Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 2

13 Post author: dclayh 01 August 2010 10:58PM

ETA: There is now a third thread, so send new comments there.

 

Since the first thread has exceeded 500 comments, it seems time for a new one, with Eliezer's just-posted Chapter 33 & 34 to kick things off. 

From previous post: 

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.

Comments (696)

Comment author: LucasSloan 28 August 2010 05:35:05AM *  17 points [-]

Is it the author's opinion that the creation of house elves was a terribly evil deed? It would seem that to think that after their creation, they would want to do what they have been designed to do and so would be no more evil than creating an intelligence which would want to bowl and fish all day. Even if we accept that creating conscious entities which are forced by means of their preferences to do menial work is wrong, it would seem to be better to create them, than to force those who don't enjoy such work to do it. Is Harry just confused by his intuitions about the evil of slavery, without sufficient reflection?

ETA: While this argument works in the abstract and is useful for countering human biases against "slavery" and applies in the particular for the creation of Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, house elves have addition features I wasn't considering which makes their creation morally evil.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 August 2010 05:36:02AM 18 points [-]

Is it the author's opinion that the creation of house elves was a terribly evil deed?

It had been, but...

Even if we accept that creating conscious entities which are forced by means of their preferences to do menial work is wrong, it would seem to be better to create them, than to force those who don't enjoy such work to do it.

...is a powerful argument I had never considered.

Comment author: KevinC 30 August 2010 01:24:50AM *  10 points [-]

Though there's logic to this argument, pretty much everything else about the way house elves were made is evil. They're created, or conditioned to brutally torture themselves if they even think they've displeased their masters or broken a rule. They have no labor rights and can be mistreated at will, to the point that mistreatment is built in as a product feature.

We can only imagine what sort of miserable Dickensian conditions they live in when they're not at work. They're forced to wear ragged, salvaged sacks, as giving them clothes = firing them, i.e. denying them the work and subservient position they're designed to want. This is a needless cruelty on top of everything else. Heck, if I were an aristocrat wizard with house elves, I'd want mine to go around in elegant livery, as a demonstration of how magnificent my Estate is. But I couldn't do that, because the poor little creatures were made (modified?) by a sadist.

Comment author: Alicorn 30 August 2010 01:29:49AM 7 points [-]

Heck, if I were an aristocrat wizard with house elves, I'd want mine to go around in elegant livery, as a demonstration of how magnificent my Estate is. But I couldn't do that

You could get them elegantly embroidered little dishtowels clipped into place with stylized sugar tongs made of silver.

Comment author: cousin_it 30 August 2010 04:16:47PM 3 points [-]

Do you think it would be evil to create house elves that honestly enjoy their jobs and situations?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 August 2010 06:57:13PM 6 points [-]

True. You have persuaded me back to my original position. Whoever made house elves was disgusting. It could have been done right (complementary intelligent species that enjoys doing a lot of necessary things we don't, while still having rich lives of their own), but it wasn't.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 30 August 2010 07:40:53PM 2 points [-]

This is pointing at a general problem in sf-- problems are needed to move the plot along, so some development which might have good or mixed results is burdened with other features that make it obviously bad.

The usual handling of longevity and immortality in sf is an example, but so is the [spoiler] included with the cosmetic surgery in Westerfeld's Uglies or an AI in a novel called B.E.A.S.T. which was challenged by throwing a series of deadly attacks at it-- it becomes violent and we have a story, but what would happen with a better treated AI would be more interesting.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 August 2010 07:17:33AM 9 points [-]

...is a powerful argument I had never considered.

How would you say this relates to the ethics of creating an FAI? In some ways house elves were created for a similar reason that we would create an FAI. Would it be something about 'consciousness' that separates the two constructions ethically? If so, I wonder whether creating a 'helper' agent that in some sense is conscious and 'enjoys' what it does is better or worse than creating a raw optimised agent that we wouldn't consider conscious.

It occurs to me that what a house elf considers fun is not all that much different from the perspective of all of value-space from what we might consider fun.

Comment author: TobyBartels 29 August 2010 02:16:13AM 5 points [-]

Is Harry just confused by his intuitions about the evil of slavery, without sufficient reflection?

That's certainly canon!Hermione's problem.

But there is something wrong with House-Elves, at least in canon, even after whatever went into their creation. They enjoy serving humans, fine; I'm with MoR!Harry about that. But (possibly unbeknownst to Harry and Hermione yet) there are House-Elves who are very unhappy with their current situation, such as Dobby (who disliked his master) and Winky (who loved her master but was fired and never recovered from this). It always bothered me that canon!Hermione never outgrew her early phase of S.P.E.W. and never tried to do anything that would actually help them. (However, the Word of God is that she did help them in her adulthood, so that's all right then.)

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 05:56:45AM 8 points [-]

I think it's worth distinguishing creating work-loving entities ex nihilo from modifying existing entities against their will to become work-loving. Canon rather implies the latter; handling the procedure ethically would be tricky, as baseline elves likely would not only resist being value-enslaved, but would want the children they birth and raise to be like themselves.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 28 August 2010 07:25:10PM 3 points [-]

Is it wrong to make a pig that wants to be eaten?

Comment author: LucasSloan 28 August 2010 08:08:55PM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure, but I wouldn't make one and would work to prevent one's creation. On the one hand, death is an intrinsic evil, unlike mere drudgery. On the other hand, I support the right to self terminate.

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 09:16:13PM 3 points [-]

death is an intrinsic evil

Have you ever closed an application on your computer? What distinguishes a person from any other computation, and why does that particular distinction carry so much moral weight?

Comment author: LucasSloan 29 August 2010 12:27:26AM 4 points [-]

What distinguishes a person from any other computation

A person is reflectively self aware.

and why does that particular distinction carry so much moral weight?

Evolution built me to care about humans, and upon reflection, the values I have include non-humans who have features like being reflectively self aware.

Comment author: NihilCredo 28 August 2010 10:49:54PM 4 points [-]

Even if we accept that creating conscious entities which are forced by means of their preferences to do menial work is wrong, it would seem to be better to create them, than to force those who don't enjoy such work to do it.

This is a bit of a false dichotomy - you don't have to force anyone to do it. Offer a sufficiently high salary to scrub Hogwarts' toilet (or just to cast Cleaning Charms on them), and voila, you have free-willed, willing, unmodified house workers.

The meaningful question (at least, to the degree that any moral question can be meaningful) is whether there is any value in that "unmodified" qualifier.

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 11:12:11PM 2 points [-]

The meaningful question (at least, to the degree that any moral question can be meaningful) is whether there is any value in that "unmodified" qualifier.

It matters precisely to the extent that the premodified entity desires to not be modified and that the premodified entity's values matter.

That the premodified entity's values matter seems to have been generally assumed all round in this thread. That the premodified entity desires to not be modified seems an extremely reasonable assumption.

Comment author: Strange7 08 August 2010 07:12:55AM 15 points [-]

Theory: the 'spell of starlight' is a scrying or remote-viewing effect which Quirrelmort originally developed to keep an eye on the Pioneer horcrux. It's strenuous because of the extreme range, possible at all only because of the strong sympathetic connection involved. Reinforcing the sympathetic connection is important to maintain the possibility of Apparating out there, and sharing the experience helps to establish a sympathetic link between Harry's scar/mysterious dark side and the horcrux, which will eventually make it possible to do something nasty to him from far away.

Comment author: dclayh 03 August 2010 06:04:15PM 14 points [-]

Just occurred to me: if magic ability is genetic, it should in theory be possible to use gene therapy/retroviruses/etc. (and perhaps some magic) to make all the Muggles into wizards! (Or at least all the ones yet to be conceived or something.) I can just imagine Harry creating a Plague of Magic.

Comment author: LucasSloan 04 August 2010 10:57:54PM 8 points [-]

Almost certainly not in the timeframe of the fic. I think that 1995 was about the first time we successfully used a retrovirus to cure a human disease, and we still don't have the tech to create a contagious disease to do so.

Comment author: dclayh 05 August 2010 01:13:54AM 2 points [-]

Oh, good point. I always forget that HP isn't technically in the present day.

Comment author: knb 05 August 2010 09:53:02PM 3 points [-]

He could easily overwhelm any wizarding army/faction by raising an army of magically enabled Muggles, once he can access the technology. Since there are only tens of thousands of magical people in Britain, just converting 500 muggles to wizards would make Harry the dominant force in the magical world.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 August 2010 06:31:40AM 2 points [-]

That's an interesting move, though it leaves out the organizational challenge and the amount of time needed for training.

And it seems unlikely that such a force could be kept secret from the wizarding world....

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 August 2010 06:34:24PM 3 points [-]

I don't think he likes chaos quite that much.

Comment author: cousin_it 03 August 2010 06:48:22PM *  2 points [-]

Good idea. For some reason I immediately thought about Muggles exterminating wizards with a gene-engineered disease.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 August 2010 08:02:28AM 13 points [-]

Why do wizards - particularly in MoR, where most people are smarter - carry one wand apiece? This doesn't seem to be an absolute practical limitation wherein only one wand may be mastered at a time. In book seven, Harry is simultaneously the master of the Elder Wand and his own original with Fawkes's feather in it. Why doesn't everyone habitually walk out of Ollivander's with two, so as to have a spare in hazardous situations or in case one should be lost?

Comment author: TobyBartels 08 August 2010 03:54:03AM *  3 points [-]

We know that, in a pinch, you can use someone else's wand. But can you use nobody's wand?

Maybe the wands are intelligent enough that they don't fully activate (although they will still do testing waves) until after they choose a wizard, but stupid enough that they'll let anybody use them once they've been activated.

We also need a rule to deactivate the wand after its wizard dies, although a tradition of burying a wizard with their wand might be enough. There could be a black market in used wands, but as long as it's small, most people will still only have one.

Comment author: LucasSloan 28 August 2010 06:18:21AM *  12 points [-]

Am I the only one who now wants to campaign for gay rights with the slogan "Death Eaters against homophobia!"?

Comment author: MBlume 28 August 2010 03:29:18AM 12 points [-]

Upon seeing DinosaurusGede's awesome pic, my first thought was that were I able to draw (I cannot), I would draw Dumbledore wailing on an electric guitar and saying "THIS was your father's rock".

Comment author: wedrifid 28 August 2010 03:18:22PM 3 points [-]

I just got an urge to take a sip of Comed-Tea.

Comment author: wedrifid 06 August 2010 04:42:16PM 11 points [-]

Akrasia cure: Self-cast the imperius curse.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 August 2010 04:45:21PM 4 points [-]

Or better yet, use it as a decision-theory precommitment.

Comment author: ata 26 August 2010 04:22:48AM 9 points [-]

A few reviewers are speculating that Lucius thinks Harry is Voldemort. Any thoughts on that? I'm not sure yet, but rereading their conversation with that in mind is pretty interesting.

Comment author: wedrifid 27 August 2010 09:32:47AM 8 points [-]

(41)

So, traitors. Were there any? Did they play any part in the fight at all or was it just the principle of the thing? The whole point of the Draco+Hermione vs Harry war was on the subject of unity. I was kind of hoping for some object lessons on just how much Harry's advantage of being able to trust his soldiers helped him while Draco and Hermione had to put in place extra precautions to protect themselves from sleeper agents. Or, well, even an offhand mention of "Chaos got 3 extra fighters" to acknowledge the issue.

Comment author: KevinC 30 August 2010 02:08:15AM 7 points [-]

I just had a thought WRT Harry's controversial apology to Hermione in Chapter 42. This is the Harry that lectured McGonagall on the Planning Fallacy, while demonstrating that he really does assume a worst-case scenario (insisting on purchasing a magical first aid kit just in case one of his fellow students ended up maimed and dying in front of him). I think it's entirely plausible that he could have spent the whole time Hermione was falling imagining that maybe he'd forgotten to stir the ground hen's teeth (or whatever) into the Feather Fall potion six times, or that it wasn't quite a three-quarters Moon when he started, or that a sudden gust of wind might impale her on the spikes of a wrought-iron balcony fence, or blow her into the Forbidden Forest or whatever other horrific Murphy's Law scenarios his all-too-imaginative mind could concoct, right up until her feet touched the ground.

Also, from the descriptions it looks like he was fighting this battle in ColdDarkLordHarry mode, so in addition to the above, he might even have been worrying that his Dark Side had subconsciously arranged things (such as a Potions failure, or just the situation of random danger with the Feather Fall potion as a false guarantor of safety) in a way that would bring his Intent To Kill to bear. It might even be revealed later that, for just a moment, his Dark Side produced a desire that she actually die, and that's what's making him feel so guilty.

Then, he would have spent the time until she came to meet him imagining that she would have been imagining the same things as an expression of his Planning Fallacy-based ur-pessimism combined with his tendency to try to model other people's minds, i.e., in this case, in the most pessimistic way possible. So, by the time he sees her, he's got himself expecting her to hate, hate, HATE him, and since he cares about her he really doesn't want that. And for her part, she's got him apologizing and willing to let her avenge herself on him, so why stop him now?

Some of the comments here have pointed out Hermione's strong sense of Justice and Fairness as an objection to her behavior in this scene. Maybe we're seeing some Unintended Consequences to Harry's "get Hermione and Draco to work together" plot. For Draco to reflexively try to catch Hermione is (I think) a major change in his character. This is a boy who casually expressed his intention to rape Luna Lovegood to someone he'd just met, assuming that boy's stated "intention" to murder her was equally casual, and equally serious. Major, major misogyny here.

So, for Draco to try to save Hermione, and have difficulty letting her go even as what's left of his Pureblood conditioning is railing at him, and Hermione herself is begging him to drop her so he can beat Harry, is a huge change in his character. If we grant that so much of Hermione's[1] sensibilities have rubbed off on Draco during their collaboration, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that some osmosis has gone the other way. Hermione's spent the last few months of warfare learning the art of Devious Plotting, and since her alliance with Draco, would be getting lessons from a master. So, if we accept the changes to Draco's character, it's not too implausible IMO that Hermione might have become less of a "goody-goody" by now, and be willing to let Harry grovel, and even enjoy it a bit.

  1. I'm assuming it would be Hermione's values rubbing off on Draco and not Harry's, since in the portrayed encounters Harry has been concealing his Enlightenment sentiments from Draco to keep him in the Bayesian Conspiracy. "Slytherin! Just Kidding! Ravenclaw!"
Comment author: wedrifid 30 August 2010 04:51:11AM *  8 points [-]

This is a boy who casually expressed his intention to rape Luna Lovegood to someone he'd just met, assuming that boy's stated "intention" to murder her was equally casual, and equally serious. Major, major misogyny here.

I don't read that as misogyny. Merely a willingness to utterly humiliate a low status enemy by whatever means practical. If it was Larry Lovegood I expect the conversation would involve castration. Or perhaps sodomy via broomstick.

Comment author: Pavitra 30 August 2010 03:08:52AM 6 points [-]

This is a good analysis. I have two nitpicks:

1) I think Draco is mostly classist rather than sexist.

2) Hermione is currently Draco's ally. Her parentage greatly obstructed her getting there, but now that she has that status, much is changed.

Comment author: Alicorn 30 August 2010 02:20:10AM 4 points [-]

ground hen's teeth

One powders hens' teeth.

Comment author: CronoDAS 23 August 2010 06:14:45AM 7 points [-]

The most compelling evidence for an afterlife in canon was Harry's "near-death experience" in Deathly Hallows. While "dead", Harry talks to Dumbledore one last time, and Harry learns things that only Dumbledore would have known.

Of course, MoR!Harry doesn't have this evidence.

Comment author: PeterS 25 August 2010 01:00:54AM *  8 points [-]

Harry learns things that only Dumbledore would have known.

Does he? It certainly seems possible that Harry is just filling in the blanks himself. I just went back and re-read it. Consider:

"Explain," said Harry.
"But you already know," said Dumbledore. . .
...
"But if Voldemort used the Killing Curse," Harry started again, "and nobody died for me this time -- how can I be alive?"
"I think you know," said Dumbledore. "Think back. . ."

The information that Dumbledore actually does provide to Harry is either inconclusive or insubstantial -- e.g. Harry asks about the peculiar behavior of his wand, and Dumbledore says he cannot but guess. Harry asks where they are, Dumbledore cannot answer and says that they are where ever Harry thinks they are. Harry asks about the Deathly Hallows:

"Real, and dangerous, and a lure for fools," said Dumbledore. "And I was such a fool But you know, don't you? I have no secrets from you anymore. You know."
. . .
So you'd given up looking for the Hallows when you saw the Cloak?"
"Oh yes," said Dumbledore faintly. . . "You know what happened. You know."

Dumbledore tells Harry of his stint with Grindelwald, but Harry might be piecing together the narrative from what he has learned (Dumbledore again seems to indicate at some times that Harry already knows what happened).

The chapter's ending could go either way:

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
...
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

This all leads me to consider that chapter very shaky evidence. I'd still say the strongest evidence is the ghosts. Eliezer's explanation is lacking, since in Book 4 a group of travelling ghosts visits Hogwarts from elsewhere beyond the castle (the gang of headless ghosts, entry into which Nearly-Headless-Nick is sadly not quite eligible). Myrtle once left the castle to haunt a wedding. So, in canon, ghosts must be more than just after-images bound to the castle stone. Though there are, of course, other similar explanations. . .

Comment author: wedrifid 24 August 2010 12:06:50AM *  6 points [-]

Of course, MoR!Harry doesn't have this evidence.

More to the point, MoR!Author doesn't have this evidence!

Comment author: ata 23 August 2010 02:42:43AM *  7 points [-]

[I]f we lived in the sort of universe where horrible things were only allowed to happen for good reasons, they just wouldn't happen in the first place.

I love this line and am probably going to be quoting it frequently.

Edit: ...and Harry was pretty magnificent in that scene, in general. "Wrong! I want the secret of the Dark Lord's immortality in order to use it for everyone!" was one of my favourite moments, even if Harry was mistaken about the feasibility of that particular plan.

Comment author: Unnamed 22 August 2010 07:43:47PM *  7 points [-]

Chp 39 (the Dementor)

I think that Dumbledore and Harry were too quick to conclude that the Dementor could just be used as a distraction. It was Harry's first idea (once he turned cold), and Dumbledore stopped him there. Cold!Harry didn't even spend 5 minutes on the problem - compare with Harry's instructions to Fred & George in the Hold Off on Proposing Solutions MOR chapter. If there's a plot, that seems much too obvious for Quirrell.

Comment author: dclayh 22 August 2010 09:07:55PM 8 points [-]

What immediately occurred to me (similar to the infamous scene in The Princess Bride), is that if your opponent believes you will have a distraction and a real attack, simply lauch two real attacks, with the expectation that whichever one the opponent takes to be the distraction will succeed. Obviously this requires a greater sacrifice of materiel, but Quirrelmort doesn't exactly seem short in that department.

Comment author: CronoDAS 28 August 2010 06:34:40AM 2 points [-]

Do one better. Have an obvious distraction, a less obvious distraction, and one real attack. That way, when your adversary discovers the less obvious distraction, he'll stop looking.

Comment author: Unnamed 22 August 2010 11:16:05PM 6 points [-]

Canon!Harry was especially vulnerable to Dementors, which raises the possibility that the Dementor is there to influence Harry's personality, increase Quirrell's hold over him, and shape him into what Quirrell wants him to be. Dumbledore described Harry as having a mind like a Dark Lord but with love which makes him non-evil, Dementors suck out love & happiness. And Dumbledore is supposed to be the one protecting him, so if anything bad happens to him....

Comment author: wedrifid 22 August 2010 09:02:25PM 6 points [-]

I think that Dumbledore and Harry were too quick to conclude that the Dementor could just be used as a distraction

True, and somewhat understated. Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald and led a hard fought defence against Voldemort and his death eaters. Why on earth does he need to call in an eleven year old with magic cold/angry powers just to come up with the thought 'maybe it is a distraction'?

This Dumbledore has been crippled to beyond all recognition.

Comment author: RobinZ 22 August 2010 09:11:08PM 7 points [-]

Two possibilities:

  1. Dumbledore has been too busy to step back and think about the situation creatively.

  2. Dumbledore is making up a reason to invite Harry Potter into his office to (a) get his report on Lucius Malfoy, (b) warn Harry about the Dementor coming onto campus, (c) encourage Harry to practice his cunning outside the formalized exercises of Quirrell's armies, (d) lend credence in Harry's eyes to his suspicions of Quirrell by revealing that Quirrell is acting suspiciously, (e) query Harry about Voldemort.

I do not find either entirely implausible.

Comment author: TobyBartels 23 August 2010 02:49:06AM 2 points [-]

I agree with (2). I could quibble over the subpoints, but it comes down to: to get Harry's reaction.

Comment author: Larks 22 August 2010 07:54:29PM 4 points [-]

Using a Dementor to weaken Dumbledore seems like an alternative explanation.

Comment author: dclayh 01 August 2010 11:17:16PM 7 points [-]

Ch. 33:

  1. The three-way tie, while clearly dramatically convenient for Eliezer, and adequately foreshadowed, is just so boring.

  2. Was anyone else briefly confused because they had forgotten that the war was continuing even after the awarding of the Christmas Wish?

Comment author: thomblake 02 August 2010 02:26:22PM 7 points [-]

Re 2: Yes, I'd forgotten that as well.

Also, very disappointed about the skipping of about a month or so there. If Eliezer doesn't explicitly fill in the gaps, I'm considering writing a MoR fanfic (tentatively titled "MoR: Battle School") after at least the wars are over and intervening events are solidified, to fill in that time.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 August 2010 08:31:11PM 5 points [-]

Go for it. Most people complain about the pace being too slow - I think you might even be the first to complain about it being too fast - but that's certainly one way to fix it, if you're inspired with the vision of a battle. There's a chance though hardly a certainty that I would answer questions before you wrote, or declare the story canon afterward.

Comment author: thomblake 02 August 2010 08:48:54PM 4 points [-]

Well I hadn't been complaining about the pacing before, so the sudden jump over a significant period seemed wrong. Surely these people would have done all sorts of interesting learning / use of magic over the course of the battles, and Harry and Draco would have been doing science to it, and there would have been interesting developments in Quirrell's classes.

Thanks for the offer - I will surely pester you with questions when I get around to it.

Comment author: NihilCredo 03 August 2010 03:52:19AM 6 points [-]

doing science to it

Phrase recognised, giggling performed.

Comment author: Alicorn 02 August 2010 08:37:20PM 2 points [-]

I believe it is customary to call fanfiction of fanfiction "cookies".

Comment author: NihilCredo 03 August 2010 03:50:32AM 3 points [-]

In the case of HP fanfiction, that should be "biscuits".

Comment author: TobyBartels 23 August 2010 03:37:49AM 6 points [-]

Harry has already noticed that he gave too much information to Dumbledore, but now he trusts Quirrel too much.

Let it stand that there is something else I must do this afternoon.

To wit: find that stone which I saw earlier and which I now recognise from the design that you showed me!

Comment author: dclayh 23 August 2010 04:09:40AM 2 points [-]

To wit: find that stone which I saw earlier and which I now recognise from the design that you showed me!

Ha, great theory. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that the symbol was so obscure that even Voldemort never found it out. (Unless Rowling specifically mentioned it?)

Comment author: TobyBartels 23 August 2010 04:38:30AM *  5 points [-]

(Unless Rowling specifically mentioned it?)

This is important to the plot of Book 7 in canon, so I'm going to rot13 it for you just in case.

Va pnaba, gur Erfheerpgvba Fgbar unf orra va Ibyqrzbeg'f cbffrffvba gur jubyr gvzr. Va snpg, vg'f bar bs uvf ubepehkrf! Ohg ur znqr vg vagb n ubepehk sbe fragvzragny ernfbaf; ur arire xarj jung vg jnf.

Comment author: dclayh 23 August 2010 04:43:50AM 2 points [-]

Aha. I read book 7 when it came out, but had forgotten that. Eminently plausible, then.

Comment author: TobyBartels 23 August 2010 04:46:39AM *  2 points [-]

I'd forgotten it myself when I made my first comment. But then I did some research to answer your question and ...!

Comment author: TobyBartels 23 August 2010 02:12:45AM *  6 points [-]

if Hitler had been allowed into architecture school like he wanted, the whole history of Europe would have been different

Is this a subtle difference from the real world, or just Harry thinking more deeply?

As I understand it (confirmed by Wikipedia), Hitler was rejected from a school for pictorial art, not architecture. However, Wikipedia has more: the art school recommended that he become an architect instead, and Hitler agreed. However, Hitler never bothered to apply to architecture school, because he lacked the necessary academic qualifications (including a high-school degree, which was rarer back then).

It's not clear from this if Hitler ever formulated the desire to attend architecture school, or if it was always simply impossible to him. The usual counterfactual hypothetical is "What if Hitler had gotten into art school?", but maybe "What if Hitler had tried harder in high school so that he could have qualified for architecture school?" is more realistic after all, given where his talents lay.

PS: I type this in the middle of catching up on MoR, while in the other room Order of the Phoenix is on the TV. But I've seen that before!

Comment author: RobinZ 22 August 2010 05:45:44PM 6 points [-]

Regarding Chapter 38: Am I correct when I say that Lucius Malfoy is modeling Harry as a level 3 player (pretending to be an ignorant player pretending to be a knowledgeable player), when Harry is actually level 2 (an ignorant player pretending to be a knowledgeable player)?

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 24 August 2010 04:37:12PM 3 points [-]

Yep. Or at least, that's what it looks like. Could be that Lucius knows Harry level 2, but is pretending to think Harry is level 3. Or, Harry is pretending to be Level 2 (actually level 4ish).

All of which makes Eliezer level ω.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 09 August 2010 06:43:23AM *  6 points [-]

while he'd never been young enough to believe in Santa Claus, he'd once been young enough to doubt.

This line probably improved the upbringing of any future offspring of mine. I had considered either being totally honest, or telling the typical Santa stories as a low difficulty exercise in spotting falsehoods you're raised with.

Now, I'll still casually detail the Santa myths while being honest about his nonexistence, but I'll also adopt the parental Santa role, down to using magic tricks to make presents appear at midnight, and reindeer tracks in the lawn.

My kids will not be fooled by turning the hot plate around.

Edit: I was thinking about adding a link to the hot plate story for anyone not a regular LW reader, but then I realized this story is already contained in the fiction! (ch. 26)

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 28 August 2010 09:14:51AM 3 points [-]

...adopt the parental Santa role, down to using magic tricks to make presents appear at midnight, and reindeer tracks in the lawn.

You do realize that one of the things that this kind of thing teaches is "Dad's willing to slash my tires", I hope. Sufficiently smart kids can pick up on that kind of issue surprisingly young - my own relationship with my mother never really recovered from the instance when, at age 5, I discovered that she was willing to lie to me for her own convenience, and what you're proposing to do appears to be rather similar in scope and potentially more damaging because it's intentional rather than incidental.

Comment author: gwern 02 August 2010 03:15:37PM 6 points [-]

The big speech by Quirrel troubles me.

I thought we had Word of God that Quirrel was in some way Voldemort (Quirrelmort), and that we should've become certain of that early on (especially with the Voyager horcrux implied).

But the speech doesn't make sense for me. If Voldemort was so close to winning, if it took a freak Black Swan to defeat him and his followers, if magical England is still utterly incompetent, if many of his followers are still at large (as we know from canon they are), if...

Given this situation, why doesn't Voldemort just start over? The plan worked perfectly the first time; why not just do it again, and put a little poison in Harry's drink or something? There are a bazillion ways Harry could be killed, as Harry himself demonstrates in the killer-instinct lesson. The magical protection he has is very weak indeed.

If a magical England all bearing a 'Light Mark' would be so unstoppable and take over the magical world, and by implication then can take over the mundane world, why doesn't Voldemort just take over magical England the way he planned to, and then impose the Light/Dark Mark on everyone?

Why is he instead apparently doing his damndest to prevent anyone from succeeding the way 'he' almost did, and apparently pushing Draco or Harry to become benevolent dictators?

I don't understand it at all. I can't reconcile Voldemort's past with Quirrel's past with Voldemort's past goals with Quirrel's future goals and so on. I am, as the LW phrase goes, confused.

Comment author: ewbrownv 02 August 2010 04:27:40PM 12 points [-]

My impression is that in MoR Voldemort was a passionate young revolutionary in the first war, but since then he's gotten older and his outlook has changed. He sees the muggles as the greatest threat now, and he recognizes that his history means he can't take power in his own name without a long and devastating series of wars that would leave the magical world exhausted and vulnerable to this outside threat. So it would be rather convenient if he could sway Harry to his way of thinking and arrange for the wizarding world to unite under a leader who sees him as a mentor...

Comment author: Yvain 03 August 2010 08:22:39AM *  7 points [-]

I agree with your analysis.

But gwern's description of Harry's victory over Voldemort as a "black swan" doesn't satisfy me. The canon explanation - that the Power of Love auto-defeats all dark magic, and either no one had ever noticed this before, or Voldemort just assumed no one would use that strategy despite its obvious game-winning power because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good - doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would cut it in Methods.

One remote possibility is that Voldemort realized he'd inspired so much hatred that he'd never be able to unite the magical world without first breaking its power so badly it would be useless to him, so he found a kid with Dark Lord potential, stuck enough of his soul into him that he felt in control, and then faked his own death in such a way as to make his chosen heir the sort of hero whom everyone would rally around. This is probably too complicated for a smart Slytherin who'd seen The Tragedy of Light to try, but there's got to be some sort of weird explanation for why Voldemort lost ten years ago, and why he lost to a kid with precisely the sort of plotting ability and mastery of Muggle methodology Voldy needs for his plots.

Comment author: thomblake 03 August 2010 06:01:04PM 6 points [-]

Evil Cannot Comprehend Good

Clearly happening in MoR, at least to some extent. AFAICT, Quirrel honestly can't tell why Harry wouldn't want to be a dark lord, and Draco's completely incapable of grokking Harry's motivations; pretty much whenever Draco tries he gets it wrong. Quirrell also won't understand why Harry wouldn't just flee, rather than sticking around to fix things.

Comment author: wedrifid 06 August 2010 04:05:38AM 2 points [-]

Angel: People who don't care about anything will never understand the people who do.

Hamilton: Yeah, but we won't care.

Comment author: Leonhart 03 August 2010 12:29:46PM 2 points [-]

Ooh, thanks for reminding me about Light in this context. I shall now be re-reading to determine if there's evidence that Quirrell remembers being Voldemort, or whether he's just been overwritten with V's utility function and not his memories. We're owed a few more Obliviation-based bombshells.

Comment author: gwern 03 August 2010 04:18:18AM *  7 points [-]

I can't reconcile that theory with the combined Voldemort-Quirrel history. (I did think of it after the discussion about scientists nearly dooming humanity.)

I don't think it works. Quirrelmort snuck into NASA in the '70s, when the Voyagers launched. That is, decades before his defeat. Quirrelmort knew of Voyager, knew where to find it, knew what building, what campus, how to defeat the many security systems, and so on. This bespeaks an intimate and long-standing interest in NASA's projects. Given the horcrux is a large fraction of his life, it also means Quirrelmort trusts rockets a great deal. Which means he trusts in The Power of Science.

Nukes, nuclear winter, and other existential risks were definitely common knowledge in the '70s. Quirrelmort couldn't've possibly missed them, especially with things like Project Orion. So, he knows muggles can kill all humanity and also wizards; he believes they might do it; and yet, it's only after the Black Swan of Harry that Quirrelmort suddenly realigns all his priorities?

Well, I'm sure a good author could write that and make me believe it. But I'm not going to make myself believe just to explain away Quirrel's speech.

Comment author: LucasSloan 03 August 2010 04:30:00AM 3 points [-]

I agree with ewbrownv's theory in most particulars except for the part where Voldemort experiences a shift in personality post-Harry Potter. I think it more accurate to say that for a very long time it has been his goal to unite Magical Britain/Humanity under one leader who was capable of dealing with the threat posed by Muggles and Science. He initially tried to united them by force and fear, but has come to think that it would be easier/better to united them behind the much beloved Harry Potter, who he thinks he can control.

Comment author: Unnamed 03 August 2010 05:02:09AM 3 points [-]

I think there was a personality shift along with the change in strategy. Voldemort was too arrogant and power-hungry to be anything but the leader - he needed to learn to lose before he could be content to pursue his goals in this subtler way.

Comment author: gwern 03 August 2010 04:54:03AM 3 points [-]

He initially tried to united them by force and fear, but has come to think that it would be easier/better to united them behind the much beloved Harry Potter,

This is the natural next step - he wants to become the éminence grise. I don't like this either. It's not faster. I don't see any plausible way of Harry leading and unifying magical Britain within less than 5 years, and the world would take longer, and humanity even longer. So Quirrelmort loses a good 10 years or so (and remember, he's already lost 11 years just to Harry growing old enough to enter Hogwarts). It may not be easier, since Quirrelmort has to expend a tremendous amount of effort to hide himself and plot circles around everyone. And better? He will forever be at Harry's whims, which undoes a lot of Harry's value as figurehead.

who he thinks he can control.

Indeed? I would hope that Quirrel by this point has been disabused of any notions that Harry is easy to control. I certainly have.

Comment author: dclayh 03 August 2010 05:04:02AM 2 points [-]

Quirrelmort knew of Voyager, knew where to find it, knew what building, what campus, how to defeat the many security systems, and so on. This bespeaks an intimate and long-standing interest in NASA's projects.

Well, all the bits after finding out about Voyager could be done with the liberal use of Imperius, legilimency and other magic.

Comment author: gwern 03 August 2010 07:47:53AM *  2 points [-]

Alright, I'll modify my intimately familiar claim. He needs to be only reasonably familiar. Up in the top few percentiles of Americans/Englishmen vis-a-vis space knowledge, but not much much higher.

However, if you assume he got in just by using Imperius, this reinforces my point about the respect Quirrelmort needs for Science. A normal arrogant wizard wouldn't even bother to ask his pet muggle NASA technician to disable all the alarm systems. ('Alarm systems? What are those? I don't detect any wards or magical traps, therefore I can just walk in and make a horcrux.')

Comment author: wedrifid 04 August 2010 06:45:12AM 2 points [-]

('Alarm systems? What are those? I don't detect any wards or magical traps, therefore I can just walk in and make a horcrux.')

Depending on the magical system he could well bypass them accidentally. In the Buffyverse, for example, runes designed to protect against magical detection also work against any form of modern surveillance. In the HP universe I would expect Harry's cloak to protect against any visual detection technology and a Voldemort strength anti-detection spell would probably also be sufficient. Pressure sensitive plates would be a different matter but may also be the sort of thing that a wizard would expect. In fact, a competent wizardly burglar would quite possibly levitate as a matter of course while on a job.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 03 August 2010 05:15:31PM 4 points [-]

Or voldemort is two steps ahead of us, he's realized that Harry Potter is a crazy muggle-loyal scientist, and there is now only one potential leader who could save the magical world.

Hermione Granger.

Comment author: RobinZ 03 August 2010 05:20:00PM 4 points [-]

If that were true, he would already have lost the minute he ran through the "intent to kill" exercise.

Comment author: Unnamed 03 August 2010 07:29:05AM 6 points [-]

Another theory of Quirrelmort (which Psy-Kosh came up with) is that Quirrelmort identifies with Harry because he transferred part of himself to Harry when he gave him the scar, so now his ambition is for Harry to become a Dark Lord. In other words, Voldemort split into Quirrell and Harry, and now the one part is trying to make sure that the other part carries out his plan.

This theory is compatible with the wizard v. muggle war theory, if the plan is for Harry to become a Dark Lord and lead the wizards against the muggles.

Comment author: gwern 03 August 2010 09:00:18AM 2 points [-]

Hm... I suppose that might actually address the issues.

But wait, this doesn't explain why Quirrelmort would wait 2 decades for Harry to finish the job of taking over the world rather than do it himself, and then groom Harry without any distractions. I mean, Quirrelmort still seems to be quite competent, and we see ever less of zombie-mode. (Besides, isn't leadership all about delegation?)

Comment author: dclayh 04 August 2010 07:20:06AM *  2 points [-]

we see ever less of zombie-mode

A very good point. I wonder if that's intentional on Eliezer's part, or if he's simply forgotten to write about zombie-Quirrell because he (z-Q) is uninteresting.

Comment author: nickernst 04 August 2010 02:02:15AM 5 points [-]

We had a hint that Quirrell is in some way Voldemort, but how exactly? We haven't been given information from anyone but Quirrell on that. They went to the same dojo. Physically, that's nearly all we've been told, by an unreliable source. The only other physical hint is Quirrell's zombie/alertness transition.

The questions are these: Are they two distinct individuals? How distinct and why? Have they always been so or not so? And is each aware of the other?

Here's another idea, no more motivated than the idea that Q=V. Perhaps when "tuning in", Quirrell is not channeling Voldemort. Rather, Quirrell has a "mysterious dark side" which feeds him ideas when he is in zombie-mode. Neither the former Quirrell, or the remains of Voldemort were powerful enough to impact magical Britain sufficiently to satisfy their goals. Additionally, their goals did not match perfectly. A trade was made; a partial exchange of utility functions, and perhaps something more.

Voldemort's magical knowledge was vast and useful; if someone thought himself to be terribly clever, and thought that he was less of a fool than the now-failed Dark Lord, and sought power, he might make a deal with the devil; confine the mind to a tightly sealed box instead of destroying it. In exchange for this life-saving act, knowledge. And with every exchange, there could be some influence on each other's values. Maybe he's already admitted that he's going to lose - the mind will get out of the box by the end, and he will cease to be distinguishable. But as a new challenge, he bet he could transfer the best of his knowledge and goals to Harry Potter before then, enough to defeat whatever would grow from his mental corpse.

Or not. All sorts of things are possible with the little information we have. The most mysterious repeating phenomenon that's notable right now is Quirrell's zombie-mode. For just his political views and most of his behavior, being Voldemort is not the simplest explanation.

Comment author: Randaly 09 August 2010 06:23:34AM 2 points [-]

My memory of the books isn't perfect- but wasn't Voldemort's main goal immortality, not conquest?

If so, then Voldemort could be trying to manipulate Harry into merging science and magic to create a means of immortality, before he takes over. This would also fit with author tract nature of the story- it would give him a chance to reference transhumanism, SENS, or cryonics.

Comment author: Pavitra 25 August 2010 02:37:39AM *  20 points [-]

I can't believe I didn't realize this before.

Someone complained elsewhere (I think it was in the other thread) about Harry being the Boy-who-Lived and having a prophecy and having a cold dark side and being super-rational.

From MoR itself:

It's too much coincidence for one girl to be the strongest magically and academically unless there's a single cause.

It's plausible that one of the Muggle-raised students at Hogwarts could be a science nerd. It's not plausible that that student would also be the Boy-who-Lived. There must be a single cause.

I think it's most likely that Harry's dark side is somehow an effect of being AKed. Perhaps he's a horcrux, like in canon. The hat said no, but it's possible that Harry was killed and the only soul left in him is Voldemort's fragment. Or, without positing souls, maybe horcruxing a person overwrites the victim with a copy of yourself.

Harrymort has a warm side because he was raised in a loving household; he doesn't remember being Voldemort because he was stuck in a child's brain, with the plasticity and pruning that entails (or maybe V. wiped Harrymort's memory for some reason?); he didn't survive the attack, but rather his fresh corpse was appropriated as a horcrux.

This also explains his prodigious intellect and indignation at being treated as a child: he's really an adult mind, overwritten onto a child's brain. This is also why the Remembrall reacted the way it did: he's forgotten decades of his former life as Voldemort.

Comment author: KevinC 27 August 2010 07:59:20AM *  8 points [-]

ZOMG! That makes sense! So much sense that J.K. Rowling really missed a chance to have a great Revan Moment in canon. Imagine the shock ending if, as Voldemort staggers from a mortal wound in the last pages of Deathly Hallows, he explains this to Harry, then: "I...am only a shell...and have never been anything more. (cough) My purpose has only been to prepare you...Make you strong...make you gather the Hallows and become invincible... You. Are. Voldemort! BWA! HA! HAAAAAA!"

This would make sense of canon scenes like, for e.g., Voldy's re-animation ceremony in Goblet of Fire only using a little of Harry's blood, instead of having Ratface cut his throat, and how he calls his Death Eaters off and fights Harry solo instead of having them Just Shoot Him.

Back to MoR, yeah, I think "Harrymort" is a fiendishly cool idea! (up-voted)

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 02:45:43AM 8 points [-]

"Ghosts," Harry said, his voice flat. "You mean those things like portraits, stored memories and behaviors with no awareness or life, accidentally impressed into the surrounding material by the burst of magic that accompanies the violent death of a wizard -"

"Why," I said to myself, "would you have to die to make a ghost? It seems completely arbitrary." But then I thought that perhaps death releases a huge amount of magic that can't normally be drawn upon safely.

But then I had this wicked awesome idea.

What if a Horcrux is the same effect, harnessed deliberately? That's why it requires human sacrifice -- the violent death of a wizard. A controlled ghost-making, operated by a wizard who remains conscious and alive through the whole process, can bind the mind into an object, arrange for contingent regrowth of the caster from the record... Yes. Horcruxes are ghosts created under controlled conditions.

Which in turn suggests that you might be able to make a dying person into a superghost (or maybe even an immortal living person). Kill them to make a horcrux, but make the sacrifice immortal instead of the caster.

Comment author: wedrifid 30 August 2010 05:59:10AM *  5 points [-]

A couple of recent comments have prompted me to consider my impressions of the cold, dark side of Harry. In particular how it differs from an 'evil, bad side' and why it seems to me to go hand in hand with being 'super rational'.

Someone complained elsewhere (I think it was in the other thread) about Harry being the Boy-who-Lived and having a prophecy and having a cold dark side and being super-rational.

Given that I know Harry to be super-rational and also that he is functional and has a credible ability to achieve goals I would actually be somewhat surprised if he didn't also have a colddarkside. Partly because I am generalising from a sample of me and partly because that cold practicality is required if you are going to maintain rational beliefs about yourself and also function.

Also, from the descriptions it looks like he was fighting this battle in ColdDarkLordHarry mode, so in addition to the above, he might even have been worrying that his Dark Side had subconsciously arranged things (such as a Potions failure, or just the situation of random danger with the Feather Fall potion as a false guarantor of safety) in a way that would bring his Intent To Kill to bear. It might even be revealed later that, for just a moment, his Dark Side produced a desire that she actually die, and that's what's making him feel so guilty.

A caricature of the non hyper-rational person suggests that they have the ability to act in an effective approximately instrumentally rational manner in most typical situations while simultaneously presenting a warm front. The 'dark side' is denied but also harnessed. It 'subconsciously' arranges things to achieve pragmatic ends while maintaining plausible deniability even to yourself.

When you are super-rational you don't have that luxury. The 'cold, dark' instincts must ally themselves with the rational side and the conscious awareness. You don't 'accidentally' kill someone or screw them over with unconscious passive aggression. If you need to kill someone you kill them. If you need to hurt them, you hurt them. The colddark may prompt you to lie but it need not call you to lie to yourself.

The Intent To Kill is somewhat similar. It isn't a a sadistic part of you that secretly wants people dead. It isn't malicious. It is ruthless and practical. If you must fight, it says, then don't fight fair and don't fight half heartedly. If you have a goal then the actions you take should be about achieving the goal rather than adopting the persona of a person who has a goal.

Comment author: Rain 29 August 2010 02:55:56AM *  5 points [-]

I had a recent conversation with a few friends of mine about life extension, death, etc, brought on by reading the chapter from HP&MoR where Harry discusses the topic with Dumbledore. I used all the standard arguments (their general response was 'it would be boring'), and eventually used the word deathist. After hearing the word, one of my friends recast their position, jokingly, as "anti-liveite", which made me realize the whole thing might just be arguing politics.

Comment author: katydee 29 August 2010 03:00:53AM 4 points [-]

Firmly identifying yourself with a position, especially with a cute little word, tends to lead to that, yes. I would definitely avoid using "deathist," "lifeist," etc.

Comment author: Rain 29 August 2010 01:29:49PM 2 points [-]

It was a very brief moment in the conversation, not even remarked upon by anyone. It did make me think of it in an entirely new light, though. They were coming up with defenses partly because, if I was right about 'death being a bad thing', then there would be a significant amount of social policy decisions that need to be overturned or changed: politics rears its ugly head. Even without theism, decades of acceptance, etc., it will be a dangerous topic.

Comment author: knb 06 August 2010 08:22:52AM 5 points [-]

The following is my speculation about where the plot of the story is going. It is just speculation, but on the off-chance that any of it is correct and non-obvious, it will contain spoilers.

Solid control by a central authority seems to be more difficult for magic folks. (e.g. A few dozen Death Eaters nearly brought down the government). I assume this is because Apparition makes control of transport impossible, everyone having wands makes control of dangerous weapons impossible, and the Imperius curse makes central authority untrustworthy and spreads paranoia.

Voldemort realized that the situation doesn't have a democratic/liberal/libertarian solution and that an enlightened despotism is the only way to prevent another Dark Lord from rising up every few decades to seize control. Because of this, Voldemort, who really is a Light Lord, used his campaign of terror to try to take control of the Ministry of Magic, and impose his absolute, magically enforced rule over everyone.... Until he was defeated by baby Harry. Now, he is using his new form and identity to identify the best possible new Light Lord at Hogwarts (hence the war-games).

He will groom the new candidate to be his replacement, then stage his return as evil Voldemort, be defeated by the new Light Lord, who will bring peace and order as the absolute dictator.

Comment author: Aurini 02 August 2010 04:18:47AM *  5 points [-]

Eliezer's Timeless Decision Theory solution to The Prisoner's Dilemma is compelling.

It's something I've thought about for a long time. There must be some solution to the bloody thing - my gut instinct tells me to cooperate, even when dealing with a paperclip maximizer, but all of my justifications wind up being little more than mathy ways of saying 'Honor'. And to be perfectly frank, I'm not convinced that the story's solution is much more than that either. Just replace "acts honorably" with "holds true to TDT".

That said, I do hold myself to TDT, because to do otherwise would be dishonorable (honor being a part of my utility function)... but here I'm seeing a chicken-and-egg problem. Is 'honor' simply a manifestation of TDT?

I'm presuming that many of you have some thoughts on the matter, so I'm leaving my half-formed ideas here for comment.

Who'd've thunk they'd ever read a Harry Potter fanfic and enjoy it?

Comment author: orthonormal 02 August 2010 04:37:33AM *  3 points [-]

Well, it doesn't actually add up to honor. If you're in a True Prisoner's Dilemma and you predict that the paperclipper will cooperate out of honor, TDT says to defect and reap the benefits. It's only when two TDT agents meet that mutual cooperation is on the table.

(Nitpick: TDT and UDT should cooperate as well. Etc.)

EDIT: This comment is mistaken. If by HonorBot we mean an agent that predicts what the other agent will do, and then cooperates with all cooperators and defects against all defectors, then TDT indeed cooperates with HonorBot. TDT does not cooperate with CooperateBot, though, so TDT is not HonorBot.

Comment author: fiddlemath 02 August 2010 01:39:31AM 5 points [-]

On page 96 of the PDF version, the $ signs need to be escaped, in "an unconditional gift of $5 was twice as effective as a conditional offer of $50"). As it is now, the text between the $ signs is typeset in math mode.

(I post this here as I have no contact info for the PDF maintainer.)

Comment author: EStokes 03 August 2010 11:18:16PM 2 points [-]

Something cool on the PDF: the end of chapter 27. 503-504.

Comment author: nickernst 04 August 2010 04:52:15AM 13 points [-]

Eliezer, is there any chance any speaker at the Singularity Summit might open or close with "Happy happy boom boom swamp swamp swamp!"? For numerous reasons, I think it would be most hilarious if Ray Kurzweil could be persuaded to do so.

Comment author: thomblake 06 August 2010 04:05:33PM 4 points [-]

I disagree. It would be much funnier if Randi did it.

Comment author: nickernst 24 August 2010 03:39:35PM *  4 points [-]

Some wild hypotheses:

Horcruxes As Mind: If we assume there is no soul, then a Horcrux must preserve the mind. At least, part of it. Perhaps what is preserved is some random subset of the person's memories, desires, priors and weights. Or perhaps the division is along some nice mental function. The container probably has some extra functions (see below). It's a play on the phrase "cached thoughts"!

Losing Your Mind Step 1: Tom Riddle was probably brilliant, and more complex than Voldemort in his final days. Perhaps you lose the part of your mind encoded in the Horcrux. Not right away. But you are no longer connected to that part of yourself. You can't even tell where it is. It's locked up.

It could also be a trade. You are taking some of the victim's mind, which yours may or may not reject. They would get some of yours in return, but they die, and the process allows that foreign piece of mind to be preserved somehow.

This would explain why (if we follow canon) Voldemort became more singly monsterous over time, and apparently more simple-minded. He was losing his mind - his memories and goals. But something remained, until his timely death.

Losing Your Mind, Step 2: To lose the rest of your mind is suicide. You would be using murder of another to murder yourself - no mind, no self. To stage a suicide, why not get the other person to murder you? Then that person gets the last bit of your mind. Of course, it will take time to dissolve fully. As a baby, Harry had very little on way of mind to lose. But he had quite a bit to gain. Voldemort gave up the last of his mind to Harry, in a package that would unfold over time. Why? I'm not sure.

Recovering Your Mind, Step 1: When you find a Horcrux and "read" it, you gain back those priors. However, a real brain is too complex and developed to just inject new memories, desires, priors, weights and all that into it. The Horcrux is a mechanism for switching. It weeds out old beliefs, and injects the new ones. This takes time. The time depends on how similar you are already to the original mind.

Recovering Your Mind, Step 2: If Quirrell collects the last of Voldemort's mental facility save for what's in Harry, then one simply needs to kill the other in exactly the right way to regain the last of Voldemort's mental facility.

This would make my earlier speculation sort of compatible with this idea that Psy-Kosh had.

Comment author: dclayh 22 August 2010 09:16:38PM 4 points [-]

Ch. 40:

Interesting that Harry said "besides Avada Kedavra" rather than "besides Imperius". (I suppose it's that "intent to kill" acting up again.) But I wonder how easy it would be to Imperius someone into being more rational.

Comment author: sketerpot 22 August 2010 10:13:54PM *  9 points [-]

According to Rowling's description, the Imperius curse is a lot like Heinlein's slugs: the controlled person keeps all their capabilities, but feels no worry or feeling of responsibility, and they want whatever the controller wants them to want. To make them more rational, the controller would essentially have to do their thinking for them. It's most useful for making someone else into your secret agent.

The thing I find most intriguing about the Imperius curse is that it's possible for someone under it to cast the curse on someone else. And several people can be controlled by a single Imperius-caster. This means that, if enough people could perform the curse, you could theoretically turn the entire world into your brainwashed slaves by setting up an Imperius tree.

Of course, your commands would be passed on through the imperfect interpretation of O(log n) intermediaries, where n is the size of the controlled population.

Comment author: wedrifid 04 August 2010 06:09:22AM 4 points [-]

Unity. Which is more powerful? Unity within an army or an alliance between two? Hermione and Draco seem to have granted Harry complete internal unity within Chaos while leaving themselves open to betrayals from their soldiers or from each other. A best case outcome gives them a 2:1 advantage over Chaos but they must expend effort monitoring for internal or external betrayal. I would estimate that 2 spies in each of Sunshine and Dragon would give Harry a win.

The other aspect to consider is that the battle is now a game for points not a fight for mock survival. This reduces the extent to which having many enemies is a disadvantage. In fact, the game format is almost exactly the same as some Laser Tag formats. I play that from time to time and am extremely good at it. When it comes to team formation I always seek to have a far smaller team than the opposition. Partly because I like a challenge and partly because having lots of enemies gives me more chances to score. Sure, I'll end up getting shot more but if I take out 10 enemies for every 1 that shoots me I get a lot of points. When considering team score there is a balance to be found between having more opponents to shoot and having more on the team to be shooting. This is completely different from the strategy I would use for a team elimination game.

The Chaos players need to manoeuvre themselves such that they have access to the weaker players from Chaos and Dragon while not bothering much with the powerful, more skilful wizards. This differs from non-scored games in as much as hurting the enemy is barely relevant. Chaos is probably all going to die, they just need to get cheap points scored while they do so. Having a few traitors (or the potential for traitors) in the background causing distraction helps create openings for productive suicide assaults.

Comment author: CronoDAS 23 August 2010 05:44:20AM 3 points [-]

The other aspect to consider is that the battle is now a game for points not a fight for mock survival. This reduces the extent to which having many enemies is a disadvantage. In fact, the game format is almost exactly the same as some Laser Tag formats. I play that from time to time and am extremely good at it. When it comes to team formation I always seek to have a far smaller team than the opposition. Partly because I like a challenge and partly because having lots of enemies gives me more chances to score. Sure, I'll end up getting shot more but if I take out 10 enemies for every 1 that shoots me I get a lot of points. When considering team score there is a balance to be found between having more opponents to shoot and having more on the team to be shooting. This is completely different from the strategy I would use for a team elimination game.

I noticed this when playing Goldeneye for the N64. It would seem like a team with more players would have an advantage over a team with fewer, but that's not the case. In 3v1 mode, the solo player has three people he can get points for killing, but the team has only one. In other words, it's not how many times you die that matters, it's how many times you kill.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 02 August 2010 09:07:08PM 4 points [-]

Is Harry going to make a [realtime] prediction market for the battles?

Comment author: Strange7 02 August 2010 08:18:31PM 4 points [-]

One illustration of this is that in Goblet of Fire, there is a point where canon!Harry on a broomstick faces a dragon called the Hungarian Horntail... which in Ch. 16 of Methods is said to breathe fire quickly and accurately enough to melt a Snitch in midflight, implying that canon!Harry would have gotten roasted in an instant if he'd tried the same thing in this universe.

What if, in accordance with the Tournament's goal of providing an interesting challenge and spectacle without massacring all competitors, the dragons were actually subdued or sedated in some less-than-obvious way?

For that matter, the ability to melt a snitch (which is small, apparently made of gold which has a relatively low melting point, and not specifically designed to be indestructible) isn't the same as the ability to kill a well-prepared wizard.

Comment author: Darmani 02 August 2010 12:22:06AM *  4 points [-]

What would the incentive to become a traitor before the battle of Chapter 33 be? Before Quirrell added the ability to switch sides, you'd just be helping your army (which you've already developed a bond with in the first battle), and therefore yourself, lose. I'd expect this to strongly outweigh the fun of being a spy.

I just Googled for "airsoft betrayal" and "paintball betrayal." I found no stories of similar events in either sport. (I did however find one person hypothetically talking about betrayal in laser tag, even though many/most systems ignore friendly fire.)

Comment author: katydee 02 August 2010 10:50:18AM 6 points [-]

I know of people who have betrayed their teams in games of Assassin, generally aiming for personal glory by taking everyone out single-handedly.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 02 August 2010 02:13:58PM 5 points [-]

Blaise notes to Hermione that most of the traitors in Sunshine are actually double agents, trying to help Sunshine by fooling Dragon and Chaos into thinking they have additional help... and so on. The real traitors (the ones whose treason matters) are all shown to have realistic-ish motivations.

Comment author: orthonormal 02 August 2010 12:25:50AM 4 points [-]

I assumed that successful traitors could acquire individual Quirrell points faster than their loyal teammates, making for another Prisoner's Dilemma situation.

Comment author: Apprentice 02 August 2010 10:25:23PM 2 points [-]

I tried to assume that too but that doesn't seem to answer all the questions. The allocation of students to teams seems to be stable so presumably we have some sort of iterated PD going on. If you've betrayed your army in battle 4 then what happens between battle 4 and battle 5? Is there some sort of default assumption that everyone reverts back to being loyal?

Comment author: Pavitra 26 August 2010 01:51:42AM *  10 points [-]

Well obviously I'm not going to popularize a method of immortality that requires killing people! That would defeat the entire point!

Actually...

We know from canon that a Horcrux is really just a backup copy, so that on average you probably only about double your lifespan by making one, at best. But it seems to me that based on what Harry has been told, he should believe that a Horcrux makes you immortal and unkillable. Given this belief, in the absence of any better way of achieving immortality, the spell is considerably better than baseline.

Set up a Horcrux clinic. A pair of people come in, fill out some paperwork, flip a coin in the presence of a notary, and the winner of the coin toss kills the loser to make a Horcrux. If nobody ever cast the spell, the loser was going to die eventually anyway, and if you do it when both parties are close to dying of old age (though this would probably be a needlessly reckless strategy, all things considered) then the loser doesn't even lose all that much.

You could save half of the wizarding world from certain death.

Oh, and Harry didn't even ask whether it might be possible to substitute an animal for the human sacrifice, or make a portrait of the caster and use that as a substitute, or Transfigure a rock into a copy of the caster (under heavy precautions, of course). He displays an irrational degree of revulsion at the idea of killing people. One gets the idea that he would let five die in the trolley problem.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 August 2010 12:11:08PM *  3 points [-]

Oh, and Harry didn't even ask whether it might be possible to substitute an animal for the human sacrifice, or make a portrait of the caster and use that as a substitute, or Transfigure a rock into a copy of the caster (under heavy precautions, of course). He displays an irrational degree of revulsion at the idea of killing people. One gets the idea that he would let five die in the trolley problem.

I got the same impression. Harry!MoR in general seems to be very good at giving rationalist speeches (and internal monologues) but rather poor when it comes to actually thinking rationally under this kind of pressure. He may not let five die in the trolley problem when it is presented in a nice philosophical form but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he encountered an analogous problem like we see here and completely fail to even look at options once he hits an emotional roadblock. It would make me hesitant to trust him.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 August 2010 12:23:11PM 2 points [-]

As I understood it, Harry's revulsion wasn't against the need for a sacrifice but against Dumbledore's fear, Harry would consider the cost of a sacrifice as comparately low. Thinking about ways to lower that cost would not have convinced Dumbledore that Harry took that cost serious the way rejecting the thought outright might have.

Comment author: Aharon 25 August 2010 01:04:26PM *  3 points [-]

Hi, first comment from me. I recently was linked to the fanfic, and then happened to also read some of the discussions here.

Just in case: contains comments on chapters 17 and 29.

I have a few questions, both related to the fanfic and (a bit) unrelated:

  1. Concerning suspension of disbelief and James Randi. I was one of the readers whose suspension of disbelief was broken. Indeed, I did think until now that the virtues of a skeptic are similar - or even the same - as those of a scientist. Rather than just substituting the name of another skeptic who is less known, I would have preferred a short explanation as to why Randi wouldn't have tried his hand at the same questions Harry tries to solve. (And, in case this is a question that can't be answered in the context of the story, I would appreciate a link to some source that lists these differences. I admit that I do not wish to invest the time that would be neccessary to do a thorough search myself.).

  2. Some of the elements mentioned in the story - like the planning fallacy and the bystander effect - interested me greatly. I followed the advice to read the sequences, but their amount is rather staggering, and their interconnectedness makes it harder to stay focused then when reading TVTropes. Could anybody give me advice on which sequences to read to a) get an introduction and b) get a deeper understanding of those parts of rationality that have to do with everyday life more than with science, like the planning fallacy for example ;)

  3. Something actually related to the story, which I think hasn't been mentioned before (if it has, my apologies): Has anybody figured out what the secret in Lily Evans potion textbook might be? Dumbledore never actually says that he reveals the secret the book contains, just that what he says is true:

    "Which holds a terrible secret. A secret whose revelation could prove so disastrous that I must ask you to swear - and I do require you to swear it seriously, Harry, whatever you may think of all this - never to tell anyone or anything else." and "And I swear in turn," said Dumbledore, "that what I am about to tell you is the truth."

The author even outright says the book contains a terrible secret - which Dumbledore's scribbling probably doesn't qualify for:

His mother's fifth-year Potions textbook (which held a secret that was in fact pretty terrible) followed shortly after.

Comment author: Spurlock 26 August 2010 04:09:25AM 2 points [-]

Regarding #2, I don't think either of those examples come up particularly in any of the main sequences, though they have been posted on (try the search bar on the right). As for the sequences, they are ridiculously intimidating at first glance, but worthwhile. My recommendation is just to dive in one post at a time (Mysterious Questions to Mysterious Answers is a good starting point, with plenty of real life examples), and not let the sheer volume scare you off. Don't make it a project, just take each post as something to read on its own.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 24 August 2010 03:45:55AM 3 points [-]

Thought on Chapter 39 re ghosts (and possibly paintings)

If ghosts in the MoRverse are essentially echos/final states of someone, while they perhaps aren't people, would they effectively implicitly encode the final brain information, thus, while not exactly the person, would essentially contain the person "in storage/paused" (ie, act as a magical equivalent of cryo)

Also... the animagus issue is at least a partial evidence for the other side, given that a human mind managed to continue working in a cat brain, (or so it would seem)

Comment author: wedrifid 26 August 2010 12:19:48PM 3 points [-]

If ghosts in the MoRverse are essentially echos/final states of someone, while they perhaps aren't people, would they effectively implicitly encode the final brain information, thus, while not exactly the person, would essentially contain the person "in storage/paused" (ie, act as a magical equivalent of cryo)

This seems to suggest that if you are going to die, make sure you do so in a traumatic, angst ridden way. Get yourself ghosted. Then if someone creates a Friendly Magic-Gaming AI they can go ahead and synthesise you into a corporeal body. And if they refuse then you can haunt them and throw a dust spec in their eye once a year for 3^^^^3 years of the magically extended life of the universe.

Comment author: MartinB 09 August 2010 01:04:05AM 3 points [-]

It seems obvious that V. has more complicated interests than just governing a few wizards. In some stories, and sadly also in reality leaders fall into the notion that they have to unite the country under a strong hand to achieve anything useful. It might be that young V. thought so and tried to take over, but older V. is wiser and looks for other approaches. I don't think he wants Harry to become a dark lord, but shove him a bit into his own current goal system and avoid having him fall into stupid pitfalls.

Comment author: wedrifid 04 August 2010 05:44:04AM 3 points [-]

Harry wins. At least, I am presuming he is actively trying to weaken the Draco/Lucious alliance and enforce cooperation between Draco and Hermione. Losing a game to achieve that would perhaps be the first example of Harry doing something that wasn't motivated by his ego.

Now, I don't recall, is there any tangible motivation for the generals to keep winning these games now that the wish has been decided?

Comment author: ata 02 August 2010 03:20:19AM *  3 points [-]

What does "Xanatos" (as mentioned several times in the current Author's Note) mean? I'm not familiar with that reference.

P.S. That's one sexy PDF! And wow, 641 pages — I think that's already about the length of the sixth book.

Comment author: orthonormal 02 August 2010 03:32:21AM 13 points [-]

Xanatos is a mastermind from Gargoyles whose convoluted plots usually relied on the heroes stopping one scheme in order for the real objective to be attained. He became eponymous for such plots, especially on TV Tropes. (Sorry in advance for wasting your next few days.)

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 02 August 2010 12:52:55AM 3 points [-]

I just caught up on the last ten chapters.

I feel like the entertainment value is trending up, perhaps because most of the transparent lectures-for-the-reader material is off the author's chest, or that the characters are taking on a reality of sorts in his head. Sometimes the cuteness is formed of stock elements, but I feel like there are also real moments of discovery and invention in the interactions.

Comment author: EStokes 01 August 2010 11:24:47PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: thomblake 03 August 2010 02:36:23PM 7 points [-]

For all those who say that the 'unconventional ship' hinted at is Hermione/Griphook, I'd just like to say that's preposterous, and there is no way Eliezer would include such a thing in the story.

Comment author: fiddlemath 05 August 2010 08:04:20AM 14 points [-]

The Durmstrang houseboat from Goblet of Fire, must be the unconventional ship.

*ducks*

Comment author: JamesAndrix 06 August 2010 05:52:21AM 5 points [-]

Durmstrang houseboat/Beauxbaton carriage

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 August 2010 12:59:22PM 3 points [-]

Hermione/Griphook isn't completely wrong enough to qualify.

Comment author: thomblake 29 August 2010 01:38:13AM 2 points [-]

Chapter 42

Is it really Black/Pettigrew? Because I'm not sure in what sense that would be 'completely wrong'. But maybe I've just been hanging out with too many yaoi fangirls.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 August 2010 03:31:57AM 5 points [-]

I told someone in advance; in particular, I told them there would be a completely wrong ship, they guessed Fred/George, I told them "not wrong enough", and then said "Sirius and Pettigrew". They said, "OH, THAT'S JUST WRONG". So I figured that, yes, that was justifiably describable as "completely wrong". Also, the fact that I googled obvious spellings of the ship and found that it only seemed to have been done once or twice (I forgot the exact number), in a fandom that has a convention for using "Snumbledore" to indicate Snape+Lupin+Dumbledore, seemed to suggest that it was pretty damned wrong.

Comment author: LucasSloan 29 August 2010 05:27:04AM *  3 points [-]

he said, "OH, THAT'S JUST WRONG".

That was me. I still agree with my earlier comment, but I must say that you carried it off in the story in a remarkably natural way. It seemed to just come out as a perfectly natural fact about the universe, not something awful as it is when informed by canon, fan fic, and the horrible depiction of Pettigrew in the films.

Comment author: Unnamed 06 August 2010 12:53:38AM 4 points [-]

There were some sparks between Harry and the Sorting Hat.

Or there could be something between Fred, George, Hermione, and time-turned Hermione, which would be a completely inappropriate use of a Time-Turner, but I suspect it's been done and thus would fail the originality requirement.

Comment author: Baughn 04 August 2010 08:18:53AM 2 points [-]

That's.. just you, right?

Comment author: wedrifid 04 August 2010 05:08:07AM 2 points [-]

Where is this talk of unconventional ships?

Comment author: thomblake 04 August 2010 10:20:54PM 2 points [-]

The conversation refers to the AN for chapter 34:

7) Changes that are required to make the fic artistically complete when seen against the background of Harry Potter fanfiction, such as including at least one completely wrong ship.

Comment author: Larks 07 August 2010 12:37:59AM *  5 points [-]

Eliezer said he was writing Methods because he was having trouble writing his Rationality book.

Now, I find this confusing. If you're having trouble writing, the last thing you need is another book, competing for your attention. Perhaps if the second book had been more scholarly, he could have procrastinated from it by writing the rationality book, but this isn't the case here.

Equally, if it's rapid and constant feedback he needs, I'm sure we could find some, somewhere on the internet. -We'll all buy the book anyway, and a plausible pre-commitment should be easy with the aid of UDT/TDT.

So the only possible conclusion: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is the rationality book!

Consider:

  • It introduces most of the major themes of LW-style rationality.
  • it has a wide potential audience.
  • it demonstrates how to use the Methods in an inconvenient world, where both the mechanics of the universe and the moral responsibility your knowledge gives are confusing and counter-intuitive.
  • it makes the reader identify with rational characters.

Positive Proof. With the aid of magic, probably even p=1 now.

I look forward to the sequel; Eliezer Yudkowsky and the Unfriendly AI.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 August 2010 12:42:15AM 8 points [-]

If you're having trouble writing, the last thing you need is another book, competing for your attention.

This is not generally true. This is true iff the reason you are having trouble writing is because there are too many other demands on your time. If you can sit down to write, with nothing else to do for the next six hours, and plunk out a pathetic WPM because you're blocked or distractable or frustrated or depressed - then this isn't the case. In such a case many writers find that the way to get over the block is to write something else - something they can write copiously, enjoyably, without running into the same problems. Such as Harry Potter fanfiction.

Comment author: thomblake 09 August 2010 03:27:57PM 6 points [-]

Now, I find this confusing. If you're having trouble writing, the last thing you need is another book, competing for your attention.

When Feynman came back from work on the Manhattan project, he felt fatigued and found he had no interest in physics or math anymore. He could hardly work. Then he noticed some interesting lights in the cafeteria and started trying to describe their shape mathematically. After spending a couple of days on it, he was excitedly telling his friends about the interesting work he'd been doing; they were confused as to why he was doing anything quite so useless. He insisted that was the point; he was doing something fun and it got him back into working on interesting physics problems again.

Comment author: nickernst 07 August 2010 10:31:25PM *  3 points [-]

I believe he also started off uncertain of the legality of the fanfic, and praised Rowling when he found that she is ok with any derivative works so long as they don't make money.

Of course, if that really is the entire copyright restriction, he could release the fanfic as a "free e-book".

Other people have criticized your proposal that you shouldn't write B to help you write A. I definitely agree with what Alicorn said. You based that on an assumption of why he's had any difficulty writing A.

Most of the writing I've done is in the form of forum and blog comments. It's always easier to write a second comment after writing a first, for me anyhow. I often respond to something small before coming back to writing a larger post or comment. That's not necessarily Eliezer's reasoning, but there can be reasons to write B to write A.

Another point - MoR introduces a lot of concepts which the blog covers more thoroughly. I would expect the book to cover many concepts more thoroughly than the fanfiction does. One thing a person might aim to accomplish with a book whose content is also on a blog is to make the content more compact and organized. I don't think that's the main purpose of MoR! I agree that it makes some ideas more accessible.

But how confident are you that those are all of Eliezer's objectives with his book? Do you know who his target audiences are?

The ff.net audience is a very select audience. Most don't see themselves as better than most non-ff.net people, as far as I know, but I do think that most people who have heard of the concept of fanfiction think of it by default as something below them. This may be an exceptional fanfic, but lots of people will never read it, because it's a fanfic. And many people have never heard the term "fanfic"!

A published book though, that will reach people who make bookstore status purchases. People who have reason to signal that they are rational. They will buy a book with a title they can quote without getting dangerous looks from their employers, business partners, etc. A popular nonfiction book is also the sort of thing that "serious business" people will recommend or share with each other.

Another potential benefit for the book of writing the HP fanfic is that it embiggens LessWrong - there are more people who have heard of LW and will say so online, who also aren't regular posters. This could in turn lead to even more occasional readers of LW. One place open fanfic readers and book-title-status-signal readers will share information is in Amazon reviews. More people who occasionally check LW could increase the number of reviews and comments the book gets, which will make it more visible to those who will only read a well-reviewed book. I don't know if this could be a serious effect or not.

(Also, a published nonfiction novel is a bigger status achievement for the author.)

My main point though is that published books and fanfiction have different audiences. A nonfiction book would reach, well, people like Harry's, Hermoine's and Draco's parents. You can't ignore those people. Eliezer is likely thinking about how to spread ideas at different levels of status hierarchies. Lots of young people who read Harry Potter will read MoR, which has young characters set out to change the world, run by a less rational set of older high-status people. Wouldn't it be nice though if, in the real world, the high-status people were also more rational? Just writing a fanfiction would be too modest a goal.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 August 2010 03:27:30AM 2 points [-]

Now, I find this confusing. If you're having trouble writing, the last thing you need is another book, competing for your attention.

Your confusion is due to problems in your map of human behavioural patterns, not due to an incongruous explanation of the motivations for MoR. The discussions surrounding MoR give a powerful status reward, associating writing with social success. That is one of the most powerful forms of behavioural reinforcement, and something I have exploited myself at times.

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 06:50:29PM 4 points [-]

Ch. 42:

The idea of casual acceptance of homosexuality in magical Britain doesn't seem to be thought out fully. Even this very chapter (and I've noticed that major premises from one chapter tend not to show up in others, but that's a separate issue), there's the casual assumption (inherited from canon, inherited in turn from most of Western media as a whole) that "thinks Harry/Draco is hawt" equals "female". About fifteen percent of those squeeing fans should have been boys.

Comment author: NihilCredo 28 August 2010 08:43:50PM 5 points [-]

The idea was developed in the Ravenclaw girls' dorm, by the girls. They summoned a couple of professors for safety, but the word didn't spread outside of that particular group - otherwise there would have been a large and varied mass to see the show, regardless of romantic interest.

Incidentally, is sexual orientation usually well-established by the age of eleven?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 August 2010 09:36:17PM 3 points [-]

Really? Fifteen percent of all yaoi fans are yaoi fanboys and eighty-five percent are yaoi fangirls? I'd like to see that statistic before I believe it. Also, you've got to keep in mind that we're talking about the set of yaoi fans who are squeeing over Harry and Draco while they're still eleven. This, to me, says "yaoi fangirl", though I fully admit I'm working from 100% stereotypes and 0% experience.

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 09:42:11PM 3 points [-]

That's not representative. Yaoi specifically, as opposed to fiction depicting male homosexual relationships in general, is written almost exclusively by women for girls. The issues addressed are calques of the issues that come with being a teenage girl -- some works go so far as to get the guys pregnant.

Comment author: LucasSloan 28 August 2010 08:20:40PM 3 points [-]

About fifteen percent

Where is this number coming from? The incidence rate of male homosexuality is pretty low and guys are generally less likely to go squee over things anyway.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2010 08:11:34AM 4 points [-]

I've been having some problems with MOR Hermione, and chapter 42 amplifies them, with a side issue of what seems like very strange behavior from the other girls.

She seems like a bit of a monster, without concern for whether Harry's apologies actually make sense. Is it plausible that she would have so little interest in fairness?

I'm not talking about whether you think some, or many, women (or girls) would behave like that, but whether it makes sense for Hermione.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 August 2010 05:40:40PM 5 points [-]

This is honestly making me feel a bit aspie over here. As I understand the rules for social interaction, dropping a 12-year-old girl off the roof should generally be recognized as a misdeed. Hermione, as I was modeling her, was annoyed enough by having to climb the icy castle walls, and after falling off the roof, had gone beyond annoyance into a kind of detached curiosity. Bear in mind that she doesn't know anything about Harry's plans for Malfoy; so far as she knows, Harry is doing all of this for no other reason than to be annoying. I had trouble understanding wedifrid's reaction to Harry and hypothesized that he enjoyed empathizing with a dominant character and didn't want that dominant character to apologize, but now Nancy thinks Hermione is being unfair and, well. I feel a bit aspie because I don't quite understand where it's all coming from. Canon!Hermione in particular seems like she'd be really really annoyed with Harry making her climb up an icy wall and then getting her dropped off the roof. She'd forgive it in a flash as part of the war against Voldemort, but not if it was, say, part of a prank. What am I missing here?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 28 August 2010 06:31:21PM 4 points [-]

What am I missing here?

Not as much as I'm missing. They were in the final stage of an important war(game), so climbing icy walls with magic technological help seems to me a minor discomfort, just part of the game. They all had Feather Fall potions, so no-one was in any danger, whatever the lizard brain thinks of looking down from a long way up. Hermione even told Draco to drop her (according to the possibly unreliable girls' chatter afterwards). Harry had no way of knowing exactly how the rooftop chase would play out, although I would guess that he secretly practiced beforehand to get an advantage.

So, what is there for Harry to apologise for, and in such an extreme manner? I was expecting something else to be revealed in 42, but apparently not.

I know nothing about canon HP, but I don't think that matters here.

Comment author: katydee 29 August 2010 02:28:20AM 4 points [-]

Have you ever been rock climbing? I assure you that the fact that you're safe, and even the fact that you know you're safe, does not shut off the (untrained) lizard brain, at least not the sort of lizard brain that's afraid of heights.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 05:22:43AM 4 points [-]

Have you ever been rock climbing? I assure you that the fact that you're safe, and even the fact that you know you're safe, does not shut off the (untrained) lizard brain, at least not the sort of lizard brain that's afraid of heights.

Bizarrely enough, I went rockclimbing a couple of months ago. The first time in years, and the knowledge that I was safe seemed that it did make a lot of difference. At 50 metres up I deliberately violated the "don't look down" rule because I am somewhat masochistic when it comes to challenging my (miscallibrated) instincts. But the vertigo I expected just didn't come at all - I was genuinely surprised. My theory is that my "lizard brain" was already engaged with my rather stronger competitive instincts.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 29 August 2010 08:12:33AM 2 points [-]

I find the same thing. Climbing isn't scary at all when you're tied on.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 29 August 2010 07:30:22AM 3 points [-]

It doesn't mean anything afterwards, though, and afterwards is when the puzzling scene happens.

Comment author: nick012000 28 September 2010 02:10:15AM 2 points [-]

I haven't been rock climbing, but I can tell you that the main reason I'm scared of heights is because I get an urge to jump off, and I have to fight it back down again. If there's a full glass window or something between me and the drop, on the other hand, heights don't bother me at all.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 03:02:56AM 2 points [-]

Hermione even told Draco to drop her (according to the possibly unreliable girls' chatter afterwards).

(We read that play out ourselves.)

Comment author: [deleted] 29 August 2010 08:21:58AM 3 points [-]

I don't want to bring up PUA, but...

I had trouble understanding wedifrid's reaction to Harry and hypothesized that he enjoyed empathizing with a dominant character and didn't want that dominant character to apologize

...if you're empathizing with the character...

"I, ah... I don't have much experience apologizing, I'll fall to my knees if you want, or buy you something expensive, Hermione I don't know how to apologize to you for this what can I do just tell me?"

...then one thing you might feel here is searing embarrassment at the sight of a boy acting this way in front of a girl. I had in mind the old saw about men being attracted to looks, women to status. 'I'll do anything, I'm begging you on my knees' is utter abasement, and even if 11-year-old Harry thinks this is what normal interaction between the sexes looks like, it's still painful to see someone humiliate himself.

Comment author: lmnop 29 August 2010 09:42:14AM *  5 points [-]

While it's true that the average man is more attracted to looks than to status, and the average woman is more attracted to status than to looks, be careful not to over-generalize these preferences. Harry doesn't seem to mind, for instance, that Hermione is plain looking, and admires her intelligence, while the average man prefers beautiful women noticeably less intelligent than he is. Hermione isn't particularly attracted to high status men in canon (she picked Ron over Viktor Krum, for chrissakes), and there's no indication that she's different in MoR. Neither of them fit the personality profiles that the PUA community has studied most heavily, which I've heard described as "extroverted young women of average intelligence" and... well, I haven't been informed about the type of men specifically, but I'll hazard a guess that they're not like MoR Harry. So PUA models of interaction between the sexes wouldn't give you very reliable intuitions about how Hermione and Harry should act towards one another. Never mind that they're prepubescent and applying any adult models of interaction that were developed with sexual relations in mind to them seems kind of creepy in the first place. "Relationship" aside, they're mostly friends at this point.

I mean, I agree with you that Harry's apology was rather embarrassing, but that was because it wasn't warranted by the circumstances. If he'd actually done something worthy of an abject apology to Hermione, then he should be giving one, not restraining himself in order to protect his dominance over her.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 09:57:36AM 2 points [-]

While it's true that the average man is more attracted to looks than to status, and the average woman is more attracted to status than to looks, be careful not to over-generalize these preferences.

The differences are also typically exaggerated in popular culture and also in individual reports. If we compare actual behaviour to reported preferences the sexes are a whole lot more similar in their preferences (when it comes to status and money vs looks) than they tell themselves. Mind you, there is only so much faith I can place in the results of such studies (usually done in speed dating type 'laboratory' settings.)

Comment author: lmnop 29 August 2010 10:10:14AM *  3 points [-]

Interesting. I'm not sure if the correct dichotomy is status vs looks either. It could very well be money vs looks with both as indicators of status, since a woman's status (and ability to confer status on a man with her attention) is often determined by her looks. Have their been studies comparing attraction to, for example, very beautiful female sex workers vs less beautiful cheerleaders? Disclaimer: I'm wildly speculating here...

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 10:07:05AM 4 points [-]

...then one thing you might feel here is searing embarrassment at the sight of a boy acting this way in front of a girl.

To be honest I would have been almost as embarrassed if Hermione had done it. And probably even more bewildered.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2010 07:53:09PM 3 points [-]

Dropping a twelve year old girl off a roof is generally recognized as a bad idea in this world, but we don't have magic spells.

Hermione was enthusiastic about the war, and had asked to be dropped.

Since I might be a weird person myself, I've set up a poll about the plausibility of MOR Hermione.

Meanwhile, I recommend Jo Walton's Among Others, a fantasy novel with autobiographical elements about the coming of age of an intelligent, stubborn young woman. It won't be out till January, but I'll lend you my advance reading copy if you'll PM me your snail address.

Tentative theory: MOR Hermione is shaped by a combination of feminism and PUA, and the result is extremely odd. In any case, I find Harry, Draco, and McGonigle quite plausible, and I wonder if you've used different methods for creating them than you used for Hermione.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 August 2010 09:28:28PM 5 points [-]

I know nothing about PUA except what I read in other people's blog comments, and this part honestly leaves me baffled. Wha? Amplify please?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2010 09:52:04PM 5 points [-]

My knowledge of PUA is almost entirely from the comments here, too. Part of what gets on my nerves about it is that it seems to have a model of relationships in which people are in them solely because of status and fertility markers. There's nothing I can see about people actually liking each other (or, for that matter, disliking each other), or not being completely fungible if a better deal comes along.

There's that bit where Harry explains Lily's choice completely in terms of status issues-- this suggests that PUA/evolutionary psychology at least seems like a plausible set of theories to you. It's possible that I'm conflating them as having more in common than they actually do.

It gets to me that Hermione seems to be thinking in terms of herself and Harry having a Relationship rather than focusing on what they actually are to each other-- I think she'd have better sense. Or maybe I just hope she would.

It's interesting that I've gotten upvoted and a couple of positive comments for my complaints about the most recent chapter, while still getting information which suggests that Hermione is generally seen as more plausible than I see her. I tentatively suggest that my suspension of disbelief is broken, while other people are seeing some specific implausibilities that don't bother them nearly as much.

One suggestion about the Ravenclaw girls' vote-- they may well be voting for the most entertaining drama for themselves rather than what's best for Hermione. This may have already occurred to you, considering that so many of them wanted to catch Harry.

In their case, more of them should have generalized from one example.

Comment author: TobyBartels 29 August 2010 01:55:29AM *  5 points [-]

It gets to me that Hermione seems to be thinking in terms of herself and Harry having a Relationship rather than focusing on what they actually are to each other-- I think she'd have better sense. Or maybe I just hope she would.

Here maybe I see (but also generalising from one example) why people like your comments but don't qutie agree with you. This is definitely what I'd expect from a 12-year old, at least in the society that I grew up in, which should be similar to Hermione's. (Come to think of it, this reminds me of my sibling at that age, although not myself.) But it's not what I would have hoped.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 02:57:14AM *  3 points [-]

There's nothing I can see about people actually liking each other (or, for that matter, disliking each other), or not being completely fungible if a better deal comes along.

The fact that status influences our behaviours does not make them any less real. Nor does the fact that there are good evolutionarily explainable reasons for loyalty mean that loyalty is any less noble.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2010 06:48:50AM 4 points [-]

I agree that status influences our behavior. I don't agree that status is the only thing going on.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2010 10:14:02AM *  3 points [-]

I agree that status influences our behavior. I don't agree that status is the only thing going on.

If you replaced "I don't agree that" with "I don't believe that" then it would avoid a misleading implication. ;)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2010 01:57:38PM 3 points [-]

I see that you made a claim that I didn't address, but I think you also missed what I was saying.

I haven't seen people who are into PUA make an explicit claim that there's nothing to relationships but status and fertility signaling. What I do see is talk about relationships as though there's nothing else. All I know about you folks is what you write, or at least how your text looks to me.

Comment author: pjeby 29 August 2010 02:51:00PM *  3 points [-]

What I do see is talk about relationships as though there's nothing else [to relationships but status and fertility signaling].

I believe I've pointed this out before, but at least some "PUA" training emphasizes personal development, emotional connection, and trust as the foundation for interaction and relationships. (The word "status" is not mentioned once on that page, and if I recall correctly, it is not mentioned in any of the videos being sold there either.)

Comment author: wedrifid 30 August 2010 02:56:37AM 2 points [-]

I see that you made a claim that I didn't address, but I think you also missed what I was saying.

I was making almost the opposite point. You addressed a claim that I wouldn't make and I was distancing myself from it!

I haven't seen people who are into PUA make an explicit claim that there's nothing to relationships but status and fertility signaling. What I do see is talk about relationships as though there's nothing else. All I know about you folks is what you write, or at least how your text looks to me.

"You folks"? I am not and have never been a PUA of any kind! You are welcome to your stereotypes but please exclude me from them. :)

Comment author: Pavitra 28 August 2010 10:19:41PM 4 points [-]

There's that bit where Harry explains Lily's choice completely in terms of status issues-- this suggests that PUA/evolutionary psychology at least seems like a plausible set of theories to you. It's possible that I'm conflating them as having more in common than they actually do.

As I understand it, there are at least three separate things there: actual scientific evolutionary psychology; pop ev-psych, which is generally used as convenient rationalization for sexism and (less frequently) racism; and PUA, which is less science than engineering, but which comes with certain theories about why it works. I suspect that distinguishing the three properly probably requires a certain level of familiarity with the first one.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2010 09:29:51PM *  3 points [-]

Early returns on the poll suggest that I was generalizing from one example. More people find Hermione plausible than not. Admittedly, it's a small sample, but I'm not expecting the results to reverse.

Comment author: lmnop 28 August 2010 09:50:52AM *  2 points [-]

Hermione and Harry are acting a bit out of character in these last few chapters. Canon Hermione is straightforward, sometimes even abrasive, and extremely concerned with fairness. That is why she started S.P.E.W., after all. I can understand making her more social and diplomatic in order to strengthen her above canon, but the preoccupation with fairness and justice is pretty central to her personality. Is she toying with Harry (which isn't like her), or are they both blind to how silly he's being?

This apology business doesn't strike me as cute, like Ch. 36 was. It's just strange.

Comment author: KevinC 27 August 2010 08:39:38AM 4 points [-]

One thing I do find myself wondering about this latest chapter is why neither of these two Most Brilliant Students (Hermione and Draco) seem to have thought of "Accio Broom!" or "Wingardiam Leviosa" instead of pursuing Harry with Gecko Gloves. If one or both of them is flying while Harry's got his hands stuck to a wall, they win. Also, since they've been fighting Chaos soldiers using hover charms to move while using ball bearings to make the floors impassable, they should have at least tried to adapt and use that strategy (granting that they can't use brooms or other means of flight due to rules of engagement or some such) when facing Harry on the roof. They need to work on their OODA Loops. ;)

Comment author: FAWS 27 August 2010 09:53:48AM 3 points [-]

Brooms are illegal magical artifacts, Wingardium Leviosa presumably too impractical because because it offers neither sufficient mobility to dodge nor allows for using cover so extended use (as opposed to using it just to pass obstacles) would make the levitated person an easy target (Harry can still cast with one hand while hanging on with the other and his feet), and would soon exhaust the levitating person as well. Besides they would be giving up their two to one advantage.

Comment author: KevinC 28 August 2010 04:11:55AM 3 points [-]

Good points, but I think that with some practice in teamwork of the sort employed in Neville's "Special Attacks," they could have come up with something. Say, Draco levitating Hermione horizontally out the window, so she can use a Shield Charm to cover herself completely while Draco moves her out of Harry's one-handed firing arc. Throw in a baseball-style hand-signal code between them, so if Harry is concentrating on Hermione, Draco lets her go while she casts Leviosa on herself, and he zaps Harry, or if Harry tries to take aim at Draco, Hermione drops her shield charm and fires. And this assumes that neither of them (or Genius!Harry himself, for that matter) can come up with a better flying spell than Wingardiam Leviosa.

Maybe their problem is that they weren't quite ready for that level of teamwork, though if it was me in either of their places I'd have wanted to look into developing an inventory of "Special Attack" type maneuvers after seeing them work so well for Chaos.

OTOH, the likely real reason is that the Gecko Gloves give Harry a chance to use Science! in a fun way, so the Rule of Cool applies. Still, reactionless flight is such a trivial matter in the Potterverse that I still found myself wondering why they just went out after Harry on his own terms instead of trying to wield air power against him somehow. Maybe a couple lines of dialogue along the lines of "Why don't we use [flight-based attack X]?" "We can't because Harry would just use an Indra's Net Jinx!" (or some other expected counter that makes using the Gecko Gloves then sliding around on the slippery roof their best response to the situation).

Comment author: wedrifid 28 August 2010 04:42:11AM *  3 points [-]

Draco lets her go while she casts Leviosa on herself,

Does that work? I know Voldemort can fly but I got the impression that was something a bit more advanced than Winguardium Leviosa. Something off the order of an enhanced continuous form of apparation that requires huge amounts of concentration and skill to maintain. It would come with an advanced understanding of the mechanics of magical transport, along the same lines of Harry's advanced understanding allowing him to partially transfigure objects.

Still, reactionless flight is such a trivial matter in the Potterverse

I know brooms can fly but have we been given reason to believe that reactionless flight is trivial in the 'first years can do it' sense? It sounds like the sort of thing Harry would have tested but I could have forgotten him doing so. If self casting doesn't work then try casting winguardium leviosa on a heavy object while yourself floating on a raft in a tub, measuring the displacement of water...

Comment author: Pavitra 22 August 2010 08:01:10AM 4 points [-]

Is anyone collecting the Author's Notes in a publically-accessible place? Or is there a good reason (aside from aesthetic considerations) why they disappear?

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 25 August 2010 04:23:38AM *  8 points [-]

I am. I don't have the early ones, though - if anyone does, please share.

I also set up a very rough RSS scraper of the relevant url as a backup, here, though it seems to have stopped working for no apparent reason; it didn't catch the latest set of notes.

Comment author: ata 25 August 2010 04:38:15AM *  6 points [-]

I have the notes for chapters 12, 17, 18, 19. It probably makes the most sense to have them all in one location, so I can send you them if you want to add them to your page.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 25 August 2010 04:43:59AM 2 points [-]

Awesome. I'm emailable at my username at gmail.com.

Comment author: ata 25 August 2010 05:06:12AM 2 points [-]

Sent.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 25 August 2010 05:48:00AM *  2 points [-]

Posted.

Edit: Scratch that, I'm having sync issues. Working on it.

Edit2: Ok, there it goes. Should be up now.

Comment author: Pavitra 06 August 2010 05:34:00AM 4 points [-]

From the Author's Notes:

A word on the rules this fic follows. It is not a strict single point of departure. [...] I've posted a disclaimer in chapter one to this effect ("This is not a strict single-point-of-departure fic"). If anyone thinks this was a bad idea, now would be a good time to speak up.

The question that most interests me is not single vs. multiple departure, but rather known vs. unknown departure. If the set of points of departure is finite and known in full to the readers, then we can draw on canon evidence to help make inferences about the world of the fic. If not, we have only the fanfic itself to draw upon.

As a reader, I would rather have more information available. But this would require the author to have potentially unbounded knowledge of canon, depending on whether Word Of God was included, and at minimum to have read all the books.

Comment author: TobyBartels 06 August 2010 11:15:49PM *  3 points [-]

at minimum to have read all the books

I find it odd that Eliezer writes this fic without having read all of the books, but it's his life and his fic. And for the purposes of complying with canon, I believe that careful perusal of Wikipedia and other fan-made sites should be sufficient.

The biggest danger is poor characterisation of characters who don't show up in what Eliezer has read. Reference sites are good at explaining what people did, but poor at describing what they were like. However, I don't think that Eliezer is using any such characters, is he?

And therefore, I agree with you that it would be nice if Eliezer spelt out his points of departure; having not read all of the books should not stop him. Unfortunately, I think that some of his rules (such as the rule against anything to stupid for a book for adults) are pretty open-ended. (And how to apply them is very unclear; why is Peter Pettigrew as Scabbers stupider than the rules of Quidditch, for example?)

Comment author: Pavitra 07 August 2010 09:13:15AM 7 points [-]

having not read all of the books should not stop him.

That's not true. Without exhaustive knowledge of canon, there's no way to know whether a given detail is specified at all or not. For example, Eliezer may not have realized that Harry and Draco's experimental results should have been outright confusing given the canon-available information on inheritance.

why is Peter Pettigrew as Scabbers stupider than the rules of Quidditch, for example?

This much at least makes sense to me. Scabbers!Pettigrew requires one person to have done something ridiculously stupid, all on his own. Quidditch is a group error, the kind that can accumulate insidiously from an initially reasonable state and linger for a long time even when every member of the group would have been smart enough not to initially make the error that they're all propagating.

Comment author: lukeprog 17 December 2012 01:47:07PM 2 points [-]

I like Harry's poetic exposition of moral sentimentalism in chapter 39:

There is no justice in the laws of Nature... no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don't care, or the Sun, or the sky. But they don't have to! We care! There is light in the world, and it is us!

This reminds me of the video trailer (complete with a soundtrack by Talking Heads and Muse!) I made for "desire utilitarianism" aka "desirism," a version of moral sentimentalism I held at the time. (My latest thoughts on desirism are here.)

Comment author: DanArmak 17 December 2012 02:55:49PM 2 points [-]

This seems like a reference to a quote by Stanley Kubrick:

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Comment author: BerryPick6 17 December 2012 03:39:49PM *  2 points [-]

Or, possibly, a quote by Richard Dawkins in Garden out of Eden:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

Comment author: Bongo 25 September 2010 08:29:18PM *  2 points [-]

I have an argument for why telling someone that there's a new chapter of MoR hurts them!

Say that

  • The thought of MoR crosses your mind at random intervals, making you go check ff.net.
  • If there's no new chapter, you suffer disappointment.
  • If there is a new chapter, you get enjoyment.
  • At other times your utility is zero.

Then if you alert someone to MoR before they would have naturally thought of it, you increase the length of time during which they are at risk of checking ff.net and being disappointed.

I have actually been moved by this argument in the case of the one person I know IRL who reads MoR.

Comment author: gwern 25 September 2010 10:50:01PM 5 points [-]

So, the root of all suffering is desire - for new fanfic?

Comment author: ata 25 September 2010 08:39:13PM *  2 points [-]

If you get a fanfiction.net account, you can sign up to be notified of new chapters by email. Try it; your mental health will probably improve. (It worked for me!)

Comment author: Randaly 28 August 2010 03:34:01AM 2 points [-]

Ch. 33-34 Author's Note: "It is a general law of MoR that no one is ever holding the Idiot Ball."

We know (from Ch. 42) that Sirius is in Azkaban. Canon!Sirius was thrown in without a trial, and without having been administered veritaserum; however, this would seem to require the Ministry and Dumbledore to both be holding the Idiot Ball, violating the above rule. Alternately, Sirius could have been obviated personally by Voldemort, prior to his death (I assume that an obviation subtle enough to escape notice would require Voldemort), but this strikes me as unnecessarily complex.

However, it seems to me that the most obvious way for Eliezer to continue with the plotline is to simply make Sirius actually be a traitor, and Peter actually be a hero. This would wrap up several previously mentioned discrepancies (e.g. Scabber's death), and also preserve his ability to spring a surprise twist on everybody even though we already know what occurred in canon.

Comment author: Kevin 22 August 2010 07:32:43AM 2 points [-]

New chapter alert

Comment author: wedrifid 22 August 2010 07:38:31AM *  6 points [-]

New chapter alerts are a good idea but perhaps include a chapter number:

New chapter alert (40)

Since the last five chapters have been progressively added very recently and discussion of some of them has already begun an unspecified alert leaves some of us half hopeful for yet another addition! Rowliezer knows we don't want false hope!

Comment author: Cyan 22 August 2010 05:00:58AM 2 points [-]

"Tell me, Harry, what evil could you accomplish if a Dementor were allowed onto the grounds of Hogwarts?" ... "Gur Qrzragbe vf n qvfgenpgvba," Harry said.

I spotted this one right away because it matched a certain pattern of thought that I use relatively often. Rirel gvzr V'z qevivat va n gvtug fcbg naq gelvat gb nibvq uvggvat fbzrguvat ynetr naq fnyvrag, V znxr fher gb nfx zlfrys: Nz V cnlvat fb zhpu nggragvba gb gur ovt guvat gung gurer fbzrguvat ryfr gb juvpu V'z abg cnlvat fhssvpvrag nggragvba?

Comment author: Larks 09 August 2010 11:49:08PM 2 points [-]

Theory: Quirrelmort is helping Harry not (just) to become his pawn, or to rule in his stead, or to get him to adopt Voldermort's value system, but simply/also because Harry is Voldermort's Horcrux, and Voldermort wants his Horcrux to survive.

Comment author: Pavitra 26 August 2010 02:08:26AM 3 points [-]

How is it safe to Transfigure a desk into a pig? Pigs breathe.

Comment author: TobyBartels 26 August 2010 03:45:28AM 2 points [-]

This should be safe if done briefly, right?

When it turns back into a table, we get bubbles in the table and sawdust in the air.

If a large amount of transfigured air has been incorporated into the bodies of bystanders (and pigs do breathe out oxygen, or at least humans do, because our lungs aren't terribly efficient), then we might have a problem.

Comment author: Pavitra 26 August 2010 04:00:19AM 4 points [-]

That doesn't seem like a sufficient degree of caution, considering how McGonagall behaves with respect to other potentially dangerous Transfigurations. She doesn't say to only Transfigure things briefly into liquids because of evaporation, she says not to do it at all.

And she especially wouldn't do a potentially dangerous Transfiguration as the introduction to a Transfiguration safety lecture without making a big deal out of all the precautions she had to take to do it. In fact, she specifically says that the students could guess the direction of the Transfiguration based on safety principles, and based on safety principles, it should have been pig to desk, not desk to pig.