is when Taboo Tradeoffs happens.
I know. Gastogh made the 1992 calculation. I was making the point that although Gastogh calculated Pioneer to have reached the critical distance of six light-hours in 1992, and you pointed out that Taboo Tradeoffs was happening in 1992, we shouldn't take this coincidence as evidence in favour of the theory that communication between horcruxes and their master is limited to light speed, and that this is somehow related to time turners. I don't necessarily think either of you support such a theory, for that matter, nor am I making any argument for or against that theory itself.
Apparation might get around that. Fawkes might too.
Apparation and Portkeys, probably not- I don't believe we have an MoR viewpoint experience of Apparation, but in canon the interval is noticeable. An international Portkey is described in MoR as If the transit time increases with distance, and is perceivable from one point on Earth to another, it's probably not FTL. Phoenices are more viable, though. The description / speculation on firetravel in Chapter 82 definitely leaves open the possibility.
I can't see Quirrell making a mistake like that; and even if he did I think he would have noticed it and moved heaven and earth to fix it and get his Horcrux back before it got that far away as soon as it got far enough away for the problem to be noticeable.

In Ch. 7, the Harry-and-Draco conversation needs to be toned down even further because multiple parents have announced their intention to have their children read this fanfic – and I know that revision is going to be controversial, but Draco’s current conversation is also a little out-of-character by the standards of the Draco in later chapters.

I am very saddened by this. Chapter 7 was what really hooked me into the story. Half of it was Harry's incredible "This is why science ROCKS" speech, which is still one of my most favorite monologues ever. And half of it is the pure emotional shock of hearing an 11-year-old boy casually say he plans to rape a 10-year-old girl. It had an immediate physical effect on me, and the after-effects lingered for the rest of the day. The fact that it came so out of the blue in such an unexpected setting... it was damned effective. I will be very sad to see it go.

This raises a question for me - I know of at least one 11 year old reading this story. Sometimes kids read things above their grade level, and are exposed to concepts earlier than usual (I suspect that happened to almost everyone on LW). So... is HPMoR intended primarily for adult... (read more)

Strongly agree with this.

I have no problem with making Draco's character more consistent, and if Eliezer honestly feels that that should mean removing or altering his casual dehumanisation of peasants, so be it.

But I urge Eliezer to seriously ask himself, with all his strength as a rationalist, about this and any other changes: "Would this be sacrificing the quality of the narrative for the sake of making a very, very mature story superficially more marketable to children?"

And yes, I feel those apparently charged words are wholly appropriate: removing a rape reference is just a terribly superficial way of making the story 'kid-friendly', because it isn't kid-friendly in much, much deeper ways. If a kid isn't ready to know what 'rape' means, would you want him to read Chapter 82? Or the Bellatrix chapters? If anything the rape reference in Ch. 7 works as an excellent gatekeeper, filtering the audience before the really disturbing stuff begins to kick in.

I agree, and will be more blunt: making that change strikes me as the kind of thing a conservative Republican Christian home-schooler parent would do to their children's books using Liquid Paper and an ink pen, rather than something that a rationalist — who understands that someday kids need to realize that the world sucks and human beings do awful things to each other — would do to his own story, which he has made abundantly clear is intended for adults. Eliezer should simply advise those parents not to read the story to their children, unless they're absolutely certain that the children are ready for grown-up subject matter.
Leading HPMoR's list of kid-unfriendly points: the question "what extenuating circumstances could make it right to torture an innocent person to death" is integral to the plot. Even if everything else that can be mangled into a toned-down version is so mangled, the result will merely be more artistically compromised, not more kid-friendly. On the other hand, the definition of kid-friendly keeps changing. The Hunger Games trilogy includes (somewhat indirect, but still quite clear) references to prostitution (both in poverty-induced despair and as a result of human trafficking), as the cherry on top of the whole "children being forced to murder each other" plot line. I would still suggest changing the rape reference for character consistency reasons. At least, Draco shouldn't think of it as "rape" - ISTR studies show that even real life rapists typically find some "she was asking for it" rationalization for their attitudes. MoR:Draco does an excellent job rationalizing pro-Death-eater attitudes later in the fic. A pro-rape rationalization might be different in that Harry ought to be able to see through something so appalling immediately, but from Draco's PoV there ought to be some self-justifying framing to it.
I didn't think it was kids that that particular removal was trying to make the story more friendly to.
This is an explicit statement that the concern about kids reading MoR is what is prompting the revision, with minor considerations about Draco's character being secondary.
Who did you think it was trying to make the story more friendly to?
There are people in the world who can have their whole day ruined by the mention of rape. It's why we have things like trigger-warnings.
Only just figured out my inbox =] at the time I wrote that, I was new to fanfic, and had literally never realized the negative effect rape-as-plot-device could have on some people. Just looked at the chapter on hpmor and noticed Eliezer didn't put a trigger warning, which I find surprising.
One thing is clear...hpmor's Harry probably wouldn't approve of toning things down in a story just because children might here it. The danger of exposing children is that they might get into misguided ideas, or get damaged by the exposure. The average child has heard rape jokes, so they aren't going to be damaged reading about someone talking about rape. Keep in mind, in this story we hear about murder and graphic depictions of both fantasy and realistic torture...removing the rape line is not going to make this that much more child friendly. Nor will they get misguided ideas from that line, since it is clear that those types of statements are not acceptable and are the hallmark of evil people. Really, the only people benefiting from the removal are the parents, who don't have to worry about awkward questions.

Does anyone else think it plausible that Harry's third last name, "Verres," comes from Mr. Verres in the webcomic El Goonish Shive? EGS Mr. Verres is a government scientist with a bespectacled semi-magical mad scientist son, and pretty much everything else in MOR is a shout-out.

Accidental, but I'm willing to claim credit for it. It started as a portmanteau of Vassar and Herreshoff.

I'd always assumed it was related to Veres / Latin for truth.

The stated function of a prison is to imprison (i.e. detain). If the function of the prison was to get people physically hurt, then the state would have official torturers to brutalize people to such exact specifications as their convictions by the courts (e.g. official sentences would state things like "ten years in prison, plus three beatings and one anal rape per month", and the state would hire official rapists for the purpose).

If brutality was supposed to be part of a prison's specification, then we would have the responsibility of quantifying how much brutality is deserved for each crime. (the question you asked "How brutal should they be?" doesn't only work for people criticizing their current brutality, but also for the people who support it, you see)

But the delegation of this task randomly to convicts speaks of the same hypocrisy that Quirrel mocks in the chapters in question.

There are several functions commonly ascribed to prisons, including: * Detention: to prevent people with criminal tendencies from having the opportunity to commit crimes against the general public, by physically separating them from the public. * Deterrence: to deprive criminals of the pleasures of normal society, in order to discourage other people from becoming criminals. If you would like to live with your partner, children, and friends in relative comfort instead of with a cellmate in relative discomfort, you have a motivation for staying out of prison. * Rehabilitation: to cure criminals of tendencies that may lead them to commit crimes; for instance, lack of cultural or moral education, or lack of non-criminal job skills. This is given as a reason for prisons to offer classes, job training, etc. * Penitence: to put criminals in an isolating environment where they will reflect on their crimes and regret them — or a panoptic environment in which they will internalize the conduct standards of the authorities. (I'm not disagreeing with you on the badness of prison brutality; just on the "stated function" claim.)

I think the downvotes come from you making a claim about the quoted text that doesn't seem particularly well supported. I would think that what you quoted is evidence against his dark side being Voldemort (since it emphasizes that they aren't really separate entities, just separate mind states), though I do think Harry is a Horcrux.

I think your edit is a bit annoying in tone. (Complaining about downvotes and groupthink + only having -1 karma + calling the site bizarre and unhealthy + unnecessary sarcasm)

In canon, Bellatrix Lestrange is married to Rodolphus Lestrange and does not have a child. In MoR, Bellatrix Black is unmarried, but has a child- Lesath Lestrange, the acknowledged bastard of Rastaban Lestrange. (In canon Rodolphus' brother's name was Rabastan, but I'm assuming that's a typo.) Lesath is currently a fifth year, so he was born in either '75 or '76. Bellatrix was actively leading attacks as a Death Eater in '71. Presumably a pregnancy would require some amount of maternity leave from the whole 'going on raids, fighting Aurors' thing.

So. Why would Voldemort allow / order one of his most powerful servants to have a child?

Um. Maybe he was experimenting with the powerful magic protection that a mother's love grants her child?

We know that LL loves his mother, but does she love her son? Does she love anyone but Voldemort?
She'd love her son if Voldermort wanted to make her love him. Seriously, this has got to be true just for subversion value.
Given that his ideology is based to blood purity, he may very well (at least put up a show of) encouraging purebloods to have children. Also, given what we know about Bellatrix's relationship to Voldemort, maybe Lesath is actually Voldemort's son and Rastaban adopted him after Voldemort's downfall, falsely acknowledging paternity so he wouldn't have the stigma of being the son of a dark lord.
He chose to express this viewpoint by ordering his extremely loyal, highly skilled unmarried female pureblood warrior-assassin to have a kid in the middle of a war? This is possible, but... he's kind of, you know, wimpy. I'm just not seeing it. (Also, it seems like we might have gotten some indication that Quirrell has interacted with him somehow, if this were true.) Rastaban was in Azkaban immediately after Voldemort's downfall. Also, Lesath was somewhere around five years old at the time.
Well, the Nazi's did something similar.
Let me rephrase: That's the relevant bit, and also coincidentally the part where the Lebensborn analogy breaks down.
Minor note- Lesath is a boy.
Thanks fixed.
1) Even in Muggle society, there are women who work close to their normal capacity despite pregnancy up to shortly before birth. 2) The physiological consequences after birth can probably be healed by magic. 3) Voldemort might also enjoy causing her psychological pain by having her become attached to the child she will bear and then taking it away from her afterwards. He continued torturing her well after he already had her total loyalty, so this might just be another way to do so.
a) I s'pose he does expect losses. Replenishing his ranks in the long term seems to be an acceptable idea (he is, more or less, immortal) b) Pity points? Perhaps the good guys held back against a pregnant woman? c) How long is she realistically out of the game, considering wet-nurses, time-turners and so on: half a year? d) If Bellatrix had gotten reckless, having a kid might have been a good way to rein her in a little bit..
Emotional blackmail on LeStrange. Also -- half a year is too long a time period. by far. Figure without time turners but with healing magics and potions an eight month birth. Rip the kid out of her womb, and heal her back into active duty. You lose her services for maybe a month. (Up to six months in and she's still combat-capable.) Heal both kid and mother, and there you go. (also, if we can assume accelerated gestation potions then we get even more silly. No "downtime" at all No need for time turners.)

Oh, Harry. Who have you just doomed with your folly?

Harry realizes the error, and yet continues to generalize from fictional morality.

Which error does he realize? So far as I can tell, he sees a failure mode on both sides, and so chooses the best compromise he can come up with.

Two illustrations:

It was abruptly very clear that while Harry was going around trying to live the ideals of the Enlightenment, Dumbledore was the one who'd actually fought in a war. Nonviolent ideals were cheap to hold if you were a scientist, living inside the Protego bubble cast by the police officers and soldiers whose actions you had the luxury to question. Albus Dumbledore seemed to have started out with ideals at least as strong as Harry's own, if not stronger; and Dumbledore hadn't gotten through his war without losing friends and killing enemies and sacrificing allies.

For commentary, we turn to Bismarck: "A fool learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others."

Even if Dumbledore was right, and the true enemy was utterly mad and evil... in a hundred million years the organic lifeform known as Lord Voldemort probably wouldn't seem much different from all the other bewildered children of Ancient Earth. Whatever Lord Voldemort had done to himself, whatever Dark rituals seemed so horribly irrevocable on a merely human scale, it wouldn't be beyond curing with the technology of a hundred million years. Killing him, if you didn't ha

... (read more)

Why does he think the future will hold life to be as precious as the present does, instead of cheap, as it did and will again in Malthusian economies?

Because he has no intention of letting that happen.

Intentions are insufficient.
Intentions and having already outright declared what 'shall not be' (see dementor scene) are sufficient for at least establishing what possible futures Harry cares about and plans on happening. (I personally criticized said scene because it seemed like cheap overconfident grandstanding of the kind fitting to an 11 year old.)
I'm confused is this supposed to be a criticism of the writing or of Harry?
Harry, to a certain extent. As well as not the writing per se, but the brand of transhumanist bluster written about. Where some we emotionally roused to cheering, I cringed.
Erm...there isn't even conservation of energy in that universe. Do you really think Malthusian economics still holds in such a world?
No, they're both violent primitive barbarians. One preferred a bow, the other a spear, if I remember correctly. And Harry is not trying to look mere thousands of years into the future. No, I'm pretty sure Harry thinks the future will hold life to be much more precious than the present does. As for why, probably bad reasoning, but I wouldn't hold that against him. Moral progress maybe? The optimism of youth? Because if the future doesn't hold things that are similar to us but better then it's a Bad End and probably won't hold anyone whose opinion we care about?
And yet, we have classics departments. I suspect Harry will not be disappointed if the future he envisages fails to arrive in a few thousand years.
Erm...there isn't even conservation of energy in that universe. Do you really think Malthusian economics still holds?
When it becomes possible to cheaply create life, then I expect Malthusian constraints to quickly become tight. (To be more precise, I mean that the long-term population growth rate minus death rate times per capita resource expenditure cannot exceed the resource growth rate.)
Why? In this world, energy is free. Which means, that with sufficient technology, all resources are free. As long as no one recklessly goes around creating resource-using life forms at an incredible rate, we should be fine...
Is it? There's a big difference between a constraint you're not sure about and a constraint that doesn't exist.

Quirrell's tale of "I played a hero, but it didn't get me political power" doesn't hold up. The "lonely superhero" is just as much a mere storytelling convention as the "zero-casualties superhero". Either Quirrell is leaving something out, or the author is ignoring real-world politics for storytelling convenience.

In real life, successfully fighting societally recognized enemies gets you all kinds of political opportunity. Look at American Presidents Eisenhower, Grant, Taylor, Jackson, Harrison, and Washington. This is true in nondemocracies too: consider the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Marlborough, or Sir Francis Drake.

What gets you loneliness and isolation is being a pioneer.

In real life, heroes go unrewarded exactly and only when their enemies aren't yet regarded as enemies by the rest of society.

The socially isolating thing isn't fighting Nazis when you're an American, it's fighting Nazis when you're a German. Being a reformer is isolating.

"The lonely superhero" is just as much a mere literary convention as "the zero-casualties superhero".

Of course, "the lonely superhero" reflects an underlying truth. The real brave... (read more)

Good points, but reading carefully, it seems Riddle's hero persona wasn't a pure "lonely hero." Rather:

There was a man who was hailed as a savior. The destined scion, such a one as anyone would recognize from tales, wielding justice and vengeance like twin wands against his dreadful nemesis.


Several times he led forces against the Death Eaters, fighting with skillful tactics and extraordinary power. People began to speak of him as the next Dumbledore, it was thought that he might become Minister of Magic after the Dark Lord fell.


It was as if they tried to do everything they could to make his life unpleasant... I was shocked how they seemed content to step back, and leave to that man all burdens of responsibility. They sneered at his performance, remarking among themselves how they would do better in his place, though they did not condescend to step forward.

In particular, Quirrell's Yule speech reminded Bones of one or more speeches hero-Riddle apparently gave, which she describes as "castigating the previous generation for their disunity against the Death Eaters."

So taken together, it seems hero-Riddle was widely liked, and could have bee... (read more)

In real life, successfully fighting societally recognized enemies gets you all kinds of political opportunity.

Well, yeah, it got Quirrel's "hero" political opportunity too. He was invited back to the fold of the Most Ancient House, and after the death of everyone else there, he would have wielded the vote in the Wizengamot. But they didn't sufficiently obey him as leader.

Look at American Presidents Eisenhower, Grant, Taylor, Jackson, Harrison, and Washington.

Alcibiades was accused and recalled by the Atheneans while on the expedition he had been advocating. Pausanias (victor of Plataies) and Miltiades (victor of Marathon) barely lasted a year after their famous victories, before getting accused of treason.

But within the context of the story, Quirrell's "I fought the villain but got no respect" is nonsense. Humans don't work that way

Knowing something of Ancient Greek history, and how they tended to treat all their most successful generals, it seemed very believable to me.

Successful generals are threats. You also see this in Byzantine history (inspiring a similar situation in Asimov's Foundation universe), and Chinese history too: a successful general like Belisarius becomes a threat to the throne and may be sabotaged in various ways. Belisarius was lucky: all his emperor did was short-change him and set him impossible missions. Chinese generals might just see themselves executed.

Depends on the situation. A good Samaritan who stopped the kidnapping of the president's daughter because he was in the right place at the right time will get some fame but probably won't be able to leverage that incident into a political career.
I'm assuming the 'past-Quirrell' that Quirrell tells Hermoine about in Chapter 84 is the 'young man' that Amelia Bones believes is now Quirrell. (Is this reasonable?) If that's the case, then one way of understanding the situation is this: Riddle assumed two personas---Voldemort and Light Riddle---in order to experiment with different ways of acquiring power. He found that the Voldemort-path was much more preferable on account of the loyalty he could obtain via the Dark Mark. The Dark Mark was so effective that the loyalty he earned as Light Riddle seemed negligible by comparison; thus he complains that he got no help from his 'allies'. So Riddle retired his Light persona by faking his own death and continued only as Voldemort. Now that he sees Harry as a potential puppet, he wants to ensure that he/Harry have loyalty comparable to that secured with a Dark Mark. He therefore calls for a 'Light Mark' in his speech before Christmas. EDIT: Of course 'Light Riddle' (if he existed) and Voldemort would have looked different; Minerva remembers Voldemort as snake-like. If the above is right, then Voldemort's disfiguration would have to be a disguise rather than real damage from Dark Rituals.
It's certainly what I immediately assumed. Not actually Riddle, but yeah. Amelia claims that Quirrell's Yule speech calling for a Mark of Britain / Light Mark "struck her as familiar", and was one of the clues that brought to mind the vanished Noble Hero. Or he could have been possessing the actual body of his former classmate.
It always seemed to me that 'light Riddle' was not Riddle, but Quirrell before he was possessed by Voldemort. Remember that he visited a dojo and learned to fight, Later Voldemort attempted to do the same and failed. There would be little point in coming back to learn again if he was the same person.
Unless he just wanted to play the part of the angry Dark Lord, and get people to treat him as such, to his own advantage.

No, this one is 11pm, the previous one was 2am.

I've always hated (not really but I've always disliked) people who take pains to be polite in discourse for the same reasons that I dislike people who take pains to frame themselves as victims.

You should get over that (the former). You'll end up hating people simply for not being utterly naive. Getting along with people is necessary if you wish to achieve anything.

Manners are almost always used as a ploy for power.

Yes. It is a kind of power that people are willing to grant you and that, as far as ways to grab power go, has rather good externalities. Start using it.

Manners hinder productive conversation and allow for framing techniques that automatically give certain positions more weight than others.

Both good and bad manners do that. The bad ones make it easier.

I care about downvoting because it reflects widespread ignorance and most people here seem to not recognize the ignorance.

You are wrong. I haven't followed closely enough to know whether the other guy was right but your own behavior in your comments is more than sufficient to get downvoted according to local norms - and you'd be shunned or shamed in most social environments where you tried to pull this crap.

I don't think I need to be polite when I'm having everything I write be downvoted and "argued" against by about twelve different people.

Neither of these gives a licence for rudeness. Having a variety of people argue against a position is not a reason that defense of that position should be less polite. As to downvoting- you yourself said that people should care less about downvoting, so maybe do so?

In general, you need to think carefully about what your goals are. If your goals are to convince people then being polite helps. If your goal is to convince bystanders of your position or something similar then being polite still helps, because people are more inclined to take a position seriously when the one arguing for it is calm and polite. At a completely selfish level, being rude makes it harder to accept that one is wrong, due to cognitive dissonance issues and invested-effort/sunk cost issues. So if one wants to become less wrong one should try to be polite for purely selfish reasons.

I am not downvoting this comment of yours, but here's a piece of advice: attacking the whole forum over a single downvote is probably the best way to ensure you'll get more downvotes.

If you want to get fewer downvotes, best way possible is to complain less about the occasional downvotes you will get. All that a downvote means is that one person out of the hundreds that visit the site didn't like your comment. But when you attack a whole community over what a single member of it did, well... that'll cause more people to think that such an attack merits a few more downvotes.

Rowling made a mistake and gave Dudley a PS in 1993.

I am totally using that as my rejoinder there - "If Dudley can get a Playstation in 1993, clearly Playstations are timeless in canon."

Wait, you can violate the six-hour limit on backward movement of information with Playstations?

Does that mean the Department of Mysteries has a Playstation department?

plots evilly

No, no, the sand in the Time-Turners' hourglasses is made of ground-up Playstations.

I don't think that would actually make sand, it must be the game-discs.
This brings to mind the scratched game CD in Homestuck.
Presumably Sega is the only organization with the power to stop PS from taking over the world, hence their constant warfare in Megatokyo.

So all of the above are obvious rationalizations and are also pathetic.

This is at least rude. Downvoted without having to read more. Learn about the principle of charity.


Illusion of transparency.


Unnecessarily insulting. What do you mean on the object-level, and how could you say it in a way that is not rude?

Alsadius asserts that I'm overconfident and that I'm not thinking very clearly. That only makes sense if my comment is wrong

No. You can have true conclusions from a fallacious argument or false premises, or true beliefs following from faulty reasoning. And for example, precisely 100% is overconfident that the sun will rise tomorrow, even if it turns out to be correct.

Obviously I'm not criticizing literally each and every one of the people who visit this site,

Again, illusion of transparency. If you say the community, and the community means "the sum of [all] the individuals" here, then it is not obvious that you do not mean "each and every one of the people who visit this site".

it makes sense to talk about groupthink

'Groupthink' is a highly technical term, and shouldn't be bandied about. If you're going to assert tha... (read more)

I'm not sure how my mind dug this up, but way back in Chapter 17, Harry visits Dumbledore's office and is overloaded with bizarreness: Dumbledore sets fire to a chicken, he gives him his father's rock, he gives him his mother's potions textbook which contains a terrible secret... but one of these things is not like the others. Dumbledore gave Harry his father's rock, with instructions that Harry satisfied by creating a magical ring and wearing it at all times.

Blur out all the hilarious details for a minute, and that scene is: Dumbledore made Harry create a magical ring and wear it at all times, and distracted him so well that he never thought about what the ring does. My hypothesis is that some aspect of magic is governed by an XP-like mechanic, and that sustained transfiguration (especially of large masses) is an unusually effective way of gaining magical power. Dumbledore wants Harry to exploit this, but he considers it a major secret, so he substituted a nonsensical explanation and prepared a collection of very flashy distractions to keep it from being questioned. He might've even left the real explanation in his pensieve, so that he wouldn't have to lie. Read in this light, the scene makes a whole lot more sense. It explains Harry's anomalous magical power. It explains Dumbledore's anomalous magical power.

It is also the only way Dumbledore could truly mark someone as an equal.

The potions textbook is not a hilarious detail. I'm almost done catching up on all of the MoR discussion on LW, and it seems consensus among people who have thought about it is that gur cbgvbaf grkgobbx fubjf Qhzoyrqber vagresrevat obgu va Yvyl'f eryngvbafuvc jvgu Fancr naq va Yvyl'f perngvba bs gur cbgvba fur tvirf Crghavn.
What anomalous magical power?
So, if it is a training method, it's one McGonagall knows about and in fact specifically suggested.

Hasn't Harry basically signed up to be a Dark Lord in 85, at least by the Sorting Hat's standards?

then the gloves come off and the villains die as fast as possible; and I won't pretend that real people in real life can go through a war without sacrificing anyone...

Compare the talk with the Sorting Hat:

I am not Dark Lord material!

“Yes, you are. You really, really are.”

Why! Just because I once thought it would be cool to have a legion of brainwashed followers chanting ‘Hail the Dark Lord Harry’?

“Amusing, but that was not your first fleeting thought before you substituted something safer, less damaging. No, what you remembered was how you considered lining up all the blood purists and guillotining them.

Oh god, I have this mental image of Harry standing next to a blood soaked guillotine insisting that he is a Light Lord!

5Eliezer Yudkowsky11y
Aaand lo, this shows up:
Is the cutie mark supposed to be a patronus? I can't tell.
Space shuttle, perhaps. What does "Mr. Swirl" mean?
I don't think that's quite fair to Harry - he hasn't promised to kill everyone who disagrees with him, just "the villains". That's a pretty nebulous group, but I think given context we can infer that he's not planning a Reign of Terror-style pogrom just yet. Sounds to me like he'll pursue non-violent methods unless he thinks the only reasonable way to save lives is by killing the bad guys. I mean, if it was just Lucius Malfoy leading the other side, and Lucius was only trying to further the pure-blood cause through political maneuvering and rallies and stuff, there'd be no reason to up the ante by getting violent. On the other hand, if there are people out there who are trying to kill Harry's friends in order to bring down the anti-purist movement then NOT responding with force would be bringing a knife to a gunfight. I thought that was the point of this whole soliloquy - it's fine to oppose plots with plots, but you have to be prepared to admit that non-violent counter-plots might not be enough against someone who is willing to actually kill people to get the job done.
Let's recall the full quote: To be more concise: "if a single innocent bystander dies, then the villains die as fast as possible". Which itself simplifies to "the villains die as fast as possible", since it is assured that an innocent will die in a war. If Harry can't be the superhero and save everyone, the intent to kill comes out and he kills bad guys as fast and efficiently as he can. I'll admit it's probably not the guillotine, since if he has them captured, he probably won't kill them. But owling hand grenades? Well, maybe not either. Collateral damage. But a sniper with a clear shot? Of course, as fast as he can get those clear shots. Harry has gone beyond that, however. He's not just willing to kill, it's the first option. "The villains die as fast as possible." To be fair to Harry, he's obviously wrestling with the issue, and trying to find answers. I don't know that this answer is going to last too long. All or nothing, save everyone or be completely ruthless, are clearly not the only two options, and I'd expect him to figure that out in fairly short order. Dumbledore was only as ruthless as he felt he needed to be to win. Harry is talking about being absolutely ruthless toward his enemies, and exterminating them like a roach infestation.
It is not assured that an innocent will die in war, nor is it assured that there will be a war in the first place. In a standard political disagreement, Harry shouldn't anticipate innocent deaths. The only reason Harry has to consider innocent deaths is that somebody targeted his friends. That still doesn't imply a war worth retaliating against, any more than any other random murder which occurs every day. You don't respond to a crazy murderer or an lone assassin with indiscriminate hand grenades against everybody who opposes you. Harry doesn't know if there's going to be a war. Right now, there's no reason for anyone except for Quirrell to expect for there to be bloodshed, and that'll only happen if Quirrell decides to start some.
But presumably "villain" here means something like "enemies actually involved in fighting this conflict, in other words who are likely to kill someone." Doesn't include people who merely have despicable opinions, or even bystanders such as Narcissa (possibly) was.
Second option. Given what you quote, he's willing to let an innocent die in order to try out his first option: "the path of the superhero." Whether that's a significant investment in the first option or not depends, I suppose, on how likely he thinks he is to prevent innocents from dying via his second option, and on whether spending an innocent life he could have saved is a significant cost.
An odd thought: it will be a dramatic irony if the innocent is killed by Bellatrix. That would actually tie together the two Sybill premonitions/awakenings (first part of a prophecy is set up by Bella getting out; second part by Harry's resolution to kill the villains as fast as possible on the death of an innocent; another part still to come will be triggered by the death of the innocent itself at Bella's hand. Sybill doesn't understand the whole picture yet, which is why she can't articulate the whole prophecy.)

Idea: someone should compile a list of times when Quirrell says "Interesting" or is otherwise surprised by Harry.

He does it a lot, and we might see an interesting pattern emerge.

Hurting people is bad.


I guess this has come up before, but I take it the reason to be Voldemort is that as soon as muggles get load of magic, they'll figure out how become magical, transmute 3 stage thermonuclear devices from concrete, apparate them over cities, etc. So magic means the total removal of all technological or economic restrictions on nuclear warfare. And time travel.

So if you figured the muggles would discover the magical world pretty soon, and if you wanted there to be any people at all in the future, you'd have to make the society of magical knowledge completely closed. This means taking over, at least, the magical world and probably the muggle one too. And in order to prevent anyone from seeing magic as technology and doing productive research on it, you'd have to make it completely scary, so that their fear and moral hatred would override their ability to study it proficiently.

If that's true, then muggle science is similar a soon-to-be-uncontrollable AI (it is at least by many orders of magnitude a better optimizing system then the magical world's own research efforts), and Voldemort is a last ditch effort at reboxing. If that's right, it seems hard to argue with Voldemort.

I think people in the Less Wrong community are a little too fast to analogize any existential threat to the threat of rogue AI. The threat of people blowing up the world with nuclear weapons seems a lot more analogous to the threat of people blowing up the world with nuclear weapons.

I was thinking about it earlier and Harry has massively underranked the utility of Horcruxes. If one person must die so that a different person can live 100K+ more years then that is an incredibly desirable tradeoff from an impartial utilitarian standpoint and everyone should be doing this. You could even choose to murder only old and dying people so that there would be almost no loss of net time that people spend alive. He dismissed it way too quickly during his conversation with Dumbledore.

I think it has to be cold-blooded murder, not a utilitarian sacrifice.

I wonder if burning Narcissa Malfoy to death would count, or if it had too many positive externalities. (I'm less and less sure how to model Dumbledore as MoR proceeds, particularly since even if he's "supposed to be good", Eliezer is writing him and Eliezer is some sort of consequentialist; I wouldn't want to rule out the possibility that Dumbledore deemed himself indispensable and his soul's contiguousness dispensable to the war effort.)

It would explain why Harry always has to carry around an otherwise normal-seeming rock...
I actually consider that to be a very likely case.
This would explain why Dumbledore is so worried about becoming a Dark Lord. It's also less improbable than it initially seems because Harry already established that Dumbledore hasn't thought through his views about death, etc, very well, and that Dumbledore has some nearly contradictory beliefs. The rationale that I imagine him using is: "I would sacrifice my immortal soul to save my friends mortal lives". Which is incredibly generous and would make him into a praiseworthy hero. The most probable way I see EY working in a "Dumbledore has a Horcrux" thing is through a plot where Dumbledore is not a Dark Lord, but thinks he is, and Harry thinks Dumbledore is evil, and Quirrell is manipulating both of them. Even then, I still don't think this is very probable.
Of note - the canon version is that murder rends the soul, and a horcrux merely preserves one part of it in a separate object than your body. Dumbledore did not need to create a horcrux to have sacrificed the contiguousness of his soul, assuming canonical soulphysics at least. Of course, I see no reason not to create a horcrux if you're doing murder anyways(unless there are significant additional costs associated), but then Dumbledore has a very different view of death than I do.
This might put something of a different slant on the events surrounding the death of Narcissa Malfoy, if true.
Could you explain? I don't see how "Dumbledore killed her" is a 'different slant'.
I think he's getting at the horcrux theory?
I keep getting confused by people reading "murder" as "created a Horcrux", I really should have learned that lesson by now.
I hadn't previously seen any clear motive for Dumbledore to kill Narcissa. That he might have done so to help keep himself ready to defend Magical Britain at least provides a possible explanation. Assuming that he did, in fact, do broadly what Draco said, anyhow. Pedanterrific, I'm not conflating the two acts, merely observing that one may illuminate the other.
Evidence in favor: Dumbledore thinks it's plausible that he's the Dark Lord from the prophecy, which would require it possible to destroy all but a remnant of him.
The standard theory is that he killed her to show the death eaters that attacking families of Order of the Phoenix members will now be repaid in kind.
You mean standard? Or is this jargon I'm unfamiliar with?
Thanks, fixed.
You said "this" as though it were a reference to "deemed his soul's contiguousness dispensable to the war effort", which just means "he was willing to commit murder". It's the murder that splits the soul, not the Horcruxing.
You're correct, but I was responding to the whole statement: If our dear Headmaster murdered Narcissa because he thought his continued availability to Magical Britain was more important than avoiding that kind of atrocity, or keeping his soul whole then that means that he used the murder to protect himself from death, and in this context that means that he made a Horcrux. This is, of course, all conjecture. We don't know for certain that Dumbledore himself did the deed, or that it went down the way that the surviving Malfoys believe it did. We do know that Dumbledore finds it useful for them to believe it, and we do know that he has studied how horcruxes are made as part of his Anti-Voldemort campaign, and we can be fairly sure that Madame Bones knows the truth of the matter of Narcissa's death
What evidence do we have that Bones knows the truth of the matter? She knows that Dumbledore might be tempted to confess to Lucius in the trial scene, and after that the best link I've ever seen anyone draw between her and Narcissa is the "Somebody would burn for this!" from TSPE. The latter implies nothing, and the former doesn't require any special level of knowledge.
I was only thinking of the trial scene, I'm afraid.
I wasn't the first one to note this, but: In Chapter 56, one chapter after the "Somebody would burn for this." quote.
Evidence in favor: Dumbledore thinks it's plausible that he's the Dark Lord from the prophecy, which would require it possible to destroy all but a remnant of him.
I do wonder whether the Source of Magic, or whatever it is that determines whether a Horcrux can be made, draws a distinction between deaths in combat, deaths accidentally caused and deaths deliberately and avoidably caused.
(upvoted chaosmosis) How is utilitarian not cold-blooded? As far as I understand, utilitarians work by assigning utility values between different outcomes and choosing the one with the most utility. That seems pretty cold-blooded. 100k years worth of life > 2 minutes of intense pain and loss of 2 years of life.

Utilitarianism has to be equally-blooded for all outcomes, but this can also be accomplished by being hot-blooded about everything. Instead of shrugging and not caring about the pain and two-year loss, you can mourn it while also grinning and clapping your hands and jumping around shouting for joy at the perspective of someone gaining so much life.

In ch.79 Dumbledore mentions the human sacrifice has to be "committed in coldest blood, the victim dying in horror"
How about some kind of Russian roulette -- two people get wands, one is magical, one is not, they are supposed to cast some paralysis spell and then Avada Kedavra on each other. The paralysis spell gives the victim enough time to realize they have lost, and thus to die in horror. Yet, if average(years gained) is more than average(years lost), the transaction is good from utilitarian viewpoint. Especially if both parties are volunteers. I don't know whether this qualifies as "cold-blooded murder", though -- I would need more precise definition.
Yeah. Alternatively Harry could seize power and then force gladiators to murder each other and have perform Dark Rituals to create a Horcrux after the killings, that would probably be evil enough. Also, this would be a better sport than Quidditch, so it's win-win.
One possible explanation is that the horcrux doesn't require a murder to create, but it does require a human brain to restore the backup to. This doesn't seem terribly likely, but I think it would be a elegant solution to why horcruxes need murder.
It seems like that's a questionable assumption that Harry would be eager to test, once he found out about Horcruxes. For example, can you cast a Horcrux on the power of, say, Avada Kedavra-ing a nonmagical nonhuman creature? If not, how about a magical creature? What if you could create a low-quality backup that way? Wouldn't it still be better than nothing?
OTOH if true it does provide some evidence for Dumbledore's belief that souls are real things distinct from the body they work on.
Doesn't the latter tend to involve the former when the 'sacrifice' is the life of another?
If your utility function assigns utility exclusively to "time spent alive," sure. But Harry's utility function also assigns utility to "keeping people alive", regardless of time.
You could create Horcruxes as a side-product of capital punishment, something Harry doesn't seem to mind. Maybe you could kill people who were about to die anyway, and consented? Could you use abortion in this manner?
With time travel you could pull off last minute injunctions on people who were going to die anyways. Think of it as Prisoner of Azkaban escapes, except instead of preventing deaths you just make use of them. I think it'd work best as a mirror to the organ donor / organ recipient list. You sign up, and when you would normally have a catastrophic broomstick accident (or whatever), you instead have a couple medical professionals and the horcrux maker visit you 5 minutes before your appointed time.
Why do you say that ? He seems very opposed to capital punishment to me, that's why he takes the resolution to try to not kill Voldemort. That's also why he wants to destroy Azkaban.
Harry's a little inconsistent about this, depending on his mood. He's definitely talked at least somewhat seriously of just rounding up and killing all former death eaters etc.
That seems rather naive of him if so. Advocating a justice system run by humans with that kind of moral hazard is a recipe for disaster.
This is daft. Horcruxes are not the only available means of life extention, which voids the entire rest of the debate. There is the stone, whatever he can think up independently and worst come to worst, from harrys point of view, the odds of him, personally, dying of old age before the muggles come up with a hack to fix ageing is very low. 170 years, starting the clock in 1980 gets him to 2150!
2120-ish given Time Turner abuse. Edit: Oh wait, that's already included in your 170-year figure, isn't it?
None of those other options have a very high probability and all of them will lose lives while they are being discovered. At the very least, Harry should implement a mass Horcrux program and at the same time or after its implementation he should also continue to search for better ways to make people immortal.
One thing I'm missing from this whole horcrux discussion is: What happens if you die of age, and have a horcrux? People just seem to assume that once you have a horcrux, you won't wither and die. But we have no indication to believe this is what actually happens. canon!Voldemort catches a rebounding killing curse, and the horcrux doesn't make him live on in perfect health. Instead he is very close to death, has no body, and needs to possess animals or other humans to extort some influence. So what happens if you have a horcrux, and come close to dying from old age? It seems to me that your body would die, and you'd need some avenue to live again, and that is not a nice prospect at all. If you have access to a philospher's stone you wouldn't have such a problem, but then you wouldn't need a horcrux in the first place. What else can you do? Possess another human, who suffers greatly from it. Or the ritual that requires a servant of yours to sacrifice a limb; oh, and there's only a limited supplies of bones from your father, so you can't repeat it indefinitely. In summary, it seems that a single death doesn't give you 100k+ years of live without additional major costs.
Yeah, I think Harry didn't want Dumbledore to see him considering it. He was trying to maintain the moral high ground, so he could condemn Dumbledore for thinking it was good to die of old age. Not that I think this was a conscious act, but he sensed that thinking seriously about it wouldn't make the conversation go his way.
It's an interesting idea, especially since Harry is entirely on board with dying wizards using their magic to fuel Unbreakable Vows. I forget, do Horcruxes require a murder of an unwilling subject specifically, or can they be created if the subject willingly sacrifices himself to fuel the ritual ?
In Cannon you had to split your soul, which according to Slughorn required an act of evil. The supreme act of evil - murder. If Slughorn is right, then no, a willing sacrifice wouldn't do it. He implies though, that it's not the external consequence of the act that counts, so much as the internal soul wrenching aspects. For some, it might be enough to strangle a puppy. And as you progressed in evil, murder most foul might not be sufficient to tear at your soul. When you've killed four, it's easy to make it five.
You would think so, but that doesn't seem to be how it works in canon. The diary and Nagini were both Horcruxed with one murder. In fact, it's suggested that making Horcruxes makes your soul "unstable", making it easier to make more (canon HP was even unintentionally pseudo-Horcruxed).

Just by reading your comment before the Edits, I thought that you're probably correct, Harry seems confused about his dark side and that (to me) also seems to be Bayesian evidence for Harry being at least partially a horcrux. So to me, it seems like you're qualitatively right, although the importance of this piece of evidence can be discussed about. The downvotes could simply be bad luck, and I'd have expected this comment to go back at zero and beyond in a few hours.

However, posing yourself as a victim of this sites supposed groupthinking and attacking us using sarcasm makes things worse. I'm not surprised that in this form, the comment got to -6 points. These sorts of attacks (posing oneself as the victim and then vigorously attacking) are neither liked here nor in most other places, I'm afraid.

I agree that the victim model sucks. I was actively trying to distance myself from it through harsh and angry rhetoric but failed. Probably the sarcasm was the mistake that made me seem victim like. What should I do to distance myself further, since I've apparently failed? No one wants to deal with a victim which is definitely justified. At the same time, I want to complain. My response should be viewed in context of multiple high numbers negative reputations I received on multiple posts in different discussion threads. I wouldn't have responded like that to one single instance. But I had multiple instances where good posts, just like the one above, received multiple negative reputations. I wanted to complain about that. It seems like as soon as I opposed pendanterrific on the other thread everyone started smashing on everything I said, which is stupid and justifies a response on my part. The specific above response was flawed, although I still strongly defend its sentiment. I don't want to apologize, exactly, because I feel that being angry with the hordes of negative reputation is justified. At the same time I wish that it had been phrased differently, and that I had more specifically tailored my response to address the people swarming me with bad karma. I apologize for that response to all people on LessWrong who did not downvote my good comments, such as (presumably) you. I do not and will not apologize to the people who downvoted my comments without any real justification, those guys are assholes. I will also not apologize to the people who are willfully misunderstanding me or who are attacking every statement I make.

Why should the time of an ominous decision be so relevant to seers? Even if the consequences of the decision have a big impact on the future, that future already was the future. It's not like there is a default future before you make your decision and a different future afterwards, your decision itself would already be a part of the future of any earlier point in time. From a many worlds perspective you might have several different possible futures so your overall prospect of the future might significantly change after an important branching, but Harry's decision doesn't seem particularly influenced by recent random chance; it seems unlikely that from the perspective of 6 hours ago most future Harrys would make a completely different decision.

The clock is a gift from Dumbledore. On the one hand, it could be recording. On the other hand it could be transmitting. On the gripping hand, Dumbledore has a Time Turner.

If Dumbledore wanted to assure that any time he was the best pressure-release for a prophesy that pressure was released as easily and discretely as possible and less likely to be overheard, he would want to make it easy for the Prophesy Force to get that information to him.

So he gives her a clock and tells her to ask it for the time each time she wakes up in the middle of the night. The clock tells Dumbledore. Dumbledore gets invisible. Then it's just a jump to the left and he receives any prophesy intended for him.

That's so obvious in retrospect, and Dumbledore is so meddling, that now I don't think he's allowed not to have thought of that.

So when the clock responds to her question, that's actually invisible Dumbledore?
No. It's just a clock. But it is there, so Dumbledore knows at which point in time he should jump back to (given the option of course) {all this is an interpretation of loserthree's post}
I meant, if whenever she queries the clock for the time, Dumbledore will have arrived already, then there was no need for him to enchant the clock further to respond to the query - he could just answer it himself, since he's already there.
That may fall under the don't-mess-with-time injunction. Easier to just be silent and let the clock do its job.

Hmm. On first reading, I just took the premonitions as being an indicator of how close we are to the apocalypse, not necessarily being caused by Harry's resolution. And yet you're right; both the premonitions we've seen so far immediately followed Harry's resolving something.

The first resolution was Harry saying that he would destroy Azkaban, whether it meant ruling Britain or summoning arcane magics to blow the building up, and that those who support Azkaban are the villains.

This resolution was Harry saying that if his war caused a single death, he would start killing villains as fast as possible.

So if these are all related, I guess all Quirrell needs to do is make Harry remember both those resolutions after someone dies and while he's in his Dark Side, and then sit back and watch as Harry exterminates 90% of the British population.

Eliezer seems to be taking a page from Alicorn's book. In Luminosity Alice is plagued by differing visions as Bella constantly changes her mind about her future, and then the actual future snaps into place when a final choice is made.

That's how it is in the canon Twilight (Eclipse).

And I already remarked in the Luminosity thread that that makes no sense. It makes even less sense in a universe with time turners.

Essentially? It has to happen at some point along the timeline, and whatever engine runs magic finds it simplest to give visions simultaneous to the decisions that cause them. (Or at least, contribute in some major way to them.)

Or, in other words, enforced narrative causality.

Take the present state of the universe and use an imperfect tool to extrapolate likely future outcomes. Changing your mind causes the present state to shift towards predicting a certain future outcome more. The only weird thing is that you can actually fool people by pretending. The prediction mechanism has to have some very specific flaws for that to work.
If you assume both free will and prescience, it's natural. You cannot see the consequences of a decision that has not yet been made, but once it has been, then you can view it. Think of the visions in Dune, as one of the better-known examples - the visions that the seers see are infinite branches, not single facts, and the branch points are their decisions. (The analogy is not perfect - in Dune, the decisions of non-seers are taken as given - but I hope the idea is clear).
Free will as opposing "determinism" is a confused concept according to Eliezer's opinion, and also according to mine -- see Thou Art Physics Basic points is that we're part of the physical world-- if free will means anything, it must mean the ability of our current physical state to determine our decisions. "Libertarian free-will" in the sense of people making decision that can't be predicted from the current state; that's inevitably just randomness, not anything that has to do with people's character traits or moralities or cognitive-processes -- nothing that is traditionally labelled "free will".
You mean libertarian free will, which already doesn't make sense all by itself, and even then the combination doesn't make sense for additional reasons, starting with that seeing anything would usually require that only main characters have free will.
Or to put it another way, your ominous decision can cause a prophecy at any time, past or future, so why should the prophecy happen soon after the decision?
My understanding would be that the future is in flux--until Harry made that resolution, he could have not made that resolution, but once the decision was made, the future switched over to the one that causes as those prophesies.

I think HPMoR has colored my thinking about scholarship and I'm really happy about this. Recently I have been reading the literature on mathematics education, and I find myself thinking of what I read as books that can give me power, like uncovering principles of magic and becoming capable of greater battle magic. I'm basically doing what Dumbledore and Riddle did and it works in real life.

There's an argument (first advanced by Beccaria in the late 18th century) that it matters more that punishment be swift and certain, than that it be harsh. If people don't really believe a punishment is likely to happen to them, it won't deter reliably. Human cognitive biases being what they are, we might be better served trying to make punishment visible, rather than horrifying. Azkaban, being remote and unpleasant to think about, is perhaps less effective than some punishment that would be constantly in sight. Having the convicted criminal's wand broken. say.

Beccaria puts it much better than I could, so I'll just refer you to his essay on the topic:

In a society with veritaserum, legilimency and assorted other magic you'd think it would be straightforward to establish guilt or innocence in the vast majority of cases.

Of course, said society also has occlumency and memory charms.

I've never had the opportunity to respond to a single comment with both of these, but if you haven't yet, you should check out Well-kept gardens die of pacifism and Why our kind can't cooperate. (the latter is less directly relevant)

If anything, there should be less rudeness and more downvoting on this site. For this community, rude disagreement and lack of downvoting would still be the default if we weren't actively suppressing it.

Politeness is useful. Rudeness is the way to mind-killing. If you don't want people to engage with your ideas rationally, be rude to them - that strategy works very well on humans.

Rudeness makes sense insofar as agents respond irrationally to claims that are addressed at them, I understand that claim although I wish it wasn't true and I still prefer frankness to politeness, and I still don't trust calls to "be polite". Additionally, I want a way to express frustration when I'm dealing with stupid things. But most of the downvoting on this site seems to be a death spiral or a happy spiral. There are a disproportionate number of comments with +10 or -5 karma on this site, some of EY's comments get like +50 which isn't justified no matter how good the comment. That's like the worth of an entire well done article. Why more downvoting?
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This community appears to value politeness over rudeness (I know I do). If you don't like that norm, you can find another community, or attempt to convince us that the norm is useless and we should stop enforcing it. Flouting the norm and being rude will just attract hostility.
Justification for voting applies to whether one clicks the "vote up" or "vote down" button. Ideally, this is done without reference to a comment's current score. +50 just means that 50 of the readers (on net) thought it was upvote-worthy, and there are many more than 50 readers of the site. FWIW, votes on articles (in main) are worth 10x the karma. Downvoting is our method of curation. It hides bad comments from casual readers. Curation is important because otherwise everything devolves into Reddit. See this post by Jeff Atwood. In my opinion, roughly 1/3 of all comments you read should be downvoted. Sadly, that is not feasible in practice due to downvote limits. Others think that policy is too 'harsh', but are free to use a different algorithm for voting.
This has the effect of making unpopular opinions invisible. I don't see how there's a risk this turns into Reddit. The post you linked to said that people are more likely to upvote funny memes, rather than useful stuff, given some of pedanterrific's comment that has basically already happened here. I don't think humor is even that bad. And the question of whether we should not do so many upvotes doesn't impact whether we should do more downvotes on already neutral posts, which is what I'm concerned with. Having moderators solves the Reddit problem. You also aren't addressing the fact that in practice people are more likely to (down)(up)vote things which have already been (down)(up)voted, which leads to karma sinks.
That doesn't seem to happen in practice (yet) - downvoted posts are usually much more likely to have a tone or quality problem than be an unusual opinion. Possible, but that's not a huge problem in itself; and the effect doesn't seem very strong (it's not rare to see posts eventually change sign).
I don't think this is in general a problem. Well argued positions will generally be upvoted. I for example have spent time arguing here against cryonics, the likelyhood of an intelligence explosion, and whether Kolmogorov complexity priors make sense. In all such cases I've been upvoted. It is likely that a poorly argued argument for accepted views will not be downvoted as heavily as poorly argued arguments for contrarian views. But that's a different claim than that unpopular opinions will be invisible.
That only happens if people are misusing voting. And it does not happen in my experience. There have been entire threads that were upvoted quite a bit but included disagreeing opinions. And we have a fair number of dissenters hereabouts. And some of us tend to weight comments slightly higher if they represent a minority position (or one I disagree with), to counter that sort of effect.

In the 40,000 years since anatomically modern humans had migrated to Australia from Asia

BTW - this was the accepted figure as of 1991, but molecular evidence suggests 62,000-75,000 years. Which makes Harry's point even more strongly: it took a long time for humans as we know them to invent what we think of as basic stuff.

At a cursory glace the date you cite seems to be for the time the population they are descended from split from African populations, not for when they arrived in Australia. Genetic evidence cannot show where your ancestors lived, only how they were related to other populations (which might imply things about where they lived provided you already know that for the other populations)

Yes, you're right - this piece gives 50,000 years ago for the arrival. But the point stands as to the minimum time humans were anatomically and cognitively modern.
Genetic evidence can't show where your ancestors lived, but it can gesture furtively in one direction while mouthing "look over there". Even in hunter-gatherer populations, there's enough mobility that it shouldn't take anywhere near 22,000 years for African genes to make their way to Australia (or to wherever the proto-Australians were living at the time).
I approve of your stealth xkcd reference.
There's a big difference between a few people making their way over and genes achieving fixation.

Isn't Harry a little young to have played Fate/Stay Night, both in the sense of it being a Japanese porno game not suitable for 11-year-olds and it not having been made yet when the story is set?

EDIT: Clearly this is intended as a hint that he has the time-traveling adult Voldemort's memories implanted in him.

Those are very valid objections, but since the phrase "great works of literature like Hamlet or Fate/Stay Night" constantly causes hilarious overreactions whenever I link Three Worlds Collide around, I'm entirely supportive of Eliezer taking liberties for this purpose.

Yeah, Hamlet sucks!

Eliezer isn't bothering to consider publication dates, and has ignored them in the past- eg Barbour's The End of Time wasn't published until 1999, yet Harry still knows timeless physics.

Eliezer has said that he's giving a pass to any science in the story, but I don't think he's applied that policy to all fiction Harry has consumed. In the Azkaban break, Eliezer noted that Harry was quoting from the trailer of a movie (Army of Darkness,) which hadn't been released yet, and in the tvtropes discussion thread, he attested that he had checked the chronology of the trailer.

According to canon, the original PlayStation was available in 1993. So if certain electronic media are available earlier in the MoR universe, it's only a slight embellishment of an existing canon discrepancy.

Well, if you ignore the chronological problems, apparently an all-ages version was released by Typemoon in 2007 (Fate/stay night Réalta Nua). (More generally, visual novels don't necessarily contain that much porn - comparable to what you can find in regular novels. I'm fairly sure there were many more porn scenes in the books I was reading at 11, like Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant.)
Or Justine... But perhaps that was just the wrong book to steal from my dad's library. Or right. Updated evidence from encounters later in my life would suggest the latter, public opinion the former.
You can always imagine that in the HPMoR fictional universe, Fate/Stay Night came out in some form much earlier -- same way that variations of 'Gargoyles' and "Death Note" seem to have been wizardly entertainment earlier than their real counterparts came out in the real world.... Anyway, it's not really useful to fuss about the chronology of fictional references too much, either from the point of view of the readers, nor from the point of view of the author...

Personally, I find shout-outs less jarring than straight out references to Harry having consumed fiction that shouldn't exist yet. The Tragedy of Light isn't Death Note, it's The Tragedy of Light, even if the real life inspiration is obviously Death Note.

Anachronism notwithstanding, the anime adaptation isn't pornographic, so he could have seen that instead.
"Clean" versions exist, taping a piece of paper over the screen and holding "enter" is an option, and a lot of the physics is after his time too.
I know similar sentiments have already been expressed, but... Calling it a "porno game" seems wrong - that could really only be right if literally everything with a depiction of sex is "porno". It has a couple of sex scenes. At least, someone playing Fate/Stay Night looking for porn will be sorely disappointed. (And the way the "Creating a physical link between Shirou and Saber" scene was handled in the anime, I think I'd rather it were the sex scene from the visual novel, despite my generally disliking sex scenes.)
He didn't actually had to have read it, merely to have come across that particular quote.

By Word of God, we know that horcruxes exist in the HPMoR universe. It seems like by now we ought to be able to start figuring out what a horcrux is.

In Canon, a horcrux is a fragment of a soul. But it stands to reason that this will not be the full answer in MoR, as it's a fairly serious violation of the author's beliefs. So if we're to disregard supernatural and religious concepts, the obvious first idea is that horcruxes are storage media for some portion of a brain's data.

The problem is that most of what makes up a brain has been strongly hinted to not be the answer, either. It certainly looks like Harry is a horcrux in this universe, and Harry already thought of that possibility in different terms, yet the Sorting Hat says with 100% confidence that there is no extra "mind, intelligence, memory, personality, or feelings" in Harry's head. And I'm disregarding out of hand any clever-schoolboy loopholes like "The horcrux is Harry's foot!"

What is left of a brain, if mind and intelligence and memory and personality and feelings (and a soul) are eliminated? It would be fitting, though a bit precious, if the answer were somehow "rationality", if you could ... (read more)

It certainly looks like Harry is a horcrux in this universe, and Harry already thought of that possibility in different terms, yet the Sorting Hat says...

The exact phrasing of the Sorting Hat's statement was as follows:

...there is definitely nothing like a ghost - mind, intelligence, memory, personality, or feelings - in your scar. Otherwise it would be participating in this conversation, being under my brim.

Now, anyone that's read the sort of fairytale where riddles are important should immediately be able to come up with a half-dozen loopholes in that, but I think we can dismiss most of them out of hand given that the Sorting Hat has no particular incentive to be misleading. The most promising option that remains, by my reading, is that there's nothing separate about the Horcrux contents for the Hat to key off of -- they effectively are Harry, or part of him. He's probably tapping that part of himself when he has his Dark Side episodes, at the very least, but I don't think that's the full extent of the Horcrux's influence: at various points he asks himself or people around him why he doesn't think like other children, and narrative parsimony points rather strongly to th... (read more)

That seems to be supported by this passage from Chapter 85: The idea is, crudely, that if Harry is a Horcrux, it is not because he has some distinct thing inside him, but because some part of Voldemort (part of his soul?) has "merged" with Harry.

Voldemort's Killing Curse worked. Lily's son is dead. The sacrifice magic hurt Voldemort and created a new person in Harry's body from Voldemort's mind, who we've been reading about ever since. The hat doesn't notice this because it never met the previous Harry. Voldemort knows all this and is treating Harry as his mind-child.

So Harry 1.0 was overwritten by Tom Riddle 2.0, but this time Tom got a loving family?

I just realized that the existence of the Dark Side is evidence against this. Harry would be all Dark Side if his original personality had been overwritten.
It could be that horcruxes performed on things with brains are intensely unreliable -- so, instead of the brain being able to assert itself over any dumb matter it's bound to, like a book, it suddenly finds itself fighting for control with matter that has a 'soul' of its own. In this case, the horcrux gets trapped in the brain of an infant child, and you sort of split the difference - the horcrux is partially destroyed by years of being trapped in a baby brain, but leaves certain skills and intellect and preferences behind, integrated into Harry's brain. An alternative hypothesis is that the horcrux is inactive, or unconscious, in some form, and has been integrated into Harry's brain, and Quirrelmort has a plan that involves waking it up at some point in the future if Harry can't be pushed into his dark side by subtler means.
I'll note that that passage really doesn't shift any likelihood away from this explanation.
That explanation would have been a pretty good one, right up until the Humanism chapters, where exposure to a Dementor turns Harry directly into Voldemort for a few minutes. After that it doesn't really hold water anymore.
I'd agree that it shifts probability away from that explanation, since passing out and waking up without a shred of compassion for other people is certainly less a reaction you expect from someone with only some fairly normal personality quirks than someone with something really unusual going on, although I'll note that Harry has always had something of a conflict between the part of him that cares about and wants the best for everyone, and the part of him which doesn't like or relate to other people, and this is certainly not unique or indicative of multiple personalities. But to say that exposure to a dementor "turns Harry directly into Voldemort" seems like jumping to conclusions to me. If we didn't already know that in the original canon, Harry was inadvertently made a horcrux of Voldemort, I'd say it was an extremely premature narrowing of the hypothesis space. Voldemort might think like Harry did when he was dementor-warped, but we've never gotten to see inside his head, and he didn't act like Harry acted.
It's not merely that Harry thought a certain way: "The response to compulsion was killing." Not just "He wanted to kill Dumbledore". The way it's phrased implies a memory, a history, a system of behavior that was predetermined and practiced. The only way that can be is if Harry has directly and fully assumed the mind of someone who has already established all that in their past. For me, "turn[ed] directly into Voldemort" is as accurate a way as any to describe that, unless it's someone other than Voldemort he turned directly into.
"He wanted to kill Dumbledore" would have been poor dramatic phrasing. "The response to compulsion was killing" could mean that he has a memory and history of this, or it could simply mean that in his state of mind, killing seems like the natural response to being compelled to do things by others. If I were trying to write that, I would sooner write "the response to compulsion was killing" than "He wanted to kill Dumbledore." The fact that Harry underwent a serious personality change on exposure to the dementor, and Hermione speculated that such a thing might happen to a person who already had that darker personality within them, is a substantial piece of evidence that Harry has something more unusual going on than some personality quirks. The phrasing used in that scene, on the other hand, I do not think can reasonably be treated as evidence of anything in particular. In fact, I can't think of a single explanation for Harry's personality change which would make the phrasing seem weird, given that artistic impact of the words being used is as important a consideration as their connotations.
I didn't read the 'the response to X was Y' approach as experience as Voldemort. I thought it was the goal-orientedness side, the intent to kill. The algorithm of 'I am here, I want to be there, where is the shortest route'.
I can't imagine Voldemort or Quirrell thinking so crudely, even in terms of goal systems.
It seems to me that the horcrux doesn't need memories. The stored fragment of the soul serves not as a means of resurrection, but to sort of "anchor" the soul to the living world. So the main part of the soul, the part that stays within the living body until death, is left to linger. There is evidence for this: in canon, the first time Voldemort dies, his soul still lives, gathers strength, and then gets a servant to help him, without any contact with the horcruxes. And I expect that Voldemort actually planned on making Harry a horcrux; what better protection against a prophetic rival than to make him have to suicide to kill you?
We can try to assume that a horcrux is literally a fragment of a soul, in the Hofstadterian sense. It is then indeed an abstract algorithm (or a set of them), and it need not include memory and separate intelligence, although it would include personality and feelings. Extrapolating on what we know about how the Source of Magic interprets things, we should expect inanimate object horcruxes to be generally passive, while alive horcruxes to incorporate the algorithms into their own minds, although still somewhat separate. [It'd be cool to read about how a horcruxed software would behave.]
I would guess that the author sees conservation of energy as pretty important also. I would not be at all surprised if souls really exist in the HPMoR universe.
Va gur Nhgube'f Abgrf sbe Puncgref 39--40 (Cergraqvat gb Or Jvfr), Ryvrmre nccrnef gb or qryvorengryl inthr nf gb jurgure gur UCZBE havirefr unf na nsgreyvsr. Ng yrnfg, gung'f ubj V ernq guvf:
Lrf, ohg fbzrgvzrf gur rivqrapr ninvynoyr gb lbh vf zvfyrnqvat. V qba'g guvax gur rkvfgrag rivqrapr whfgvsvrf oryvrs va na nsgreyvsr, tvira gur xabjyrqtr ninvynoyr gb Uneel.
I would add that in Cannon, Harry is a horcrux, which adds a fair amount of weight to the idea. Some possibilities for why the hat would make the statement; * Harry's scar isn't a horcrux. * A horcrux is nothing like a ghost, mind, intelligence, memory, personality, or feelings. * The sorting hat was wrong, or lying. * Something about Harry-the-horcrux prevents detection by sorting hats. For example, it can't be active (and therefore the hat can't detect it) unless Harry is in dark side mode. * Something about Volemort's horcrux is different than the hat expects. For example, an occlumens can hide from detection. While I like the idea that the horcrux is only active when Harry is in dark-side mode, I can't see any reason to favor that theory.
Upvoted. I don't have any enlightening ideas about the nature of Horcruxes, but I have always wondered (given what the Hat said) why so many of the theories in these threads take for granted that Harry is a Horcrux, and I invite anyone who subscribes to this theory to explain how they reconcile it with the Hat's statement.

Hi, I'm Omega. You have a choice between one person being tortured or 3^^^3 people getting dustspecks in their eyes. Also, if you respond with profanity, an additional 5^^^^^^5 +1 people will be tortured, and two puppies and a kitten will be drowned, and Busy Beaver(3^^^3) fruit flies will have their wings torn off.


It might be useful to put a notice at the bottom of the chapter about new entries taking a while. All previous chapters have a similar note about the next update, and the lack of one on this chapter may imply the ending of the fic to some (especially those that don't read the discussions).

I don't think so- the passage implied that other muggleborns might know it as well:

Even if some Muggleborn knew about timeless formulations of quantum mechanics

Plus I get the feeling that it's beyond Harry's own capabilities, since his original thoughts/ideas are also (generally) Eliezer's original thoughts/ideas

You sure can! It's a bit hard on the complexity, but probably less so than spontaneous collapse.

there are a bunch of different versions, the most obvious (but not only) class consists of proceeding the simulation as if time travel didn't exist then pruning paradoxical branches retroactively. There's tweaks and hacks needed to figure out how that actually works with interference, and to fix the problem of any branch where time travel is invented at all losing all it's measure in effect acting as a probability pump preventing it, but you're smarter than me and can probably work out better versions.

Just think about it for 5 minutes. ;p

Semi-accurate? She blatantly makes things up and spins things in order to smear her subjects. You could as well call an article "semi-accurate" which accuses someone of being a child molester, when the reality is that they do, in fact, spend time around children.

Setting aside that incredibly weighted analogy... I think that's exactly what Drethelin meant when s/he said "semi-accurate". The point is that all Skeeter did was make up gossip and at the end of the day that's not that bad. If you can point to an actual instance of someone dying or coming to great harm that stemmed from a Skeeter article, then... you can think of ONE bad thing she did. And your proposed solution is to kill her? Hermione solves the Skeeter problem in Canon without shedding any blood, and even she goes overboard on the justice by trapping the woman inside a glass jar for hours/days. I can think of plenty of ways to stifle Skeeter without even using teleportation or invisibility or time travel - imagine what a mighty wizard like Quirrel could do. Quirrel even says that he's going to crush her (turns out he meant that literally) just for the sheer enjoyment of it, and not because it's what she deserves. I just think that the people who support killing Rita Skeeter probably decided that it was a good idea because they hated her, and then cast around for justifications that sounded better than that.
If you dredged through canon, you would probably only come up with 20-30 deaths unequivocally and specifically at Voldemort's hand as opposed to random Death Eaters, mysterious deaths, deaths inferred but not actually known to have been Voldemort's doing, general carnage implied but not stated etc. Maybe he's not such a bad guy after all! Demanding specific incidents is like demanding specific incidents of lung cancer before you can discuss the moral guilt of tobacco executives. 'Ah, but how do you know that lung cancer was thanks to their tobacco smoking? Lung cancer is pretty common, you know!' Or power plants or... ('How do you know Skeeter's articles helped kill this particular person during Voldemort's ignored rise to power in canon, or helped him kill people during his first war? Can you prove that Skeeter's article was either necessary or sufficient to keep the population apathetic and let people like Cedric Diggory die?') In the real world, we have the luxury of investigating propagandists like Anwar Al-Awlaki or Goebbels, and can even nail them all the way down to specific deaths - this Somali kid in Minneasota decided to become a jihadi, killing himself and 4 others, that sort of thing. In the fictional world, alas, short of someone asking Rowling whether Skeeter's articles contributed to any deaths, we cannot know. There's no fact of the matter about it. It's fake, it's not real, it never happened. In the real world, however, being the top reporter on a government propaganda rag... What sort of blood-guilt do you think a comparable North Korean reporter or news anchor (eg. Ri Chun Hee) bears?
But you've moved the goalposts. I didn't ask for deaths that were unequivocally and specifically at Skeeter's hand - there definitely aren't ANY of those, so if that was our condition of guilt she'd be good and Voldemort would be bad. All I asked for were ones that could be traced back to one of her articles - perhaps there are one or two of those, but if we're allowing that as our condition of guilt then Voldemort shares responsibility for just about every death we hear about in canon so he has hundreds if not thousands of deaths on his hands. Either way, my point was that in order to argue that Skeeter's death was justified on utilitarian grounds, one has to prove that killing her would save lives. Killing her definitely costs one life. Stopping her from publishing costs no lives. I'm not trying to argue that Skeeter is a good person, I'm just pointing out that in the grand scheme of things she's not that bad, and that there are plenty of ways to eliminate her as a threat without getting blood on one's hands. Your example about the tobacco executives is misleading. We DO require evidence that tobacco kills in order to condemn tobacco executives as being morally bankrupt. Luckily, we have that evidence. I'm asking for evidence that Skeeter articles kill, because one of the main arguments of the Kill Skeeter camp seems to be that they do kill. If you can bring me that evidence I'll continue to agree that Skeeter needs to be stopped but I still won't agree that she should have been killed, any more than I want to kill tobacco executives. I'm going to repeat that for the sake of clarity. My argument is not: My argument is:
When did I ever propose killing her? Quirrell is evil, but just because Rita got herself killed by someone more evil than she was doesn't mean she wasn't a pretty terrible person.
Sorry, I didn't mean to point the finger at you specifically. I should more correctly have written, "the proposed solution," or something.

This is what motivated the insults in the first place, you've got the chain of causality backwards.

Or there's a feedback loop, where someone downvotes you, you then insult people, then more people downvote you for the insults, then you insult people some more for those downvotes, which causes even more people to downvote you... and so forth.

I expect this is partially true but this isn't what I'm concerned with. I'm concerned with the people for whom this is false, the people who are -repping everything I write. I'm also concerned with the people who are specifically targeting my posts and following me around and criticizing everything I write, and the fact that there's half a dozen people who are plus repping everyone who says anything which doesn't agree with my position, and that I have to argue against so many different people to support a theory that I think is pretty straightforward and is probably true.
You seem to currently have exactly one downvoted comment outside the HPMOR discussion and that at only -1. What makes you think the effects you see aren't simply a result of people actively participating in these threads noticing and responding to comments they deem poorly supported? No following around required. As for the downvotes, I suspect an overwelming majority of them result from your adversarial reactions to criticism, not the HPMOR content. How many downvotes had this received before you added this edit? Edited per thomblake's suggestion.

In an attempt to find Quirrell's motives, I have listed the evidence I have about him, and now have a theory I have not seen on LessWrong or anywhere. I did it mostly mentally, but I'll try to put down all the evidence I took into account as unbiasedly as possible. I assume you know Quirrell = Voldemorte = Tom Riddle.

-Quirrell said Harry's wish was impossible. The wish was that Quirrell come back again the next year as the Defense Professor at Hogwarts. He also burned the paper on which the wish was written and he did not tell the audience what it was. If ... (read more)

Note that Quirrel was at the Ministry for Magic for interrogation while Dumbledore used the map to search for Riddle.
Harry isn't going home for the summer.
I know that, but he was originally going to go home for the summer. Harry has accidentally foiled it by messing up in Azkaban and effectively forcing himself to stay in Hogwarts, but that doesn't change what Quirrell's plan was in the first place. So now Quirrell will either need to find a way to remove Voldemorte from Dumbledore's fears, or come up with a new plan altogether. I guess I should have been more clear in my comment, sorry about that.

To be honest, I'm not convinced that it isn't true even in first-world countries. Solve rates for murders in the US appear to be around 66% as of 2007. I haven't directly been able to dig up solve rates for crimes in general, but clearance rates (the rate of crimes prosecuted to crimes reported) are available, and are well under 50% for pretty much everything except murder. Most prosecuted crimes appear to result in convictions, but this still says to me that TheOtherDave's got it right, at least in a US context and assuming that most reports aren't fri... (read more)

Okay, seriously, how strong do you think the groupthink effect could possibly be on the question of whether Harry's dark side is a piece of Voldemort's soul in HPMOR? For the record I think you were probably downvoted for claiming that something was "clearly" implied when I (and so presumably others) can't see how it's implied at all (and I still can't see it, having read the comment which is apparently supposed to make it clear, and which wasn't, incidentally, linked to in the great-grandparent), and then downvoted further when you decided to insult everyone.

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if there existed at least one person who did follow chaosmosis around to downvote everything he said. I strongly disapprove of this being done, but it's the inevitable conclusion when someone chooses to spew insults on other people en masse.

FWIW, when I see someone making really bad comments, I tend to look at their other comments to see if they're also downvote-worthy, since it's a source of low-hanging fruit for moderation.

(I also subscribe to RSS feeds of particularly bad cases and downvote all of their bad comments (i.e. most of what they write) if they resurface later.)
I do that too, but have only downvoted maybe 2 or 3 of chaosmosis's comments (he's nor particularly trollish or obnoxious, just a bit rude and obstinate; I don't know (or care) what the original disagreement on HPMoR was). It's fairly likely that a particularly stupid or rude comment in the recent comments can trigger many people independently doing "mild karmassissanation" (checking the user's recent comments, and downvoting a couple stupid posts), giving an overall impression of systematic downvoting.
Alternately: just very immature and sensitive.
Please don't do this. This can lead to karma sinks and also potentially reinforce group think.
What is a "karma sink" in this context?
Trying to articulate what I meant by karma sink and I don't really have a coherent notion of the statement. I think I meant something like a single comment leading to massive downvotes, but when stated that way it doesn't seem to be that bad.
Is that actually a problem?
Really doesn't seem worth it. He's just a Mostly Harmless kid who is bungling his way through learning how power works. There isn't much harm he could do even if he tried. I focus my specific moderating attention on cases that do real damage to serious conversations (which usually means straw man power user debaters.)
A good policy. For instance, worrying about moderation on the Harry Potter thread is silly of me.
It's sufficient for more people to start paying attention to a particular user's output, without changing the attitude to individual comments in any way.

Updating on evidence that hasn't arrived yet?

Not quite. I think the point is that because we aren't perfect Bayesian reasoners, we neglect to update on some of the available evidence. But getting into the right frame of mind can help you avoid that. (Cf. the reasoning behind Harry's decision to tell McGonagall about the Parseltongue message from the sorting hat.)

The heuristic Harry is using here, is to imagine a future test he thinks would be decisive, and ask himself what outcome he expects from that test. That's a way to "unlock" and find o... (read more)

Personally, I get very little use out of this technique, since my problem tends to be uncertainty about the likely consequences of my actions, not uncertainty about which outcome would be best.

Have you tried it on a micro-scale? I employ a modified version of this technique as a constant motivation tool. (Eg, I don't feel like going to the gym and prefer to read things on the internet, so I query my future self from 4 hours ahead and future self from a couple days ahead for each Everett branch of action and poll my imagination of their opinions. Invariably the 4 possible-future me's all outvote present me and force me to the gym.)

I find it very good for peer pressuring myself with my future selves, but it only works on things I cognitively know the 'right' answer to yet am emotionally unconvinced by. It also helps exceptionally well for hyperbolic discounting. I think that Harry is using a similar tool to line up his emotions and motivations with what he knows cognitively and to avoid the shortsighted path (Kill 2/3rds of the Wizengamot) in lieu of the path he'd previously decided on.

Actually, it is pretty useful in timescales up to about a week. After that I can't really imagine myself or predict the future very well. For some reason I compartmentalized and failed to notice that this is the same technique applied to much longer timespans.

What is the Anansi the Spider quote from? Anansi the Spider is a character from mythology and folklore, so it's not as obvious as the others... is it Neil Gaiman, or some other source?

5Eliezer Yudkowsky11y
Web of Angels.
The one by John M. Ford? (There's a newer novel by Lilian Nattel by that title as well, but I don't think that's it...)
I'm a pretty big Gaiman fan, but I don't recognize it from either Sandman or Anansi Boys, nor do I see anything in Google Books.
You checked American Gods?
Google Books has search for it, so I assume it's not from there.

It may be para- or misphrased. The author told us at some point that HJPEV quotes from the author's memory while Hermione quotes from reality.

I was re-listening to the podcast of Chapter 20 (Bayes's Theorem) when I was struck by an idea. It builds on another idea I heard in this same forum. The original idea was that Quirrel had Horcruxed the Pioneer plaque and that, due to the nature of magic, his Horcrux passing beyond a distance of 6 light hours would lead to his death due to a limitation on magic's ability to affect things more than 6 hours into the past - which would be needed for faster than light communications.

Having now re-listened to that chapter, I've picked up some new clues. Harry h... (read more)

Very clever idea! But it doesn't pan out, sadly. I just checked on Wolfram-Alpha. The distance from the earth to Pioneer 11 on the Ides of May, 1992, Quirrell's presumed last day of class, is actually 4.84 light hours, not 6. Some experimenting on W-A shows that Pioneer 11 passes 6 light hours around August 25, 1995.
Good point about the light hours thing. It sort of kills the hypothesis. I agree with drethelin that the 6 hour mark doesn't have to correspond with Quirrel's last day of school. However, in the last story arc, Quirrel talks like his time limit is only a short time away, perhaps only a month. Of course, he could be talking about his inevitable firing from the defense professor position.
In what sense does it not pan out? Why would Quirrel's last day of class need to align with the last day he will be able to maintain his body on earth?
There's just no reason for it, story-wise. If EY had wanted the distance to Pioneer 11 to relate to Quirrell's zombie-ness in this way, he would have written the story so that the hard time-travel limit was 4.84 hours, so that it would coincide with the last day of classes. That makes a good story. But the dates don't line up, and so there's no reason to believe that this is anything other than a fun theory.
That doesn't make any sense. Eliezer quite often tries to point out that things don't go down the way they do in stories, and it would be a ridiculously unlikely coincidence that whatever the time travel limit was, that happened to be the exact distance in light hours from earth to Pioneer on a certain date in the future. If the plaque is horcruxed, it happened WAY before Harry was even born, so it's not like Quirrel could've even arranged it to coincide with the end of Harry's first year at Hogwarts intentionally for drama.
Are you saying you believe this theory? (What's the evidence?) Or merely that I'm disbelieving it too quickly?
I think you're disbelieving it for the wrong reasons. The biggest problem and one which Mugasofer mentions in his comment is that there's no set up system or reason for Quirrel to be remote controlling his body. Horcruxes don't really work like that in Canon, and it also doesn't match what we see: eg Quirrel doesn't take hours to respond to every single thing. It's possible zombie-mode is some sort of "cloud uploading" process by which he sends memories to his Horcruxes but it doesn't really seem like that would be affected by this sort of thing. I think it's more likely that Pioneer is just a badass way to make a Horcrux and that zombie-mode is a consequence of something else, probably his mind-control battle with Quirrel or whoever Quirrel used to be.
Hmm. It's certainly not impossible, but there seem to be two main problems with it - not unanswerable problems by any means, but problems nonetheless. * If Quirrelmort is spending his zombie periods at the voyager plaque, what on earth is he doing during that time? Watching the stars? But he said he can only rarely cast the spell that shows him the stars (seems like an odd thing to lie about.) * This clashes massively with the horcruxes from canon. Sure, there could be differences, but ... if horcruxes act as "remote controls" you have one horcrux, presumably, which seems like a rather drastic change (and IIRC Q implied having multiple horcruxes somewhere, didn't he?) In canon, horcruxes were intelligent and capable of using magic, but also acted to prevent your soul from leaving this plane. If there turns out to be an afterlife, which EY hasn't ruled out AFAIK, then possibly different minds with the same ID confuse whatever mechanism is responsible; thus Q has given over a copy of his mind to an eternity of space, which is an interesting notion.
Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that Quirrel went away to the plaque when he was in zombie mode, nor to suggest that it had become a Horcrux. Instead, what I am suggesting is that Quirrel is always in the plaque and is operating his body by remote control. If it takes some effort to do so, he might let the body go slack when he doesn't need to be doing anything. As for the horcrux, this could always be a different, but perhaps related, spell.
Oh, right. I just assumed you meant horcruxes. Vg'f na vagrerfgvat gubhtug, ohg Ryvrmre unf fgngrq gung gur Cyndhr jnf fhcbfrq gb or n Ubepehk.

Something is definitely funny with Goyle. He's able to do martial arts, is extremely good with a broomstick, and doesn't trust Draco when Draco lies to him. At first, my interpretation was just that Goyle was much more capable in this version. That's still a possibility, but I feel like if that were the case then maybe Crabbe also would have been made more capable. I feel as though Goyle will do something important soon, definitely.

I even briefly entertained the possibility that Goyle was a Mary Sue, for about ten seconds, but that idea doesn't have anything to recommend it besides the humor of it.

He also spent a long time with the sorting hat.

"Goyle, Gregory!" There was a long, tense moment of silence under the Hat. Almost a minute.

Chapter 9

I think it's pretty clear he got that information, along with many of his other dark secrets, from the Basalisk.

I see the evidence for that, but I also see Dumbledore implying otherwise in chapter 39:
I forgot about that part. That makes sense. Pengvado's comment means that the plot hole still existed. But the Basalisk is a better fix than Grindelwald.

Has there been any serious discussion of the implications of portraits? I couldn't find any with some cursory googling, but I'll be really surprised if it hasn't been discussed here yet. I can't entirely remember which of these things are canon and which are various bits of fanfiction, but:

  • You can take someone's portrait without them explicitly helping, as evidenced in canon by at least one photograph of someone being arrested, whose picture in the newspaper is continually struggling and screaming at the viewer. I don't remember which book this was or an
... (read more)
I was under the impression that portraits were sort of like the sorting hat.
I believe it was discussed in Pretending To Be Wise, where Harry compares them to ghosts. Advanced but non-sentient partial simulations of people.

I think that Salazar's Serpent was a trap Tom Riddle fell into. It was a Langford Basilisk Horcrux, like the book Ginny got in the original timeline, so When Tom Riddle read out the information embedded, he was possessed by Salazar Slytherin. That's why nppbeqvat gb Ibyqrzbeg/Evqqyr/Fnynmne vg frrzf gb unir whfg orra n terng frecrag, abg n onfvyvfx, juvpu vf whfg jung ur jbhyq fnl. Guvf nyfb rkcynvaf gur qnzntrq guvaxvat Uneel frrf.

This might well explain Harry as well, since in OT Voldemort had a giant serpent hanging around. He might not have had one in... (read more)

I've been seeing stuff like this all thread: "That's why nppbeqvat gb Ibyqrzbeg/Evqqyr/Fnynmne vg frrzf gb unir whfg orra n terng frecrag, abg n onfvyvfx, juvpu vf whfg jung ur jbhyq fnl. Guvf nyfb rkcynvaf gur qnzntrq guvaxvat Uneel frrf." What does it mean? I assume it's some sort of code.
This is rot13. It's used to hide spoilers. You can decode it at
Thanks. Now I'm in on the secret. :)

I just thought of something.

When Quirrell shows Harry the stars in outer space he's probably getting the images from his probe-Horcrux.

Think one step further. What does this imply about his other Horcruxes?
That they're in places with a not-so-good view? In chapter 46, Harry guesses:
Apparently I was being excessively coy. I meant they can't be destroyed without his knowledge. (Also, I notice you left out the stratosphere one.)
If you meant without his immediate knowledge then I interpret it as evidence pointing more towards the opposite conclusion, although it doesn't point very far either way. He possibly wouldn't bother to go to check on his Horcruxes if he was immediately aware of what their condition is. It's only weak evidence but it points against the idea that he's aware of all of his soul-parts at once. if you meant that he'll find out as soon as he goes to check on them, then I agree.
What do you mean by "goes to check on them"? I just meant he could set aside an hour every Sunday to cast "view-of-space, view-of-sky, view-of-dirt, view-of-magma, view-of-ocean" for five seconds each. Presumably the spell would fail or something if the viewpoint Horcrux had been destroyed. ETA: Quirrell states to Harry (so take with an entire shaker of salt, but still) that the spell takes a lot out of him to cast, so he couldn't cast it again "today, or tomorrow either". Even assuming that's true, that just imposes a three-day break between individual checks, so the longest a Horcrux would go unexamined would be two weeks. Or he could leave the Spacecrux out of the usual lineup because it's relatively unreachable, just check it on special occasions (and to show off for Harry).
That's the type of thing I was referring to with "goes to check on them", I didn't mean to imply that he moved his physical body. Dualism makes for stupid problems with grammar.
Oh, okay. If I remember correctly, this was suggested by Dumbledore in canon (with some handwaving about Voldemort not noticing it, because his soul is too hurt), that's probably why this didn't occur to me. I read the scene as the stratosphere idea being a precursor to the space idea, not an idea on it's own. Although after re-reading, I'm not so sure anymore…
(Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Void/Ether.) Also, canonMort settled on six Horcruxes because he thought splitting his soul into seven pieces would have some beneficial effect (never specified, perhaps because his first 'crux was destroyed by the time he made the sixth). If the stratosphere doesn't qualify, that leaves a Horcrux unaccounted for.
You mean, like, the book he gave Harry?
That isn't a Horcrux, from Word of EY.
Why do we think that this is a Horcrux? Just canonical similarities?
Yes. That and the fact the book is resistent to rough handling. Though of course if I were a magical archaeologist, I'd also find some spell that makes those valuable artefacts as indestructible as possible.
That explains something that was bugging me about the star spell, namely why the sun and the moon don't dominate the view field.
It also explains why the spell has to be kept a secret.
The moon wouldn't be visible as a distinct point of light from the sun, and while the sun would be bright enough to attract attention, various people have suggested it could be positioned directly below Harry's feet to avoid notice.

Vaniver wasn't talking about Harry's evaluation of future outcomes, he was talking about Harry's predictions of future thoughts that future people would have. That's why Vaniver said "why does he think the future will hold life to be precious", etc. "He think the future will" clearly refers to a prediction made by Harry.

I believe you are incorrectly modelling the way Harry thinks and misunderstand the implications of the words Harry has uttered. The implicit prediction is conditional. On, for example, not catastrophic failure and ext... (read more)

Wondering how Dumbledore knew Harry was planning on reformulated Quidditch. Seems possible that he was just on the platform.

On a related note, it occurs to me that we should just assume there's two Dumbledores running around any time anything important happens. No immediate consequences leap out at me, though =/

Likely, he read F/G or Ron's mind.
Yes, I always assumed so. Same way he knew about Harry's mysterious conversation with Lucius. Heh probably didn't need Harry to repeat it, but used the occasion for some teaching ("write it down!") and for checking Harry's honesty and trust.
I think if he had actually been there to overhear it he would have handled the trial a little differently. It seems very likely at this point that he didn't get "Lucius thinks I'm Voldemort" from Harry's retelling, and he certainly would if he had heard it himself. And I don't see the fact that he knew of Harry's encounter with Lucius as needing any particular explanation; it happened in public, with at least one person who might have spoken to Dumbledore about it standing right there.
Dumbledore's apparent knowledge and how it is used or not always seemed inconsistent to me (example). Regarding Harry's dark side=Vold's Horcrux, there were many hints that Dumbledore knew it from the beginning (Tolkien quote, inappropriate laughs at exactly the right places, questions about Dark Wizards). So he would be able to deduce Lucius' thoughts from Harry's story, even without being there. But I'm not sure how the knowledge (or its lack) would affect his behavior in the trial.
About the Horcrux (what brought this up?): Dumbledore implied to McGonagall that there was only one Horcrux. It's possible to construct reasons why he would do that when he knew there were more, but it's evidence against the idea. And the trial: Dumbledore seemed to be basing his actions on a rather bad model of Lucius. Unless you think the outcome of the trial was what Dumbledore had in mind?
Knowledge that Harry is a Horcrux, plus Harry's recitation of his encounter with Lucius, are sufficient to deduce that Lucius thinks Harry=Voldemort. So, "Dumbledore doesn't appear to know this during the trial" is not evidence for or against "Dumbledore overheard Harry-Lucius conversation". He only implied there was one that needs to be found. Could you show specific bad actions that Dumbledore would perform differently if he knew Lucius' thoughts about Harry (assuming he actually didn't)?
...Oh. You know, reading back through, I actually can't. So, um, nevermind then.
I just went and reread "38. The Cardinal Sin". The only strange remark that Madam Longbottom heard is: "Of course..." said Lucius slowly. "I do feel the fool now. This whole time you were just pretending to have no idea what we were talking about." It's not obvious, to put it mildly, to get from this to "writing notes about a long mysterious conversaion". EDIT: Hmm. Or maybe it is obvious to Dumbledore...
I think it kind of is, actually.

Nope, ritual magic = permanent sacrifice.

Now we can make the Death Eaters bind trivial Unbreakable Vows over and over again until they lose all of their magic. So now Azkaban is unnecessary and the initial problem with Unbreakable Vows allowing for easy solutions to the prison vs. execution dilemma resurfaces again.
Trivial vows might not trigger the ritual correctly. Remember one of the participants has to have had the option of trying to trust the person in question and choose not to. A vow over something that they'd have no reason to trust the person on otherwise may not work.
One major problem concerns the legal rights of magical criminals; what if you're later found to be innocent? There'll be no way to reclaim their magic. Hence I doubt Harry would prefer this solution.
That reminds me-- at some point in canon, Dumbledore says "There are worse things than dying", and my original thought was that Voldemort could be turned into a Muggle. As it turned out, Dumbledore presumably meant the consequences of creating Horcruxes, but I do wonder how Voldeort would manage if he were turned into a Muggle.
Thank you; I even managed to figure that out myself (with the help of our ever vigilant and watchful google); as seen in my response to Desrtopa (24 seconds before you clicked the comment button apparently).
FTFY. Show proper reverence, heathen!

Harry thought the deepest split in his personality wasn't anything to do with his dark side; rather it was the divide between the altruistic and forgiving Abstract Reasoning Harry, versus the frustrated and angry Harry In The Moment.

This as well as the distant descendants part seems to draw on Robin's near vs. far theory.

I was a bit surprised to not see the "many who die deserve life" quote from Tolkien, but perhaps that one is about deciding to kill prisoners or not.

While it is relevant to Harry's desire not to have to kill, it was not as related as the other quotes were to his struggle between idealism and realism in fighting a war.

Andromeda is not the closest galaxy. The closest currently known galaxy is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy but this wasn't known until after the story took place. However, others were known at about this time such as the Large Magellanic Cloud which is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere but has been known for centuries, or Draco Dwarf which you can see with a good telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. Andromeda is however the only one that is easily visible and very large in the Northern Hemisphere.

Re: revisions

Harry reached up, wiped a bit of sweat from his forehead, and exhaled. "I'd like this one, please."

Harry's entire body was sheathed in sweat that had soaked clear through his Muggle clothing, though at least it didn't show through the robes. He bent down over the gold-etched ivory toilet, and retched a few times, but thankfully nothing came up.

Hermione shut her eyes and tried to concentrate. She was sweating underneath her robes.

"Forget I said anything," said Draco, sweat suddenly springing out all over his body. He neede

... (read more)
Could you explain your last paragraph? Is it referring to any (sincerely or ironically) "amazingly insightful critics" in particular? What motivated cognition do you think might be their problem? (For the avoidance of doubt: I am not asking you to explain the concept of motivated cognition.) The impression I get from that paragraph is that there are some specific people (maybe just one specific person) you have in mind, that you think their thinking is messed up, and that you're indulging in a bit of snarkiness. But I am unable to come up with any coherent idea of what they might have said that would make much sense (ironically or otherwise, snarkily or otherwise) of what you wrote.
I think it works like this: this sort of thing can trigger some people's bullshit detector. They sense that something is off when this 'rationalist fiction' tries to to claim some sort of special status, while still doing the usual writing tricks. Of course they fail to pinpoint the source of the contradiction (most don't habitually look out for the 'Is that your true rejection' thingy - especially if they already have some reason to jump to an EY-bashing conclusion, mostly something status-based; I call that sort of thing 'suspiciously self-serving'). Instead they offer less specific criticism, which of course will not be true, so it will be rejected by anyone else. Most of those who are not pre-disposed to negativity will simply ignore the sense of unease, if they have it at all. Now, I could have said as much without the snark. I was trying to create an ugh field for the 'euthanistic critics'. I would not have my comment waved as banner in the "Yudkowsky's writing sucks" camp - call it a personal preference. Yeah, I'm probably overestimating the gives-a-shit quotient here. Also I have criticized a few people for jumping to the conclusion of writer's mistake, when I thought there was more to it, so when I show how what I think a real mistake looks like... yeah, guilty of pride. And since that may make me look like more of an idiot, if Eliezer completely ignores this... that's why 'suspiciously self-serving' can be a problem; if it's not connected to reality, it's bound to flop. :( I tried not to have anyone specific in mind when I wrote the comment, but I was most likely primed by mention of DLP.
I think EY might just not be familiar with the physiology of children. Didn't the original version of chapter 7 imply that Draco couldn't get an erection? Puberty is nothing resembling a requirement for those. And the alternate version of "boy who lived gets Draco Malfoy Pregnant" had female Draco as 13, when it would have made more sense for Harry to be the older one (boys hit puberty later on average than girls).

Ng gigebcrf, rl fnlf, "V gubhtug crbcyr jrer tbvat gb trg "gur cybg" sebz Pu. 1-3, cbffvoyl Pu. 1, naq guvf jnf gur Vyyhfvba bs Genafcnerapl", naq yngre "Ru, lbh'yy frr jung V'z gnyxvat nobhg nsgre lbh ernq gur svany nep naq gura ernq Puncgre 1 ntnva."

What would a hypothesis about the end of the story look like which uses only information from chapter 1?

Claim: Harry's war with Voldemort will destroy the world. Support: In Chapter 1, Petunia says about Lily's reasons for not making her pretty, "And Lily would tell me no, a... (read more)

I've always suspected that Petunia's paraphrases there of Lily are mostly true — that's a contributing factor to my believing that some level of apocalypse is in the story's future — but just guessing that Really Bad Stuff is going to happen seems a far cry from us "getting 'the plot' " from Chapter 1, or chapters 1 through 3. Neither the remainder of Chapter 1 nor the whole of Chapter 2 seem to have any significant hints. In Chapter 3, here is what I can see that might have hidden meaning: Maybe we were supposed to get more out of this at the time? Perhaps we were supposed to infer that Quirrell or one of his alter egos had been an up-and-coming hero? Maybe, contrary to my previous protestations, we are supposed to believe that Harry wasn't really hit with Avada Kedavra? I'd always chalked this up as being the revelation Harry has at the end of the Humanism arc: that Dark Lords don't usually go after infant children, and that there must be an important reason why Voldemort did. But maybe there's something more to it. …Or, conversely, maybe we have already figured out the stuff Eliezer was referring to, we just didn't figure it out as early as he expected. Matheist, do you have a link to that quote? I couldn't find it by ⌘Fing Methods's TV Tropes pages. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Does anyone else find it really weird to read "EY" as a reference to Eliezer? It always reads to me like a Spivak pronoun with faulty verb agreement.)
Caution, possible spoilers, in the form of comments about the guessability (or lack thereof) of the plot. First quote and second quote. I always assumed that the note of confusion was, "How could anyone possibly know what spells the dark lord cast, and what the effects were, if there were no survivors besides a baby".
Hmm. It occurs to me that Harry's life in chapters 1 and 2 bears some similarities to Tom Riddle's life from canon. Both their mothers used potions to make their fathers love them; both their fathers thought magic was disgraceful; the Deputy Head of Hogwarts visited both of them, showed them magic, made them thirsty for knowledge of magic, and warned them against unacceptable behavior that both of them had exhibited in the past; both of them always knew they were extraordinary, and were proved right when magic came into their lives. …but even if all that is intentional, which it almost certainly is, I still don't see what we're supposed to infer about the entire plot. Is Harry going to grow up, murder his family, create six Horcruxes, and hide them where someone can easily find them and destroy them? That makes quite a bit more sense, and should in fact have been incredibly obvious. I didn't start reading Methods until the hiatus following the Stanford Prison Experiment arc, and I didn't start thinking and theorizing until after I'd read all those chapters twice, so I didn't approach the question with a properly blank slate.
The most frustrating part of that note of confusion lies in the magic of the world, I think. What is actually possible to do with magic? What do witches and wizards think is possible? What does Harry think is possible? Let me illustrate by looking at the question that you brought up: Prior Incantato: If they got their hands on Voldemort's wand, then they could see that he cast the Killing Curse. This would be weak evidence indeed, but it is possible to see what he cast. They did not recover Voldemort's wand, but Harry doesn't know this. Canon and MoR founded. Harry has no idea of whether or not it is possible. Legilimency: A somewhat popular fan theory for canon, Dumbledore could have read baby Harry's mind right afterwards. Canon and MoR founded. Harry has no idea of whether or not it is possible. Curse Scar: A lot of people make a huge deal out of the scar that Harry has. They seem to feel that it was created from surviving exposure to the Killing Curse, though how that would be known when he was the first ever is something of a mystery. Perhaps because it registers similarly to scars left behind by other Dark curses, at least in terms of being unhealable. See residue. Somewhat canon-founded. Harry has no idea of whether or not it is possible. Divination/Scrying/Past-Viewing: It might be possible to remotely view the scene, to see what happened, from the past, in real time, or in the future. Divination is real, though it seems to be more cryptic than that, Scrying seems to be unknown, but Past-viewing is clearly not possible after what happened with Hermione, though Harry doesn’t know this yet. Partially founded. Harry has no idea of whether or not it is possible. Wards: Clearly whatever wards they put up in addition to the Fidelius Charm (because in a more competent world, they shouldn't have had a single point of failure) did not keep Voldemort out, but that didn't mean that the monitoring aspects had to have died. It's possible that there's a magical vide
Hm, that's a very good point. If Harry is aware of his own ignorance, then he might be willing to accept that there are ways of knowing things like "which spell did the dark lord cast", without actually knowing himself what those ways are. In that case — i.e. in the case where Harry is aware of his own ignorance and is aware in that moment — then I have no idea what else the note of confusion could be.
As I've thought before, the note of confusion could be why a spell that "strikes directly at the soul, severing it from the body" would leave a "burnt hulk of his body." It's not doubtless, there are explanations for why this might make sense--perhaps it does kill at a touch, and then sets the body on fire; it's magic, who knows?--but this makes the most sense to me.
If Harry's going to end the world, surely a more likely way -- especially given the author's known interests and opinions -- is by bringing about the magical world's equivalent of a Singularity? MoR!Harry is on record (albeit not in chapters 1-3) as wanting to take over the world and, er, optimize it. There are suggestions elsewhere that terrible things have happened in the past on account of over-powerful magic. (Again, not in chapters 1-3.) Centaurs and other purveyors of prophecy might dread this even if the singularity ends up being a good one, because it would be a point beyond which they wouldn't be able to see anything. Another possibility -- which again could reasonably be said to be heavily foreshadowed, if it comes to pass, but not in the first few chapters: Harry is somehow going to put an end to magic. (He wants to do away with Azkaban by any means possible, no matter how drastic. He's already explicitly considered the question of which side he'd be on if it came down to muggles versus wizards, and decided for the muggles.) I don't assign a terribly high probability to either of these. There seems to be no shortage of mutually incompatible outcomes with a certain degree of foreshadowing, and if there's a good way to decide between them then I haven't spotted it yet.
However, Eliezer has said that he doesn't plan on putting a Singularity in the story.
rot13 please!
Eliezer has stated this publicly (not using the word "singularity", but I assume that's what Randaly was thinking of), so it's not subject to the spoiler policy in this thread's parent post.

This may have been addressed already, but why doesn't Harry suspect at this point that Quirrell is Voldemort, or at least working for Voldemort?

This is especially puzzling after we get to hear Harry's thoughts on what happened to Hermione in 85.

Now, maybe I'm suffering from obvious-in-retrospect syndrome here, given that I did not realize Quirrell was Voldemort until V ernq Ryvrmre'f fvapr-ergenpgrq fgngrzrag gung Dhveeryy vf Ibyqrzbeg. But that was before the Stanford Prison Experiment arc. Relevant facts in that and the Taboo Tradeoffs arc:

  • Quirrell bro
... (read more)

I think you're missing the mundane explanation. Harry really likes Quirrell. He's the person he most relates with in the world; he's the person he looks up to; he's the smart/strong/cool teacher Harry wants to be when he grows up.

Surely there were other people, maybe better people, to trust and befriend? Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Hermione, Draco, not to mention Mum and Dad, it wasn't like Harry was alone...


A choking sensation grew in Harry's throat as he understood.

Only Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Hermione, Draco, they all of them sometimes knew things that Harry didn't, but...

They did not excel above Harry within his own sphere of power; such genius as they possessed was not like his genius, and his genius was not like theirs; he might look upon them as peers, but not look up to them as his superiors.

None of them had been, none of them could ever be...

Harry's mentor...

That was who Professor Quirrell had been.

Any person, especially a child, will gladly ignore and forgive a million counter-indications as long as they really like the person.

For it is a sad rule that whenever you are most in need of your art as a rationalist, that is when you are most likely to forget it.

Regarding the initial sensation of doubt he had: I don't remember ever figuring out what caused it. Does anyone have any theories?

Voldemort is the only person in the world with an obvious motive for wanting to break Bellatrix out of Azkaban, and is who everyone else thinks is responsible

What motive would Harry expect Voldemort to have? As far as I can recall, he doesn't know about the components required for the spell to revive someone kept from death by horcruxes, and Bellatrix is not a very capable servant for the time being, and he doesn't believe Voldemort cared about her in any case. Quirrell, on the other hand, has already claimed a selfish motive that he personally has for freeing Bellatrix that would not apply to Voldemort.

Keep in mind that for Harry, the potential hypothesis space is huge. Quirrell might secretly be Rudolph Wizencamp in disguise. Don't know who Rudolph Wizencamp is? Well, neither does Harry, he's only lived in the wizarding world for a few months after all. We can reason by dramatic convention and conservation of detail, but for Harry, the list of all possibilities raised by the facts about the wizarding world that he's aware of is far from exhaustive.

Dumbledore told Harry in the "Today your war has begun" speech that Bellatrix was one of three things Voldemort needed to return as strong as he was before.

What were the other two things?
See chapter 61: Though personally I think Albus Dumbledore's blood (if he could obtain it) and Salazar Slytherin's bone (if he could find such) would be a more interesting combination; as it differs from canon in all three elements.
I have alarm bells going off in my head and I feel like I read something suggesting that Quirrell took Harry's blood at some point in time. Or that Harry bled in his presence. Or something. This could be a fake memory though because it's very vague.

Was it this bit?

"He didn't have any choice," said Harry. "Not if he wanted to fulfill the conditions of the prophecy."

"Give me that," said Professor Quirrell, and the newspaper leaped out of Harry's hand so fast that he got a paper cut.

Harry automatically put the finger in his mouth to suck on, feeling rather shocked, and turned to remonstrate with Professor Quirrell -

Earlier in this very same chapter, Harry tells Quirrell that he can't imagine Quirrell hurting someone unless he means to. (This was in context of their discussion of the Gryffindor who cast a dark curse without knowing what it did.)

So we can assume that either Quirrell isn't as precise as Harry thinks and accidentally hurt Harry, or that he's exactly as precise as Harry thinks and took the blood on purpose.

Snape tells Moody that the "bone of the father" has to be removed from the original grave during the ritual. It stands to reason that the other two components must be sacrificed during the ritual as well.
This is a good point. (Why is it a reply to me rather than chaosmosis?)
I couldn't decide where to put it! Your post was kinda sorta a furtherance of chaosmosis's point, and and it could have been a reply to ArisKatsaris below too, and and it was just so confusing!
Nice catch! Upvoted. But personally I doubt it has some deeper significance. Quirrel seemed honestly distracted by the article at that time -- and a papercut doesn't leave much if any blood on the paper... as the paper moves away fast enough that blood doesn't even have time to flow on it.
I find "a papercut doesn't leave much if any blood on the paper... as the paper moves away fast enough that blood doesn't even have time to flow on it" way more convincing than "Quirrel seemed honestly distracted by the article at that time".
It is possible to engineer, though, if you're manipulating the paper with great telekinetic precision. I accidentally bloodstained a book that way when I was about Harry's age.
Though it must be said that in canon, it didn't take much. After cutting Harry's arm with a dagger, "Wormtail, still panting with pain, rumbled in his pocket for a glass vial and held it to Harry's cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it."
That was it.
I also don't remember anything specific about Harry bleeding in any chapter, but an opportunity to take it unawares would have been just before chapter 60, when Harry was sleeping in Quirrel's presence. A potential problem with Quirrel doing this is that the ritual's requirements seem to distinguish between "forcibly" and "unknowingly". It's possible that he'll have to do it by directly forcing Harry to give up his blood, not by deceiving or tricking him, or even letting him lie unconscious while he's pulling it out.
Harry has also fallen asleep around Quirrel since then, in the warehouse after the prison break.
This assumes that Harry is V's foe, not an obvious assumption in this fanfic.
Bone of ancestor, blood of sworn enemy (assuming Bellatrix will fulfil the 'flesh of servant' role; it seems very likely.) That is how it went in canon, anyway, although Voldemort used Peter Pettigrew as the servant there.
Nitpick: You're not wording it exactly right. In canon it said "bone of the father" and "blood of the enemy" -- not "bone of the ancestor" nor "blood of sworn enemy".