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

Erm, I have to say I'm a bit horrified by some of the reviews celebrating the death of Rita Skeeter. I know I didn't exactly write her as a sympathetic character, but consider yourselves lucky that the story's tone at this point didn't allow it, or Rita Skeeter would have two daughters attending Hogwarts, and the next scene would be Professor McGonagall calling them into her office to let them know that their mother went out on an assignment and never came back. I actually wrote some of that as a possible Omake. Maybe I'll finish it later.

Another possible Omake would be the scene in Mary's Room from Rita's point of view, her slight nervousness when Professor Quirrell mentioned having sealed the room, her sudden start when Professor Quirrell talked about tiny Animagi, her relief at hearing him say he wouldn't test for it, coupled with a growing fear that he already knew and was toying with her, followed by the shock of realizing that she had, somehow, been fooled by evidence that should have been unforgeable, knowing that she had to run before Lucius found her, run as fast as possible, but she was trapped in the room, listening to the words that Professor Quirrell made Harry repeat and suspecting with growing horror that she'd been righter in her article than she knew, her sudden frantic crawl as the waitress knocked and she realized that the door was about to open to let her out, and then her life ending so quickly that there wasn't even time to shift, just a single instant of realization before the crunch.

Maybe I'm just too sensitive, maybe it's just that as the author you live the life of every character in your stories, but I don't think Rita Skeeter was bad enough to deserve what, um, I did to her.

Author's notes for chapter 27.

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

I'm puzzled by Harry's sunlight potion. Did it not require a magical ingredient?

Since we are told that there are no magical ingredients in the lesser woods where the battles are fought, and that all the potions in the books that Harry looks through unlock and redistribute magical energy (rather than ostensibly non-magical energy like sunlight), does this mean that Harry discovered a way to brew potions without magical ingredients? I recall no hint that this is possible, and yet no one watching the battle seems to find the potion notable. To be fair, the fundamental potion-making law doesn't explicitly rule out an all-mundane potion ("A potion spends that which is invested in the creation of its ingredients").

I also find it unlikely that Harry invented the potion himself (I believe general potions-theory and the system for deducing the proper arbitrary stirring patterns would have been given a more complete coverage, if that were the case), so it appears that Harry found a suitable potion using Flitwick's recommended resources. But I still don't know whether the "magical ingredient requirement" is absolute (and Harry bypassed it just by, e.g., putting something of his own magic into the potion as a trigger but not as the main ingredient), whether it's a mere conceptual limit that wizards never thought to test, or whether potions with non-magical ingredients exist and are well-known, but are relatively so rare that Harry just didn't happen to run across any in his initial search.

What am I missing?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

I see, thanks for the link. Honestly though, va gung abgr Ryvrmre frrzf gb pbzr evtug bhg naq fnl gung va ZbE gurer vf ab nsgreyvsr: "Pu. 39 vf nyfb gur ynetrfg punatr V arrqrq gb znxr gb Ebjyvat'f ynjf bs zntvp, rzcunfvf ba arrqrq - bgurejvfr, lbh creprvir, punenpgre zbgvingvba tbrf bhg gur jvaqbj." Ol punenpgre zbgvingvbaf V vzntvar ur jnf guvaxvat bs gur fnzr pbapreaf V zragvbarq jura V gnyxrq nobhg gur "fgbel-gryyvat fgnaqcbvag" nobir.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

Yeah, I worded that poorly. It wouldn't put a dent in his underlying motivations (he would still love life, and no doubt be relieved at the news that the dead aren't lost forever), but it would make his current ambitions to optimize this world a bit beside the point, if he also needs to concentrate on optimizing the next one.

Or did you mean something else?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

Do you mean Eliezer said that in an author's comment or something? If so I concede the point, though the text of MoR doesn't appear to me to support the existence of either souls or afterlife (even ghosts are less sapient than they are in canon).

I'm also doubtful about it from a story-telling standpoint, since if spiritual immortality for humans exists by default, it would make all of Harry's stated ambitions to achieve transhuman immortality in the material universe, for everyone, a bit pointless and perhaps even restrictive (that's a whole new world you never get to explore, if you never die). Also, since MoR has a certain didactic function, for Eliezer to establish spiritual immortality in the Rationality!verse would kind of take away from the impact of his anti-death and pro-cryonics sentiments.

As regards your comment about Rowling, I think in canon there's at least one piece of evidence strongly supporting the existence of an afterlife. In Deathly Hallows, during the "King's Cross" scene when Harry is AK'd into Limbo by Voldemort, Harry ostensibly meets the departed soul of Dumbledore, who tells him all manner of things (regarding his own past and the Deathly Hallows) that only the true Dumbledore would know. If one is particularly skeptical, one can write this off as total delusion on Harry's part (thus rendering suspect everything "Dumbledore" tells him), but that would go completely against the spirit of the story.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

Any reason(s) in particular that you're certain that Horcrux-creation would have detrimental effects significant enough that Voldemort would create only one, maximum? I assume it must have some detrimental effects, because otherwise, given a Rational Dark Lord armed with a time-turner, we'd be looking at Horcruxes proliferating as fast as he can make them. Tens or hundreds or thousands of horcruxes, one on every muggle device launched into or out of orbit, if he could manage it.

I notice that you seem to take for granted the existence of "souls" in MoR, which is far from certain. Actually I would rate the possibility as decidedly uncertain, since if souls and their attendant afterlife existed, it'd put quite a dent in the entire motivation for Harry's "conquer death and achieve immortality for everyone" program. And as prasannak noted, Harry has raised the alternate hypothesis that horcrux creation is less soul-fragmentation and more mind-uploading: "Maybe he found some way of duplicating the power of the Resurrection Stone, only he loaded it in advance with a complete copy of his brain state. Or something like that." (Chapter 39)


And I just remembered a brief exchange between Quirrell and Harry in chapter 46, which (to me, at least) hints at the existence of more than one horcrux. Quirrell asks Harry, hypothetically speaking, where he would choose to "lose something where no one would ever find it again." (I assumed he was being all ironic again and was talking about horcruxes.) Harry reeled off a list of about 5 possible hiding places, to which Quirrell responds "All excellent suggestions... But tell me, Mr. Potter, why those exact five? ...There is an interesting pattern to them.... One might say it sounds like something of a riddle." (Riddle? Irony overload.)

It just dawned on me that those 5 hiding places could only be clues to a riddle (the riddle of where Voldemort chose to hide all his horcruxes) if they didn't encompass the complete set of all horcrux hiding places, meaning that there are probably more than 5. Additionally, those 5 hiding places would only be good "clues" if they were themselves correct hiding places, from which further hiding places could be extrapolated based on some sort of shared similarity.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

An idle bit of speculation, which has probably been brought up before, but it occurred to me that MoR Voldemort, being more intelligent than his canonical counterpart, may not have seen fit to stop at a mere 7 horcruxes. Why not simply make as many as (in)humanly possible, rather than adhering to some superstitious wishy-washy stuff about "7 is a powerfully magic number"? It is almost certain that the mechanics of horcrux-construction in MoR are different from those in canon (e.g. mind-upload rather than soul-splitting), so perhaps the limit that Canon!Voldemort faced (unstable soul-fragments) is not something that would be encountered in quite the same form as MoR!Voldemort.

To provide the merest scrap of substance to my speculation, I noticed that in Chapter 53 (TSPE, Part III), Quirrell states:

“Yess,” hissed the snake, “but do not underesstimate her, sshe wass the deadliesst of warriorss.” The green head dipped in warning. “One would be wisse to fear me, boy, even were I sstarved and nine-tenthss dead..."

The bolded interests me, partly because of something Dumbledore states in Chapter 61 (TSPE, Part XI):

"...Voldemort’s final avenue is to seduce a victim and drain the life from them over a long period; in which case Voldemort would be weak compared to his former power."

Slowly draining a victim's life and being weak compared to his former power is certainly what occurred with Canon Voldemort possessing Canon Quirrell--perhaps MoR Quirrelmort benefits from a similar arrangement? If so, the adjective "starving" certainly fits.

Now, we already know that Quirrelmort likes to play ironic little games with what he says--in fact, he admits as much himself in chapter 51: The lips twitched again, and then went flat. "Then I shall skip it. Mr. Potter, you sometimes make a game of lying with truths, playing with words to conceal your meanings in plain sight. I, too, have been known to find that amusing."

To return to the point, if hypothetically describing himself as "starving" falls into the same class of ironically veiled truth-statements Quirrelmort enjoys dropping from time to time (see ch. 49: "If only You-Know-Who had lived, you might have persuaded him to teach you some of the knowledge that would have been your heritage, from one Heir of Slytherin to another," or perhaps "Tell them I ate [the dementor]"--->"I am a death-eater", or again Harry had asked why Professor Quirrell couldn’t be the one to play the part of the Dark Lord, and Professor Quirrell had pointed out that there was no plausible reason for him to be possessed by the shade of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), what might be the import of "nine-tenths dead"?

My thought was simply that "nine-tenths dead" might be a clue as to the number of Horcruxes MoR!Voldemort created.