[Update: and now there's a fifth discussion thread, which you should probably use in preference to this one. Later update: and a sixth -- in the discussion section, which is where these threads are living for now on. Also: tag for HP threads in the main section, and tag for HP threads in the discussion section.]

The third discussion thread is above 500 comments now, just like the others, so it's time for a new one. Predecessors: one, two, three. For anyone who's been on Mars and doesn't know what this is about: it's Eliezer's remarkable Harry Potter fanfic.

Spoiler warning and helpful suggestion (copied from those in the earlier threads):

Spoiler Warning:  this thread contains unrot13'd spoilers for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality up to the current chapter and for the original Harry Potter series.  Please continue to use rot13 for spoilers to other works of fiction, or if you have insider knowledge of future chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

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

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[-]gjm260

Eliezer's author notes say: If you want to know everything HJPEV knows and more, read the Sequences.

That would have been fair enough while there were only a few chapters of MoR up. Now, however, Eliezer is promising that reading the Sequences will teach readers how to perform Transfiguration, how to protect themselves against telepaths, how to conjure up a (v2.0) Patronus, and so forth. That seems a little optimistic.

Well I read Lesswrong, and I'm already protected against all know telepaths, and can destroy every dementor in existence.

Yeah, I can only imagine how disappointed they'll be when they learn stuff about how to build benevolent superintelligences instead.

[-]gjm200

You've worked out how to do that now? Cool!

7Strange7
I can't find the article where you list hardware specs. Is it on the wiki?
9jaimeastorga2000
This is true, but I don't think the Sequences need to teach what has already been covered to a sufficient degree of detail in the text. I can, for instance, vouch that Occlumency is taught well enough by the fic alone; since I read chapter 27, no-one has been able to read my mind! And I think I got the theory for conjuring a Patronous v2.0 down, too; as soon as I get a magic wand, I can put that to the test and see if it works.

The discussion of snake's sentience reminded me of an argument I once made about the nature of pureblood discrimination against Muggles, which I'll reproduce here:

Consider how we, as humans, justify our definitions of personhood. Why do we say that chimps, for example, are not people? Essentially, we come up with a list of features which we have, and things which aren’t people don’t have, like talking, tool use, etc. and then say everything which looks very similar to something which has those features is a person (why, for example, we consider a severely mentally retarded person a person).

In the Wizarding World, manufacturing a facsimile of sentience – talking, etc. is trivial. Even a very poor family can purchase multiple such objects as a child’s toy (Magical Chessmen). They would reject that these object are people, they’re simply toys, not truly free willed, despite resembling that strongly. When it comes down to it, the only difference between real people and all these simulacra seems to be the ability for autonomous magic use – so this becomes the criteria for person-hood.

For wizards, form is not a determinant of nature, thanks to the various transmutations and shapeshifting... (read more)

7Pavitra
I actually rather like the canon Ministry of Magic's current definition of personhood, which is "any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws". Further, certain intelligent creatures such as centaurs have declined legal personhood status in favor of self-governance.

I'm not so much talking about the legal definitions, as about the basic intuitions that form the framework for the moral reasoning that goes into determining behaviour and then the formal laws and systems that govern them.

It's one of the priors that someone with a non magical upbringing may never consider, that the basic foundation of moral reasoning is different for pureblood wizards.

That other sapient beings have weight as moral actors is pretty basic, and if pure bloods were to instead use a different intuition as the starting point for moral construction, then Harry has a very substantial amount more work to do.

n.b., I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by their being a physical basis for magical ability that proved Harry was right and the pureblood faction wrong. I think it would make a far more interesting setting if the pure bloods were actually factually correct but still morally wrong. Just as interesting would be there being no physical basis for magical ability, and it simply being an example of large scale magic such as the taboo or the cure on the DADA job, the equivalent of a curse or blessing on a family line.

2Pavitra
Sorry, I didn't mean to make it about law. I just happen to find that particular definition pretty intuitively appealing; that the definition was canon magical law was a minor side point of only marginal relevance.

Has Quirrell been kissed by a Dementor? With Voldemort responsible, presumably.

That would explain his zombie mode - when he slouches, drools, doesn't speak, and can only stagger around.

And in chp 45 the Dementor could have been speaking to (zombified) Quirrell rather than to Voldemort when it said to Quirrelmort "that it knew me, and that it would hunt me down someday, wherever I tried to hide."

Voldemort can take over Quirrell and act through him, turning him into articulate Quirrell. But when he's not actively in control Quirrell enters zombie mode. Voldemort might be going someplace else while he leaves Quirrell on autopilot, or maybe he just needs to rest because controlling Quirrell uses up his energy.

[-][anonymous]140

More evidence for this: when he sees Quirrell slumped over in Chapter 16, he thinks "Now what does that remind me of...?" What could Harry possibly have seen that might look similar to zombie mode Quirrell? Well, just a chapter earlier, he saw a picture of a criminal killed by exposure to Dementors (the criminal who transfigured gold to wine as payment for a debt).

I can't think of any alternate hypothesis for what Harry might have seen to remind him of zombie Quirrell. There just aren't very many things he's been exposed to in the first 15 chapters.

3Unnamed
Good catch. That does seem like another hint, although the alternative that comes to mind is that he just reminds Harry of zombies. (Minor correction: it's chp 16, not 14).
1[anonymous]
Chapter number fixed.
6Unnamed
I've had some thoughts about why, within the HPMOR world, it makes sense for Voldemort to choose to occupy a dementor-kissed body. I don't know the details about how the magic works or the solution to the HPMOR!mind-body problem, but it seems like it would be easier to take over a vacated body than to try to share the space with the original soul. It seems like a cleaner process, with no ambiguity about who's in control within the body. Second, based on Voldemort's personality (assuming that's what we're seeing from Quirrell) I think he'd prefer to be alone rather than having a roommate as he does in canon. Third, removing the original Quirrell also removes the need to rely on him to keep the secret and not give himselves away out of stupidity, lack of self-control, poor acting skills, or outright betrayal. Finally, other people might be able to tell when a body contains two souls - if the Sorting Hat can do it, why not the Hogwarts security system?
0gwern
It can't be this; a Dementor-kissed body is a vegetable which doesn't do anything at all, much less shuffle around slowly. (Checking the HP wiki, it seems a kissed-body does still breath and have a heartbeat.) If Voldemort is controlling the body, he has to be controlling it at all times in some capacity.
0orthonormal
Unless this is another (minor) departure from canon.

chp 51-54 & A/N

Is it plausible that Harry would go along with this rescue? It is harder to accept than a Sirius rescue, which would've been based on the belief that Sirius was actually innocent (he hadn't done the awful things he was convicted of). The extenuating circumstance of having become evil under the influence of the Dark Lord provides a much weaker reason to rescue someone, and requires much more trust in the person who is conveying the information (since they must not only get the facts right, but make some subtle and complex judgments about the prisoner's character and what they deserve).

If Quirrell had just come straight out and asked Harry to help him break Bellatrix Black out of Azkaban, and to pretend to be Voldemort while doing it so that she would follow him out, I don't think he would have done it. Far too many red flags. Sure, Harry wants to end Azkaban, but to start with Bellatrix, who undeniably did so many evil things? Quirrell's case in favor of Bellatrix's innocence sounds like what a partisan would say when trying to make their side seem favorable, not an argument that Harry would buy (just as he could see through Draco's case against Dumbledore). ... (read more)

[-]PeterS270

I think there's two things going on here. The first is that Harry is psychologically in fantasy-mode during these chapters, and the second is Harry's self-esteem issues regarding his own intelligence.

"You are about to invite me to join a secret organization full of interesting people like yourself," said Harry, "one of whose goals is to reform or overthrow the government of magical Britain, and yes, I'm in."

Fantasy-mode: Harry is being recruited by a secret group of highly interesting rebels. They fight against the stupid, evil, corrupt government of Magical Britain. Their cause and methods are righteous beyond question (otherwise Harry would ask a few, instead of immediately inducting himself).

Quirrell believes Magical Britain must be ruled under the dictatorship of a powerful leader, as we learned in chapters 34-35 (whereas Harry believes in democracy). So what kind of secret rebel organization is he likely to be a member of? It doesn't matter. Harry is in fantasy-mode -- he could be in a secret organization of interesting people whose goal it is to change the world!

Fantasy-mode is completely obvious throughout these chapters, especially at the start of 52... (read more)

9TheOtherDave
Yes. Which also makes me remember the titles of these chapters. I originally thought the title was suggesting that we were going to explore the underlying motives of the Aurors/Dementors/prisoners... but the SPE has very little to do with prisons, really, and a lot to do with the ways in which people's thinking and behavior gets distorted by the roles they adopt. Much as Harry, as you point out, is distorting his own thinking by choosing the role of Noble Warrior in an Epic Fantasy.
1orthonormal
IWICUTT. ("I wish I could upvote this twice" deserves a shorthand around here.)

Quirrell gradually brought Harry into the plot, getting him to make a series of commitments so that by the time the full plot was revealed it would be hard for him to back out. The gradual escalation of commitment is reminiscent of the Milgram study, more than the Stanford prison experiment. Quirrell framed each step in general terms that would activate Harry's noble motivations for going through with the plot or undermine his defenses and objections at later steps. And Harry was rushed, so that he wouldn't have time to think things through fully on his own and analyze them from different angles, which made it much easier to lead Harry's thoughts down the path that Quirrell wanted.

In chp 49 Quirrell revealed his secret illegal animagus form, which seemed innocent enough - Quirrell had voluntarily disclosed it for no clear benefit, which made it hard to hold it against him. But in doing so, he brought Harry into a conspiracy, where they had secrets from the rest of the world which Harry was comfortable with even though they might look bad to other people. He got Harry to set aside the law as a standard for evaluating what was happening. Harry knew that the law is flawed, but h... (read more)

2Danylo
That's an interesting point. In context of that, consider the following -- Harry is now [end of chapter 54] without protection from the Dementors, thus gone entirely to the 'dark side,' which in Harry as in most is rather Slytherin. That means that Harry is now in the perfect position to see how he's been manipulated, and act against on it: specifically, betraying Quirell and going with his first story "He made me do it." He can even attribute his attacking an Auror who thought about Moody* to the Dementors and potentially get away with the whole thing. Just something to consider. * I misread, but the point remains.
2TobyBartels
Not Moody, but a cameo Auror who thought about Moody
1jsalvatier
I was surprised that we basically did not get to hear Quirrell explain how he knew Bella was innocent nor Harry ask.
3FAWS
Quirrell explicitly said that he couldn't tell him. There are a number of other interesting and important questions Harry could have asked, though.
9Unnamed
One other thing that Quirrell did was to portray the government of magical Britain as the opposition, since he and Harry agree that it's corrupt and incompetent. That made it easier for Harry to dismiss opposition to the plot as foolishness. It also bound Harry & Quirrell closer together in Harry's mind, and made their shared rationality salient. But it could have driven Harry & Quirrell apart, since this is one area where Harry knows something about Quirrell's goals. They have talked about what kind of government would be best, and they disagree. They even had a kind of public debate about it. So why would Harry be so eager to join a secret organization to reform or overthrow the government of magical Britain, without at least worrying about what kind of government they're trying to bring about? That's a worry that should carry over to Quirrell's actual plot. It's a very basic question: why is Quirrell doing this? What is he trying to accomplish? But one that Harry apparently never asks.
7DanArmak
If Harry is a utilitarian, he shouldn't need extenuating circumstances. He should want to free everyone from Azkaban and from all forms of torture and suffering, including truly evil people. The only reason not to free Bellatrix Black should be the danger of her attacking other people later on, and that's the point on which he should seek reassurance from Quirrel (re: what they are going to do with her once freed). But it seems Harry reverts to common human morals in the last few chapters. He attaches much weight to Bella's innocence. He thinks he'd like to kill Voldemoret as revenge or punishment.
8Document
Another reason is that (as pointed out elsewhere) there could be other people much more deserving of being freed; freeing Bellatrix or freeing her first might cost him the opportunity of freeing any of them in the near future.

And failing to free her at all may cost him the opportunity to save the world. Harry should have had some doubts as to whether he was ready for the mission.

Failing that, the other thing that has been bothering me for a while is why did Quirrel take Harry to save Bellatrix now? If Quirrel was pure Voldy he wouldn't care about Bellatrix, he doesn't love her. Saving her now, by taking a young idealistic boy on an important high-stress mission, doesn't seem like a good plan. How much does an evil overlord value saving henchwomen, what risk is worth it?

I am not sure that Quirrel is pure Voldy. I'm half tempted to predict that Quirrel is Harry-grown-old-and-dark transported through time in some fashion. Hence the extreme inability to touch each other and the fact that Quirrel's priors are too good. There is a fair amount of evidence against that (lack of patronus, for one). But it is a fun idea.

Saving her now, by taking a young idealistic boy on an important high-stress mission, doesn't seem like a good plan.

Unless the primary purpose is to change Harry. Duping Harry into rescuing Bellatrix Black creates some pretty hefty blackmail- most importantly by Harry against himself. Harry can name the fallacies involved, but that's no guarantee he can overcome them.

Remember, pretty much every action Quirrel has taken so far has been pedagogical. It seems far more likely that he's grooming Harry than that he's rebuilding his power base.

6bisserlis
Wait, can you explain why lacking a patronus is evidence against Quirrel being a time-traveling Harry? He would have the same super-bright human patronus that Harry does, which would be a bit of a tip that he was Harry-from-the-future. So obviously he would pretend to not have one.
3Sniffnoy
Alternative idea: You only get one patronus. Harry's got hit by AK, so now he can't cast patronus anymore.
4bisserlis
Shhh, if you're not careful, patronuses will be sentient next. Is it ethical to dismiss a sentient patronus?
1whpearson
If he had a patronus he could have saved Bellatrix a long time ago, by himself or using a more reliable ally than Harry. He seemed to have been waiting for Harry, thus either he doesn't have a patronus or he needed Harry to do this task for some other unknown reason.
1bisserlis
I'm still confused. I think because I assume that saving Bellatrix was definitely not the point of the trip, and whatever the real point was, it specifically has to do with Harry so Quirrel's patronus status is irrelevant with respect to the Azkaban trip. Couldn't Quirrel always have used an ally in the plot? They wouldn't even necessarily have to be willing or reliable on their own, or can't you summon a patronus under the imperius curse? Now I feel like I did when reading the chapter on the final army battle. I think I'm an n-1 player.
3whpearson
I got the impression that Harry's patronus was special and strong for shielding against the Dementors, perhaps no others would have been strong enough to hide an escaped felon? Why hadn't more people been broken out? Okay if saving Bellatrix is not about saving Bellatrix, could whatever it was about have been done in a more controlled environment? Could Quirrell have hired some goons to play a part in some formative point of Harry's education/ensnarement rather than taking a teen into a live fire situation. What would have happened if Harry hadn't been able to cast Patronus? Could Quirrell have taught the lesson/ got a hold on Harry in a different way? If so why hadn't Quirrell got this hold as soon as he could have? It seemed that Harry's Patronus was the trigger for the Azkaban mission (Quirrell suggests it just after he finds out about it, why does Quirrell need to get the hold now). The only explanation that makes sense in the "azkaban is not about bellatrix" scenario is that Quirrell wanted it to fail all along... I see insufficient incentive for Quirrell for the positive outcome to offset the severe risk of it going wrong. I'm also confused. None of the explanations for what is going on make sense. Quirrell's motivation/identity seems the most under explained.
1bisserlis
Interesting. I'm not sure whether or not it's better at shielding, because we're told that people break in to Azkaban to shield the inmates so that they might have regular non-nightmare dreams, or just a half-day of patronus time. So we know that just one typical patronus is strong enough to protect people from the worst effects of a Dementor for 12 hours. I don't think we know enough about the defenses of Azkaban to say at what point the typical rescue operation would fail. But when we're witnessing the aurors in the command center, I find it interesting that only attempts to relieve the pain of being in Azkaban through patronus-presence are brought up (in the bit about bribes), not escape attempts. Perhaps it has to do with the "perfect crime" logic. As to what the actual purpose was in this whole excursion, I have no idea. I'm not sure intentional failure is the only explanation. It could be some weird bonding experience. Maybe Quirrel always dreamed of raiding wizarding prisons, pulling off bank heists, and taking over the world with his son. Chapter 55: "Adoption Papers" I think from the duel that we can infer that Quirrel didn't expect to lose, even in a one-sided fight against a team of aurors. He was just playing games when it was one-on-one. Maybe he used the killing curse because he was (overly) confident that Harry was committed to trusting him completely with regards to this mission and didn't expect to be blocked. Maybe chapter 55 will answer all of our questions. Ha. Haha.
0NancyLebovitz
Someone talked about the chapter being in "fantasy mode". My first thought was that they were saying that the chapter might be a dream. This doesn't seem to be what they meant, but the chapter is so odd in terms of the overall story that I don't want to entirely exclude the hypothesis. At that point, the hard thing is thinking of a way that it being a dream or other sort of hallucination wouldn't be completely infuriating. I'm not sure if it "Harry has an enemy who's attacking him in his dreams" would be good enough, though that would be a very Harryish nightmare. Maybe it's his subconscious telling him that Quirrell isn't entirely trustworthy.
1MartinB
I usually do not like dream episodes if they are not well hinted at. It often feels like a cheap excuse to blow everything up without hurting the status Q.
6JoshuaZ
If it did turn out to be that I'd be annoyed since a) old Harry time traveling back has been done before and b) it would be such a stretch from the standard plot that making it turn out that way would strike me as too far removed from the original.
3whpearson
I think it could make a decent story. I'm not sure that it hasn't strayed too far from canon anyway. Sngr/Fgnl Cbggre Nsgre guvf qronpyr, Uneel trgf pncgherq naq chg va Nmxunona sbe n ovg. Ur ybfrf nyy uvf unccl zrzbevrf naq gur novyvgl gb pnfg Cngebahf (vg vf n unccl zrzbel) naq fbzr bs uvf engvbanyvgl genvavat. Ur rira sbetrgf ur vf Uneel Cbggre (ur yvxrq orvat n obl jvgu qrfgval). Urzvbar/Dhveery/Qenpb naq gur jrnfyrlf zbhag n erfphr, jvgu Urezvbar univat yrneag cngebahf sebz Uneel'f abgr. Uneel vf nffhzrq gb or gur qnex ybeq, ol gur nhgubevgvrf, fb vf abg fnsr ng guvf gvzr, ur jbhyq or uhagrq qbja, fb vf genafcbegrq onpx va gvzr. Gurer ur xvyyf bss Ibyqrzbeg cebcre naq fybjyl orpbzrf Dhveery. Guvf nyfb rkcynvaf jul gur Qrzragbef unir n orrs jvgu Dhveery, ur unf gur znex bs fbzrbar jub rfpncrq Nmxnona. Dhveery unf gb pbnpu Uneel va guvf jnl gb sbez n fgnoyr gvzr ybbc. Abj V qba'g ernyyl guvax vg vf guvf. Ohg fgvyy vg jencf hc n ahzore bs fgenaqf. V nyfb unira'g ernq rabhtu snasvp be gur ynfg srj obbxf bs Uneel Cbggre fb zl frafr bs jung unf orra qbar be fubhyq or qbar vf abg irel fgebat.
2gwern
Ah, but how does he kill Voldemort? Your scenario doesn't provide any power-up to go from irrational prisoner in Azkaban to Dark Lord-killer. I suggest that before that, Harry remembers Quirrel's story about the Chamber of Secrets, and regretfully kills the basilisk as well (to keep the time-loop stable). Indeed, a time-loop might explain how Quirrel found about it in the first place - the search procedure was simply to systematically investigate every old legend, and the Chamber was simply the one that panned out.
0whpearson
It depends how far back in time he is sent. He might have plenty of time to power up. Being fairly dead inside he might've got close to Voldemort and learnt his secrets, pretending to be an ally and then betrayed him.
0MartinB
It was mentioned that the time turner only works for 6h/24h. He first would have to invent time travel for longer distances.
0TheOtherDave
I don't endorse the future-Harry theory at all, but that said, I do think this would be a principled extrapolation... that is, it wouldn't come out of nowhere, narratively. We've already seen Harry experiment with time (and be warned not to). And we've seen, during Harry's experiments with transmutation, that previously binding constraints on magic can be overcome by adopting a different model of what the magic is doing (1). I'm no more an expert on the nature of time than I am on the nature of matter, but on the face of it a constraint like "6h/24h" seems as arbitrary as "whole objects only" (2). So it stands to reason that a similar exercise of using a more accurate model of time could cause that constraint to evaporate (3), allowing Harry to develop an improved Time Turner with no practical upper limit on temporal range. All of that said, Fermi's Paradox as applied to time travel is a real problem. OTOH, if we're willing to believe that "muggles" don't notice the existence of wizards, I guess it's not implausible that temporal natives don't notice the existence of temporal tourists. (1) One explanation is that by adopting a more accurate model of the manipulation being performed, one can discard constraints that were only ever consequences of the inaccuracies in one's earlier model. (This seems the most likely explanation, given the author's philosophical sensibilities.) (2) Perhaps more, actually. There is a difference between how a cluster of iron atoms interacts with the other iron atoms in a chunk of iron, and how it interacts with the surrounding atmosphere, and that difference could fundamentally affect how transmutation works. It doesn't in the MORverse, it seems, but it could have. Whereas I can't think of any meaningful difference between a 6-hour displacement in time ("distimement"?) and a N-hour displacement for any N that is not a significant fraction of the age of the universe. (3) That said, Harry would be well advised to take far more precau
0MartinB
And then he could bring some venture capital to save a certain car manufacturer from bankruptcy
1thomblake
I believe that the Dementors have a beef with Quirrell because (rot13) gur Qrzragbef ner Qrngu vapneangr naq Dhveeryy qrsvrq qrngu ol perngvat n ubepehk, abg gb zragvba qlvat naq abg fgnlvat qrnq. Gurl jnag gur cevmr gung'f orra qravrq gurz.
4whpearson
Reading some wikis tell me that Dementors didn't have a problem with Voldy in canon, and that condition applies there. So either that is a deviation from canon, due to a change in the nature of Dementors or something else is going on.
6jaimeastorga2000
The Dementors don't represent death in Rowling's canon. They are identified with depression.
4bogus
Potential spoiler: Vg pbhyq or gung Uneel vf fvzcyl zvfgnxra nobhg gur gehr angher bs Qrzragbef: Gurl qb abg ercerfrag Qrngu (gung vf Yrguvsbyqf), ohg engure zntvpnyyl pbapragengrq rkvfgragvny natfg (spoiler). Uneel'f gubhtug va gur Uhznavfz frdhrapr vf uvf guvat gb cebgrpg (spoiler), juvpu (jura uryq fgebatyl) vf n engvbany pbhagre gb rkvfgragvny natfg. Navznyf ner rssrpgvir Cngebav orpnhfr gurl'er abg ersyrpgvir rabhtu gb srry rkvfgragvny natfg. Gur ovttrfg ceboyrz jvgu guvf gurbel vf gung Oryyngevk qbrf unir "fbzrguvat gb cebgrpg"--ure vagrafr ybir sbe Ibyql. Guvf gubhtug fubhyq unir rvgure fuvryqrq ure sebz gur vasyhrapr bs Qrzragbef be orra sbetbggra nf cneg bs gur Qrzragbef' trareny rssrpg. Fbzrguvat gb guvax nobhg sbe n zber pnabavpny fcvabss, gubhtu. Nfvqr: Sha naq rkpvgrzrag jbhyq nyfb jbex nf rssrpgvir pbhagref gb rkvfgragvny natfg. Cerqvpgvba: Serq naq Trbetr Jrnfyrl jvyy qrirybc na rira zber rssrpgvir Cngebahf ol erqvfpbirevat fbzr bs gur 31 ynjf bs Sha (spoiler).
4Sniffnoy
Yes, in canon he eventually recruited the Dementors, IIRC. This seems like a change in the nature of the Dementors.
-2[anonymous]
If you edit your rot13 comments to plain-text I'll upvote.
1JoshuaZ
I think the general issue is that the overarching setting is essentially the same or very close to the original even if the details have changed. That's an implicit pact that Eliezer has essentially made with the readers. For what it is worth, prior to the end of the series there was a fair bit speculation that either Voldemort or Dumbledore was really a time traveling Harry (this speculation seemed most prominent after book 4 before book 5 came out). At a general meta-level I also doubt Eliezer will do anything like this because this is still to a large extent Eliezer's vehicle for trying to illustrate concepts about rationality and that sort of plot line would seriously distract from such a goal.
4jimrandomh
Not worth it. But this is:
4MartinB
Which would not requiring a rescue mission, but just going in & out. Which - as we learned - is rather cheap to do.
3MartinB
Quirrel seems to not know some theoretical concepts that Harry does know.
0whpearson
Yeah, I have a theory for that. See my rot13'd reply to JoshuaZ.
0Oscar_Cunningham
Maybe Quirrel was (acausally) decision theoretically obliged to save her.
3NihilCredo
"Acausal" and "(T/U)DT" aren't magic words that, upon invoking them, suddenly make it rational to act like a good Samaritan and against your own goals and interests.
0Oscar_Cunningham
I was thinking more that he might have promised to rescue her if she needed it, so that she would agree to help him.
0Perplexed
No, they only make it seem rational to some people.
0NihilCredo
Heh. If you had seen the part of my post I eventually deleted, you would have been digging a trench. Fortunately I didn't feel yet ready to put such a broad accusation forward with the necessary confidence.
5JoshuaZ
People aren't very good at being utilitarians when there's heavy emotional issues involved even if they are generally good at thinking rationally in other situations. For example, I'm generally a utilitarian, but when I read about this extremely disturbing story I wanted the people responsible to suffer badly for a very long time. And I still do. I don't just want them to die to prevent future harm. I want them to burn. I want them to burn so much that it almost makes me wish there were a vengeful god to torture them. And if I had the choice between simply killing the people involved and making them die slow, agonizing deaths, I'd likely pick the second and them lie to myself and convince myself that that was somehow the utilitarian thing to do. Humans have a lot of trouble being good utilitarians when the stakes are high.
3TobyBartels
Even if Harry's not a utilitarian, I'd still like him to be smart enough to realise that this is still an important practical question to ask. But he's only 11, so I only hope that EY will let him realise his mistake later.
0Eugine_Nier
There's also the TDT idea that people who did evil things should be punished.
1h-H
yeah, punishing agents for doing 'bad things' as a deterrence against other agents acting similarly is quite rational.
2Perplexed
It is a lot more important than just deterring similar acts. A failure to punish after having made a commitment to punish removes a big part of the deterrent effectiveness of all kinds of punishment for all kinds of 'bad things'. For that matter, it may decrease trust that the government/society will keep its other commitments - pension obligations, for example.
5David_Allen
To add to this, what will be done with Bellatrix after she is freed? Wouldn't Harry need an answer to this before cooperating with Quirrell? Simply releasing Bellatrix to her own recognizance would be like releasing a hungry lion near a grade school during lunch hour. Without Voldemort personally directing her actions she would act out of her own sense of vengeance. It isn't obvious to me that a simple "trust me" from Quirrell would convince Harry to cooperate.
1jsalvatier
I thought this was weird too, but EY has a habit of revealing plans as they are enacted rather than beforehand.
1Sniffnoy
This is the one thing that bothers me about this; Quirrell's excuse for Bellatrix seems good enough to cover a lot of people. Hence I expect at least one of the following should hold: * Harry refuses to go along (this didn't occur) * Harry insists on modifying the plot to break out more people (this didn't occur) * Harry insists on going back to break out more people, to Quirrell's dismay * Harry insists on going back to break out more people, just as Quirrell was going for ...though I guess those last two look a good deal less likely now that I've seen the extent to which they bungled the breakout.

Something that came up in a conversation offsite between me and Adelene Dawner:

Both in canon and MoR, where are all the grandparents and great-grandparents?

Supposedly, wizards have much longer lifespans than Muggles. I'm a Muggle, about to turn 22, and I've still got a grandparent left. Meanwhile, baby Harry managed to be orphaned without any of his grandparents stepping forward to take him in, or even trying to have a relationship with him. Perhaps Lily and Petunia's folks, Muggles both, were dead by this time - they never show up in canon - but what happened to pureblood James's mom and dad? Or their parents, or their siblings - when these people could all easily have lived to be a hundred years old, there should be some many-generation families running around.

The only visible ancestors we have before the canon epilogue are Augusta Longbottom, and, by the end of the series, Andromeda Tonks. Old characters like Dumbledore and McGonagall exist, but seem unmarried, childless, grandchildless. The Weasleys had at least one great-aunt and one great-uncle, but neither Molly nor Arthur has parents coming around for dinner, and they try to be an awfully close-knit family.

9AdeleneDawner
Not only that, but if I remember correctly, Augusta Longbottom was portrayed as being considered old. Wizards seem to follow the same schedule as muggles for settling down and having kids, so she should have been about 70 when Nevil started at Hogwarts - not even middle-aged compared to a 200-year expected lifespan.
4erratio
I'm not sure this is too unusual relative to our own society: these days life expectancy in Western countries is around 80-100, but people still tend to be considered to be getting old at fifty, relatively old by sixty and definitely old by seventy. In our case though we have the excuse that it's a recent change. This implies pretty awful things about wizarding society, if we can safely assume that people with children retire around sixty and then spend the next century or so being ornamental, and that it's been like that for centuries.
5jaimeastorga2000
The usual handwave by people discussing Rowling's canon is that any missing family members were probably casualties of the civil war against Voldemort, I think.

There's no obvious comparative shortage of people from any particular age group. Unless the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix selectively went around a little over a decade ago and picked off enemies with grandchildren/married offspring who were likely to go on to have kids, but not non-grandparents with kids - which, really, why? - this is an unsatisfactory explanation. And it'd have to be both sides. We're not just missing Molly's Prewett ancestors, we're missing Abraxas Malfoy too.

2bogdanb
Death Eaters seem to have a proclivity for killing one’s family. That would explain very thin family trees for anyone that was involved with the war. That’s because families of DE-opposers are killed, because people with less family would be more likely (i.e., less demotivated) to fight against Death Eaters, and people already fighting DEs are less likely to start families to avoid having a lever over them. The obvious exceptions, like Ron’s large family, are children born after the war, sort of like baby-boomers.
2Alicorn
Ron is the second-youngest child in his large family, and he's Harry's age. So most of his siblings were born during the war.
0bogdanb
Yeah, you’re right. I was confusing Voldemort’s war with the earlier war (the one matching WW2). I only realized the distinction when I was too far from a computer to retract the comment. That said, Ron’s family could still be just an exception. The logic still stands, it just went from “supported” to “not supported” by evidence (rather than “contradicted”).
4thomblake
There was a war with Grindelwald that took the place of World War 2 in the wizarding world. Presumably, many of the older generations perished in that conflict as well. And we have few tales of the potentially-bloody history prior to that.
4TobyBartels
It's very slightly hinted in canon that these were actually the same war. In MoR (and, I would guess offhand, quite a few other fanfics), this is pretty well confirmed.
0somervta
They have just been through a war - many such people may have died. It's also possible that most wizards/witches had children much later, and the relatively 'young' families we see were a response to the war.
0fibby
It is possible that most wizards/witches die not of old age, but simply because being a wizard is such a HUGE occupational hazard. If you use magic every day, you can make a fatal mistake eventually; especially if your magical power keeps increasing with age, whereas your memory / ability to concentrate goes down. And there are everyday spells that can easily kill you if you get them wrong, Apparition comes to mind. Yet it is possible that death in a magic accident is so common that it isn't even viewed as big tragedy. You'd have to be either extremely good (Dumbledore), or very careful (Moody, McGonagall), or both to survive to an old age.

Harry chokes on his water twice in ch 49. Suppose that Quirrell, having been tricked into drinking Comed-Tea, finds out what spell makes it work, and puts it on Harry's water. Then he can think the following: here are some guesses I have about Harry. I will think about them in order; if Harry raises his glass, I will state my guess.

A pretty interesting way of reading minds, right?

2wedrifid
Harry tested that. He concluded that the tea works the other way. That is, it detects when something weird is going to happen and gives you an impulse to drink.

Harry tested whether you could make something weird happen by drinking the tea, not whether you could make someone drink the tea when you did something weird, subject to you not yourself knowing what would be weird enough before you saw them drinking.

I have refined my idea based on some re-reading. I forgot that you aren't guaranteed to choke on every sip. Someone let me know if the following is too farfetched.

As you said, when something shocking is going to happen, someone with access to the tea feels an impulse to drink it. Now recall this line from chapter 7, not given much thought to by Harry:

"It doesn't always happen immediately," the vendor said. "But it's guaranteed to happen once per can, or your money back."

So translating to the backwards-causation hypothesis, if nothing shocking is going to happen before you finish drinking the can, the tea stops you drinking it.

OK, let's put this together with the idea that time-reversed causation preserves self-consistency. I deduce that if you sit someone down in front of a glass of Comed-Tea for lunch they will start drinking from it only if they will be shocked enough to choke on it at some point. So what you ... (read more)

9MattFisher
Unfortunately, there's nothing that says the tea will force your lunch-mate to drink on the first thing you think about that would cause him to choke. You could run through a dozen true and shocking guesses in your head without him feeling any urge to drink. Once you get bored and give up thinking of new hypotheses, if your lunch-mate hasn't drunk from the can, the vendor's guarantee is still intact because none of the the tea has been drunk. Why does this remind me of the halting problem? On the other hand, if you wait until after your lunch-mate has taken his first sip (taking the risk that something unexpected and shocking will happen when he does so), and you have resolved to take away the drink immediately after his second sip, you might be in a better position. You also need to hope that the shocking event that causes your companion to choke is not an epiphany on his part where he suddenly deduces one of your secrets.
2wedrifid
That does seem like it may just work. It is also a case where TDT comes in handy. Causal reasoning would suggest that once you have already got your answer there isn't any reason to actually make the scene (which could potentially give away your strategy.) There are some limitations on working out whether the 'weird' is 'good guesswork' specifically but it certainly gives you some strong evidence.
1Mary Chernyshenko
I wonder about that "or your money back" part. Was it added because the causal charm did not always work or "in order to" make it not always work? What if a wizard found himself very thirsty in a desert, incapable of Apparating and having only the tea to support him? It would be torture.
1TobyBartels
I don't think that the vendor will apply the guarantee in that case. Next you'll forget about messing with causality and just try to get your money back by opening the can and pouring the contents away. Surely the guarantee only applies if one finishes drinking it!
6NancyLebovitz
How much intelligence does it take to know when something weird is going to happen? Where is the intelligence located? I think I'd feel worse about drinking something like that (except that it doesn't mind?) than eating deep-fried talking rattlesnake.
6wedrifid
Errr, good point. Of course, for all I know it wants to be drunk. If that is the case then who am I to go about projecting my mind and other optimising?
5NihilCredo
About as much as it takes to detect a sudden involuntary contraption of the throat muscles, combined with a jolt of various hormones and a few other such symptoms. So, probably not much more than a polygraph. Plus whatever intelligence may or may not be required to look into the future.
1hairyfigment
(Forgive me if people already discussed all this and just I didn't see it.) Well, we know a person can appear to turn into a cat. One could probably take this as evidence for wizards' ability to fit a time-traveling intelligence into a can of soda. But it seems to me that the simplest explanation for both (or the one with the greatest prior probability) involves a Source of Magic teleporting in a newly made cat body that it controls using the memories and personality traits it finds in the human body it just snatched. Then this intelligence 'writes' the changes to the original body or a copy. So the good news is, you probably don't have to worry about the soda and wizards seem halfway to a form of immortality. Obviously this has disturbing implications as well. The fact that Harry's world still exists seems like a good sign, as does the existence of time-turners if that really rules out a standard simulation. But the fact that "the Universe wants you to say 'Wingardium Leviosa'," suggests an imperfectly-Friendly AI that cares about a dubious form of volition among people with a certain genetic marker.
3NancyLebovitz
Sounds like J K Rowling and her memetic descendents.
0[anonymous]
It does mind, it has a defense mechanism to get you to spit it out.

Hey Eliezer- if you're planning to upload your Author's Notes to the LW wiki, it might be helpful to post that intention to your profile on Fanfiction.net. I know of at least 3 groups independently trying to collect all of the AN's themselves:

3MartinB
Please do. I would like to read the earlier notes.
1jaimeastorga2000
I, too, have been trying to collect whatever AN's I could, along with the little description blurbs. My version is a bit messy, though.

Chapter 54: why don't Harry and Quirrell cast Somnium on Bellatrix instead of deceiving her? (The deception requires Quirrell to tell Harry the Death Eater password, among other things...) Why does Quirrell talk to Bahry so confidently while Bellatrix can hear him? Why does he follow his whims to play-duel and then kill Bahry instead of quickly subduing and memory-charming him, if they planned to pull off the perfect crime? Why is he so vulnerable to Dementors that he drops immediately when Harry's Patronus vanishes, even though Bahry's Patronus is still there successfully protecting Bahry and Harry? (Or am I misunderstanding the reason for his screaming? It's very similar to Harry's screaming when he first encountered a Dementor. If the screaming were caused by Quirrell's spell coming in contact with Harry's - brother wands or whatever - then Harry should've felt a symmetrical effect, which he didn't.)

Also, am I the only one stupid enough to only now realize that the professor's name is Quivering Squirrel?

[-]Danylo150

why don't Harry and Quirrell cast Somnium on Bellatrix instead of deceiving her? (The deception requires Quirrell to tell Harry the Death Eater password, among other things...) Why does Quirrell talk to Bahry so confidently while Bellatrix can hear him? Why does he follow his whims to play-duel and then kill Bahry instead of quickly subduing and memory-charming him, if they planned to pull off the perfect crime?

That reminds me of something else Quirrell arranged for Harry -- occlumency. If they read Bella's and the Auror's mind, they'll see Harry as a villain, and since Harry has training in occlumency, he's no way to prove them wrong. The entire thing looks like a set-up.

4DanArmak
Harry didn't even consciously try to stop Quirrel's killing curse. It was an accident. Quirrel couldn't have counted on it happening to set Harry up.
6Danylo
Oh, you're quite right. Perhaps Quirrel was planning to kill the Auror to make it clear that a break-out had occurred? That way, a full check of the prison would occur and Bella's replacement would likely be found. Which in turn would mean that it was put there simply to deceive Harry into a false sense of security. When the break in is made public, Dumbledore would naturally come under suspicion (since a Dementor disappeared under his watch) and he would suspect Harry. That might also explain the lack of the 30th charm by Quirrel. Might make Harry traceable. I could be completely wrong, of course. Pure speculation.
3Unnamed
The Auror saw Quirrell fight him with amazing skill, attempt the killing curse, and turn into a snake. Harry saved him from the killing curse. Quirrell's the clear bad guy from his point of view (is that enough evidence for people to conclude that Q=V?), and only Harry's last Somnium spoils his innocence. It will also be clear that they were lying to Bella, at least about some important things, since it was Harry's Patronus.
6NihilCredo
I'm pretty sure I'm being exceedingly careful here, but... It's enough evidence to conclude that he's a bad guy. Assuming I had never read Eliezer's assurances that Q=V, I would most definitely not put it past him to make his rewriting of HP not so much about the Dumbleharry vs. Voldemort war, but about the internecine fight between Quirrell/ColdHarry and Dumbledore/WarmHarry about how to confront the Voldemort threat - by finding a worthy dictator (in the original intent of the word, hopefully) or by making free citizens, I mean subjects of Her Majesty stand up for themselves. Each of them convinced that fighting Voldemort by the other's means would be as bad or worse than giving up; each of them wondering how much can they scheme and sacrifice, how close can they come to Voldemort's methods in order to successfully lead the fight against him... damn, speculating about it makes me want to read it already, no matter all the stuff that doesn't quite work with this scenario (sense of doom in primis).
5Eliezer Yudkowsky
So write it. Nothing wrong with having an AU of an AU.
5Unnamed
I mean: Is it enough evidence for people within the story to conclude that he is Voldemort? Being a ridiculously powerful dark wizard should be enough for them to locate the hypothesis and consider it a possibility, at least for those who know that Voldemort is alive. Then there are other clues: his attempt (with Harry) to free Bellatrix Black, knowledge of the Death Eater password (among him & Harry), his strange relationship with Harry Potter (including the odd magical interaction & Harry's sense of doom), and his ability to turn into a snake. Is that enough evidence to convince someone like Dumbledore who already knows that the Dark Lord lives? Is it enough for the rest of the wizarding world to be persuaded?
0rabidchicken
that depends on whether they still trust harry after this... If he gets out Draco is going to figure it out for sure, dumbledore and mcgonagal I am not certain about, and the wizarding world in general? I would say not a chance, but it opens up some interesting possibilities for the story if the wizarding war erupts out of nowhere again so quickly.
-1Perplexed
Bingo. I think you have it.
5PhilGoetz
How about: Should Harry have trusted Quirrell? I don't mean "did it have a good outcome"; I mean, was Harry's trust justified by what he knew? Would you have done the same thing? In retrospect, I think Harry ought to have said, "Professor Quirrell, I owe you a great debt, and have great respect for you. If you ask me to do something, I'll probably do it. But I don't trust you one single bit." But I doubt I would have said that myself.
3TobyBartels
Sorry, how does ‘Quirinu‑’ become ‘Quivering’?
2dclayh
Presumably, as I mentioned below, for the stated reason that "'It's been quite a while since I had a serious fight with a serious opponent'" As Quirrel himself said earlier, if you can't have some fun once in a while, what's the point?
2DanArmak
It was caused by the spell contact. Harry was also screaming (Bahry's POV mentions hearing this). He was probably less affected than Quirrel because he was much farther away. Case in point: Quirrel had spent about a minute in Azkaban (top floor) without any Patronus, until Harry arrived, and all that happened was that he had to lean on the wall for a bit to recover.
3cousin_it
Naw, Quirrell spent that minute in his snake form because it's less vulnerable to Dementors, and when disaster struck he threw away his wand (recall how Harry got attacked through his wand) and assumed snake form again, probably as a last ditch defense. So I'm not sure if your final point supports your conclusion or mine. And Harry was probably screaming just because he was scared. ETA: I just realized another funny thing. As Quirrell is an unregistered Animagus and Bahry saw him transform, in the aftermath he'll be going to Azkaban for two years unless something unusual happens.
6katydee
I have very little, if any, idea of what something "usual" would look like under these circumstances.
5EchoingHorror
Polyjuiced Quirrell, mind you.
-1Vladimir_Nesov
"And then it was already too late" prompts in the text suggest that Quirrell died (and probably won't revive himself as Quirrell again). Edit: This seems to be an inference from incorrect assumption, correction here.
9orthonormal
The most direct interpretation of "it was too late" is that Harry's Patronus was down long enough for the Dementors to find them and see Bellatrix had escaped.
2EchoingHorror
Probably. And with the Aurors coming, Harry won't have the chance to recast his Patronus before they all find him and give him a good talking-to. Prediction in rot13: Bs pbhefr, jura gurl neevir, gurer jvyy or rvtug yrffre cngebav xrrcvat gur srne bs qrngu bss Dhveeryy. Vs gur fghaavat fcryy unf jbea bss, naq gur snpg gung ur guerj njnl uvf jnaq naq ghearq vagb n fanxr zrnaf gur qrzragbef ner uvf ceboyrz, abg gur pynfu jvgu Uneel'f zntvp, V cerqvpg fbzr irel vagrerfgvat guvatf jvyy unccra. Zbfgyl rcvp cjantr. Rvtug vf rabhtu, evtug?
8pjeby
The fear of dementors isn't Quirrel's problem, it's that his spell and Harry's touched. He threw away his wand to stop the magical cascade, and Harry was screaming because he felt the same thing, but didn't understand it as quickly as Quirrel did.
2EchoingHorror
Does that also explain why he turned back into a snake? I must have missed where that and throwing away a wand can help with a magical cascade.
3NancyLebovitz
It will be aesthetically unsatisfying if turning into a snake helps.
4thomblake
Note that on Quirrell's "Evil Overlord List", Rule 34 ("I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.") has been replaced by (translated from Parseltongue) "Become Animaguss. All ssensible people do, if can. Thuss, very rare." (Per chapter 49)
1Vladimir_Nesov
Or, "I will turn into a snake. It always helps."
-1cousin_it
It's a weird coincidence that the rule would have number 34.
1thomblake
Well, there are more than 33 rules. It's not a particularly weird coincidence.
3wedrifid
Not weird, perhaps, but rule 34 on Quirrel's snake form is certainly creepy.
1pjeby
I don't know why he turned back into a snake; others have suggested he's less susceptible to Dementor influence in that case. It is also possible that his alternate form was some kind of magic done to his snake form, and that he simply reverted to snake form on losing control of whatever was producing his fake human form. That throwing away the wand is helpful was suggested by the previous incident with the dementors and Harry's wand. Actually, it's possible that 1) he needed to throw the wand away to stop the cascade, but 2) became a snake to avoid any Dementor influence happening by way of the wand. He may also have felt that Bellatrix would be less likely to kill Voldemort's favorite snake than some random human tool/servant of his.
0Vladimir_Nesov
Snakes are easier to carry, for example.
0wedrifid
More energy efficient. Less hygiene requirements.
0Vladimir_Nesov
I don't see this interpretation as plausible, too much implied drama for such an insignificant event in context (as more evidence, "last seconds tickling away" is a death metaphor). Dementors alerting Aurors about the escape is just the last nail in the coffin.
4orthonormal
No, it's the last seconds ticking away for a successful escape attempt- if Harry had put up his Patronus, there might have been time for Quirrell to recover, use a Memory Charm on the Auror, and abscond with BB without raising the alarm.
2Vladimir_Nesov
I now see that as more plausible than originally (having learned that my interpretation is not obvious to others), but remain uncertain and favoring the hypothesis of Quirrell having died. We'll see what was actually intended.
0Vladimir_Nesov
...and if I replace my previous assumption that Quirrell collapsed as a direct result of Dementor influence that was opened by disappearance of Potter's Patronus, with the much more plausible assumption that he collapsed because of magic incompatibility with Potter's Patronus of the same nature as what killed him the first time, and only additionally suffered from Dementors, then it doesn't follow that Dementors cause overwhelming harm, and so that prolonged exposure leads to death. This also explains throwing away the wand: make own magic weaker to reduce the effect of magical incompatibility. Thus, now the hypothesis that Quirrell died seems less plausible than the alternative.
7Danylo
Really? I think it suggested that it was now too late for Dark Lord Harry to return to being Good Lad Harry without external intervention, a la kiss. He's in too dark a place to think Happy Thoughts.
3DaveX
I read it as too late for Harry to save himself. And before that, Voldy was already gone, prior to Bahry's reflexive stunner spell.
1jsalvatier
I didn't realize it until you mentioned it.

I have a question about chapter 49 and was wondering if anyone else had a similar reaction. Assuming Quirrell is not lying/wrong, and Voldemort did kill Slytherin's Monster, then my first thought was how unlikely that Slytherin's Monster should have even survived long enough to make it to 1943. No prior Heir of Slytherin had had the same idea? Perhaps no prior Heir of Slytherin had been strong enough to defeat Slytherin's Monster? No prior Heir had been ruthless enough?

Maybe this constitutes weak evidence for the theory that Quirrell is lying.

6AdShea
It also could be that the Basillisk has some sort of genetic memory (or DNA-based cognition ala the Super Happies!) such that the monster in the book is not the original monster but rather a great-great grandwhelp of the original monster. This would allow any heirs to kill their specific monster while the line (and thus memories) are preserved. (This is of course all predicated on Slytherin realizing that his descendents may be nasty enough to keep knowledge from others by any means possible).
5wedrifid
I wonder, did Slytherin actually expect his descendants to be nasty? In MoR quite possibly not.

Chapters 55-56: disappointment. Harry recovered way too easily, if the story were consistent he'd be screaming on the floor until the Aurors arrived. The obstacle of Bahry's future testimony shouldn't have been so easy to remove, now I'm suspicious that Eliezer will deal with the obstacles posed by McGonagall, Dumbledore and others in the same fashion. In general, the end of Ch. 54 seems to promise all hell breaking loose, 55 undoes that, tries to build more suspense instead, and fails to be believable because it erased previous suspense too easily. It's like a prelude that promised a fugue and didn't deliver. But the part where Harry momentarily thinks of Bellatrix as a good unquestioning minion was one of those moments of brilliance that I love the fic for.

The best description of hell breaking loose I've ever read was the first part of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot". I first read it assuming it would be a difficult work of "serious" literature, and it totally upset my expectations by being more exciting than any "fun" literature I'd seen. Here's how it goes: all the heroes and the main conflict are introduced in the first couple pages, then the situation q... (read more)

[-]Eneasz110

disappointment. Harry recovered way too easily, if the story were consistent he'd be screaming on the floor until the Aurors arrived.

I've thought about this a bit. Emotionally, I agree with you. But all the counter-arguments make sense. I've finally narrowed it down to a single sentence, at the end of Chapter 54:

(And then it was already too late.)

This sentence is epic. It sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. It resounds with finality. The jig is up. The battle has been lost. Despair, all ye mighty. I couldn't wait for the next installment to find Harry waking up in an holding cell with his plans crumbling about him, desperately thinking his way out of this jam without giving up his friend.

Now, I do actually enjoy the next two chapters. But the promise of finality was broken. Ch55 starts out with "And then it was already too late... PSYCH! It's not too late at all!" It feels like the X-men comic books I'd read as a kid, which on the cover showed our heroes dead or mortally wounded, the villain of the month triumphant above them, but when you grab the comic and read it you find that nothing like that happens in the story.

If that line was removed (or at least changed to not be so Final) the transition between 54 and 55 wouldn't be jarring.

2cousin_it
Prisoner's Dilemma, huh? :-) I had the same hopes for 55. Right now it looks like Harry will escape the mess without losing anything. Whyyy? Corwin of Amber had a spectacular failure that got him imprisoned and blinded, and the story was better for it.
1Vladimir_Nesov
I think you're right. The power of that line even confused me into jumping to conclusion that Quirrell died, despite a much better explanation. The book will be better if this device is changed.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky
Well, to the accusation of inconsistency I will respond that (a) Harry is not standing five paces away from a Dementor this time and (b) he has been strengthened somewhat by previous realizations, thus he does not instantly fall over and gets a chance to recover.
5PeerInfinity
I agree entirely. In chapter 52, I was able to empathize with Harry. I felt what he was feeling. And the feelings were was surprisingly intense. But in the next chapters the story just started getting too unrealistic, and Harry became an impossibly superpowered character, and I lost my emotional connection with him. This was a constant problem throughout the rest of the story too, but the problem is especially egregious in this story arc. And the impossibly-superpoweredness kept escalating. Chapter 52 was vaguely plausible. Chapter 53 might have been plausible, if Harry had a lot of time to prepare. Chapter 54 was only slightly less realistic than chapter 53. And I thought that after Chapter 54, this story arc was over. Harry failed at his mission, and just had to keep from losing his mind entirely before the aurors found him and he had to face the consequences of his actions. But then in chapter 55, he made a miraculous recovery. Noone could recover like that. Not even Eliezer Himself could recover like that. From then on, this wasn't a story about a real person, it was a story about an impossibly superpowered character, and the story lost almost all of its emotional impact. I still think Harry should have just given up, and turned himself in to the aurors. I don't see how this could possibly end well, and Harry's actions in chapters 55 and 56 are just making things a whole lot worse. But this is a story, and so of course it's going to end well, no matter how stupid or reckless the protagonist seems to be acting. It's still an awesome story though, it's just that the suspension of disbelief is gone. But that's just my opinion. Your Mileage May Vary. EDIT: ok, I accept Eliezer's explanation and David Allen's explanation of why Harry was able to recover. I take back my complaint about Harry's recovery being unrealistic. But, not knowing what Harry's plan is in chapters 55 and 56, it still seems to me like Harry would have been better off giving up.
8David_Allen
One of Harry's established traits is his highly trained reflex to question his own perceptions, especially under difficult circumstances. This situation is probably the most extreme that we have seen Harry in. In this context that ability comes across as a super-power, but it is not out-of-character.
2PhilGoetz
I agree with most of your comments, but - So you'd offer 4-1 odds on that bet?
3PeerInfinity
sorry, what I should have said is that the story as a whole will end well. It's still possible that Harry's actions in this particular story arc will have disastrous consequences, that Harry will have to try to fix later. It's also very likely that Harry won't be able to fix all of the disastrous consequences. but I would still offer 1-1 odds that this particular story arc will end without disastrous consequences... though there is some ambiguity about what counts as "disastrous". um... oops... did I just challenge Eliezer to not give this story a happy ending? I want a happy ending. or at least a bittersweet ending. It's just that I would prefer if the protagonist didn't recklessly get into impossible situations that he then goes on to use impossible superpowers to get out of. And what happened to Harry having learned how to lose? This seems like a situation where losing immediately is the best option. The more Harry resists, the worse things will be when he loses. Unless something really improbable happens. Anyway, I expect that all of these things that I'm complaining about are probably a case of "the plot demands it". It would have been nice if Eliezer could have avoided these problems, but sometimes you just can't please everyone. Also, we won't know for sure if Harry is holding the idiot ball until we find out what his plan is, hopefully in the next chapter. oh, and is it just me, or are the words "trust the author" really unconvincing? I mean, if you already know how generally awesome Eliezer is, it's a whole lot easier to trust him as an author, but those words would be entirely unconvincing to anyone who hasn't heard of Eliezer before... though he has already earned lots of trust with the previous chapters...
1PhilGoetz
(Harry having to learn how to lose was great.) Remember "The Cold Equations"? I wouldn't be shocked if Eliezer wound the entire fanfic up with some similar message.
6NancyLebovitz
I remember the extensive discussion about "The Cold Equations", in which it was concluded that the only way that sort of tragedy could be generated would be if there was massive organizational incompetence. Stowaways were a known problem. Why wasn't the spaceship locked? Why was there a door on the closet? I think a reasonably happy ending is forced for MOR. Harry survives. So do other major good characters. However, perhaps a MFAI (Magical FAI) is created, and power and responsibility are handed off to it. What would Harry do with the rest of eternity then?
5Alicorn
I think there's textual evidence suggesting that he would have descendants and then attend a lot of birthday parties on celestial objects.
4NancyLebovitz
He might still enjoy exploring how magic works-- I expect it's as rich a field as physics. (Last I heard, the idea that physics may offer unlimited depths is still respectable.) Ending for a rationalist fairy tale: And then they learned how to live happily ever after.
0MartinB
But he gets the 'ever after' before he learns how to make 'happiness'
1PeerInfinity
Harry will invent Fun Theory, of course. And then he'll spend the rest of eternity testing and improving this Fun Theory.
0shokwave
I would think Rowling's creation and management of the Harry Potter universe is quite clearly an example of massive organizational incompetence. Eliezer's characters might try their very hardest to save themselves, but like the stowaway they were dead the moment they were born into Rowling's universe.
2MartinB
No no no no no. Not a stupid space Aesop as in the cold equation. No!
0komponisto
What an awful story. I just read it, and am now in a state of outrage. The message is ostensibly that the laws of nature don't care about human welfare, which, as we all know, is true enough. But the problem described in the story is entirely human-caused: a straightforward engineering failure. It's the result of stupidity, poor planning, and failing to learn from past mistakes. And the sexism ("OMG It's a girl!") makes it all the more distasteful, although that's probably unfair of me, since it was after all written in the 1950s. I can't see Eliezer writing a story like this. Ever.
4whpearson
Even with Bahry obliviated there should be lots of clues it was Harry. Especially now that Quirrell is down and whatever spells he was casting to confound the wizarding equivalent of forensics are probably down. Harry sized foot prints in the dust, cloth fibers where Harry lay down? The angle/position that the stunning spell hit Bahry implying it was cast from a low elevation? Or to put it another way who are the Wizarding community going to think did this? Ex-death eaters? Not killing Bahry is a sign that it is not them. The unusual patronus that seemed to be able to hide Bellatrix, and will possibly kill Dementors next chapter, has the hallmarks of Harry. If they didn't know about the existence of time turners then they might be fooled, but he has used them so much, it is really a poor alibi. So yeah put me in the camp of all hell should still be breaking loose even if Harry doesn't get caught red handed in Azkaban.
6PhilGoetz
The wizarding world doesn't stoop to non-magical forensics. Footprints? Fibers? How barbaric.
2David_Allen
I don't think that it is obvious to most of the other characters that it is a patronus that is hiding Bellatrix. It would also be discounted because she remains invisible under the cloak after Harry's patronus is extinguished in Ch. 56. Canon Dumbledore would have observed the masking power of Harry's patronus, and would be clever enough to to guess that the Harry's cloak could have this property. Presumably the HPMOR Dumbledore is at least this clever. Dumbledore however observed Harry's extreme response to an unshielded dementor, so he might be confused at a Harry that walks around unprotected and apparently unaffected. Working against Harry is that Dumbledore's patronus could be used to identify Harry's patronus as the one it observed in Azkaban, and that any dementor that observes Harry, and survives, could also identify him. It seems that if Dumbledore wants to later verify or exclude Harry as the intruder, he can.
0[anonymous]
Quirrell would plan well to already have a scapegoat prepared.
2whpearson
1 ) But Harry thinks the scapegoat was possibly him! Which doesn't help. 2) Or if Quirrell wasn't trying to set up Harry it could have been random ex-death eaters, hence the need to kill Bahry with a killing curse for a consistent story. Which Harry scuppered by saving him. 3) Assuming a scape goat likely to obliviate rather than killing curse, Harry doesn't know who it is and what power they should have and how smart they should be. His actions, such as stopping cast the patronus, while keeping Bellatrix hidden, are giving more information to the wizarding world. Might they be able to guess that whoever is keeping Bellatrix hidden has a deathly hallow cloak thing? Actually apparently Dumbeldore believes that Dementors should be able detect people in an Invisibility cloak, because they sense them through emotion. According to the wiki page anyway. So maybe Dumbledore would be fooled.
1Vladimir_Nesov
Grandparent (my comment) was probably
0gwern
Everyone expects invisibility cloaks to not be very good - they usually aren't. The Deathly Hallow one is described as being fantastically valuable for being a 'true' invisibility cloak*, and not merely equivalent to a 'very strong Disillusionment charm' and weakening quickly with age (to quote from memory Luna Lovegood's dad; and speaking of them, we haven't heard very much from them since the first few chapters). If Dumbledore expects a 'true' Invisibility cloak, then this is basically == expecting Harry. * Yes, this does raise the question how Dumbledore could apparently see through it to Harry and the Mirror of Erised in book 1. The charitable explanation is that he was bluffing or heard Harry; the uncharitable one is that like Lucas, Rowling only came up with the Deathly Hallows and the ultimate ending late in the game.
0TobyBartels
That is undeniable. Invisibility cloaks are mentioned in the early books, and no hint whatsoever is given that Harry's is special. It would have been better if she could have done a real Lucas (or an Eliezer) and edited the earlier references in the earlier books.
0wedrifid
I'm not sure which is worse - a single magic gene or midichlorians. But to be honest I might be willing to trade off Ron for Jar Jar.

I noticed something odd in chapter 17, which seems relevant:

Harry was rather confused. "But this could be important, yesterday I got this sudden sense of doom when -"

"Mr. Potter! I have a sense of doom as well! And my sense of doom is suggesting that you must not finish that sentence!" ... "This isn't like you!" Harry burst out. "I'm sorry but that just seems unbelievably irresponsible! From what I've heard there's some kind of jinx on the Defense position, and if you already know something's going to go wrong, I'd think you'd all be on your toes -" ... "I see," Harry said slowly, taking it all in. "So in other words, whatever's wrong with Professor Quirrell, you desperately don't want to know about it until the end of the school year. And since it's currently September, he could assassinate the Prime Minister on live television and get away with it so far as you're concerned."

Professor McGonagall gazed at him unblinkingly. "I am certain that I could never be heard endorsing such a statement, Mr. Potter. At Hogwarts we strive to be proactive with respect to anything that threatens the educational attainment of our s

... (read more)
[-]Mercy150

And, sorry this has probably been gone over before, but why doesn't Harry think about the sense of doom all that much? He keeps glossing over it as if he's under a Somebody Else's Problem type field. If he's under some sort of mental power it's likely causing both mistakes

4DaveX
I think the title was redacted in order to not give the game away too early, as in Chapter 9. Maybe the magical incompatibility is real, and perhaps the dark social engineering behind the Stanford Prison Experiment relates to Chapter 16, Lateral Thinking. In Ch16, there's almost the same words in all-caps dizzying his brain. It might be explained by the sense of doom and magical incompatibility. Also Ch16 has “Mr. Potter, I never said you were to kill. There is a time and a place for taking your enemy alive,..." If Quirrell senses similar doom on his side, framing Harry as the Dark Lord and almost capable of breaking his most trusted lieutenant out of Azkaban might be a cunning lateral-thinking plot to dispose of all but a fragment of his nemesis without using anything direct.
0PeterS
Hmm.. it seems clear that the "sense of doom" is important. Possibly even an indicator that one is being imperius'd -- if these theories are correct.
-2PeterS
The business with Snake-Quirrell whispering instructions to Harry might suggest the Imperius Curse. In Rowling's book #4, Moody casts the curse on students and that's just what it's like -- verbal commands that are followed without question (unless you're trained in resisting the curse). Bellatrix doesn't seem to notice that Harrymort is talking to his snake. Perhaps Voldemort was known to do this all the time, but it could be because the instructions were being issued directly to Harry's brain. But the fact that they can't cast magic on each other is a big obstacle for this theory. Of course, a key point in these chapters is that it's possible to control somebody without ever Imperiusing them.
7David_Allen
When Harry powered up his Patronus, Quirrell was not able to get him to stop verbally. This suggests that Harry is not Imperiused.
4PeterS
Under a certain reading Quirrell actually did get him to stop. Where is that "WRONG. DONT." coming from? Harry's inner dialogue or Quirrell? Note that the sense of doom has been associated with Quirrell's proximity since the start of the mission, and the "man reaching out in entreaty" is Quirrell. So maybe it actually only was by Quirrell's influence that Harry was able to stop. Anyway, I think the bit about them not being able to cast spells on each other (which is true-ish in canon) is a stronger argument. But other have pointed out how unusual it is that Harry would go along with any of this unless he was either being imperiused or mind-fucked by Quirrell.
4David_Allen
Probably, but EY is a tricky writer and can make me second guess everything. It appears that the phrase "The sudden sense of doom clashed with Harry's steel determination", tells us what happened. The Quirrell doom field brought Harry to his senses. In that context "WRONG DON'T" appears to be Harry's awakened response to what he is doing. Nothing seems to imply that Harry's will is not his own. However, the sense of doom suggests a connection between Harry and Quirrell. Based on canon this suggests Q=V, but I suppose it might also suggest that Quirrell has been Voldemort. The connection with Harry could be residual. That special connection could be the source of "WRONG DON'T". It implies that Quirrell has a subtle route to Harry's mind that does not require the Imperius curse and that gets around Harry's Occlumency. In canon Harry could sense Voldemort's mood and occasionally see through his eyes. So perhaps Quirrell is reading Harry's mind and carefully manipulating him through the scar connection. This would help to explain Quirrell's ability to make deductions from insufficient evidence. Chapter 49, Prior Information:
2Danylo
You have to remember the fact that the Imperius curse can be resisted in canon. There's no reason for that to not apply here.
[-]ata130

I would like to take this opportunity to hail Discordia, and say that yes, in fact, I would like it very much if you started convincing people that I was some sort of shadowy conspiratorial figure. Honestly I'm disappointed that this hasn't happened already.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that I've long suspected you had Discordian sympathies (even before HJPEV started being really overt about it with Chaos Legion and such), and that I often already do portray you as a shadowy conspiratorial figure (and, occasionally, as a dark wizard) when I tell people about your work. Honestly, SIAI is the closest thing I know of to an actual honest-to-Gog real-life New World Order conspiracy, or at least the only one I know of whose master plan to utopia is both (1) plausible, and (2) not shockingly uncreative or unambitious or reactionary about what a better world could look like.

Some thoughts about Comed-Tea.

(I apologize in advance if these have already been discussed; there are a LOT of MoR comments and I haven't read all of them. If someone points me at the thread I'll slink off quietly and apologetically and read it.)

1) It seems there have to be two pieces to the behavioral control surrounding Comed-Tea (supposing Harry's basic theory is correct).

The first piece is, as Harry infers, inducing the drinking of Comed-Tea just before a surprising event is about to occur.

The second is suppressing the drinking of Comed-Tea otherwise. Were it not so, the "guarantee" wouldn't work... there would be no reliable expectation of something surprising happening when you drink it.

That second part needn't be magical, incidentally; there are many things that suppress people's desire to drink them via non-magical routes... castor oil is a canonical example. But if Comed-Tea had blatantly aversive properties Harry presumably would have noticed that. So whatever the aversive factor is, it's subtle (which still doesn't make it magical).

Actually, now that I think about it, the first piece of that is so unreliable (that is, most surprising events aren't preceded b... (read more)

6TheOtherDave
(slaps self on forehead) It just occurred to me that the precognition theory is experimentally distinguishable from the alter-reality theory for Comed-Tea. If Comed-Tea operates on precognition, then the frequency of potential spit-take inducing events (that is, events absurd enough to cause you to do a spit-take were you drinking something) should be the same for communities that have the stuff and communities that don't... the only difference should be that Comed-Tea containing communities drink the stuff just before they happen. OTOH if the frequencies aren't the same, then the precognition theory runs into trouble. In that case something does appear to be increasing the likelihood of absurd events. Of course, a third theory is that drinking Comed-Tea simply makes things seem more spit-take-worthy than they otherwise would be, thereby increasing the perceived frequency of such events... much like the frequency of giggle-inducing events increases after eating a hash brownie.
4NihilCredo
1) Agree 2) "Limited version of the Imperius Curse" looks like an exaggeration to me - it isn't just a matter of scope, the Comed-Tea impulse can be resisted with little effort. The level of its power of mental manipulation seems about on par with that of the bakery in the city I grew up in, which had set up shop in front of a particularly frequented bus stop and which would keep its doors half-open, even in winter, drowning the waiting (and often hungry) students and workers in the delicious smell of fresh bread and pastries. That is to say, it's conceivable that the Comed-Tea doesn't use "real" mind-altering magic at all, but simply broadcasts a signal which, to the brain, appears analogous to the gurgling of a fountain on a hot summer day. 3) Well, yes, if all magic relies on the AFoAM while spells and magical items are just triggers this has a lot of implications, but I don't see how this concerns the Comed-Tea more than any other thing.
0TheOtherDave
Re: Imperius -- Yeah, I'm admittedly exaggerating here, and agreed that for legal purposes the power level matters, or at least ought to. I stand corrected. Re: bakery -- The difference between behavioral manipulation via knowable mechanisms (e.g., bakery smells) and via unknown mechanisms (e.g., magic spells) seems important. It's way easier to overcome/compensate for a known bias than an unknown one of the same strength. Re: AFoAM -- yes, agreed. The AFoaM is pretty darn close to a Fully Generalized Explanation.
3TheOtherDave
Or, looking at it the other way... if it's plausible that Comed-Tea is capable of influencing Harry to drink it at the right moment (or, rather, just before the right moment), then I'm not sure why it isn't plausible that the phrase "Wingardium Levioso" is capable of influencing objects to levitate. Words don't normally have that ability, and I can't imagine how they could, but the same is true of soft drinks.

Quirrell is reading Hermione and Draco's minds, and the story he told Harry about how he learned that Harry was a parselmouth, in chapter 49, is partially fabricated. While that story does explain Quirrel knowing that Harry's a parselmouth, it doesn't explain why he chose to confirm that knowledge on his very next private meeting after Draco found out. Also, as Harry observed, Quirrell has at least one hidden source of information:

(EDIT: On rereading, Harry brought up parselmouth first, which explains the timing. But the remaining arguments for the conclusion that Quirrell is reading Hermione and Draco's minds still apply, and still seem sufficient.)

"There were times when Harry suspected that Professor Quirrell had way more background information than he was telling, his priors were simply too good."

And besides that, simply as a prior probability, Quirrell ought to be reading every mind he's confident he can get away with reading, and Hermione and Draco are very unlikely to notice . This also suggests that when Quirrell arranged for Harry to learn occlumancy, it was a bit of misdirection; he knew he'd be able to get the same information from Harry's friends, but that having suggested it would make Harry more inclined to trust him. Finally, this means that the secret of partial transfiguration is not safe, and if Quirrell is Voldemort then it does not satisfy the conditions of the prophecy.

6wedrifid
Harry's friends? Harry is a compulsive secret keeper! He will not even tell Hermione how to make patronuses and he keeps what he does with Malfoy and Hermione a hidden from each other (and incidentally manipulates them by keeping the key details of what he is trying to do to them to himself.)
2AdShea
Harry may be a compulsive secret keeper, but he also uses the scarlet letter technique a bit too often and Quirrel probably realizes that.

Edit: My inference that Quirrell is overwhelmingly vulnerable to Dementors seems to be incorrect, explanation here, although he is more vulnerable than usual. The importance of keeping Patronus 2.0 up derives from it being a blind spot for Dementors, allowing prisoners to escape. Enough time without Patronus 2.0 leads to impossibility of prison break.

Ch. 54. Since Quirrell was that unusually vulnerable to Dementors, he should've made the point of how important it is to keep the Patronus 2.0 up at all times and immediately restore it in case of failure, mak... (read more)

1thomblake
brilliant.

Re. the "sentient snakes": I had a similar reaction, "What, snakes in this world are intelligent, and that has no consequences?" But centering the reaction on moral issues... well, this is a gripe/rant/sore spot with me. Particularly when the word "sentient" is involved.

"Sentient" means the ability to feel. I don't know if snakes are sentient. But I absolutely guarantee you that cows and pigs are sentient.

In moral debates, the word "sentient" is one of a class of words I call "words that don't mea... (read more)

8TobyBartels
This is a problem throughout science fiction, of which EY (or MoR!Harry) is probably an innocent victim. I don't know how it started, although offhand I doubt that it began in an attempt (conscious or otherwise) to justify cruelty to non-human animals. It certainly can be confusing, however.
2CronoDAS
I think "Star Trek" may be responsible for this common word "misuse".
2TobyBartels
The article on Memory Alpha (which is written from the perspective that Star Trek is reality) suggests otherwise: it implies that ‘sentient’ was not used in this way in the original series, but we've seen examples already on this thread that predate The Next Generation. However, that article is still a good reference on the meanings that might be nice to point out to sci-fi fans.
4AdShea
I think you're looking for the difference between Sentient and Sapient. The problem is that they are often conflated to make an awful mess of things.
-5PhilGoetz

The way I understand it, MOR is meant to be an example of how a rational being might go about approaching a completely new and confusing set of observations, such as discovering that magic is real. However, I think harry has missed a lot of the low hanging fruit he could be researching. Although my suspension of disbelief shut down these thoughts pretty fast when I first started reading, I was always pretty curious about why magic was created in the first place, why only certain people could control it, and how exactly the energy needed for spells was obta... (read more)

The "low hanging fruit" which you argue Harry ought be researching... they seem to involve organ transplants and the manipulation of dead bodies with "electric transmitters in their mind which mimicked the signal sent when someone cast a test".

Are you serious? How the hell would a first-year student of Hogwarts perform these experiment? How can you call these "low hanging fruit"?

0rabidchicken
Low hanging meaning that the concept would be fairly easy to come up with, reveal a lot about how magic actually works, and it would be simple to implement. If you can convince a dying wizard who sympathizes with muggles to donate their body to science, the rest is easily within harries means. Also, harry could even test the idea on himself or draco first. If you set up a radio to mimic human brainwaves, tell the wizard to hold onto a wand without casting any spells, and mimic the signal from a wizard casting a spell, you would be able to at least confirm whether or not it is worth trying to get a unconscious / dead / completely artificial body. As for the organ transplant, that idea sucked which is why I should not write when I am tired, there are a lot more tests you should logically do first. I imagine that you could find a dying wizard who consented to the experiment and was willing to be an organ donor, a muggle who needed a new heart, and see what happens, but since there is no evidence that the DNA in your heart, mind, feet, etc is what is read, it would make more sense to wait until later. And finally, I resent the implication that his being a student makes a difference :p if their society makes it impossible him to do it, he has more than enough influence to get help from an adult.
0Desrtopa
How exactly do you propose that they set up a radio to mimic human brain waves? Not only would this be extremely technically complicated, almost certainly beyond Harry's resources or knowhow, even if the source of magic actually constantly reads wizards' brain waves, what reason do we have to suspect that it would not be able to distinguish neurological activity from a radio transmitter projecting the same patterns? It sounds like a huge amount of work for a test which stands a great chance of being completely useless given that Harry doesn't have anywhere near enough data to home in on this as a meaningful avenue for investigation.

But, If you could find the physical source of magic, you could reprogram it to do whatever you wanted, and could achieve world peace or destruction in one step.

I think that many people here would disagree with you about how easy FAI is.

0Vladimir_Nesov
Furthermore, we already have magic plenty, but not understanding of how to use it.
6Karl
A) is very hard to test given the restriction on using magic around muggles. As for B), powerful spells are mostly restricted by the edict of Merlin. C) is, as you pointed out, extremely difficult to research effectively. I'm more surprised that Harry never bothered to ask how new charms are discovered. After all, how are you supposed to figure out that you are supposed to say "Wingardium Leviosa" and then move your wand in a certain way? And he as been told that new charms were discovered every year, so we know it's possible.
5Document
IIRC, in canon they tend to talk about spells being "invented" rather than discovered. For a while I pictured advanced wizards somehow writing particular programs into the Source of Magic, which were then run by saying the spell name; or at least something like that.
4MartinB
Harry makes mistakes too. He once planned out a whole series of experiments only to have the first one turn out way different that expected. I hope there is a completely usefull justified explanation for magic, but even if not it was well worth reading. Hopefully it is not something like scrapped princess.
4Document
In chapter 30, Harry makes himself pass out by casting Luminos 12 times rapidly. That could be a foothold for investigating the effects of casting magic on the human body; he could see if he can replicate the result consistently, then try it with different spells or combinations of spells and different rates of casting, and possibly other varied conditions.
3Vaniver
This is why, in canon at least, they must be cast with hatred. That's a great safety valve for getting rid of accidental murders. (I also suspect you mean descendants, not ancestors.)
8wedrifid
I think I'd prefer the safety valve working the other way. "Let's limit it only to the people most likely to abuse it" sounds like a dubious tactic. Although come to think of it it is a rather good analogue to elements of standard morality (with respect to power and status).
1Vaniver
I agree that a safety valve that makes sure only Good Guys (who?) kill Bad Guys (who?) would be more morally valuable. But if you're doing that you might as well program moral laws into the universe itself, so it is impossible to lie, steal, or murder. This is a technically feasible (but this is magic we're talking about) hack which makes it more difficult to mistakenly murder or torture people with magic.

50.

Harry would be doing himself a favour to broaden his circle of friends. Hermione is an unreliable companion and even in the best of times it is terribly impractical to so limit your options. Even from a raw, practical, 'Slytherin' perspective why on earth would Harry be dreaming of claiming complete social dominance of the peer group when he hasn't even got a stable social network within it yet?

5NihilCredo
Had he approached Padma in a friendly manner, putting himself on equal footing (instead of trying to teach and impress!), and then told her pretty much the same things he ghost-whispered, it would still have likely redeemed her, except he also would have gained a precious friend and possibly ally (and Hermione's respect). Interestingly, he would also have been following both Quirrell and Flitwick's advice in doing so. But in any case: "Self-centredness", combined with its cousin Arrogance, is the main flaw that keeps Harry from being a Mary Sue, that keeps him making enough mistakes to allow the story to be unpredictable rather than Harry Steamrolls Everyone (steamroller stories are occasionally fun, but seldom for long). The time, if any, for him to solve that flaw should normally be the final part of the story arc.

FYI: Version 1 of Ch. 50 had Harry approaching Padma directly... and having to be considerably more threatening in order to have a smaller impact on her, which is what got him in trouble with Hermione in the original version.

Version 2 won out over Version 1 because it was weirder, and therefore more awesome; and also because it got him into less trouble with Hermione - I didn't like having her be quite so clearly in the right in Version 1, i.e., so right that even Harry would notice. It had to end on a note of ambiguity from Harry's perspective.

The thing a reader suggested that I'm embarrassed not to have thought of as an option was that Harry should have gotten a teacher Padma respected to do it. But then Harry would not have thought of this over an even longer time period than I didn't. And it probably still wouldn't have worked as well as the ghost, on a purely individual level for Padma, simply because Mysterious Visitations are supposed to be Life-Changing Events and having a teacher talk to you isn't.

[-]gwern100

Had he approached Padma in a friendly manner, putting himself on equal footing (instead of trying to teach and impress!), and then told her pretty much the same things he ghost-whispered, it would still have likely redeemed her,

Personally, I disagree. When I imagine Harry approaching Padma with such a strategy, I see Padma reacting to his attempt to understand her with revulsion and self-justifying lies to minimize cognitive dissonance, thereby pushing her even further from being able to admit to herself the truth of what he says.

The ghost gambit works because, like an anonymous comment, she can't employ a cached thought like 'everything Harry says is evil and intended to manipulate me and false' and reject it out of hand, and she is rendered weak and uncertain in a way independent of Harry. Nor can she overrule her cognitive dissonance by focusing anger on Harry for manipulating her - because she has very strong evidence that it isn't Harry manipulating her.*

But perhaps I am too cynical.

* Yes, we know that Harry did it and that he obviously did it because of his invisibility cloak. But she doesn't know about the cloak, and given the enormous unlikelihood of Harry having such a cloak and a Time-turner, I don't think she is wrong to conclude it wasn't Harry.

0wedrifid
Ahh, I hadn't read this when I replied to the message in my inbox. But I absolutely agree.
9wedrifid
The may be ok advice and perhaps worth a shot. It may even work - in a fantasy story. But real people tend to have better (or, rather, stronger) social and psychological boundaries - it is actually hard to exact fundamental personal change from people just by approaching them in a friendly manner. And giving unsolicited brutally personal advice to people actually isn't a reliable way to gain friends. Not Quirrel's. Not like that. Quirrel's advice pertained to an entirely different sort of influence than what you and Flitwick suggest. With Quirrel's Slytherin-typical strategy you influence by controlling the political, reputational payoffs. Direct heart-to-hearts are completely opposed to the spirit of it. I also suggest that "self-centredness" is not the relevant flaw of Harry's here. This is actually a situation where more self-centredness would have prevented the err (such as it was). Harry has blurry boundaries on just what he is optimising for. Is he optimising for his self, is he optimising for blades of sentient grass or is he optimising for what Hermione might call "her own business"? People don't tend to like it when you act to control things that they don't perceive to be 'yours' - even if, as in this case, it is a benefit to all concerned. A self-centred Harry would have made entirely different mistakes to boundariless-Harry.

And giving unsolicited brutally personal advice to people actually isn't a reliable way to gain friends.

It is also -- outside fiction -- not a reliable way to get people to follow that advice.

Neither is offering friendly advice. Or, for that matter, advice of any sort, however delivered.

Ch. 49. The throwaway reference to Tenorman Family Chili is awesome.

2Unnamed
Agreed, vg vf na ncg & njrfbzr pnaavonyvfz ersrerapr. Rot13'd for those who haven't seen the awesome South Park episode that it's referencing. The full episode is available to watch here if you'd like to make up for that deficiency.

chp 55

Cognitive therapy as a pre-Patronus intervention in early stage Dementation

Slight spoilers for those who haven't read chapter 55:

My god, Harry is infuriating. Why, after realizing that Quirrell might have set him up, after deciding to doubt everything Quirrell said about the plan (and needlessly dismissing his doubts), did he assume that there really is a magical psychologist to fix Mme.Black up?

Why, after deconstructing his predicament did he then fail to apply the same rationalism to its immediate effect? Ugh. If there's one scene that convinced me that he's under the Imperius curse, it's his thinking up ways of convincing the... (read more)

8NihilCredo
No, I personally find it a close second to the comedy of errors (which I just plain cannot watch or read, I instinctively curl up in a fetal position or storm out of the room upon exposure - being unjustly blamed is my biggest rage button by far).
0TobyBartels
The comedy of errors also makes me feel extremely uncomfortable, but I enjoy it anyway out of sheer masochism. It must be played for laughs, however.
0PeerInfinity
I have the same "problem". Though I could claim that it's a personality flaw in everyone else that allows them to enjoy watching the misfortune of others.

Ch. 54: If Harry and Quirrell discussed the possibility of an Auror seeing them, Harry should have told Quirrell that AK is out of the question- no sense in killing one innocent person in the course of saving one innocent person.

And it's a pretty big miscalculation of Quirrell not to anticipate Harry's intervention at the key moment. He really should have seen by now that Harry's light side is that strong.

Unless, of course, that was the real gambit somehow.

ETA: Loved the writing, though- I was on the edge of my seat.

3dclayh
I interpreted it that he was just too caught up in duelling-lust, and momentarily eriregrq gb uvf Qnex Ybeq crefban, forgetting how Harry would react. ETA: rot-13d some stuff which is apparently supposed to be secret again.
1wedrifid
Huh? Spoilers for HP and HP:MoR are fair game here!
0thomblake
Spoilers for HP:MoR that do not come from the text itself are not so much fair game.
0wedrifid
They are if they are derived independently from the text via discussion here or guesswork. ie. You can guess stuff. They aren't if, um, you raid Eliezer's dwellings and find yet to be published manuscripts, for example. Or torture Eliezer to find out his plans. Any source of knowledge that hasn't passed through the bottleneck of the text at some point. Dclayh didn't reveal anything remotely privileged. Or anything that hasn't been speculated on ad infinitum.
2thomblake
dclayh was complying with the spirit of this request from Eliezer:
3DanArmak
Harry didn't consciously intervene. His Patronus 2.0 sort of teleported to block Quirrel's spell. Quirrel (like Harry) may not have even been aware that could happen.
2Sniffnoy
It's also a pretty big miscalculation of Harry not to anticipate Quirrell using AK in such a case! But that makes sense, considering how Quirrell got him into this in the first place.

chp 51

Lesath Lestrange to Harry Potter in chp 27: "They say you can do anything, please, please my Lord, get my parents out of Azkaban, I'll be your loyal servant forever, my life will be yours and my death as well, only please -"

2gwern
So, you predict that Quirrel will also be trying to free Rodolphus (Bellatrix's husband), that is, Lesath's other parent? (Is Rodolphus even alive in MoR? There are now so many points of difference that I can't really track them any more. EDIT: well, he wasn't mentioned at all in the last few chapters, and Quirrel seems perfectly satisfied with escaping with just Bellatrix, so I guess Rodolphus is out of the picture.)
4Unnamed
No, but it suggests that Lesath might suspect Harry's involvement in the escape and have an interesting reaction. Neville and Snape were there to witness this pleading, and Harry's reaction, so they could also be suspicious. It's also possible, as others have been suggesting, that Lesath's father is not Rodolphus but Voldemort.
6pjeby
I'm a bit disappointed that Harry hasn't noticed this, nor thought to ask what will happen when somebody has escaped Azkaban after a mysterious Dementor disappearance at Hogwarts... nor considered that Dumbledore at least should immediately suspect Harry's involvement, especially if any Dementors at Azkaban turn up missing. What's more, if the Dementors are able to speak to the guards (as stated in ch. 51), then what exactly will happen when they report Harry's human-shaped Patronus? Not considering any of these things seems out of character for Harry, his dreams of heroism notwithstanding. It seems he is making a huge mistake here, and preparing for a big change in his fortunes. I'm beginning to wonder if Quirrelmort hasn't been planning all along to present Harry as "Voldemort returned", while he comes off looking like someone trying to protect magical Britain from this terrible scourge. He's spoken on the need for a Light Mark, and Harry publicly opposed it... which will look bad in retrospect. [Edit: I guess I should've waited for ch. 53. Never mind.]
1alethiophile
I'm uncertain of Quirrel's motivations here. It's possible that up-till-now has been Just According To Plan, and the plan is to blame Harry for attempting to break Bellatrix out of Azkaban, and hence utterly discredit him as a possible later rival. However, this seems a little much like a Xanatos Roulette; Quirrel could not necessarily have planned for the Auror he fought to be there and to react in the precise way he did, and he certainly could not have planned for Harry's Patronus v2.0 being able to block AK (and Harry wanting to do so), nor for Harry losing his Patronus afterward. Thus, it seems likely that either Quirrel was indeed planning to be caught, but in a less flamboyant way, or that he meant to carry off the breakout and was messed up himself by Harry's actions.
4gwern
That would be an interesting scene - 'you saved my mother; why didn't you save my father, Harry?!' Would Lesath feel bound to serve Harry just for Bellatrix's rescue? Maybe. IIRC, child psychologists find that kids bond with the mother more.
0jaimeastorga2000
If Harry ever has an extraordinary need to manipulate Lesath, he could play it off something like "You dare to complain to your Lord, after he saved one of your parents to show his generosity and mercy? When you hadn't yet done a thing for him? If you want your father's freedom, earn it! Serve me faithfully, and you shall be rewarded as you deserve."
0thomblake
I can't imagine he'd go that way - way too 'dark lord'. I could see him taking this opportunity to try to convert Lesath again though.
0gwern
Latest chapter (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/63/) seems to put the kibosh on that: Obviously makes no sense if 'Father' is Voldemort; Lesath could be mistaken or deceived, but of course that's a more specific scenario and so less likely.

It seems to be a plot hole in MoR (ETA: not in canon - so the zombiehood is important) that no-one who appears on screen seems to have known Quirrel before his appointment as teacher. In particular, no-one ever gets to ask, "why is Quirrel acting like a zombie, he didn't do that when I met him ten years ago". Neither does anyone say, "I know you've been wondering why Quirrel acts like a zombie; he's been like that ever since I met him ten years ago, and here's why."

No-one is holding the idiot ball. Therefore Dumbledore didn't take a com... (read more)

You can't cast that ward on Hogwarts, or a lot of students wouldn't be able to enter. Not to mention a few professors. Frankly, I don't understand how the Dursleys managed to enter their own home.

8CronoDAS
In canon, Quirrell had been a Hogwarts professor for several years before Harry enrolled, and other professors actually had noticed that he hadn't been himself ever since he came back from a trip. Specifically, he had suddenly become unusually meek and afraid of everything. They attributed it to something like post-traumatic stress syndrome; I don't remember the details, but they seemed to believe that he had encountered some kind of danger and had barely escaped with his life. (In Book 7, it's mentioned that Dumbledore had indeed been suspicious of Quirrell and had given Snape the task of watching him.)
5blogospheroid
Was he a professor of something other thanDADA? Cos' I think in Canon, Dumbledore had mentioned that they never managed to have a defence professor for more than a year after Voldy's curse. I wonder what all tests must they have done on that curse. Did they try to alternate professors between two subjects? Did they try semester assignment? After all it has been atleast 12 years or so for that curse, right? Even in MOR, a string of bad events or bad professors has happened, so I assume not much has changed there.
3CronoDAS
Yes. Rowling said in an interview that he taught Muggle Studies.
1fibby
I wonder why they haven't simply renamed the course. If it was called "Battle Magic", would V's curse still apply? What if it was something completely new, like "Sunshine Course"? What if the name was changed to, say, "Transfiguration"? Let the students have McGonagall's Transfiguration and Quirell's "Transfiguration". Students might get a little confused on their first week, but the benefit of having the actual education outweighs the cost... (and btw it's legal to have 2 professors of the same subject -- in canon HP they had Trelawny and Firenze both teaching Divination; not to mention that the headmaster is free to create new positions, like he did with The Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts).
1DanArmak
You're right! Fixed.
4arundelo
I'm pretty sure Quirrell is not a zombie in canon.
2jsalvatier
It may be more challenging to write a ward that covers many people rather than a single person or small number of people.
1alethiophile
I'm pretty sure the ward on the Dursleys' house was a.) specifically targeted for Harry and b.) specific to Voldemort or those influenced by him, due to c.) it drawing on the lingering force of Harry's mother's sacrifice of her life. A similar ward on Hogwarts in general would probably be impractical. (In canon, Harry dies (or intends to die, anyway) in order to protect the greater body of Hogwarts students, and the protection of that magic extends to them, but not as strongly (Voldemort's magic, instead of just bouncing off, does not bind them fully and wears off after a short period of time, viz. Neville and the Body-Bind curse). It might have been possible to make a ward out of this, but it probably wouldn't have been as strong as the already-existing wards, due to that limitation.)

It occurred to me that Harry is confused with Hermione's reactions (possibly Dumbledore's) not because he is a consequentialist and she is a deontologist, but rather because he hasn't yet realised that offending her is a consequence of being a consequentialist, and so he should include "deviates from deontological ethics; may offend friends and society" as one of the negative consequences for actions that otherwise seem right by consequentialism.

I've figured out what Harry's "sense of doom" reminds me of. The old action movie Timecop with Van Damme. The antagonist there used a clever plot to help a younger version of himself succeed in the past, but they had to avoid touching because "the same matter cannot occupy the same space". In the end the protagonist forces them to touch, whereupon they both die in freaky fashion and disappear from the timeline. But it's probably just another of Eliezer's clever shout-outs, not an actual clue.

So, what's the importance of Roger Bacon's diary? Canon & conservation of detail both suggest it's something, possibly a horcrux or possibly some other tool of Quirrelmort. This Voldemort is too smart to horcrux his own diary, but this diary would be an awfully convenient trojan horse for him to have (extremely durable, treasured by Harry).

It doesn't seem to produce any sense of Doom, though, which seems to count against the horcrux hypothesis.

Could Quirrell be using it to spy on Harry, to get his curiously accurate priors? Does Harry keep the diary... (read more)

6JoshuaZ
In canon Harry's sense of pain when encountering Voldemort doesn't occur when encountering horcruxes. Moreover, it turns out that Harry is an accidental horcrux and he doesn't have any similar reaction to himself, or even to a time traveled version of himself that he sees. So by analogy a horcrux here may not be enough to trigger the sense of doom.
6NancyLebovitz
Could Roger Bacon's diary have important information in it? I would be pleased if Quirrel was using the diary to affect Harry (whether by getting Harry to accept a gift or by some magic-related method), but Harry read it with more knowledge and/or attention and/or willingness to make deductions, and got some crucial addition to his abilities thereby.
0DaveX
If it is a "very recently" created horcrux, one thing it means is that the maker is healthy enough to make horcruxes. Taken with Ch54, killing-curse ricochets might not be as damaging as one expects.
1wedrifid
Perhaps for similar reasons that death by basilisk glare isn't all that that damaging when reflected.

Consider how, in 51-54, Harry decides to trust Quirrell. No one ought to trust Quirrell, at all. He has some agenda, which he does not let on to. Even if he did describe his complete agenda, you'd never be able to trust that he was telling the truth, because he's so rational and self-controlled that he would be equally able to tell you something almost the truth, except for certain modifications made to make your cooperation more likely.

And few people trust Harry; and with good reason.

The more rational someone is, the less you can trust them. The less ... (read more)

The more rational someone is, the less you can trust them. The less rational someone is, the more you can trust them.

I think in this post when you say 'trust' you really mean 'predict'. A trivial counterexample: the more rational someone is, the more I can trust them to be free of errors in their reasoning. And it IS easier to predict a religious zealot staying religious, or predict that a bigot will remain bigoted, than it is to predict a rational agent attempting to maximize their utility (especially if you're an obstacle to their utility).

Is it reasonable to think that people have evolved to be less-than-optimally rational?

Well, yes, if there was some shortcut that gave the mostly-optimal answer, or gave the optimal answer most of the time, and gave it in a significantly faster time than optimal rationality. The common example is, I think, reacting to the presence of a lion. Abject, heart-pounding, run-for-your-life terror is not optimally rational (it generally precludes climbing a tree) but it gives a mostly-optimal answer in a much shorter time than attempting to reason out the optimal course of action.

5NancyLebovitz
This gets to one of the Hard Problems, both for FAI and a great deal of life. How can you tell who can be trusted to do a good job of taking your interests into account?
3PhilGoetz
But what if our irrationalities aren't quick-and-dirty heuristics optimized for speed? What known cognitive biases are even applicable to running away from a lion? What if some of our cognitive biases are evolved adaptations that make human society work better? It would be pretty surprising to me if this weren't the case!
5TheOtherDave
Just because they are evolved, doesn't mean they are optimal. An evolved adaptation can be just as "dirty" as a fast cognitive heuristic; the architectural constraints of learning through genes can be just as constraining as those of coming up with something to do fast.
5JoshuaZ
Yes, and let me add to that, just because something was adaptive when humans evolved doesn't mean it is at all adaptive now. To use a concrete example, the weight humans put on anecdotes is likely connected to the fact that in our ancestral environment, that was the primary source of data about what the risks around us were. However, now this leads to silly things like people being terribly scared of shark attacks precisely due to the rarity of such attacks making them get a lot of news coverage.
1PhilGoetz
I've put forward a hypothetical, not claimed a proof. What's the point of responding, "But that isn't necessarily the case"?
2TheOtherDave
You know, you're right. I was responding to peripheral aspects of your proposal rather than central ones, which is a waste of everyone's time. My apologies. So, OK... rolling back: if I'm understanding you, you're hypothesizing that our biases are not design flaws, but rather adaptations to obtain the group-level benefit of having individuals be more irrational and therefore predictable. (Is that right? I'm trying to infer a positive claim out of a series of questions, which is always tricky; if I've misunderstood your hypothetical it might be helpful to restate it more explicitly.) Perhaps irrationality does provide a group-level benefit, as you suggest. For example, maybe it's easier to get valuable group behaviors by manipulating irrational people than by cooperating with rational ones. That doesn't strike me as too plausible, but it's possible. Even granting that, though, I have trouble with the idea that the benefit to individual breeders exceeds the costs to the individual of being more easily manipulated by others.
2shokwave
Okay, not evolved adaptations, but how about culturally/socially imprinted cognitive biases? Something about clicks with Nancy's comment here. The more I thought about it ... it seemed like rational agents couldn't trust anyone (the best course is to convince them to trust you and then betray them while never trusting anyone yourself) except in the early and middle stages of iterated games. But a society where everyone irrationally trusted everyone else, and irrationally nobody betrayed anyone else, would be more successful than the 'rational agent' community. (all things being equal; if their irrational trust also caused them to irrationally trust lions...) It might stretch the word evolution too much, but I think the term "competitive selection" applies to this process of societies competing with each other for growth and the most effective societies wiping out the less effective societies (wiping out or completely integrating, as the lesser society's land and resources would already be purposed towards supporting a society, and therefore more desirable than land requiring work). Basically, what if 'trust' is because a society where everyone trusts the other guy to cooperate in a PD was successful enough to dominate the landscape? NB: Originally I had thought of trust as a sort of greenbearding. Is there an analogous concept in sociocultural evolution?
3Perplexed
A population or society in which everyone trusts completely is not an ESS. A population or society in which everyone adopts the slogan "trust, but verify" and cooperates in the punishment of defectors and non-punishing freeriders probably is an ESS, assuming the cost of verification and punishment are low and verification is reasonably effective.
2NancyLebovitz
In the real world, the iteration never completely ends.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky
ERROR: POSTULATION OF GROUP SELECTION IN MAMMALS DETECTED
6timtyler
Speech seems like an evolved adaptation that makes human society work better.
-3PhilGoetz
Why are people voting Tim's comment down so hard? Are there actually three people out there, let alone a majority of LWers, who do not believe it is correct?
2Perplexed
Speech, sexual selection rituals, sex itself, cooperation in the social insects ... There are many things which seem to require a more complex and subtle narrative for their explanation than the usual simple Darwinian story of a mutant individual doing better than his conspecific competitors and then passing on his genes. But that doesn't mean that a died-in-the-wool neo-Darwinian needs to accept the group-selection explanation any more than an Ayn Rand fan confronted with a skyscraper has to admit that Kropotkin was right after all. However, I am taking your implicit advise and dutifully upvoting Tim's comment.
1timtyler
I wasn't suggesting that speech evolved via group selection - just that it evidently did evolve - and so proposing the existence of "evolved adaptations that make human society work better" is not an error.
-1PhilGoetz
Tim's comment doesn't say that speech evolved via group selection. It could be that it did not; in that case, Tim's comment would be pointing out that Eliezer was unjustified in calling out a belief in "evolved adaptations that make human society work better" as an error.
2Risto_Saarelma
I was just thinking how there's a weird hivemind thing going on with the downvotes. Well-written and cordial posts arguing against the site's preferred positions are being summarily downvoted to invisibility. This doesn't look like a very healthy discussion dynamic.
8shokwave
I have been using the Kibitzer since I started posting, and my handle on this matter is that well-written, cordial posts that don't use LW techniques are downvoted. That is, they argue against the preferred position, and they are downvoted because they argue badly. Small corroborations: the posts that get summarily upvoted are ones that point out lack-of-rationality in the arguments, upvotes on topics when they aren't flawed. If that seems like an unhealthy discussion dynamic then you should review the LW techniques for rationality and make a top level post explaining how using these techniques, or how requiring everyone to use these techniques, could result in unhealthy discussions. Possibility: Well-written, cordial posts are your criteria for upvotes because cordiality and well-writtenness usually correlate with clear thinking and good reasoning. This is true over most of the blog, except for the edge cases. These cases have their roots in subtle cognitive biases, not gross emotional biases, and it's possible that lack of writing skill and cordiality points out gross emotional biases but not subtler ones.
-1PhilGoetz
The kibitzer does nothing to protect people from groupthink.
0shokwave
What exactly do you mean by groupthink? Let's taboo the word a bit: * All members of group agree (same answer) * All members of group have same/similar thought process (same process to answer) * Answers or processes are flawed (this could just be a common mistake) * Flaws are not corrected because group consensus is more important (this is the bit that distinguishes groupthink from a common mistake, it perpetuates) Those last two are important parts of groupthink. Without that last one, mathematicians are guilty of groupthink, because they all apply the same (somtimes flawed) processes and get the same answers. Maths isn't groupthink because attempts are made to discover and fix flaws, and these attempts aren't ignored out of hand. The kibitzer blocks out names and karma scores; so you can't tell what the group consensus is (either by the person's name; "the community thinks this guy is a troll" or by vote; "-5? this post must be bad"). I follow the same process as everyone else in evaluating a comment, but I don't know if I've gotten the same answer as them. In practice, when I've checked, I do get the same answer, so it satisfies the first two conditions. But is the process flawed? And is meeting the group's consensus more important than fixing these flaws?
-1Risto_Saarelma
I think I feel the problem is more a mismatch between the subtlety of the problem and the bluntness of the tool. Downvotes are a harsh and low-signal way of pointing problems in arguments, and seem more suited to punishing comments which can be identified as crap at a glance. Since this site isn't doing the free-for-all comedy club thing Slashdot and Reddit have going, I'm not sure that the downvote mechanic quite belongs here to begin with. Users posting downright nonsense and noise don't even belong on the site, and bad arguments can be ignored or addressed instead of just anonymously downvoting them. And yes, this probably should go to a toplevel post, but I don't have the energy for that scale of meta-discussion right now.

Users posting downright nonsense and noise don't even belong on the site, and bad arguments can be ignored or addressed instead of just anonymously downvoting them.

Downvoting mechanism is one way of making sure that obvious nonsense-posting gets visibly and quickly discouraged. Without it, there would be more nonsense.

0PhilGoetz
I don't think that's actually true. There are very few nonsense posts (or at least, very few that get voted down); and when there are, downvoting doesn't always discourage the poster. When I see a post with a negative score, it's more often one that is controversial, or that disagrees with LessWrong dogma, or that was made by someone unpopular here, or that is in the middle of a flamewar between two users, or that is part of a longer conversation where one poster has triggered an "omega wolf" reaction from the rest of the pack by acting conciliatory.
8Emile
Downvoting wrong comments may be harsh for the person being downvoted, but hopefully in the long run it can encourage better comments, or at least make it easier to find good comments. There may be some flaws in the karma system or the way it's used by the community, but I don't see any obvious improvements, or any other systems that would obviously work better. Look at mwaser: he complains a lot about being downvoted, but he also got a lot of feedback for what people found lacking in his post. Yes, a portion of the downvotes he gets may be due to factors unrelated to the quality of his arguments (he repeatedly promotes his own blog, and complains about the downvotes being a proof of community irrationality - both can get under people's skin), which is a bit unfortunate, but not a fatal flaw of the karma system.
0Risto_Saarelma
I did. The feedback that actually told him something came as replies. I'm not seeing how the use of downvotes actually helped there, and it did seem to add unnecessary nastiness to the exchange.
4Emile
I agree it's a bit harsh, and not always useful. It's a bit of a pity that the karma system doesn't allow to make a difference between "5 people found this post not-that-great" and "5 people found this post absolutely terrible". Maybe it would be nice to have a system that would allow for more nuance, but it would also have to be easy enough to understand and use, and not be easy to game. Also, I would say that the downvotes did have some utility, by expressing "you should pay more attention to criticism, most people here disagree with you".
2wedrifid
For example, make 'terrible' votes cost karma.
5XiXiDu
What about the ability to mark a comment as obsolete if you changed your mind? It will then be under the fold but people won't be able to downvote it anymore. Or should people who changed their mind be punished infinitely? I noticed that I often delete comments that get downvoted if I changed my mind, e.g. understood where I was wrong, because they keep getting downvoted long after the discussion ended. By deleting it I destroy the context and consistency of the discussion. But I also do not want to be downvoted anymore for something I don't believe and I want to signal that I changed my mind.
4Richard_Kennaway
If you change your mind, just edit the comment to say so.
3Vladimir_Nesov
Preferably by adding that statement, without changing the original comment, so that existing discussion doesn't break.
1wedrifid
People here tend to reward humility vigorously. (Humility including the strong non-submissive kind that doesn't base the ego on attachment to being right, not just signals of lower status.) As Richard suggests editing your comment, leaving the original while adding a retraction is a good idea (and somewhat of a convention). You can make it bold by using two asterices on both sides. It is also worth adding a reply later on in the discussion explaining your new position and why you changed it. Unless I confuse you with someone else (quite possible) I think I recall you once before changing your mind and acknowleding it publicly. By reading that I gained a lot of respect for your judgement (or that of whoever else it was if I mistake your identity).
3Emile
Not a bad idea; having all votes public may also be an improvement. Still, I suspect that whatever the system, there would be someone to argue that it sucks, which isnt't an excuse to not improve it, but a reason to be cautious.
9Vladimir_Nesov
The purpose of implementing voting, as opposed to (for example) soliciting critical/praising comments, is to get more information about people's attitude towards individual comments, by lifting reasons not to signal (and thus lock the community focus better, protecting it from watering down). Commenting would be less frequent because (1) it's more difficult to comment; (2) if you have little to say, or what you'd say has already been said, you don't want to create more noise. Requiring that votes are made public will discourage some of the voters from signaling their attitude, or otherwise distort the signal for image purposes. I'm not even sure whether voluntary public voting is a good idea, because of the image-driven distortion effect, but since it's presumably no worse than with commenting, it might not be that bad.
5wedrifid
I will oppose that option for as long as I have breath. If it is implemented then I recommend to all participants that they find a way to game that system so as to minimize the damage. (I'll not repeat the reasons here but I have mentioned them previously.)
0Risto_Saarelma
Metafilter has a pretty simple system. Users can favorite posts and comments. The favorite count and the names of the favoriters are public. There are no corresponding unfavorites. Instead, the users may silently flag the post, indicating that it seems to be bad enough that a moderator should probably take a look. The moderators clean up crap comments manually, guided by the flags.
2XiXiDu
I haven't read the above thread. But here's an idea I had about the Karma system: If you want to downvote someone you're asked to provide a reply explaining why you downvoted the comment. If you downvote 5 times without explaining yourself you'll lose 1 Karma point. It always really bothers me if I get downvoted without getting feedback because without feedback I'm unable to improve, refine my writing skills or rationality. What's the point then? Merely losing Karma score will led people to conclude (unjustified) that they are downvoted for various reasons but not that they may be wrong or that their comment simply does not add anything valuable to the debate. Negative Karma without feedback causes resentment in all people except those who already acquired enough rationality skills and realization to infer that there might be something wrong with their comment and not with the person downvoting it. The Karma system as it is will therefore discourage newcomers and make them conclude that LW is merely an echo-chamber and does not tolerate their precious critique.

It always really bothers me if I get downvoted without getting feedback. ... The Karma system as it is will therefore discourage newcomers and make them conclude that LW is merely an echo-chamber and does not tolerate their precious critique.

I felt the same way when I first started posting here. Particularly when I was challenging the local conventional wisdom. But now I realize that anonymous unexplained downvotes are a form of feedback, and a particularly valuable form of feedback to someone prepared to take advantage of it.

Because feedback in the form of comments simply provokes an automatic verbal response from you. You learn nothing from the experience. You just get some practice at constructing rationalizations. But feedback in the form of anonymous downvotes forces you to stop and reflect: Just what does this mean? What do I need to change so as to prevent this? What experiments should I undertake?"

ETA:

Negative Karma without feedback causes resentment in all people except those who already acquired enough rationality skills and realization to infer that there might be something wrong with their comment and not with the person downvoting it. The Karma system as it is will therefore discourage newcomers ...

A good point. So for LW regulars, it may be worth remembering that it is more informative to upvote explicit criticism of newbie mistakes than to downvote the mistakes themselves.

4wedrifid
A good suggestion. I expect whether I follow it or not will depend on how arrogant the newbie is. Unless, of course the explicit criticism is 'you are being arrogant and annoying. We are more fussy about that sort of thing here than in many other places on the internet'. Then I suppose the same principle would apply. :)
0XiXiDu
But if you were posting a comment about cooking wouldn't you weigh the Karma of a chef differently than that of someone who has merely joint your culinary community to read up on some recipe? I don't expect most of all people to conclude this naturally. I believe there is some evidence for this, as for example this Wiki entry states: And that is actually from a 'Rationality Wiki', so what might John Doe conclude?