All of anotherblackhat's Comments + Replies

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 118

Seems to me the force needed to penetrate tracks the diameter, but the strength tracks the area of the cross-section.
That is, decrease the thickness by N and it decreases the force needed by N but the strength by N squared.
Below a critical thickness, the wire would just break.
Spiderwebs don't slice you up if you run into them.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 116

I think it's pretty obvious.
Voldemort has always been attracted to power, and it's well known that Hermione is the most powerful witch of her generation.
He made several overtures to her, but was unable to turn her from her path, and so he killed her.
Upon her death he felt great remorse (such was his passion) and decided to bring her back from the dead (such was his power).
Dumbledore tried to stop him, and so was eliminated.
In fact, Voldemort was so enamored of Hermione, that after she was brought back, he use dark magics to give her even greater power.
Quir... (read more)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 27, chapter 98

I notice you are confused. I think you've made two questionable assumptions;

Assumption 1. Wizard Children are not generally treated as competent at age 11.

Assumption 2. The children making the announcement at Hogwarts are responsible for brokering the deal. I.e. they aren't just mouthpieces for their respective families.

Assumption 2b. The Hogwarts staff is aware of 2.

Assumption 1 might be true - but I note that the age of majority has been increasing over time, and wizarding society is in many ways old timey. It seems reasonable to me that allowing a chil... (read more)

6MarkusRamikin8y^ Don't do that. No, I'm not assuming that children brokered the deal, but I can see that it may have looked that way, especially if you miss the context (that I was responding to the specific things EternalStargazer said). To some extent, yeah, wizard children are, and are treated as being, more competent than muggle children. But there's still a very real difference between an adult and a child. For example, Harry Potter still needs a legal guardian. And I assume that McGonaggal's "She is a twelve-year-old girl, Albus!" isn't strongly atypical. Anyway, no matter how mature they are (read the various dorm and SPHEW scenes for some sanity checks on that idea), they still don't have any authority; there are people whose responsibility is to make announcements such as these, and to have the kids do all this posing instead makes it a bit farcical to me. I think if they really wanted to, the parties involved could make this happen, but why would they want to? I don't expect the world to be scandalized, I just expect some eye-rolling and mild incredulity. Not something you want if you're making a political move and want to be taken seriously. But hey, I'm one of the probably small minority of readers who've never quite accepted things like, say, how easily Harry Potter gets away with being rude to Dumbledore.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96

True Patronus couldn't look like a snake.

I see no justification for that statement. Perhaps True Patronuses can't take the form of an animal, but that says nothing about what they can look like.

Would a sentient snake wizard say a True Patronus can't look like an ape?

3smk8yBeing a transhumanist, and being good at the kind of mental gymnastics that allowed him to do partial transfiguration, Harry might be able to change his Patronus into any form he likes if he tries hard enough. We know mental stuff can change Patronuses in canon: Tonks' Patronus changed due to her feelings for Lupin, though she didn't do it on purpose.
-1BT_Uytya9y1) Research wandless magic 2) Become a cat Animagus 3) Cast a True Patronus Charm while in a cat form 4) Awesome, now you can impersonate Patronus of McGonnagal and no members of Order of Phoenix can trust each other anymore! 5) Ask an Auror friend to destroy your Animagus form. 6) Become a spider Animagus 7) ??? 8) Terrify people!
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 24, chapter 95

Well, it's probably supposed to be spelled "Momroe" as in "David Troll Momroe". :)

It's spelled "Monroe" in Chapter 86, and there's a "Most Ancient House of Monroe". Personally, I never get these names right either, but I keep a text file handy with all the names, and hard to spell spells like Legilimency Occlumency Occlumens, and Legilimens. Then it's just a simple matter of cut and paste.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 23, chapter 94

Quirrell's dash to the scene ... indicate that they are afraid of what this experience will do to Harry.

It seems more likely to me that Quirrell's dash was primarily for the purpose of burning holes in Hogwarts. Despite leaving before Harry, and Harry stopping to pick up the twins and stopping at the library, and supposedly making a more direct route, Quirrell still failed to arrive before Harry, or for that matter, at all.

I'm not saying Quirrell is unafraid of what this experience will do to Harry, just that I don't believe Quirrell's dash is evidence of that.

4gjm9yI think that's wrong. Here's chapter 89: In chapter 90 Quirrell claims to have left as soon as he discovered "that Miss Granger was on the verge of death", whatever that means, but it seems clear he's lying.
Open Thread, July 1-15, 2013

There's a scam I've heard of;

Mallet, a notorious swindler, picks 10 stocks and generates all 1024 permutations of "stock will go up" vs. "stock will go down" predictions. He then gives his predictions to 1024 different investors. One of the investors receive a perfect, 10 out 10 prediction sheet and is (Mallet hopes) convinced Mallet is a stock picking genius.

Since it's related to the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, I'm tempted to call this the Texas stock-picking scam, but I was wondering if anyone knew a "proper" name for it, and/or any analysis of the scam.

3Qiaochu_Yuan9yDerren Brown demonstrated this scam on TV and called it The System [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Derren_Brown#Derren_Brown:_The_System_.282008.29] . That might help you track down a name.
Why one-box?

There is a contradiction here between "lucky" and "coin flip". Why does he get lucky on Earth?

I don't see the contradiction. C-Omega tries the same con on billions and billions of planets, and it happens that out of those billions of trials, on Earth his predictions all came true.

Asking why Earth is rather like asking why Regina Jackson won the lottery - it was bound to happen somewhere, where ever that was you could ask the same question.

In the original problem Omega runs a simulation of you, which is equivalent to T-Omega.

I co... (read more)

Why one-box?

Consider the following two mechanisms for a Newcomb-like problem.

A. T-Omega offers you the one or two box choice. You know that T-Omega used a time machine to see if you picked one or two boxes, and used that information to place/not place the million dollars.

B. C-Omega offers you the one or two box choice. You know that C-Omega is con man, that pretends great predictive powers on each planet he visits. Usually he fails, but on Earth he gets lucky. C-Omega uses a coin flip to place/not place the million dollars.

I claim the correct choice is to one box T... (read more)

0shminux9yThere is a contradiction here between "lucky" and "coin flip". Why does he get lucky on Earth? In the original problem Omega runs a simulation of you, which is equivalent to T-Omega.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

on 3; From chapter 6

As his hand touched the back door's handle, he heard a last whisper from behind him.

"Hermione Granger."

"What?" Harry said, his hand still on the door.

"Look for a first-year girl named Hermione Granger on the train to Hogwarts."

"Who is she?"

There was no answer, and when Harry turned around, Professor McGonagall was gone.

Seems clear to me that the whisper came from McGonagall - Harry was talking to her, Harry turned his back and heard a whisper from "her" that sounded like her. Harry ... (read more)

[SEQ RERUN] Nonperson Predicates

Doesn't follow. Consider;

I claim a rock is a non-person.
I expect you accept that statement, I expect that you therefore have a non-person predicate function, yet I also expect you haven't found the answer.

I accept that in order to classify something, we need to be able to classify it.

I'm suggesting there might be a function that classifies some things incorrectly, and is still useful.

[SEQ RERUN] Nonperson Predicates

Yes, that was sort of the point - you can't make a function for "is a Turing machine" that works in all cases, and you can't make a "is a non-person" function that works in all case either. Further, the set of things you can rule out with 100% certainty is to small to be useful.

Don't see how that relates to my suggestion of a probabilistic answer though. Has anyone proven that you can't make a statistically valid statement about the "Is a Turing machine" question?

[SEQ RERUN] Nonperson Predicates

Consider the intuitively simpler problem of "is something a universal turing machine?" Consider further this list of things that are capable of being a universal turing machine;

  • Computers.
  • Conway's game of life.
  • Elementary cellular automata.
  • Lots of Nand gates.

Even a sufficiently complex shopping list might qualify. And it's even worse, because knowing that A doesn't have personhood, and that B doesn't have personhood doesn't let us conclude that A+B doesn't have personhood. A single Transistor isn't a computer, but 3510 transistors might be a... (read more)

0Eugine_Nier9yDepending on what you mean by "capable", I'd add "a bunch of silicon and germanium atoms" to the list.
4Qiaochu_Yuan9yNitpick: strictly speaking, a computer is not a universal Turing machine because it has a finite amount of memory and is therefore a finite state machine (and in particular can therefore only run finitely many programs). When we say that computers are universal Turing machines we are talking about an idealized version of a computer that acquires more memory as necessary. Regarding the problem of determining whether a Turing machine is universal, this is undecidable by Rice's theorem [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice%27s_theorem] , which asserts more generally that any nontrivial property (in the sense that at least one Turing machine has it and at least one Turing machine doesn't have it) of Turing machines is undecidable. The best you can do is an algorithm which returns "is a UTM" on some Turing machines, returns "is not a UTM" on others, or doesn't halt (or outputs "unknown"). For example, it might search through proofs that a given Turing machine is or is not universal (possibly up to some upper bound).
1DanielLC9yThe problem with training isn't purposely creating things that pass. It's purposely creating things that don't. In order to figure out what doesn't pass, we need a predicate function. Once we've figured out how to find things that won't pass, we've already found the answer.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

Cannon!Snape has loved Lily since the two of them were children - considerably longer than 11 years. I don't think it's unrealistic at all. While I wouldn't call such a love typical human behavior, it's also not particularly rare. There are thousands of people who still profess love for Princess Di for example.

I doubt that it was telling Snape what an idiot he is that angered him, but rather saying Lily was shallow and unworthy.

I agree that it's weird that someone who could carry a torch for that long would stop just because an 11 year old boy gave t... (read more)

2Desrtopa9yI don't think it's particularly unrealistic coming from some unspecified hypothetical character who's just heard the love they've been harboring for more than half their life insulted, but I would find it pretty weird if Snape said that to Harry in that situation, and he wasn't exaggerating. Anyone who'd commit murder in that situation would either have to be profoundly lacking in restraint, or possessed by a really maniacal level of infatuation. I suspect Snape was engaging in hyperbole, because if he wasn't my judgment of his character is completely out of whack.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

The P.S. doesn't grant unlimited wealth, it grants unlimited gold and/or silver. A large part of the value of Gold is related to it's scarcity, so teaching others how to make stones would affect Flamel's personal wealth - oh, and probably destroy society too. And making everyone immortal includes the Voldemorts, the Grinwalds, and Baba Yagas of the world. and it's not like he personally is killing those people...

See how easy it is to rationalize letting everyone die? And I came up with those in just a few minutes - imagine having six centuries to make excuses.

5DanArmak9yPeople already have well-known, cached thoughts excusing why rich people who don't share their wealth are not evil, and why death is really good and shouldn't be avoided. One doesn't need to think about it for centuries, just ask Dumbledore.
The Useful Idea of Truth

The "All possible worlds" picture doesn't include the case of a marble in both the basket and the box.

I think there was only one marble in the universe.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

They weren't planning on it, but the information was sent nonetheless. P(Someone is going to go back and stop them from going back|They came back) < P(Someone is going to go back and stop them from going back|They did not came back)

That presupposes that P(Bob came back) is not affected by your decision to send the information further on. I'm postulating that IF you would have sent the information further back, THEN P(Bob came back) = 0. Of course, it might not actually work that way, but if my supposition is correct, then Bob not coming back tells you nothing. The event only carries information if you aren't going to make use of that information.

0DanielLC9yNo. I gave an example in which it was not decided to send information back. It's simply impossible to go back in time without proving that you weren't killed by a time-travelling assassin.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

Perhaps the reason he didn't is because you would have sent that information back in time, and so he couldn't.

But every time someone uses a time turner, they send that information into the past. If it didn't block them then, why would it block them now?

Because you would have sent that information back in time. It didn't block them "then" because they weren't going to send the information further back. The effect could be more subtle - instead of preventing you from succeeding, it could prevent you from trying (don't mess with time) or ... (read more)

0DanielLC9yThey weren't planning on it, but the information was sent nonetheless. P(Someone is going to go back and stop them from going back|They came back) < P(Someone is going to go back and stop them from going back|They did not came back) Not really. The amount of time you can send back increases exponentially with the number of people sent back. If you only get it right a third of the time, sending one guy back only works a third of the time, but sending a hundred people back, you'd get about 67 +- 5 people sending the right bit, and you'd get it right about 99.98% of the time. If you have two hundred people, you'd get it right about 0.9999997% of the time.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

You don't actually know that Bob didn't see the enemy at the pass, you only know that for some reason, Bob didn't come back and tell you. Perhaps the reason he didn't is because you would have sent that information back in time, and so he couldn't.

Another possibility is that information loses "coherence" the further back it travels. (or forward, depending on which side your standing on) Think of it as a signal to noise problem - six hours isn't the limit, it's the limit of what we can correct for with the magic of the time turners. Prophecy s... (read more)

0DanielLC9yBut every time someone uses a time turner, they send that information into the past. If it didn't block them then, why would it block them now? There are ways of fixing that. For example, you could send people back in groups of three. Then you have them go back unless they're stopped by at least two people. That's possible. The longer the time stream, the more likely that the closed time loop you end up with involves a hurricane or worse. I believe there was a book where the world ended because someone didn't think about that. You could prevent it by allowing a "maybe", so long as you make it likely enough that something you didn't think of doesn't become more likely.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

If Harry's theory is right, squibs can't be normal genetic descendants (mutation not withstanding) of wizards, but adultery is a very real, very common thing. Cannon does not rule out the possibility, though given that the books were meant to be accessible to children it's not surprising that Rowling doesn't go into detail on the matter.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

So after thinking about it some more, I came up with a possible rationale/rationalization why a wizard's death might be needed.

Assume the "script kiddy magic" theory is right - A powerful wizard can be bind complex magic into a simple to execute script, with a key phrase (and/or emotion or gesture). Thus it wasn't some perverse law of the universe that decided "Wingardium Leviosa" is how levitation is activated, but some perverse ancient wizard.

A Horcrux stores an image of you, and the activation sequence is bound to the death of a wiza... (read more)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

It certainly looks like Harry is a horcrux in this universe, and Harry already thought of that possibility in different terms, yet the Sorting Hat says with 100% confidence that there is no extra "mind, intelligence, memory, personality, or feelings" in Harry's head.

I would add that in Cannon, Harry is a horcrux, which adds a fair amount of weight to the idea.

Some possibilities for why the hat would make the statement;

  • Harry's scar isn't a horcrux.
  • A horcrux is nothing like a ghost, mind, intelligence, memory, personality, or feelings.
  • The so
... (read more)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

In Cannon you had to split your soul, which according to Slughorn required an act of evil. The supreme act of evil - murder.

If Slughorn is right, then no, a willing sacrifice wouldn't do it.

He implies though, that it's not the external consequence of the act that counts, so much as the internal soul wrenching aspects. For some, it might be enough to strangle a puppy. And as you progressed in evil, murder most foul might not be sufficient to tear at your soul. When you've killed four, it's easy to make it five.

2pedanterrific10yYou would think so, but that doesn't seem to be how it works in canon. The diary and Nagini were both Horcruxed with one murder. In fact, it's suggested that making Horcruxes makes your soul "unstable", making it easier to make more (canon HP was even unintentionally pseudo-Horcruxed).
How can we get more and better LW contrarians?

I'd much rather get a reply than a vote.
But presumably there's a reason for the current system rather than the arguably simpler method of not having up/down buttons.

How can we get more and better LW contrarians?

The idea is to make it possible to say (by voting) "even though I think you're wrong, I'd like to hear more". The problem IMO with the current system is that the people who vote "I think that's wrong" drown out the people who vote "I think that's interesting". It may be that isn't supposed to happen, but that seems to be what does happen. Would a "rhymes" button make sense? Sure - if you wanted to encourage rhyming posts. The GP wants to encourage contrarians and skeptics, so "like/dislike" and "agr... (read more)

2JackV10yI think this is directly relevant to the idea of embracing contrarian comments. The idea of having extra categories of voting is problematic, because it's always easy to suggest, but only worthwhile if people will often want to distinguish them, and distinguishing them will be useful. So I think normally it's a well-meaning but doomed suggestion, and better to stick to just one. However, whether or not it would be a good idea to actually imlpement, I think separating "interested" and "agree" is a good way of expressing what happens to contrarian comments. I don't have first-hand experience, but based on what I usually see happening at message boards, I suspect a common case is something like: 1. Someone posts a contrarian comment. Because they are not already a community stalwart, they also compose the comment in a way which is low-status within the community (eg. bits of bad reasoning, waffle, embedded in other assumptions which disagree with the community). 2. Thus, people choose between "there's something interesting here" and "In general, this comment doesn't support the norms we want this community to represent." The latter usually wins except when the commenter happens to be popular or very articulate. The interesting/agree distinction would be relevant in cases like this, for instance: * I'm pretty sure this is wrong, but I can't explain why, I'd like to see someone else tackle it and agree/disagree * I think this comment is mostly sub-par, but the core idea is really, really interesting * I might click "upvote" for a comment I thought was funny, but want a greater level of agreement for a comment I specifically wanted to endorse. There's a possibly similar distinction between stackoverflow and stackoverflow meta, because negative votes affect user rank on overflow but not meta. On stack overflow, voting generally refers to perceived quality. On meta, it normally means agreement. I'm not sure I'
1NancyLebovitz10y"Even though I think you're wrong, I'd like to hear more" strikes me as better expressed as a comment rather than a vote. That way, you can explain what you want to hear more about.
3TheOtherDave10yConversely, the impetus to make the basic concept possible might increase if someone made a compelling case for what value it would provide. Incidentally, I'm not suggesting that people should upvote/downvote based on "interesting" rather than "true". I'm suggesting people should upvote/downvote based on "want more like this." That means if I see a true comment, and I want to see more true comments, I upvote it because it's true. If I see a well-written comment, and I want to see more well-written comments, I upvote it because it's well-written. If I see a rhyming comment, and I want to see more rhyming comments, I upvote it because it rhymes. Etc. Being able to tag a vote to indicate what attribute(s) I wanted more or less of would admittedly be clearer in ambiguous cases... I do sometimes find myself staring at a downvote wondering what the reason for it was. That said, I'm not sure it would actually add much value.
How can we get more and better LW contrarians?

I think the kind of people you're looking for are rare in general, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they are rare on LW.

That said, there's room for improvement. The karma system only allows for one kind of vote. It could be more like Slashdot and allow for tagging of the vote, or better yet allow for up/down voting in several different categories. If a comment is IMO well worded, clear, logical, and dead wrong, then it's probably worth reading, but not worth believing. Right now all I can do is vote it up or down. I'd like to be able to vote for clar... (read more)

1TheOtherDave10yConversely, we could establish the convention of downvoting stuff we consider valueless and upvoting stuff we consider valuable, and leave right and wrong out of it except insofar as voters value right things and antivalue wrong things. If we did that, we'd understand that highly upvoted comments were considered valuable, but not necessarily agreed with. Oh, wait. Sure, we could also create a mechanism whereby people could indicate whether they agreed with it (also whether they thought it was well-worded, clear, logical, funny, properly spelled, whether it rhymed, and various other attributes), but before doing that it's worth asking what the benefit of that would be. I understand wanting to facilitate finding valuable comments and hiding valueless ones, but for the other stuff I'd like to see the benefits articulated, not just labelled "better".
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

The only cannon example is Voldemort who mangled his soul six or seven times. A single Horcrux might be less destructive. Also, we may be confusing cause and effect. But then we also have no examples of a Horcurx actually extending life - Voldemort's was cut short despite making several.

I would also like to point out that it's possible to value diversity. The utility of a single point of view for 200 years may not be as great as two points of view for 90.

2pangel10yThe soul-mangling is what causes Voldemort's snake-like appearance, IIRC, and MoR!McGonagall remembers a snake-like Voldemort from her battles. So either MoR!Voldemort has been doing some serious damage to his soul, or he decided to look freakish just for effect and stumbled by chance upon the exact same look which canon!Voldemort got from making Horcruxes.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

Tom Riddle: "And how exactly does one split his soul?"
Slughorn: "Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."
Tom Riddle: "But how do you do it?"
Slughorn: "By an act of evil -- the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: he would encase the torn portion --"

MoR!Horcrux might be different, but it seems likely tha... (read more)

So after thinking about it some more, I came up with a possible rationale/rationalization why a wizard's death might be needed.

Assume the "script kiddy magic" theory is right - A powerful wizard can be bind complex magic into a simple to execute script, with a key phrase (and/or emotion or gesture). Thus it wasn't some perverse law of the universe that decided "Wingardium Leviosa" is how levitation is activated, but some perverse ancient wizard.

A Horcrux stores an image of you, and the activation sequence is bound to the death of a wiza... (read more)

You know, this sounds terrible but might be able to put the abortion debate to rest using the creation of a Horcruxes. It would be a horrible violation of human rights and ethics, but you could nail down the exact moment it became murder with enough testing. (Edit: I suppose you could do this on fetuses already slated for abortion anyways to avoid the ethical dilemmas.)

I wonder if pro-lifers and pro-choicers would have different threshholds for age required when to create a horcrux. And if so, I wonder if it would it be possible to create a horcrux with a murder that exists entirely within the mind of the murderer (eg, fake murder like in the Milgram experiment).

It's probably best that I'm not a wizard scientist.

1Alicorn10yI would be astonished if Eliezer wrote a story in which it were implied that murdering, say, a centaur, was on an intrinsically more justifiable moral ground than murdering a human (ceteris paribus). But you probably meant a nonsapient animal.

Additionally, it seems (at least in cannon) that making a Horcrux mutilates the person, damaging (or completely destroying) his ability to love, use empathy, ... so from an utilitarian point of view, it's not "a lot of life years" again "a few life years" but "a lot of years living a mutilated life" against "a few years living a complete life", which is not the same.

And if horcruxing really gets rid of empathy, love and related emotions, it's likely that if it were generalized, the whole society would collapse - leading to lots of negative utility.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

Dumbledore doesn't come right out and say it, but it's there in Chapter 77;

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

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84

Lupin was brought in as a special instructor for the Patronus charm, thus might possibly have professor status.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84

The evidence against QQ is pretty strong;

  • H&C cast a memory charm on Hermione without triggering the wards.

Only a Hogwarts professor, Dumbledore, and maybe Lupin could do that.

  • H&C either wanted Hermione to be blamed for attempted murder, or wanted her to succeed.

That rules out everyone is isn't willing to kill innocent children to advance their plots. Realistically, only QQ fits.

Whether Harry has enough information to figure it out is a different question.

1wedrifid10yWhat is special about Lupin that he could pull it off? The professors would probably have security clearance. Dumbledore has security clearance and is incidentally freaking Dumbledore but Lupin is just some wizard. He's fairly competent but not so much as, say, Mad-Eye. I suppose he has better than average Hogwarts-security knowledge due to his misspent youth...
0JoshuaZ10ySnape falls into the first category. That said, I agree that Quirrell is almost certainly the actual culprit.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84

I'm worried I may be turning Bad.

You need not trouble yourself. Examining Quirrell's actions has merely made you realize how much you would like to have his power. "Bad" is just a label applied by those too weak to seize that power.

Do not fear the dark side - we have cookies!

0loserthree10yUm, no. Just because we're evil doesn't mean we have to lie carelessly. Let's leave the Captain Planet villainy to Ferris Bueller (that asshole). "Bad" in the sense you mean is a label placed on behaviors by individuals or groups who wish to discourage those behaviors, usually because it is beneficial to themselves to suppress those behaviors without regard to the benefit or detriment of others who may engage in those behaviors.. I have to say 'usually' because sometimes they do so for stupid reasons instead of self-interest. Recognize the behaviors to which labels like 'bad' or 'evil' are likely to be applied, and practice them judiciously. A life well lived is a lift filled with risk, but weigh each carefully, determine to the best of your ability if your 'evil' behaviors are worth the risk and act accordingly. And for the sake of all that is unholy, learn for your damned mistakes.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 14, chapter 82

So, you think he's not SC but wanted McGonagall and Snape to think he was? In that case, why carefully evade the question rather than just lie?

Some people believe actions carry more moral weight than consequences. To such a person, a lie of omission is a lesser crime than a bald faced one. They might, for example, respond "only a fool would say yea or nay" rather than actually answering a question, or quote some obscure piece of text and hope that you drew the wrong conclusion from it.

4pedanterrific10yI'm struggling to imagine how the Dumbledore we've seen in recent chapters could be such a person.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

I don't see fiat as something the wizarding economy can jump straight to. First they have to be sold on the idea that money is a medium of exchange, and that the ability to exchange it is it's primary value.

Representational money doesn't have to be mono-metallic, it could represent a basket of metals, or a basket of any commodities for that matter.

5Alsadius10yOh, of course not. Harry's arbitrage attack, assuming it happens at sufficient scale, will either shift or destroy the Galleon/Sickle/Knut pegs(edit: or, if Gringott's has a bigger bankroll than the muggle economy, it'll shift the muggle prices to the Gringott's ratio), but it won't cause the wizarding economy to go fiat. If nothing else, do you really trust Lucius Malfoy in charge of the Federal Wizerve? I just have this debate as it relates to RL politics on a regular basis, so I threw in the side note. Edit: I should also add, a basket of commodities can work very well. That's the method we use to calculate inflation, and it's quite stable.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

Certainly, the planning fallacy applies. And even if, for example, arbitrage worked the way it seems, and without the extra pitfalls that have been mentioned, there's a lot more to it than just swapping silver for gold and back. Harry's 11, he can't leave Hogwarts, his finances are tightly controlled by Dumbledore, 100,000 galleons = 1.7 million sickles ~= 17 tonnes of silver. Your dad doesn't just slip that into his back pocket. You're going to need help lifting it, security to guard it, vehicles to move it...

On the other hand, Harry has a lot of resou... (read more)

7buybuydandavis10yA good chance they could pay off the entire debt. They seemed very well off. I've got a friend who is a dentist. He could pay it off if he wanted to. 2 dentists? If they had decent business sense, it wouldn't be a problem. This is in the US, however. I'd guess that pay scales are different in Britain.
3drethelin10yAs far as transporting, Harry has a magical chest that contains entire rooms and can walk on its own. Dumbledore, Quirrel, or any bribeable adult wizard can teleport him to gringotts or to any muggle bank or jeweler he would like to go to, and there are definitely spells for swiftly transporting items across a room or whatever. I think by far a bigger problem would be getting any muggle bank to accept 17 tons of silver in a single transaction without any sort of possible background checks.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

Doing something stupid, or just being an idiot in general isn't the same as holding the idiot ball.

the person carrying the idiot ball is often acting out of character, misunderstanding something that could be cleared up by asking a single reasonable question or performing a simple problem-solving action, but that he isn't doing solely because the writers don't want him to. It's almost as if the character is being willfully stupid or obtuse.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

Mostly - fail.

For a detailed explanation, I recommend "The Big Problem of Small Change" - Thomas J. Sargent, François R. Velde published in 2002 isbn 0-691-02932-6

A common strategy was to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. It didn't - see Gresham's law

  • bad money drives out good. Another strategy was to debase the more valuable coins (make them of less pure metals), which has approximately the same effect.

All of which leads to "economic hardships" on the poor, which sounds a lot nicer than "the poor died in droves."

I... (read more)

3Xachariah10yNo, you and Alsadius answered my question perfectly. It was more of a "oh god is this as collapse prone as it seems at first glance" question. I guess the wizard world really is just jonesing for a total economic collapse.
1Alex_Altair10yThat will certainly be in the Epilogue.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

My thinking was more mundane; gold foam with a solid shell. But yeah, seems like there's a lot of possible sources of error in the size/weight of a Galleon magic or no. Still, given the volatility of the Muggle marketplace and the isolation of the wizarding world in general, it seems likely that some arbitrage opportunities exist.

Not that I should care about the destruction of a fictional economy, but I much prefer the idea that arbitrage is only, say, 10%, and Harry decides to strike a long term business relationship with the goblins rather than takin... (read more)

7bogdanb10yGiven what I’ve seen about goblins up to now, I’d rather expect their reaction to be somewhere between “ROTFLMAO” and “Blasphemy!!!1!!”
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

Read it? Probably.

Understand it despite the Interdict of Merlin? Not so sure.

9bogdanb10y(1) She already knows how a Patronus is cast, she just can’t do it yet. (2) The text Harry gave Hermione is not actually teaching a spell. It is a cryptically-written secret about what Dementors are and what the charm does, not how to cast it. Knowing the secret will allow her to discover the new Patronus, not teach it to her.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81

Anyone know if Galleons are solid?
Harry estimated their weight at 5 grams, about 1/10th of what a solid gold coin about 38.6 mm in diameter would weigh.

2Xachariah10yFrom the movie, they appear to be at least the size of a quarter. A solid gold coin 5 grams in weight should be less than the size of a penny. It seems unlikely that they're 90% hollow, since gold is such a weak metal and they'd crush so easily. It's possible that in HPMoR they just made galleons a lot smaller to be portable. Otherwise you'd go shopping for a broom and need a giant sack of money with you instead of just a small pouch for your pocket.
7bogdanb10yThey might be enchanted to be lighter as a convenience. That would throw off Harry’s arbitrage calculations, though. [Edit:] I didn’t think of this before, but I’d expect Harry to notice if they were significantly lighter (a factor of ten) than gold; even if he never handled gold, a factor of ten would make them lighter than aluminium. He’d have asked about it. Is their actual size mentioned anywhere in MoR? Perhaps Eliezer just departed from canon because it didn’t make much sense.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Harry thinks Hermione is innocent, and he's probably deluded enough to think that proving it to the Wizengamot will make a difference to them. He's not likely to give up Dumbledore or someone he cares about permanently when in his mind Hermione's plight is temporary.

It seemed to me that Harry didn't catch on that the call for Azkaban was a set piece, that Lucius must have spent significant political capital to get it to happen the way it did. Nor did he seem to realize the implications of Dumbledore thinking about giving himself up instead of dismissing the idea out of hand, but perhaps I'm wrong.

2SkyDK10yYes, but as such Harry should also think that Dumbledore should have an easier time dealing with dementors than most others. Hence the suffering Dumbledore would suffer in Azkaban until matters had been settled would be less than what Hermione would have to go through.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

There was speculation before Chapter 79, but H&C as anyone but a Hogwarts professor is killed by McGonagall's comment;

Obliviation cannot be detected by any known means, but only a Professor could have cast that spell upon a student without alarm from the Hogwarts wards.

There's some minor speculation that an ex-professor could have done it, and I suppose we could include Dumbledore and Lupin in the list, but Sirius and Grindelwald are ruled out (as of chapter 79).

Someone (sorry, I don't remember who) commented that the apparent sloppiness of the ... (read more)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

I think it's fairly clear that Snape has moved on from Lily now ...

It's not clear to me. What has Snape done or said that makes you think that?

6wedrifid10yHe was making out with jailbait. (Far from proof, but evidence.)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Use a false memory charm on a student to generate testimony framing someone else as false memory charming Draco and Hermoine.

That would fall under 5. "... find someone and give them up as Dracro's assailant/Narcissa's killer, without considering their actual guilt." And like any option that falls under that broad category, we don't know how long it would take to carry out, so it's more "Let Hermione go to Azkaban while framing Lord Jugson." (action 4 plus 5)

If I were going for the safe, boring route, I'd pick 4 combined with trying ... (read more)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

"Albus," Minerva said, surprised at how steady her own voice was, "did you leave those notes under Mr. Potter's pillow?"

Severus's hand halted an instant before casting Floo powder into the fire.

Dumbledore nodded to her, though the accompanying smile seemed a bit hollow. "You know me far too well, my dear."

Is this supposed to be proof positive that Dumbledore is Santa Claus? A nod, and an empty statement?

0Sheaman377310yWell, yes. That, and every single one of Dumbledore's reactions to Harry when he's explaining the Santa Claus notes.
1Alsadius10yI'd say p>0.9 that the second Santa Claus note was Dumbledore. That said, remember that Harry told Dumbledore about the first note(that came with the Cloak), so he could have interpolated accordingly and made a fake. Santa #1 could still be someone else.

Is this supposed to be proof positive that Dumbledore is Santa Claus? A nod, and an empty statement?

A nod means "Yes" in English-speaking countries, so I'm sure it's supposed to be as much proof positive as Dumbledore saying "Yes".

I don't think we have any reason to doubt Dumbledore's word on this.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Between chapter 80 and 81, here's my analysis. I can think of seven broad possibilities;

1.) Do nothing
2.) Attack publicly
2b.) Attack publicly in disguise
3.) Stealth attack
4.) Retreat and regroup
5.) Change the board
6.) Deus Ex Machina

1.) Do nothing; I list this simply because people often forget that inaction may be the best possible action. Here, that doesn't seem to be the case. On the other hand, once you realize that sacrifice is necessary, why not give in to the dark side? What's one muggleborn more or less? With proper obliviation Harry can litera... (read more)

It would appear that you have not yet learned how to lose. :)

The best, easiest solution available to Harry is to confess.

Even without a wand, de doesn't fear dementors, and dementors fear him. Neither Dumbledore nor Quirrel would be willing to let Harry rot in Azkaban, while they would not break Hermione out.

(I cannot claim credit for this, it was posted on xkcd forums.)

-1Pringlescan10yAny option that doesn't allow Hermoine to be cleared of all charges to go back to school is not an option The hidden 7th Option. Use a false memory charm on a student to generate testimony framing someone else as false memory charming Draco and Hermoine. My favorite path right now it to set up Lord Jugson using the time turner, invisibility cloak, tampering with the wands, and a False memory charm on a student. I go into more detail here http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/axe/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/64am [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/axe/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/64am]

Chapter 38: Lucius Malfoy claims that he was under an Imperius curse cast by Lord Voldemort. In canon, that claim was made by many powerful pureblood lords.

Chapter 26: Freeing someone from an Imperius curse by killing the caster of that curse creates a debt

Chapter 4: Bounties payable to the killer of Lord Voldemort could be delivered to Harry Potter.

Conclusion: Harry Potter is owed a blood debt by a number of the lords of the Wizengamot, which might be large enough that he could call it in and save Hermione. Even if it is just Lucius who owes him this deb... (read more)

Eliezer's clue sounds to me as though there's enough people in the Wizingamot whose interests and/or desires aren't served by convicting Hermione, and it's possible to identify them and change their minds once Harry stops thinking of the Wizingamot as a single inimical force. The details are left as an exercise for the student.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Sure, all the prisoners who have family/friends in the order sufficient to provide 24/7 support, that believe the prisoner is wrongfully imprisoned, and have the support of the Aurors are already being protected. The rest have to make due with the occasional visit and bribe their way past the aurors.

They would of course believe it to be a temporary solution, just until they can commute Hermione's sentence to a lighter/more appropriate one, but as the saying goes; "there's nothing more permanent than a temporary solution."

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Is it conceivable that Hermione will spend time in Azkaban without protection from Dementors ...

It's not reasonable that Hermione would be unprotected. Everyone in the order of the phoenix knows how to cast a patronus and send it to someone else, and Harry could do a lot more than just protect her from Dementors if it came to that. Plus the chief auror has already said that the aurors wouldn't stand for a 12 year old being exposed to Azkaban, about the only way I can see Hermione being in Azkaban is with 24/7 patronus guards. Anything else leads to open revolt.

I can't conceive of something being inconceivable.

0DanArmak10yThat just proves inconceivable things exist! :-)
2DanielLC10yDidn't they start checking whenever there's a patronus for more than three hours, to prevent innmates becoming animangi? I suppose that it's possible that they'd turn a blind eye to Hermione.
4buybuydandavis10ySurely if that were an option, the families of those in Azkaban would have been doing the same already. I'd go along with Quirrell on this - no one but Harry would stick their neck out for Hermione. She doesn't even have wizarding family. Lucius implied that those who wouldn't stand for it would be replaced, and that shut Bones up. I don't see open revolt by anyone but Harry.
1NancyLebovitz10yThat's reassuring. However, people who punish tend to not be mellow about their chance to be inflict misery being snaffled away from them. So, if Hermione is in Askaban but immune to dementors, now what?

Well if she's going to spend 10 years like that, better turn it into an Occupy Azkaban movement and bring in lots of books so she can study and a Floo portal so she can talk to her friends and she'll tele-graduate Hogwarts with all honors.

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