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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

There's a theory going around about how it was Amelia Bones who killed Narcissa Malfoy, based on nothing more than the stray thought 'Someone would burn for this.' What she said to Dumbledore during Hermione's trial ('You know the answer you must give, Albus. It will not change for agonizing over it.') seems to be taken as further evidence.

sigh

Of course it was Voldemort who did it!

I think what most of you fail to realize is, the whole thing happened after Voldemort heard the prophecy from Snape. Dumbledore predictably ignored the blackmail, and would not have killed anyone like that in retaliation (he would never crack, no matter what), but was willing to falsely claim he did it - one lie to an enemy is a small price to ensure no further loss of life to blackmail attempts. This resulting in Malfoy hating Dumbledore was also predictable. His hate kept the conflict alive after Voldemort's planned disappearance. This kept the lines of battle predictable, set the stage for Voldy's planned return.

I don't recall seeing anyone state this, and I really hope someone did - it would suck to be the only person who could realize something simple like this.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

Hat and Cloak is Salazar's creature. He (it?) was put in the Chamber to be a counter to the second thing Merlin did when he laid the Interdict in force, namely biasing holders of time-displaced information toward simpler (non-catastrophic) loops - my best guess is, by creating random change in subject's mind which randoms into thoughts leading to paradox-free behavior; from this side of the 4th wall it can look like 'being stupid for the sake of plot'. (to clarify: the random thought is an extra degree of freedom by which the situation can be paradox-free without big complicated catastrophic coincidences)

HC's original job is to bring/send back future information and limit exposure of Heir. Kinda like what Millicent does, or Snape did with Rianne - you know, it's a difficult concept, needs good examples by the time it is explained. (for the record, this clicked for me during the 'Groundhog Day attack' which originally came before the 'Interlude with the Confessor' chapter - to me that chapter was a confirmation not a clue.)

Also: SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE!!

The 'Harry = Tom Riddle' thing doesn't sit right with me. The whole point of teaching Harry, the point of going this slow now, is to get Harry to embrace his dark side for a successful takeover - and look, he already thinks of it as part of him, not a separate side. I predict the sense of doom will decrease, Harry will interpret it as 'Quirrell losing strength' and 'now is the time to be clever' when in reality it will be - well, either it's him getting closer to being taken over by his dark side, or it is directly faked by Q to be a false encouragement towards same.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, July 2014, chapter 102

"don't think about it either way" does not necessarily mean indifference, it means reverting to default behaviour.

Humans are (mostly) pro-social animals with empathy and would not crush another human who just happens to be in their way - in that they differ from a falling rock. In fact, that's the point of hate, it overrides the built-in safeguards to allow for harmful action. According to this view, to genuinely not give a damn about someone's life is a step further. Obviously.

The thing about built-in default behaviour given by evolution is that it will not trigger in some cases.

Rationality and the English Language

"Unreliable elements were subjected to an alternative justice process"—subjected by who? What does an "alternative justice process" do? With enough static noun phrases, you can keep anything unpleasant from actually happening.

or HPMoR Ch.48

Your brain imagines a single bird struggling in an oil pond, and that image creates some amount of emotion that determines your willingness to pay. But no one can visualize even two thousand of anything, so the quantity just gets thrown straight out the window.

or HPMoR Ch.87

Because the way people are built, Hermione, the way people are built to feel inside [...] is that they hurt when they see their friends hurting. Someone inside their circle of concern, a member of their own tribe. That feeling has an off-switch, an off-switch labeled 'enemy' or 'foreigner' or sometimes just 'stranger'. That's how people are, if they don't learn otherwise.

My point with that is, it's completely in line with what Eliezer usually talks about, so you know it's a perspective he holds, not just rationalization.

For completeness' sake,

Not like certain people living in certain countries, who were, it was said, as human as anyone else; who were said to be sapient beings, worth more than any mere unicorn. But who nonetheless wouldn't be allowed to live in Muggle Britain. On that score, at least, no Muggle had the right to look a wizard in the eye. Magical Britain might discriminate against Muggleborns, but at least it allowed them inside so they could be spat upon in person.

still feels off. Oh, wait, I know! Maybe Harry is being Stupid here. Or Eliezer is being a Bad Writer. Again.

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

About horcruxes

Magic itself seems predisposed to keeping wizards in existence, what with ghosts and resistance to blunt trauma, and Avada Kedavra requiring they be very sure about the outcome, and all that. A ritual that requires murder seems to be opposing that spirit. Can't magic make up it's mind? Or was it designed by multiple, competing purposes?

It occured to me that horcrux might be more of a late addition to magic; a hack, a twisting of an existing function. If so, the requirement may not be there for the usual reasons (to represent the making of a significant choice, as Quirrell put it), but rather as a requirement of limited resource.

What might that be? Life force? Nonsense, 'one must die for another to live' is in fact a bad non-reductionist cliché, and don't get me started on it. How about soul?

What existing aspect of magic best resembles a horcrux?

Thus I've concluded that a horcrux is the corruption of a newly made ghost; it's loaded with the state vector of the caster instead of the victim.

This gives two obvious predictions. Those killed for a horcrux will not leave ghosts. Muggles are unsuitable.

Since both predictions run contrary to canon (Moaning Myrtle and old man Frank Bryce), and Eliezer is unlikely to do that on a whim, they were adequate.

(I'm no longer sure when exacly I came up with all of the above. Pretty sure it was before the Azkaban arc.)

Chapter 71, Parvati talks about Hogwarts' '0% fatality rate' and nobody acts like it's known falsehood. Sure, it was an argument about something else, and it was narrated, not explicit, but still. How could they not know about Myrtle? Simple, there is no moaning reminder.

After this I realized I made a bad assumption (quite possibly my luckiest mistake - but never mind that). I thought the ghost creation process is subverted at the root, making the requirement check for ghosts (afraid of dying, the will to stay, or whatever it is) done on the caster. Instead, depending on implementation details, a hack may be more likely to work on what is already there; so for the ghost to be there, the victim has to have that preference.

If you don't want to draw attention to the fact that you're killing people who are likely to leave ghosts, you have to use some other criteria, and kill a lot. If only 1% of the population would leave a ghost, and you pick your victims at random, on avarege you have to kill 100 people to get one horcrux. And if you only kill the brave who dared to oppose you, it might take significantly more. Better kill their family as well. Of course, there may be ways to increase the probability of ghost as well ('the victim dying in horror'? dunno).

So this explains why mor!Voldemort's campaign was more bloody than canon, and also why smart!Voldemort didn't win quickly. Also, nerfing an overpowered spell.

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

I think it works like this: this sort of thing can trigger some people's bullshit detector. They sense that something is off when this 'rationalist fiction' tries to to claim some sort of special status, while still doing the usual writing tricks. Of course they fail to pinpoint the source of the contradiction (most don't habitually look out for the 'Is that your true rejection' thingy - especially if they already have some reason to jump to an EY-bashing conclusion, mostly something status-based; I call that sort of thing 'suspiciously self-serving'). Instead they offer less specific criticism, which of course will not be true, so it will be rejected by anyone else. Most of those who are not pre-disposed to negativity will simply ignore the sense of unease, if they have it at all.

Now, I could have said as much without the snark. I was trying to create an ugh field for the 'euthanistic critics'. I would not have my comment waved as banner in the "Yudkowsky's writing sucks" camp - call it a personal preference. Yeah, I'm probably overestimating the gives-a-shit quotient here.

Also I have criticized a few people for jumping to the conclusion of writer's mistake, when I thought there was more to it, so when I show how what I think a real mistake looks like... yeah, guilty of pride. And since that may make me look like more of an idiot, if Eliezer completely ignores this... that's why 'suspiciously self-serving' can be a problem; if it's not connected to reality, it's bound to flop. :(

I tried not to have anyone specific in mind when I wrote the comment, but I was most likely primed by mention of DLP.

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

Re: revisions

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

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

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

"Forget I said anything," said Draco, sweat suddenly springing out all over his body. He needed a distraction, fast - "And what do we call ourselves? The Science Eaters?"

Children don't sweat that much - it's a physiological difference from adults.

(This is just the first page I found with a nice at-glance comparison table and a list of references.)

I have considered that this is a deliberate difference, some clue about the way magic effects wizards, like, magic increases body heat, and wizarding children get adult sweat-glands to compensate; this seemed interesting:

[Draco would have been dead], had his body's own magic not been resisting the effects of the Blood-Cooling Charm.

But, in the end, I think not. No, it looks much more like exaggeration to convey the character's state of mind; it's normal practice in writing as I understand, but somewhat unbecoming in rationalist fiction, I think. It undermines the idea that causality isn't violated for plot/writing reasons.

It doesn't surprise me that the amazingly insightful critics of HPMoR who may have picked up on this couldn't pinpoint it, though. Motivated cognition usually gets in the way.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 14, chapter 82

Care to elaborate? 'Interesting' is a word with many connotations.

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

As we know, Harry's idea of double memory-charm has not been presented to the Wizengamot, which is a good thing; not only is it low status, as Harry realized, it's also unlikely to work, as Snape pointed out. Also, that's not what happened.

Hermione has been told the right lie, to lead her through the right emotions - a growing suspicion towards Draco, mainly - and then she was Obliviated, and told the same lie over again, went through the same emotions again, and again. If the sense of disorientation isn't a problem, she could have been looped through just the final, triggering sentence. Comulative effects had left her with the reoccuring thoughts and nagging doubts, the obsession we were told about. Even the idea of confronting Draco at the next battle, or keeping her doubts to herself could have been planted this way.

Hopefully it will be seen as a typical Voldemort-like cleverness by enough of the Wizengamot for the rest to work. In fact, redirecting Lucius's anger towards the real perpetrator should be doable, and most of his faction (politics!) would be eager to accept Harry's suggestion that Dumbledore was foolish enough to let an agent of the Dark Lord teach at Hogwarts - I doubt it would be a good idea to reveal the truth too early.

Quirrell, who, I think, is still held within the Ministry, will be brought for questioning, and revealed to be Voldemort. Whether it will be his power or the Bystander Effect (the title of the next trigger warning page) that holds the Wizengamot back long enough, I don't know. Actually, a single threat could make most of them hesitate long enough... Than, just as planned, he tries to kill Harry, explodes, then it's cheers and Butterbeers all 'round.

Harry will choose to cooperate with this plan because he will see it's aim wasn't to kill his friends - Draco could have been left for dead, and wasn't - and because he doesn't have five days to think of anything else.

It would be a serious change in the story and, with Quirrell gone, he couldn't fulfill his promise of both Slytherin and Ravenclaw winning the House Cup - but these things would not motivate Voldemort to pass on this opportunity, I think.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 10

My guess is, the intermittent one is H&C taking the appearance (and name, on the map) of students who are elsewhere to walk among the children, listening to rumours, maybe even talking to them. I'm going to assume he can disappear as well as change shape when out of sight, otherwise it would be too easy to track him down; plus, that's why it's 'intermittent'.

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