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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4

3 Post author: gjm 07 October 2010 09:12PM

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

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

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

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

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

Comments (649)

Comment author: Alratan 09 October 2010 05:08:55PM *  20 points [-]

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

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

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

For wizards, form is not a determinant of nature, thanks to the various transmutations and shapeshifting that is possible, this means that something looking similar to a person cannot be assumed to have the characteristics of a person, so the familiarity based extension I mention above that we have doesn’t apply.

All in all, by this rather natural definition, Muggles aren’t people. All they are is clever simulacra, with no greater moral significance than a child’s toy.

Move back to the chimp analogy. A chimp can do many things a person can do, but falls short on the key criteria. Despite this it’s being suggested that human-chimp hybrids may be genetically viable. It’s quite possible such a hybrid would then meet the criteria for personhood by our definition. Would you approve of people breeding with chimps? Or accept chimp-human hybrids as full members of society without reservation?

Comment author: Pavitra 09 October 2010 05:59:52PM 5 points [-]

I actually rather like the canon Ministry of Magic's current definition of personhood, which is "any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws".

Further, certain intelligent creatures such as centaurs have declined legal personhood status in favor of self-governance.

Comment author: Alratan 09 October 2010 06:14:52PM 8 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: Pavitra 09 October 2010 07:32:58PM 2 points [-]

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

Comment author: topynate 09 October 2010 08:53:42PM *  16 points [-]

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

A pretty interesting way of reading minds, right?

Comment author: Unnamed 25 October 2010 07:00:31PM *  15 points [-]

chp 51-54 & A/N

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

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

Harry knows that Dumbledore doesn't trust Quirrell, he can imagine how Hermione would react to this (and she was right about transfiguration experimentation), or how Neville would react (Neville, who said with his voice shaking that torturing his parents was "not even close to the worst thing she's ever done").

Or even how Draco would react: Bellatrix Black? She was one of the few who were truly evil (chp 47). Forget that nonsense about wanting to save a poor innocent person from the nasty Dementors (you really think that's why Quirrell wants to break someone out of Azkaban?), this is obviously part of a plot. As Father would ask, who benefits? What kind of plot would involve breaking Bellatrix Black out of Azkaban?

But Quirrell didn't just come right out and suggest that they go free Bellatrix from Azkaban, he gradually and artfully got Harry to buy into the plot. So if we're going to wonder whether it's plausible for Harry to go along with it, we'll have to look at how Quirrell manipulated him into agreeing, and why Harry fell for the manipulations and wasn't stopped by these red flags.

Comment author: PeterS 25 October 2010 08:51:00PM *  21 points [-]

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

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

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

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

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

Self-esteem issues: This thing with Quirrell being able to make "amazing deductions from scanty evidence" has been brought up before. Quirrell has also told him things like "You should have figured this out", "you're childish", and sometimes it even seems like Quirrell is testing Harry's intelligence. This is making Harry insecure, and even desperate now. He's thinking a week in advance of how he'll answer Quirrell's questions, rather than suffer the humility of having not already deduced and fully understood the secret plan by the time he was asked.

Quirrell is playing Harry on at least these levels: "save the world" fantasy, and "you are not as intelligent as I" subtle cues. These weaknesses of Harry are apparent in a lot of previous chapters. Since these are established vulnerabilities, it's plausible that Quirrell can successfully exploit them without Harry knowing.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 October 2010 06:03:58PM 7 points [-]

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

Yes.

Which also makes me remember the titles of these chapters.

I originally thought the title was suggesting that we were going to explore the underlying motives of the Aurors/Dementors/prisoners... but the SPE has very little to do with prisons, really, and a lot to do with the ways in which people's thinking and behavior gets distorted by the roles they adopt.

Much as Harry, as you point out, is distorting his own thinking by choosing the role of Noble Warrior in an Epic Fantasy.

Comment author: Unnamed 25 October 2010 07:47:50PM 21 points [-]

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

In chp 49 Quirrell revealed his secret illegal animagus form, which seemed innocent enough - Quirrell had voluntarily disclosed it for no clear benefit, which made it hard to hold it against him. But in doing so, he brought Harry into a conspiracy, where they had secrets from the rest of the world which Harry was comfortable with even though they might look bad to other people. He got Harry to set aside the law as a standard for evaluating what was happening. Harry knew that the law is flawed, but he also should have recognized that rules are often there for a reason (like the transfiguration safety rules) and so the law is a useful heuristic which should only be ignored with extreme caution. Proclaiming his lack of respect for the law also made it hard for Harry to later ask himself "what would Hermione think about this?" since he'd already crossed boundaries that she wouldn't cross and it had seemed innocent enough.

At the start of their meeting in chp 51, Quirrell asked "do you trust me?" Harry considered and answered yes, since he trusted Quirrell on the whole, more than not. But trust should not be a binary yes/no question, but rather a question of how far and in what ways. Bringing a Dementor into Hogwarts was at the edge of how far Dumbledore would trust Quirrell, and Harry could have imagined what Dumbledore would think of the prison break, but at first the question was just "do you trust me?", not "do you trust me for this very suspicious-sounding plot" or "do you trust me over Dumbledore?" (plus, Quirrell had had some success at getting Harry to distrust Dumbledore). Establishing trust in general made it harder for Harry to doubt Quirrell about the most relevant particulars. If you're concerned that someone seems kind of Dark and has hidden motives, then it's not smart to trust them to have good reasons for freeing Bellatrix Black, no matter how intelligent & clear-thinking they are or how helpful they have been to you personally. But with trust established, Harry didn't think things through and connect those particular reasons for distrust to those particulars of what Quirrell was doing; he was willing to defer to Quirrell. Part of Harry's problem was a kind of Aumann failure - since he trusted Quirrell's rationality, he didn't reason everything through on his own, which made it easier for Quirrell to trick him. There's also the UFAI mistake where being impressed by someone's intelligence makes you think that they share your goals - exacerbated, in this case, by how much Harry identified with Quirrell.

Quirrell introduced the Azkaban breakout plot as a way to free some unspecified innocent person. Harry wants to end Azkaban, and framing the breakout in this way makes it seem like a smaller version of that, which can be based on the same noble motives that capture Harry's imagination (as we see at the start of chp 52). The sense of heroism makes Harry willing to take dramatic action - otherwise, he'd probably balk at something so extreme. In this heroic state of mind, and in a rush, Harry doesn't stop to consider that Quirrell's reasons for wanting to free Bellatrix probably aren't the same as Harry's reasons for wanting to end Azkaban or free innocents.

When Quirrell finally identifies Bellatrix as the target, is Harry really going to back out now? He'd break someone out of Azkaban, just not her? Sure, the case for Bellatrix's innocence seems a little sketchy, but if Quirrell says it's true then the details must fill out the argument convincingly - Quirrell can definitely think clearly about these things, and you trust him. And there's no time now to get all the information that you're missing and think it all through yourself. Sure, this would look bad to other people, or to the law, but this is a big dramatic heroic thing which is judged by a higher standard, which those other people don't understand. Even Hermione wouldn't understand what I want to do here.

So I can see how the versions of Hermione and Dumbledore that Harry has in his head could be neutralized. His inner Gryffindor is caught up in a heroic fervor about saving someone from the Dementors of Azkaban. His inner Ravenclaw is overawed by Quirrell's superior intellect and has been wasting its efforts trying to impress Quirrell by guessing what he'll say next. His inner Hufflepuff was shut down early in the process, and is being ignored by the time its warnings could seem most plausible to the rest of him. But what happened to his inner Slytherin, and the Draco inside his head? They, ironically, are the ones whose warnings (about suspicious plotting) should have the best chance of getting through to Harry. So I guess the question is whether it's plausible that all of these psychological tricks would've been enough to quiet Harry's suspicion. Is it plausible that it could happen, and is it likely enough to happen for Quirrell to try this risky plot?

Comment author: Danylo 26 October 2010 12:33:34AM *  2 points [-]

But what happened to his inner Slytherin, and the Draco inside his head? They, ironically, are the ones whose warnings (about suspicious plotting) should have the best chance of getting through to Harry.

That's an interesting point. In context of that, consider the following -- Harry is now [end of chapter 54] without protection from the Dementors, thus gone entirely to the 'dark side,' which in Harry as in most is rather Slytherin. That means that Harry is now in the perfect position to see how he's been manipulated, and act against on it: specifically, betraying Quirell and going with his first story "He made me do it." He can even attribute his attacking an Auror who thought about Moody* to the Dementors and potentially get away with the whole thing.

Just something to consider.

* I misread, but the point remains.

Comment author: TobyBartels 26 October 2010 07:13:44AM *  2 points [-]

his attacking Moody

Not Moody, but a cameo Auror who thought about Moody

Comment author: Unnamed 25 October 2010 11:26:35PM 7 points [-]

One other thing that Quirrell did was to portray the government of magical Britain as the opposition, since he and Harry agree that it's corrupt and incompetent. That made it easier for Harry to dismiss opposition to the plot as foolishness. It also bound Harry & Quirrell closer together in Harry's mind, and made their shared rationality salient.

But it could have driven Harry & Quirrell apart, since this is one area where Harry knows something about Quirrell's goals. They have talked about what kind of government would be best, and they disagree. They even had a kind of public debate about it. So why would Harry be so eager to join a secret organization to reform or overthrow the government of magical Britain, without at least worrying about what kind of government they're trying to bring about?

That's a worry that should carry over to Quirrell's actual plot. It's a very basic question: why is Quirrell doing this? What is he trying to accomplish? But one that Harry apparently never asks.

Comment author: DanArmak 26 October 2010 08:42:10AM 5 points [-]

The extenuating circumstance of having become evil under the influence of the Dark Lord provides a much weaker reason to rescue someone, and requires much more trust in the person who is conveying the information (since they must not only get the facts right, but make some subtle and complex judgments about the prisoner's character and what they deserve).

If Harry is a utilitarian, he shouldn't need extenuating circumstances. He should want to free everyone from Azkaban and from all forms of torture and suffering, including truly evil people. The only reason not to free Bellatrix Black should be the danger of her attacking other people later on, and that's the point on which he should seek reassurance from Quirrel (re: what they are going to do with her once freed).

But it seems Harry reverts to common human morals in the last few chapters. He attaches much weight to Bella's innocence. He thinks he'd like to kill Voldemoret as revenge or punishment.

Comment author: Document 28 October 2010 08:07:40PM *  5 points [-]

The only reason not to free Bellatrix Black should be the danger of her attacking other people later on, and that's the point on which he should seek reassurance from Quirrel (re: what they are going to do with her once freed).

Another reason is that (as pointed out elsewhere) there could be other people much more deserving of being freed; freeing Bellatrix or freeing her first might cost him the opportunity of freeing any of them in the near future.

Comment author: whpearson 28 October 2010 08:46:35PM 6 points [-]

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

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

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

Comment author: Vaniver 28 October 2010 10:41:32PM 7 points [-]

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

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

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

Comment author: JoshuaZ 28 October 2010 09:10:33PM 5 points [-]

If it did turn out to be that I'd be annoyed since a) old Harry time traveling back has been done before and b) it would be such a stretch from the standard plot that making it turn out that way would strike me as too far removed from the original.

Comment author: whpearson 29 October 2010 02:37:39PM 2 points [-]

I think it could make a decent story. I'm not sure that it hasn't strayed too far from canon anyway.

Sngr/Fgnl Cbggre

Nsgre guvf qronpyr, Uneel trgf pncgherq naq chg va Nmxunona sbe n ovg. Ur ybfrf nyy uvf unccl zrzbevrf naq gur novyvgl gb pnfg Cngebahf (vg vf n unccl zrzbel) naq fbzr bs uvf engvbanyvgl genvavat. Ur rira sbetrgf ur vf Uneel Cbggre (ur yvxrq orvat n obl jvgu qrfgval).

Urzvbar/Dhveery/Qenpb naq gur jrnfyrlf zbhag n erfphr, jvgu Urezvbar univat yrneag cngebahf sebz Uneel'f abgr.

Uneel vf nffhzrq gb or gur qnex ybeq, ol gur nhgubevgvrf, fb vf abg fnsr ng guvf gvzr, ur jbhyq or uhagrq qbja, fb vf genafcbegrq onpx va gvzr.

Gurer ur xvyyf bss Ibyqrzbeg cebcre naq fybjyl orpbzrf Dhveery. Guvf nyfb rkcynvaf jul gur Qrzragbef unir n orrs jvgu Dhveery, ur unf gur znex bs fbzrbar jub rfpncrq Nmxnona.

Dhveery unf gb pbnpu Uneel va guvf jnl gb sbez n fgnoyr gvzr ybbc.

Abj V qba'g ernyyl guvax vg vf guvf. Ohg fgvyy vg jencf hc n ahzore bs fgenaqf. V nyfb unira'g ernq rabhtu snasvp be gur ynfg srj obbxf bs Uneel Cbggre fb zl frafr bs jung unf orra qbar be fubhyq or qbar vf abg irel fgebat.

Comment author: bisserlis 29 October 2010 08:35:06AM *  3 points [-]

Wait, can you explain why lacking a patronus is evidence against Quirrel being a time-traveling Harry? He would have the same super-bright human patronus that Harry does, which would be a bit of a tip that he was Harry-from-the-future. So obviously he would pretend to not have one.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 29 October 2010 08:59:22PM *  2 points [-]

Alternative idea: You only get one patronus. Harry's got hit by AK, so now he can't cast patronus anymore.

Comment author: bisserlis 29 October 2010 10:03:33PM 3 points [-]

Shhh, if you're not careful, patronuses will be sentient next. Is it ethical to dismiss a sentient patronus?

Comment author: jimrandomh 28 October 2010 11:12:27PM *  3 points [-]

How much does an evil overlord value saving henchwomen, what risk is worth it?

Not worth it. But this is:

"Your wand," murmured Bellatrix, "I hid it in the graveyard, my lord, before I left... under the tombstone to the right of your father's grave...

Comment author: MartinB 28 October 2010 11:37:46PM 3 points [-]

Which would not requiring a rescue mission, but just going in & out. Which - as we learned - is rather cheap to do.

Comment author: MartinB 28 October 2010 10:47:38PM 2 points [-]

Quirrel seems to not know some theoretical concepts that Harry does know.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 28 October 2010 02:39:37AM *  3 points [-]

People aren't very good at being utilitarians when there's heavy emotional issues involved even if they are generally good at thinking rationally in other situations. For example, I'm generally a utilitarian, but when I read about this extremely disturbing story I wanted the people responsible to suffer badly for a very long time. And I still do. I don't just want them to die to prevent future harm. I want them to burn. I want them to burn so much that it almost makes me wish there were a vengeful god to torture them. And if I had the choice between simply killing the people involved and making them die slow, agonizing deaths, I'd likely pick the second and them lie to myself and convince myself that that was somehow the utilitarian thing to do.

Humans have a lot of trouble being good utilitarians when the stakes are high.

Comment author: TobyBartels 28 October 2010 02:20:16AM 2 points [-]

he only reason not to free Bellatrix Black should be the danger of her attacking other people later on, and that's the point on which he should seek reassurance from Quirrel (re: what they are going to do with her once freed).

Even if Harry's not a utilitarian, I'd still like him to be smart enough to realise that this is still an important practical question to ask.

But he's only 11, so I only hope that EY will let him realise his mistake later.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 28 October 2010 11:53:30PM 1 point [-]

There's also the TDT idea that people who did evil things should be punished.

Comment author: David_Allen 25 October 2010 07:56:09PM 5 points [-]

To add to this, what will be done with Bellatrix after she is freed? Wouldn't Harry need an answer to this before cooperating with Quirrell?

Simply releasing Bellatrix to her own recognizance would be like releasing a hungry lion near a grade school during lunch hour. Without Voldemort personally directing her actions she would act out of her own sense of vengeance.

It isn't obvious to me that a simple "trust me" from Quirrell would convince Harry to cooperate.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 October 2010 12:22:58AM *  15 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 17 October 2010 01:10:30AM 7 points [-]

The only visible ancestors we have before the canon epilogue are Augusta Longbottom, and, by the end of the series, Andromeda Tonks.

Not only that, but if I remember correctly, Augusta Longbottom was portrayed as being considered old. Wizards seem to follow the same schedule as muggles for settling down and having kids, so she should have been about 70 when Nevil started at Hogwarts - not even middle-aged compared to a 200-year expected lifespan.

Comment author: erratio 17 October 2010 01:25:55AM *  4 points [-]

I'm not sure this is too unusual relative to our own society: these days life expectancy in Western countries is around 80-100, but people still tend to be considered to be getting old at fifty, relatively old by sixty and definitely old by seventy. In our case though we have the excuse that it's a recent change.

This implies pretty awful things about wizarding society, if we can safely assume that people with children retire around sixty and then spend the next century or so being ornamental, and that it's been like that for centuries.

Comment author: thomblake 18 October 2010 02:43:46PM 4 points [-]

There was a war with Grindelwald that took the place of World War 2 in the wizarding world. Presumably, many of the older generations perished in that conflict as well. And we have few tales of the potentially-bloody history prior to that.

Comment author: TobyBartels 21 October 2010 01:34:39AM 4 points [-]

There was a war with Grindelwald that took the place of World War 2 in the wizarding world.

It's very slightly hinted in canon that these were actually the same war. In MoR (and, I would guess offhand, quite a few other fanfics), this is pretty well confirmed.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 October 2010 04:36:15AM 3 points [-]

The usual handwave by people discussing Rowling's canon is that any missing family members were probably casualties of the civil war against Voldemort, I think.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 October 2010 12:03:27PM *  8 points [-]

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

Comment author: cousin_it 26 October 2010 12:31:13PM *  13 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: Danylo 26 October 2010 06:15:16PM 12 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: DanArmak 26 October 2010 08:53:06PM 3 points [-]

Harry didn't even consciously try to stop Quirrel's killing curse. It was an accident. Quirrel couldn't have counted on it happening to set Harry up.

Comment author: Danylo 27 October 2010 01:53:36AM *  4 points [-]

Oh, you're quite right. Perhaps Quirrel was planning to kill the Auror to make it clear that a break-out had occurred? That way, a full check of the prison would occur and Bella's replacement would likely be found. Which in turn would mean that it was put there simply to deceive Harry into a false sense of security. When the break in is made public, Dumbledore would naturally come under suspicion (since a Dementor disappeared under his watch) and he would suspect Harry. That might also explain the lack of the 30th charm by Quirrel. Might make Harry traceable.

I could be completely wrong, of course. Pure speculation.

Comment author: Unnamed 26 October 2010 07:00:14PM 2 points [-]

The Auror saw Quirrell fight him with amazing skill, attempt the killing curse, and turn into a snake. Harry saved him from the killing curse. Quirrell's the clear bad guy from his point of view (is that enough evidence for people to conclude that Q=V?), and only Harry's last Somnium spoils his innocence.

It will also be clear that they were lying to Bella, at least about some important things, since it was Harry's Patronus.

Comment author: NihilCredo 26 October 2010 07:13:18PM *  5 points [-]

I'm pretty sure I'm being exceedingly careful here, but...

is that enough evidence for people to conclude that Q=V?

It's enough evidence to conclude that he's a bad guy.

Assuming I had never read Eliezer's assurances that Q=V, I would most definitely not put it past him to make his rewriting of HP not so much about the Dumbleharry vs. Voldemort war, but about the internecine fight between Quirrell/ColdHarry and Dumbledore/WarmHarry about how to confront the Voldemort threat - by finding a worthy dictator (in the original intent of the word, hopefully) or by making free citizens, I mean subjects of Her Majesty stand up for themselves. Each of them convinced that fighting Voldemort by the other's means would be as bad or worse than giving up; each of them wondering how much can they scheme and sacrifice, how close can they come to Voldemort's methods in order to successfully lead the fight against him... damn, speculating about it makes me want to read it already, no matter all the stuff that doesn't quite work with this scenario (sense of doom in primis).

Comment author: Unnamed 26 October 2010 08:44:54PM 4 points [-]

I mean: Is it enough evidence for people within the story to conclude that he is Voldemort? Being a ridiculously powerful dark wizard should be enough for them to locate the hypothesis and consider it a possibility, at least for those who know that Voldemort is alive. Then there are other clues: his attempt (with Harry) to free Bellatrix Black, knowledge of the Death Eater password (among him & Harry), his strange relationship with Harry Potter (including the odd magical interaction & Harry's sense of doom), and his ability to turn into a snake. Is that enough evidence to convince someone like Dumbledore who already knows that the Dark Lord lives? Is it enough for the rest of the wizarding world to be persuaded?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 October 2010 12:17:57AM 5 points [-]

So write it. Nothing wrong with having an AU of an AU.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 27 October 2010 02:47:21AM 3 points [-]

How about: Should Harry have trusted Quirrell? I don't mean "did it have a good outcome"; I mean, was Harry's trust justified by what he knew? Would you have done the same thing?

In retrospect, I think Harry ought to have said, "Professor Quirrell, I owe you a great debt, and have great respect for you. If you ask me to do something, I'll probably do it. But I don't trust you one single bit." But I doubt I would have said that myself.

Comment author: TobyBartels 28 October 2010 02:30:10AM 2 points [-]

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

Sorry, how does ‘Quirinu‑’ become ‘Quivering’?

Comment author: ata 23 October 2010 10:54:21PM *  11 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: JStewart 10 October 2010 04:46:04AM 10 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: AdShea 11 October 2010 08:55:28PM 5 points [-]

It also could be that the Basillisk has some sort of genetic memory (or DNA-based cognition ala the Super Happies!) such that the monster in the book is not the original monster but rather a great-great grandwhelp of the original monster. This would allow any heirs to kill their specific monster while the line (and thus memories) are preserved.

(This is of course all predicated on Slytherin realizing that his descendents may be nasty enough to keep knowledge from others by any means possible).

Comment author: wedrifid 16 October 2010 07:18:27AM 3 points [-]

This is of course all predicated on Slytherin realizing that his descendents may be nasty enough to keep knowledge from others by any means possible.

I wonder, did Slytherin actually expect his descendants to be nasty? In MoR quite possibly not.

Comment author: jimrandomh 09 October 2010 03:01:45PM *  9 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2010 11:26:48PM *  4 points [-]

it was a bit of misdirection; he knew he'd be able to get the same information from Harry's friends,

Harry's friends? Harry is a compulsive secret keeper! He will not even tell Hermione how to make patronuses and he keeps what he does with Malfoy and Hermione a hidden from each other (and incidentally manipulates them by keeping the key details of what he is trying to do to them to himself.)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 October 2010 08:08:54PM 8 points [-]

Some thoughts about Comed-Tea.

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, now that I think about it, the first piece of that is so unreliable (that is, most surprising events aren't preceded by drinking C-T) that it's probably better to model it the other way: the unusual aspect of C-T is that it suppresses the desire to drink it UNLESS something surprising is about to happen.

This seems like a realization worth highlighting in the text, as it gets at a very basic and important fact about false positives and false negatives that people lose sight of all the time.

2) Harry seems to be holding the Idiot Ball when it comes to Comed-Tea's implications.

That is, he convinces himself that Comed-Tea doesn't have the ability to Alter the Very Fabric Of Reality... all it does is combine some minor clairvoyance with the ability to magically influence his decision to drink it... and drops the subject.

Um... really? Isn't that second thing basically a limited version of the Imperius Curse? Isn't that at least noteworthy?

At the very least, it suggests that Comed-Tea is an empirical test of defenses against magical mind-control: if Comed-Tea still works on Harry while using X, then X is not a defense against magical mind-control. Harry in the MoRverse is apparently an Occlumens; testing whether using Occlumency suppresses the effect of Comed-Tea seems worth doing. (This is admittedly difficult because Comed-Tea doesn't work reliably, but it's the best thing he's got at the moment. It seems out of character not to try. Also, if I'm right about point 1, then maybe Comed-Tea does work reliably... maybe it's chemically very addictive, but magically suppresses the cravings except at the right time. In that case using Occlumency against it, if it worked at all, would suddenly cause one to crave it. Which would be startling.)

More broadly, the implication that magic to systematically influence Harry's behavior without his knowledge or consent -- in other words, to introduce bias -- is cheap and widespread seems fundamentally important. What other forms of mind-control are operating in the wizarding world? Does Occlumency work against all of them? Does anything work against all of them? Who markets this stuff, anyway, and how was it developed, and why isn't it classified as an Unforgivable Soft Drink? Is there a variant formula that influences people not to bully one another, or to think rationally, or to hail Harry as their lord and master?

That none of this even occurs to Harry (let alone the rest of the wizarding world) in a world nominally without the Idiot Ball seems like a plot hole. That said, one could retcon it by suggesting that ubiquitous magical mind-control artifacts also suppress thinking about magical mind control. (You might even expect this: mind-controlling artifacts that don't do this don't become ubiquitous.)

Narratively, all of this seems like a worthwhile topic to explore in the context of MoR. The parallels to advertising and critical thinking skills, for example, seem inescapable.

3) I see a number of comments talking as though the Comed-Tea itself were influencing minds to drink it at the right moment, and as I recall Harry thinks this way as well.

That something is influencing the drinker's mind seems a sound theory, but that the Comed-Tea itself is doing so seems less clear. Harry should at least consider alternate theories.

In particular, if Harry is still positing an eavesdropping Atlantean Font of All Magic that responds to "Wingardium Levioso", it seems just as plausible that the AFoAM mediates the drinking of Comed-Tea.

Admittedly, the AFoAM is pretty close to being a Fully Generalized Explanation... which is to say, Harry is coming awfully close to theism there. But I suppose that's another post.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 06 November 2010 09:56:00PM 5 points [-]

(slaps self on forehead) It just occurred to me that the precognition theory is experimentally distinguishable from the alter-reality theory for Comed-Tea.

If Comed-Tea operates on precognition, then the frequency of potential spit-take inducing events (that is, events absurd enough to cause you to do a spit-take were you drinking something) should be the same for communities that have the stuff and communities that don't... the only difference should be that Comed-Tea containing communities drink the stuff just before they happen.

OTOH if the frequencies aren't the same, then the precognition theory runs into trouble. In that case something does appear to be increasing the likelihood of absurd events.

Of course, a third theory is that drinking Comed-Tea simply makes things seem more spit-take-worthy than they otherwise would be, thereby increasing the perceived frequency of such events... much like the frequency of giggle-inducing events increases after eating a hash brownie.

Comment author: NihilCredo 23 October 2010 09:28:54PM *  4 points [-]

1) Agree

2) "Limited version of the Imperius Curse" looks like an exaggeration to me - it isn't just a matter of scope, the Comed-Tea impulse can be resisted with little effort.

The level of its power of mental manipulation seems about on par with that of the bakery in the city I grew up in, which had set up shop in front of a particularly frequented bus stop and which would keep its doors half-open, even in winter, drowning the waiting (and often hungry) students and workers in the delicious smell of fresh bread and pastries.

That is to say, it's conceivable that the Comed-Tea doesn't use "real" mind-altering magic at all, but simply broadcasts a signal which, to the brain, appears analogous to the gurgling of a fountain on a hot summer day.

3) Well, yes, if all magic relies on the AFoAM while spells and magical items are just triggers this has a lot of implications, but I don't see how this concerns the Comed-Tea more than any other thing.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 October 2010 08:14:36PM 3 points [-]

Or, looking at it the other way... if it's plausible that Comed-Tea is capable of influencing Harry to drink it at the right moment (or, rather, just before the right moment), then I'm not sure why it isn't plausible that the phrase "Wingardium Levioso" is capable of influencing objects to levitate.

Words don't normally have that ability, and I can't imagine how they could, but the same is true of soft drinks.

Comment author: dclayh 08 October 2010 03:34:09AM 7 points [-]

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

Comment author: Unnamed 08 October 2010 03:54:25AM 2 points [-]

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

Comment author: gjm 16 October 2010 04:38:42PM 17 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 18 October 2010 05:32:48PM 18 points [-]

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

Comment author: [deleted] 21 October 2010 04:42:56AM *  6 points [-]

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

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 October 2010 06:20:58PM 8 points [-]

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

Comment author: Strange7 19 October 2010 04:35:30AM 6 points [-]

I can't find the article where you list hardware specs. Is it on the wiki?

Comment author: gjm 16 October 2010 07:17:54PM 15 points [-]

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

Comment author: Danylo 01 November 2010 03:43:58AM *  6 points [-]

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

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

Why, after deconstructing his predicament did he then fail to apply the same rationalism to its immediate effect? Ugh. If there's one scene that convinced me that he's under the Imperius curse, it's his thinking up ways of convincing the likely-fictional-Doctor of healing the likely-uncurable maniac.

These past 5 chapters have been as infuriating as thrilling. I hope Harry stops being human and once again becomes his hyper-rationalist self at some point in the near future.

P.S. Does anyone else find dramatic irony to be the most infuriating, anxiety-inducing literary tool known to man?

Comment author: NihilCredo 01 November 2010 03:59:28AM 8 points [-]

P.S. Does anyone else find dramatic irony to be the most infuriating, anxiety-inducing literary tool known to man?

No, I personally find it a close second to the comedy of errors (which I just plain cannot watch or read, I instinctively curl up in a fetal position or storm out of the room upon exposure - being unjustly blamed is my biggest rage button by far).

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 25 October 2010 10:23:36PM *  6 points [-]

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

Ch. 54. Since Quirrell was that unusually vulnerable to Dementors, he should've made the point of how important it is to keep the Patronus 2.0 up at all times and immediately restore it in case of failure, making that idea more available to Harry's mind. Not making that point explicitly was stupid.

(Quirrell should know that, since Auror's Patronus utterly failed to shield him from Azkaban's Dementors, which means that he must've felt the difference between level of protection from the Dementor offered by different Patronus variants at training session at Hogwarts, as well as the abnormal vulnerability to Dementors shielded by merely classical Patronus. The point of the training session now seems to be exactly the research on influence of Dementors on possessed Quirrell, with Harry's wand left near the Dementor possibly an experiment.)

Comment author: wedrifid 19 October 2010 02:58:01AM 6 points [-]

50.

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

Comment author: NihilCredo 19 October 2010 01:04:02PM 3 points [-]

Had he approached Padma in a friendly manner, putting himself on equal footing (instead of trying to teach and impress!), and then told her pretty much the same things he ghost-whispered, it would still have likely redeemed her, except he also would have gained a precious friend and possibly ally (and Hermione's respect). Interestingly, he would also have been following both Quirrell and Flitwick's advice in doing so.

But in any case: "Self-centredness", combined with its cousin Arrogance, is the main flaw that keeps Harry from being a Mary Sue, that keeps him making enough mistakes to allow the story to be unpredictable rather than Harry Steamrolls Everyone (steamroller stories are occasionally fun, but seldom for long). The time, if any, for him to solve that flaw should normally be the final part of the story arc.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 October 2010 02:59:22PM *  10 points [-]

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

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

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

Comment author: wedrifid 19 October 2010 02:02:58PM *  8 points [-]

Had he approached Padma in a friendly manner, putting himself on equal footing (instead of trying to teach and impress!), and then told her pretty much the same things he ghost-whispered, it would still have likely redeemed her, except he also would have gained a precious friend and possibly ally (and Hermione's respect).

The may be ok advice and perhaps worth a shot. It may even work - in a fantasy story. But real people tend to have better (or, rather, stronger) social and psychological boundaries - it is actually hard to exact fundamental personal change from people just by approaching them in a friendly manner. And giving unsolicited brutally personal advice to people actually isn't a reliable way to gain friends.

Interestingly, he would also have been following both Quirrell and Flitwick's advice in doing so.

Not Quirrel's. Not like that. Quirrel's advice pertained to an entirely different sort of influence than what you and Flitwick suggest. With Quirrel's Slytherin-typical strategy you influence by controlling the political, reputational payoffs. Direct heart-to-hearts are completely opposed to the spirit of it.

I also suggest that "self-centredness" is not the relevant flaw of Harry's here. This is actually a situation where more self-centredness would have prevented the err (such as it was). Harry has blurry boundaries on just what he is optimising for. Is he optimising for his self, is he optimising for blades of sentient grass or is he optimising for what Hermione might call "her own business"? People don't tend to like it when you act to control things that they don't perceive to be 'yours' - even if, as in this case, it is a benefit to all concerned. A self-centred Harry would have made entirely different mistakes to boundariless-Harry.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 October 2010 03:04:45PM 7 points [-]

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

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

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

Comment author: gwern 19 October 2010 01:29:15PM *  6 points [-]

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

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

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

But perhaps I am too cynical.

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

Comment author: Unnamed 11 October 2010 09:36:43PM 16 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: [deleted] 21 October 2010 02:42:12AM *  9 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: Unnamed 21 October 2010 04:28:48AM 3 points [-]

Good catch. That does seem like another hint, although the alternative that comes to mind is that he just reminds Harry of zombies. (Minor correction: it's chp 16, not 14).

Comment author: Unnamed 21 October 2010 04:30:11AM 4 points [-]

I've had some thoughts about why, within the HPMOR world, it makes sense for Voldemort to choose to occupy a dementor-kissed body. I don't know the details about how the magic works or the solution to the HPMOR!mind-body problem, but it seems like it would be easier to take over a vacated body than to try to share the space with the original soul. It seems like a cleaner process, with no ambiguity about who's in control within the body. Second, based on Voldemort's personality (assuming that's what we're seeing from Quirrell) I think he'd prefer to be alone rather than having a roommate as he does in canon. Third, removing the original Quirrell also removes the need to rely on him to keep the secret and not give himselves away out of stupidity, lack of self-control, poor acting skills, or outright betrayal. Finally, other people might be able to tell when a body contains two souls - if the Sorting Hat can do it, why not the Hogwarts security system?

Comment author: orthonormal 25 October 2010 10:09:55PM *  5 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: DanArmak 26 October 2010 08:48:16AM 3 points [-]

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

Harry didn't consciously intervene. His Patronus 2.0 sort of teleported to block Quirrel's spell. Quirrel (like Harry) may not have even been aware that could happen.

Comment author: dclayh 28 October 2010 05:07:08AM *  2 points [-]

And it's a pretty big miscalculation of Quirrell not to anticipate Harry's intervention at the key moment.

I interpreted it that he was just too caught up in duelling-lust, and momentarily eriregrq gb uvf Qnex Ybeq crefban, forgetting how Harry would react.

ETA: rot-13d some stuff which is apparently supposed to be secret again.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 25 October 2010 10:12:24PM 2 points [-]

It's also a pretty big miscalculation of Harry not to anticipate Quirrell using AK in such a case! But that makes sense, considering how Quirrell got him into this in the first place.

Comment author: Unnamed 24 October 2010 03:43:50AM 5 points [-]

chp 51

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

Comment author: Randaly 07 October 2010 10:04:08PM *  13 points [-]

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

Comment author: MartinB 08 October 2010 03:41:55AM 3 points [-]

Please do. I would like to read the earlier notes.

Comment author: Unnamed 01 November 2010 05:45:48AM *  4 points [-]

chp 55

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

Comment author: shokwave 29 October 2010 05:46:53AM *  4 points [-]

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

Comment author: Unnamed 29 October 2010 05:39:04AM 4 points [-]

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

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

Could Quirrell be using it to spy on Harry, to get his curiously accurate priors? Does Harry keep the diary in the pouch which he carries around everywhere, and which he brought to Azkaban, and which the Quirrell cast a spell on and entered in snake mode? If so, it could be a part of Quirrell's current plot. (Or, Quirrell could've done something else with Harry's pouch, which doesn't involve the diary.)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 29 October 2010 01:33:01PM 5 points [-]

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

In canon Harry's sense of pain when encountering Voldemort doesn't occur when encountering horcruxes. Moreover, it turns out that Harry is an accidental horcrux and he doesn't have any similar reaction to himself, or even to a time traveled version of himself that he sees. So by analogy a horcrux here may not be enough to trigger the sense of doom.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 October 2010 01:09:45PM 4 points [-]

Could Roger Bacon's diary have important information in it?

I would be pleased if Quirrel was using the diary to affect Harry (whether by getting Harry to accept a gift or by some magic-related method), but Harry read it with more knowledge and/or attention and/or willingness to make deductions, and got some crucial addition to his abilities thereby.

Comment author: DanArmak 10 October 2010 06:09:51PM *  4 points [-]

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

No-one is holding the idiot ball. Therefore Dumbledore didn't take a complete stranger on as Defense Professor; Quirrel must have had references.

Since the zombie-hood is due to possession/mind control (in canon), we can assume that it implies possession in MoR as well (even if possession isn't true here). Also, Dumbledore remains suspicious of Quirrel. Therefore Dumbledore must have investigated Quirrel's zombie-hood, or gotten a satisfying explanation from Quirrel himself.

Further note: Dumbledore can cast warding spells such as "no-one who wishes to harm the people living here may enter this house" (this was used on Harry's house in canon and was powerful enough to protect Harry from Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the summer vacations). The warding spells on Castle Hogwarts are described as diverse and very powerful, and if they didn't have this function already, Dumbledore would have added it (in canon he presumably was holding the idiot ball and didn't do this). Therefore we know Quirrel isn't planning to harm Harry directly, or at least wasn't planning to do so at the time he entered the castle.

Comment author: TobyBartels 14 October 2010 05:31:01AM 13 points [-]

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

Comment author: CronoDAS 10 October 2010 10:32:54PM 6 points [-]

In canon, Quirrell had been a Hogwarts professor for several years before Harry enrolled, and other professors actually had noticed that he hadn't been himself ever since he came back from a trip. Specifically, he had suddenly become unusually meek and afraid of everything. They attributed it to something like post-traumatic stress syndrome; I don't remember the details, but they seemed to believe that he had encountered some kind of danger and had barely escaped with his life. (In Book 7, it's mentioned that Dumbledore had indeed been suspicious of Quirrell and had given Snape the task of watching him.)

Comment author: blogospheroid 11 October 2010 04:50:07AM 3 points [-]

Was he a professor of something other thanDADA? Cos' I think in Canon, Dumbledore had mentioned that they never managed to have a defence professor for more than a year after Voldy's curse.

I wonder what all tests must they have done on that curse. Did they try to alternate professors between two subjects? Did they try semester assignment? After all it has been atleast 12 years or so for that curse, right?

Even in MOR, a string of bad events or bad professors has happened, so I assume not much has changed there.

Comment author: CronoDAS 11 October 2010 05:25:45AM 2 points [-]

Was he a professor of something other than DADA?

Yes. Rowling said in an interview that he taught Muggle Studies.

Comment author: jsalvatier 11 October 2010 03:15:15AM 2 points [-]

It may be more challenging to write a ward that covers many people rather than a single person or small number of people.

Comment author: arundelo 10 October 2010 06:56:41PM 2 points [-]

I'm pretty sure Quirrell is not a zombie in canon.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 October 2010 07:38:25PM 4 points [-]

To what extent can magic be used to make food that doesn't require killing?

Comment author: TobyBartels 14 October 2010 05:19:44AM 3 points [-]

This is one of the few cases where canon is very clear about how magic works: Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 October 2010 05:59:42AM 3 points [-]

So it looks as though food can be created without additional killing, and if Harry is willing to eat duplicates of preserved food (I can't see any reason why not), then the proportion of killing to the amount of food can be driven very low.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 October 2010 07:20:30AM 2 points [-]

Particularly given that magical healing would allows the collection of initial 'food prototypes' with no long term damage! (Although it would probably rule out things like hearts.)

Comment author: jimrandomh 09 October 2010 07:40:48PM 2 points [-]

Chapter 6 mentions a "bottle of food and water pills", which seems to have been forgotten about.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 October 2010 07:47:00PM 6 points [-]

This is not necessarily food created by magic, though: maybe someone took ordinary food and magicked it into a pill.

Comment author: cousin_it 01 November 2010 11:19:56AM *  9 points [-]

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

The best description of hell breaking loose I've ever read was the first part of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot". I first read it assuming it would be a difficult work of "serious" literature, and it totally upset my expectations by being more exciting than any "fun" literature I'd seen. Here's how it goes: all the heroes and the main conflict are introduced in the first couple pages, then the situation quickly becomes tense, then passions begin to flare up, then the whole thing explodes while we're not even halfway into the chapter, and when you expect it to subside it explodes some more instead, then more and more, and unbelievably the chaos just keeps growing until the last page of Part 1 when it ends with a couple paragraphs and you have to close the book rather than read on to Part 2, because you're shaking and you need to work out who was thinking what.

Comment author: Eneasz 05 November 2010 03:41:39PM 8 points [-]

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

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

(And then it was already too late.)

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

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

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

Comment author: PeerInfinity 02 November 2010 07:30:03PM *  4 points [-]

Chapters 55-56: disappointment. Harry recovered way too easily, if the story were consistent he'd be screaming on the floor until the Aurors arrived.

I agree entirely.

In chapter 52, I was able to empathize with Harry. I felt what he was feeling. And the feelings were was surprisingly intense.

But in the next chapters the story just started getting too unrealistic, and Harry became an impossibly superpowered character, and I lost my emotional connection with him.

This was a constant problem throughout the rest of the story too, but the problem is especially egregious in this story arc. And the impossibly-superpoweredness kept escalating.

Chapter 52 was vaguely plausible.

Chapter 53 might have been plausible, if Harry had a lot of time to prepare.

Chapter 54 was only slightly less realistic than chapter 53.

And I thought that after Chapter 54, this story arc was over. Harry failed at his mission, and just had to keep from losing his mind entirely before the aurors found him and he had to face the consequences of his actions.

But then in chapter 55, he made a miraculous recovery. Noone could recover like that. Not even Eliezer Himself could recover like that.

From then on, this wasn't a story about a real person, it was a story about an impossibly superpowered character, and the story lost almost all of its emotional impact.

I still think Harry should have just given up, and turned himself in to the aurors. I don't see how this could possibly end well, and Harry's actions in chapters 55 and 56 are just making things a whole lot worse.

But this is a story, and so of course it's going to end well, no matter how stupid or reckless the protagonist seems to be acting.

It's still an awesome story though, it's just that the suspension of disbelief is gone.

But that's just my opinion. Your Mileage May Vary.

EDIT: ok, I accept Eliezer's explanation and David Allen's explanation of why Harry was able to recover. I take back my complaint about Harry's recovery being unrealistic. But, not knowing what Harry's plan is in chapters 55 and 56, it still seems to me like Harry would have been better off giving up.

Comment author: David_Allen 02 November 2010 09:49:15PM *  7 points [-]

Harry became an impossibly superpowered character

One of Harry's established traits is his highly trained reflex to question his own perceptions, especially under difficult circumstances.

This situation is probably the most extreme that we have seen Harry in. In this context that ability comes across as a super-power, but it is not out-of-character.

Comment author: whpearson 01 November 2010 12:34:50PM *  3 points [-]

Even with Bahry obliviated there should be lots of clues it was Harry. Especially now that Quirrell is down and whatever spells he was casting to confound the wizarding equivalent of forensics are probably down. Harry sized foot prints in the dust, cloth fibers where Harry lay down? The angle/position that the stunning spell hit Bahry implying it was cast from a low elevation?

Or to put it another way who are the Wizarding community going to think did this?

Ex-death eaters? Not killing Bahry is a sign that it is not them. The unusual patronus that seemed to be able to hide Bellatrix, and will possibly kill Dementors next chapter, has the hallmarks of Harry.

If they didn't know about the existence of time turners then they might be fooled, but he has used them so much, it is really a poor alibi.

So yeah put me in the camp of all hell should still be breaking loose even if Harry doesn't get caught red handed in Azkaban.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 02 November 2010 08:16:42PM 5 points [-]

Even with Bahry obliviated there should be lots of clues it was Harry. Especially now that Quirrell is down and whatever spells he was casting to confound the wizarding equivalent of forensics are probably down. Harry sized foot prints in the dust, cloth fibers where Harry lay down? The angle/position that the stunning spell hit Bahry implying it was cast from a low elevation?

The wizarding world doesn't stoop to non-magical forensics. Footprints? Fibers? How barbaric.

Comment author: David_Allen 01 November 2010 04:57:06PM 2 points [-]

I don't think that it is obvious to most of the other characters that it is a patronus that is hiding Bellatrix. It would also be discounted because she remains invisible under the cloak after Harry's patronus is extinguished in Ch. 56.

Canon Dumbledore would have observed the masking power of Harry's patronus, and would be clever enough to to guess that the Harry's cloak could have this property. Presumably the HPMOR Dumbledore is at least this clever.

Dumbledore however observed Harry's extreme response to an unshielded dementor, so he might be confused at a Harry that walks around unprotected and apparently unaffected.

Working against Harry is that Dumbledore's patronus could be used to identify Harry's patronus as the one it observed in Azkaban, and that any dementor that observes Harry, and survives, could also identify him. It seems that if Dumbledore wants to later verify or exclude Harry as the intruder, he can.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2010 11:36:38PM 5 points [-]

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

Well, to the accusation of inconsistency I will respond that (a) Harry is not standing five paces away from a Dementor this time and (b) he has been strengthened somewhat by previous realizations, thus he does not instantly fall over and gets a chance to recover.

Comment author: rabidchicken 27 October 2010 08:02:50PM *  7 points [-]

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

A) Is it possible to fool the source of magic (sm) so that it allows a muggle to cast spells? It was pretty safe for harry to rule out the idea that your DNA contains all the information needed to create a complex mechanism which can generate a magical field and respond intelligently to your intentions, so it makes sense that your DNA only serves as a signal that tells an external force to activate spells when you verbally or non verbally cast them. However, this raises a few interesting questions. does sm actually read everyone's DNA constantly/ whenever they try to cast a spell? or does the sequence of DNA cause a more obvious external change to your appearance that sm looks for? If it uses something like the pattern of your brainwaves, the shape of your face, etc as a marker, then it may be possible for a muggle to mimic a magic user easily and vice versa, but if it actually DOES read your DNA, then where? Could you grow a heart using a magicians DNA, have it implanted, and acquire magical abilities? For that matter, if you preserved the body of a dead wizard, and set up a electric transmitter in their mind which mimicked the signals sent when someone cast a spell, what would the effect be? Any recognition system should be possible to fool, and this would be the most important thing to test for me. Imagine being able to give every person dying of thirst or hunger in the world unlimited access to the resources they need. there would be no more third world countries, although you would also be distributing a terrible weapon.Which actually brings up another question...

B) Why on earth would you invent a powerful system for allowing someone to directly effect reality with their thoughts, and then let everyone with the right DNA use it with no inhibitions whatsoever? Avada Kedavera, Imperio, and fiendfyre may have their uses, but I would not let all of my ancestors use them without supervision with no more training then it takes to cast any other kind of spell. It would be as idiotic as giving everyone I knew the codes required to launch a nuclear missile whenever or wherever they wanted too using their cellphones. Even if they all had good intentions, someone is going to make a dumb mistake eventually. Creating a system for inhibiting the use of such spells would be complex, but only an idiot would not try. This has several implications for harry, either magic was invented by a moron, there are even MORE powerful spells out there that he could cast if he knew the access codes (!!!), or someone already found out how to game the restrictions so they fell apart long ago and nobody even realizes they exist, you may even be able to get it working again.

C) the SM has to have a a sustainable energy source somewhere, a method for using this energy to create the effects we call spells, and in order for it to perform the complicated routines needed to assess someones intentions, it probably has to be somewhat intelligent. Somewhere out there may be an AI, a group of slaves being used to perform observations and calculations, or the work is being sent on a distributed computing network to the minds of every sentient being on the planet. this may be the hardest thing to research since there are almost an infinite variety of of possible systems which may be the cause, and it is probably concealed. But, If you could find the physical source of magic, you could reprogram it to do whatever you wanted, and could achieve world peace or destruction in one step

I would write more but I am honestly hoping for people to actually read through this and give their thoughts, so I guess I had better stop now in the hope of remaining somewhat concise.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 27 October 2010 10:06:15PM 12 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 27 October 2010 10:08:07PM 8 points [-]

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

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

Comment author: Karl 27 October 2010 09:19:51PM 5 points [-]

A) is very hard to test given the restriction on using magic around muggles. As for B), powerful spells are mostly restricted by the edict of Merlin. C) is, as you pointed out, extremely difficult to research effectively. I'm more surprised that Harry never bothered to ask how new charms are discovered. After all, how are you supposed to figure out that you are supposed to say "Wingardium Leviosa" and then move your wand in a certain way? And he as been told that new charms were discovered every year, so we know it's possible.

Comment author: Document 28 October 2010 09:24:37AM 5 points [-]

IIRC, in canon they tend to talk about spells being "invented" rather than discovered. For a while I pictured advanced wizards somehow writing particular programs into the Source of Magic, which were then run by saying the spell name; or at least something like that.

Comment author: MartinB 28 October 2010 09:23:56AM 3 points [-]

Harry makes mistakes too. He once planned out a whole series of experiments only to have the first one turn out way different that expected. I hope there is a completely usefull justified explanation for magic, but even if not it was well worth reading. Hopefully it is not something like scrapped princess.

Comment author: Document 28 October 2010 07:22:30AM 3 points [-]

In chapter 30, Harry makes himself pass out by casting Luminos 12 times rapidly. That could be a foothold for investigating the effects of casting magic on the human body; he could see if he can replicate the result consistently, then try it with different spells or combinations of spells and different rates of casting, and possibly other varied conditions.

Comment author: Vaniver 27 October 2010 10:28:08PM 3 points [-]

Avada Kedavera, Imperio, and fiendfyre may have their uses, but I would not let all of my ancestors use them without supervision with no more training then it takes to cast any other kind of spell.

This is why, in canon at least, they must be cast with hatred. That's a great safety valve for getting rid of accidental murders.

(I also suspect you mean descendants, not ancestors.)

Comment author: wedrifid 28 October 2010 06:12:53AM *  7 points [-]

This is why, in canon at least, they must be cast with hatred. That's a great safety valve for getting rid of accidental murders.

I think I'd prefer the safety valve working the other way. "Let's limit it only to the people most likely to abuse it" sounds like a dubious tactic. Although come to think of it it is a rather good analogue to elements of standard morality (with respect to power and status).

Comment author: PhilGoetz 05 January 2011 06:31:11PM 3 points [-]

The website hosting MoR now has a popup with audio when you go to it, so it is now NSFW.

Comment author: David_Allen 02 November 2010 09:31:16PM 3 points [-]

Would Harry's patronus block any killing curse, or only one thrown by Quirrell?

Comment author: cousin_it 02 November 2010 11:48:54AM *  3 points [-]

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

Comment author: knb 27 October 2010 06:58:46AM 3 points [-]

Re: 54:

Harry can still salvage the situation somewhat, if I understand the ending. They're going to know Bella escaped, but Harry can still put Quirrel in his pouch (since he's in snake form) and hide with Bella under the invisibility cloak, right? Or can Aurors see through the cloak in HP:MOR? I think in canon nobody can penetrate the Cloak's invisibility.

Comment author: PeterS 27 October 2010 07:11:56AM 3 points [-]

Moody's eye can see through the Invisibility Cloak.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 October 2010 12:30:10AM 8 points [-]

One of the systematic changes in MoR is that things which are sufficiently powerful are artifacts, and things which are artifacts are sufficiently powerful: The Marauder's Map was originally devised by Slytherin as part of the creation of Hogwarts and only slightly twisted by the Marauders (Ch. 25), and the Cloak of Invisibility is now in a class of its own compared to standard invisibility cloaks or Disillusionment (Ch. 54).

Rowling, of course, wrote that thing with Moody's eye before she decided the Cloak of Invisibility was a major artifact. So if Moody's eye can still see through it in MoR, it's going to be because either Moody's eye is also a major artifact, or, more likely, a specialized artifact devoted to seeing through invisibility (a specialized, specific artifact can defeat a generally more powerful artifact if the specialization is narrow enough).

Comment author: PeterS 28 October 2010 03:25:35AM 7 points [-]

Wow... I had imagined that Moody lost his eye in a fight or something -- but it would be way more awesome if he cut it out intentionally, to replace it with an eye more suited for the hunt.

Comment author: [deleted] 29 October 2010 12:21:56PM 3 points [-]

The idea of Moody as a voluntarily enhanced magical cyborg is awesome indeed.

In fact, the entire notion of human enhancement using magic would be an interesting theme to explore. It's already been done to some degree with the idea of defeating death and Harry making a mental note to research mind-altering spells in chapter 12 (intelligence explosion?), but things like Moody's eye and Wormtail's hand (which was strong enough to crush stones) show that there are also ways for Wizards to improve their abilities by replacing body parts with magical counterparts. Seeing what the wizarding world and/or Harry think of such ideas would be pretty interesting.

Comment author: TobyBartels 28 October 2010 02:39:48AM 3 points [-]

the Cloak of Invisibility is now in a class of its own compared to standard invisibility cloaks or Disillusionment

As you already know, this is already true in canon; it's just that, as you say, it took Rowling a while to decide this.

I do like that you gave the Map such a great pedigree; it really was too powerful for a few students to make on their own.

Comment author: pjeby 28 October 2010 03:41:15AM *  2 points [-]

Harry can still put Quirrel in his pouch (since he's in snake form)

They can't touch each other, so no. Quirrel also obviously knows this, because his pre-mission prep was carefully designed to avoid them touching each other or casting any spells on each other, vs. easier ways to accomplish the same tasks.

Comment author: cousin_it 25 October 2010 09:09:21AM *  3 points [-]

Chapters 51-54: bravo! Some of the best writing so far. My new favorite line from the fic: "it was a down payment on everything that Harry meant to accomplish with his life". I immediately had to rewatch the training montage from the 2008 film "Wanted" that starts at about 46:00 to get more of the same emotion.

Comment author: NihilCredo 23 October 2010 02:19:50PM 3 points [-]

New chapter.

In the lack of Comed-Tea, I suggest taking a sip of something before the final line.

Regarding the fact that, at the start of the scene, Quirrell skips one of the thirty security Charms, the most straightforward explanation is that it was just the one preventing time-travel within the room, but could there have been a more devious purpose?

Comment author: Sniffnoy 24 October 2010 01:35:21AM 2 points [-]

What seems strange to me is going to such a convoluted setup just to speak privately, when they already have a way of doing so. Either Quirrell doesn't actually trust the privacy of Mary's Room, or he's up to something. The latter seems more likely.

Comment author: Perplexed 24 October 2010 12:50:55AM 2 points [-]

I would guess that he omitted the one preventing anyone from apparating into the room. They have to get back in somehow in a few hours.

Comment author: topynate 24 October 2010 01:06:29AM 5 points [-]

I think that's almost it. My bet is that the invisibility cloak detector is the missing charm. Harry and Quirrell are already in the room when they arrive for the first time, and as soon as they see themselves leave via Time-Turner, they take the cloak off and finish their meal before leaving. But yeah, they have to be in the room at the same time that a bunch of charms are on it, so they can't seal it off completely.

Comment author: Perplexed 24 October 2010 02:10:24AM 2 points [-]

I'm pretty sure you (and VN) have it right. EY commented (to VN) that someone had already figured it out, and your theory had already appeared in a comment at the main fanfic review site.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 October 2010 02:45:26PM 1 point [-]

Conservation of Detail. Obviously it means something; with some imagination on your part you could deduce what.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 23 October 2010 04:45:48PM *  15 points [-]

I can't see how it's possible to deduce such things, in the sense of obtaining an answer associated with high degree of confidence. It seems to be hindsight bias on your part to assume it's deducible, and similarly for some of the other hidden "facts" (or, alternatively, you meant to say something else, and didn't mean to imply high degree of confidence being obtainable, but I can't imagine what).

(Imagination allows noticing promising hypotheses, where a person lacking said imagination would need to learn that hypothesis from someone else. But it doesn't allow making confident conclusions despite lack of information, where uncertainty is appropriate. So there could be hypotheses which are better than any other possible hypothesis, but none of them would be "the deduced answer". If you argue that imagination is the problem, you need to be able to argue for your conclusion in a way that fends off other possible conclusions, and not just consistently determine your conclusion as an author by adding more facts to the story.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 October 2010 10:58:38PM 4 points [-]

Saw someone else do it already.

Actually this is a fallacy I've seen coming up a lot in discussions of the fic. People are so enchanted with being able to come up with many possibilities that they forget to ask which are the probable possibilities. Sure, the laws change somewhat when you're matching wits with an author instead of reality; but when it comes to people talking about lots of other possible explanations for the Mendelian pattern in wizard genetics, for example, they seem to be doing a Culture of Objections thing where they declare victory as soon as they come up with an overlooked possibility that can be used to reject the paper, never mind the prior probability on it.

I've seen this answer gotten, so I know it's gettable.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 23 October 2010 11:56:32PM *  13 points [-]

Saw someone else do it already.

Do what? Confidently name the "official" hypothesis, guess teacher's password? There certainly are good hypotheses, possibly one hypothesis significantly better than any other, which makes the probability of privileging the one you had in mind non-trivial and thus explains your observations. It doesn't follow that it's correct to assign high level of certainty to that hypothesis (as a within-world event, not prediction about what you had in mind, as the latter would be biased towards the best guess and away from the long tail).

(My best guess in this particular case is "enable time turners (in some sense)", but I won't be confident it's indeed so, it could be something else. ETA: On reflection, "revealing if someone is already in the room" is a better guess, although one could sidestep the defenses by entering from the future as well as from the past, and so not be present at the time of the casting.)

Comment author: cousin_it 25 October 2010 07:49:25AM *  5 points [-]

Seconding Nesov's point. If you ask people to guess the number you have in mind, and someone says "three" (while others say "one" or "five" or "a hundred"), and you did in fact have in mind "three", that doesn't prove the answer is "gettable". Not saying that it isn't in fact gettable, only that you need a stricter test. For example, sometimes ask someone else to post a comment with the correct answer (or do it yourself using an alias) and see how it fares compared to other hypotheses.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 09 October 2010 01:03:41AM 3 points [-]

I am happy to promote this fanfic on my blog, which, so far as I know, has no readers :)

Comment author: jimrandomh 26 October 2010 01:02:31PM *  11 points [-]

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

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

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

Professor McGonagall gazed at him unblinkingly. "I am certain that I could never be heard endorsing such a statement, Mr. Potter. At Hogwarts we strive to be proactive with respect to anything that threatens the educational attainment of our students." ... "Oh, I doubt that, Mr. Potter. I doubt that very much." Professor McGonagall leaned forward, her face tightening again. "Since you and I have already discussed matters far more sensitive than these, I shall speak frankly. You, and you alone, have reported this mysterious sense of doom. You, and you alone, are a chaos magnet the likes of which I have never seen. After our little shopping trip to Diagon Alley, and then the Sorting Hat, and then today's little episode, I can well foresee that I am fated to sit in the Headmaster's office and hear some hilarious tale about Professor Quirrell in which you and you alone play a starring role, after which there will be no choice but to fire him. I am already resigned to it, Mr. Potter. And if this sad event takes place any earlier than the Ides of May, I will string you up by the gates of Hogwarts with your own intestines and pour fire beetles into your nose. Now do you understand me completely?"

As Harry observes, this exchange is extremely out of character for McGonagall. Telling Harry not to voice his concerns about Quirrel, I could believe; but cutting him off mid-sentence, and them making such a graphic, violent threat if he does, I can not. It is so out of character, in fact, that I think it must be a symptom of being Imperiused.

We know that Voldemort used to use Imperius quite a bit, and the only real reasons he might stop would be if someone figured out how to detect it (which hasn't happened), or if his new form didn't have the power. One Imperiused person rules out the second possibility, so if if Quirrelmort put an imperius on McGonagall, he has almost certainly used it elsewhere too.

Which brings us to Harry's attempted breakout of Bellatrix. Breaking in to Azkaban to rescue Bellatrix Black, I could just barely believe. Pretending to be Voldemort while doing so, however, pushes credibility too far. From Chapter 52 to Chapter 54, Harry is Imperiused. There are just too many things stupid and suspicious about the plan to believe that Harry overlooked all of them.

And that brings us to the question of what Imperius actually does. And this, I think, explains the chapter title, "The Stanford Prison Experiment", which otherwise seems not to fit at all. The conclusion of that famous experiment was that if you give someone a role - even a fake role, like a prison guard over subjects in a psychology experiment who are technically free to leave - then they adopt it as part of their identity, including the evil parts, and become blind to the wrong things they do as part of that identity. So perhaps that's what Imperius does: it assigns its target a particular role, which their mind will bend to accommodate. That would also explain why the title was redacted for part 1, which takes place before the Imperius curse was cast.

Here are some abnormalities in Harry's mind:

This was it, this was the day and the moment when Harry started acting the part.

And in another part of him, like he was just letting another part of his mind carry out a habit without paying much attention to it...

Professor Quirrell had instructed Harry, calmly and precisely, how he was to act in Bellatrix's presence; how to form the pretense he would maintain in his mind.

The only problem with this theory, is that Harry believes that Quirrel can never use magic on him. His Patronus and Quirrel's Aveda Kevadera certainly didn't interact well, and there seems to be an issue if they touch. But the theory that they can never use magic on each other, seems to have appeared from nowhere; there is no evidence for it whatsoever, except the sense of doom. Perhaps that idea was planted, to make the idea that Harry was Imperiused seem less plausible?

Comment author: Mercy 26 October 2010 02:48:12PM *  12 points [-]

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

Comment author: DaveX 26 October 2010 06:43:57PM *  3 points [-]

I think the title was redacted in order to not give the game away too early, as in Chapter 9.

Maybe the magical incompatibility is real, and perhaps the dark social engineering behind the Stanford Prison Experiment relates to Chapter 16, Lateral Thinking. In Ch16, there's almost the same words in all-caps dizzying his brain. It might be explained by the sense of doom and magical incompatibility. Also Ch16 has “Mr. Potter, I never said you were to kill. There is a time and a place for taking your enemy alive,..." If Quirrell senses similar doom on his side, framing Harry as the Dark Lord and almost capable of breaking his most trusted lieutenant out of Azkaban might be a cunning lateral-thinking plot to dispose of all but a fragment of his nemesis without using anything direct.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 18 October 2010 09:18:13PM *  7 points [-]

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

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

In moral debates, the word "sentient" is one of a class of words I call "words that don't mean what they mean": words that we systematically abuse, by having 2 definitions; and we use the word in practice with definition 1, and pretend it has definition 2 when we want to justify our actions.

It is so very very common for people to talk about "sentient life", and use it to mean "life forms with a grammatical language". If you just came out and said, "I think that the feelings of beings that can't express themselves with a recursive grammatic structure need never be considered", people would realize how unjustified and self-serving this view is. So people use the word "sentient", yet in a way implying it applies only to beings with grammar, so they can say what they want to say, but in a way that sounds like they are saying something less self-serving.

Comment author: TobyBartels 21 October 2010 01:36:58AM 5 points [-]

This is a problem throughout science fiction, of which EY (or MoR!Harry) is probably an innocent victim. I don't know how it started, although offhand I doubt that it began in an attempt (conscious or otherwise) to justify cruelty to non-human animals.

It certainly can be confusing, however.

Comment author: CronoDAS 21 October 2010 02:26:09AM 2 points [-]

I think "Star Trek" may be responsible for this common word "misuse".

Comment author: AdShea 19 October 2010 02:04:16AM 2 points [-]

I think you're looking for the difference between Sentient and Sapient. The problem is that they are often conflated to make an awful mess of things.

Comment author: tenshiko 21 October 2010 02:24:59AM *  4 points [-]

EDIT: Spoilers even if you have read all chapters (particularly spoilery to those who have not read the original books). Following post is in rot13. Collapse thread from this comment if you want to avoid said spoilers, as some repliers commented in rot26 before it was established this information qualified as spoilage.

-

Gurer unf orra fbzr pbaprea nobhg ubj vg qbrfa'g frrz gb or pbzzba xabjyrqtr gung Dhveery vf orvat cbffrffrq ol Ibyqrzbeg va guvf fgbel (pbeerpg zr vs V'z jebat, ohg V xabj gung nppbeqvat gb gur nhgube'f abgr nepuvir ba uggc://jjj.obk.arg/funerq/skq7ce100m Lhqxbjfxl fgngrq gung "gur ernqre vf fhccbfrq gb xabj ng guvf cbvag gung CD vf YI"). Ubjrire, nf sne nf V haqrefgbbq, gb znal ernqref (zlfrys vapyhqrq) vg fgvyy frrzf fbzrjung nzovthbhf. N cebcbfrq pnhfr bs gur ceboyrz:

N: Dhveeryy vf cbfrffrq ol Ibyqrzbeg. O: Gur jnl Dhveeryy npgrq va pnaba va sebag bs Uneel, cevbe gb gur erirny gung ur jnf Ibyqrzbeg, jnf trarenyyl cynlvat gur ebyr bs n zvyq-znaarerq cebsrffbe. P: Gur jnl Dhveeryy npgf va ZbE va sebag bs Uneel vf nf n onqnff cebsrffbe.

Gur xrl nffhzcgvba orvat znqr ol pregnva ernqref vf gung N--->O naq bayl O, naq fb ~O--->~N, naq fb P--->~N. Guvf vf n pyrne snyynpl jura fgngrq rkcyvpvgyl, ohg jura yrsg vzcyvpvg gur vzcebcre ybtvp tbrf haabgvprq ol zbfg. Fbzrguvat gung zvtug uryc va guvf ertneq zvtug or gb unir fbzr nqhyg cbvag bhg gung Dhveeryy unf punatrq fvapr gurl ynfg zrg uvz, rg prgren, nygubhtu ng 50 puncgref vg'f engure uneq gb chg gung va fzbbguyl naq vg jbhyq pbzr bss gb ernqref cerivbhfyl pbaivaprq gung Dhveeryy jnf abg Dhveeryyzbeg (jurgure sebz vaabprapr gb UC pnaba be whfg abg guvaxvat vg nccyvrq va guvf cnegvphyne fgbel) nf urnil-unaqrq sberfunqbjvat, naq gb ernqref jub unq haqrefgbbq gur znggre sebz rneyl ba vg jbhyq frrz gb or znxvat n cyrnfnagyl fhogyr cbvag gbb boivbhf.

Comment author: JStewart 22 October 2010 12:49:43AM *  5 points [-]

I have not read the original Harry Potter series. I first learned that Quirrell was Voldemort when, after finishing the 49 chapters of MoR out at that point, I followed a link from LW to the collected author's notes and read those.

I think that for those who have not read the source material (though there may not be many of us), it is basically impossible to intuit that Quirrell is Voldemort from the body of the fanfic so far.

That said, I don't feel like I missed out in any way and don't see why it necessarily needs to be any more explicit until the inevitable big reveal.

Edit: I just remembered that, as you can see, my prior comment on this post was written after I read chapter 49 but before I learned that Quirrell == Voldemort.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 22 October 2010 01:01:03AM *  2 points [-]

Eliezer planted lots of clues about many facts that are never explicitly revealed, in such a way that noticing correct hypotheses is sufficient to confirm them upon observing enough of those little clues. Now, for some facts, it could be difficult to even locate them, but Quirrell=Voldemort seems to be a good hypothesis to entertain, even if it's not apparently confirmed from any single passage, and it does get lots of evidence if you know to look for it.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 22 October 2010 01:40:58AM 3 points [-]

How much of that is hindsight bias? Clues that show a specific hypothesis if you've located the hypothesis aren't necessarily that helpful. For me at least, even knowing the that Q=V, and seeing the clues, they don't intrinsically point to that. Most of them can be explained simply by the idea that Quirrell is subtle, evil, and likes corrupting people.

The biggest clue is the material about the Horcrux and if one hasn't read the books that likely goes completely out the window. (In fact, if I were Eliezer, I'd have Harry find out about Horcruxes pretty soon to help the less knowledgable readers.)

Comment author: Sniffnoy 22 October 2010 04:50:48PM 3 points [-]

The biggest clue is the material about the Horcrux and if one hasn't read the books that likely goes completely out the window. (In fact, if I were Eliezer, I'd have Harry find out about Horcruxes pretty soon to help the less knowledgable readers.)

Wait, were Horcruxes mentioned explicitly in the text anywhere so far? The one Horcrux we know about is only explicitly stated to be such in the author's notes; at any rate, I didn't figure out it was a Horcrux without reading them.

I concluded Q=V early on based on: 1. Quirrell seems to flip between two wildly different personalities 2. In canon, his body is housing Voldemort ...which I found to be enough to conclude that he is being intermittently possessed by Voldemort. (OK actually I'm simplifying a little but I don't think the other details are relevant.)

Comment author: NihilCredo 22 October 2010 06:50:10PM *  11 points [-]

The only result for CTRL-F "horcrux" is in a private conversation between Dumbledore and McGonagall, and it doesn't say what it is except that it belongs to Voldemort. Dumbledore does later tell Harry that Voldy achieved immortality through some scary rituals, but says nothing about the method other than that it involves a murder, so a canon-ignorant reader wouldn't be able to make a confident connection. "Horcrux" could very well be Voldermort's super-weapon, or a fancy term for "hideout".

As for clues to Q=V that don't rely on canon knowledge, the two biggest ones that come to mind are the sense of "doom" that Harry repeatedly perceives when coming physically near Quirrell (when something magical happens to Harry that is unusual or impossible even in the wizarding world, it's safe to assume that it's a consequence of his unique battle with Voldemort), and especially the tale he tells about Voldemort and the monastery, which despite his cover story of a deliberate "survivor" should make anyone raise an eyebrow.

On the other side, however, there is the fact that, in a marginally subtler way, Quirrell is NOT Voldemort. Everything we are told about Voldemort in MoR (at least part of which comes from reliable accounts) matches canon Voldemort and suggest an equally cartoonesque villain composed mostly of questionable motives, self-defeating pettiness and pointless cruelty, with zero PR skills and awful fashion sense, not to mention a certain fondness for the Idiot Ball. But if Quirrell is Voldemort, that requires Voldemort being not just far smarter and more patient, but possessing ambitions more sophisticated than being a Dark Lord on his Dark Throne in the land of Britain where the Shadows lie.

Which just so happened to have been the entire core of his character! For all functional and narrative purposes, whatever change Voldemort underwent when he turned into Quirrellmort was so drastic that we might as well say that he is no longer Voldemort.

Comment author: orthonormal 22 October 2010 09:51:33PM 7 points [-]

On the other side, however, there is the fact that, in a marginally subtler way, Quirrell is NOT Voldemort. Everything we are told about Voldemort in MoR (at least part of which comes from reliable accounts) matches canon Voldemort and suggest an equally cartoonesque villain composed mostly of questionable motives, self-defeating pettiness and pointless cruelty, with zero PR skills and awful fashion sense, not to mention a certain fondness for the Idiot Ball.

Eliezer has previously written that a supervillain (meant to be defeated) might do more for world unity than just about anything else. (If the words "I did it thirty-five minutes ago" mean anything to you, you get the idea.)

It's plausible that MoR Voldemort was a facade put up by Quirrell as part of a strategy to bring the wizarding world together and face the very real threat of Muggleborne nuclear war– and both his speech to Hogwarts and his private discussion with Harry make this more plausible.

However, it looks like the Boy-Who-Lived ruined his original plan somehow, and he's trying Plan B now by mentoring Harry.

Comment author: Thausler 24 October 2010 02:30:48AM 4 points [-]

If Voldemort's plan was to cause Britain to unite under a Mark of Britain killing Yermy Wibble and his family was a funny way to accomplish it.

Voldemort may have been operating under the same false assumption that Wibble was (that Wibble's martyrdom would legitimize his ideas), but a villain that clever could have at least done some better PR work on Wibble during the seventies.

Comment author: hairyfigment 23 October 2010 05:40:00AM 2 points [-]

Note, too, that if V knew he could 'die' and then possess someone, and if he also believed his followers could only lose to a dictator who united magical Britain against them, then he likely figured it didn't matter if they won or not.

Comment author: hairyfigment 23 October 2010 05:17:29AM *  3 points [-]

Everything we are told about Voldemort in MoR (at least part of which comes from reliable accounts) matches canon Voldemort and suggest an equally cartoonesque villain composed mostly of questionable motives, self-defeating pettiness and pointless cruelty, with zero PR skills and awful fashion sense, not to mention a certain fondness for the Idiot Ball.

Except we also have Dumbledore describing V as clever like Harry, or words to that effect. The two monastery stories seem consistent with this: first of all, canon!Voldemort would never have sought out a Muggle teacher at all. Second, the two stories together suggest that MoR!Voldemort got what he wanted and then returned without his disguise to get revenge, like he said Harry would do if Harry became like him. Also, what orthonormal said.

Edited to add: and come on, we know MoR!V killed Narcissa Malfoy. Draco told us himself to look at the result and ask who benefits. The plan surely broke an evil overlord rule or three, at least in spirit, but if V couldn't get Lucius on his side he probably needed to kill the default leader of the pureblood faction anyway. And V, as a skilled Legilimens, could probably count on Lucius responding irrationally to his wife's death one way or another.

Comment author: komponisto 22 October 2010 02:57:17PM *  3 points [-]

For me at least, even knowing the that Q=V, and seeing the clues, they don't intrinsically point to that. Most of them can be explained simply by the idea that Quirrell is subtle, evil, and likes corrupting people.

The Law of Conservation of Detail (TV Tropes warning) implies that an important character who is subtle and evil (or even just subtle) has a substantial probability of being the villain.

I hadn't read the original series either, and so at first I had no idea that Q=V except from the Author's Notes; however, I suspect that by this point in the story I would have begun entertaining it seriously as a hypothesis. (And of course as long as the story is still being written, there's always some chance Eliezer could change his mind.)

Comment author: ata 22 October 2010 10:03:51PM *  5 points [-]

The Law of Conservation of Detail (TV Tropes warning) implies that an important character who is subtle and evil (or even just subtle) has a substantial probability of being the villain.

But there are a lot of subtle characters in HPMOR; Quirrell might be the most subtle and the most apparently evil, but he's not the only one. That would imply that Harry, Dumbledore, and Lucius also have substantial probabilities of being the villain.

Edit: Then again... maybe that's correct.

On the other hand, I think we've been told to expect most characters to be substantially smarter than their canon equivalents, and maybe this kind of subtle schemingness just comes automatically when you have a bunch of smart wizards who don't trust each other and have potentially conflicting goals that they all take seriously as things-to-protect.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 October 2010 03:27:53PM 2 points [-]

I wouldn't mind one little bit if the story is structured like Lensmen, with several layers of villains that have to be discovered.

Admittedly, this is less likely in the wizarding world-- the population is much lower than in a universe with multiple inhabited galaxies.

On the gripping hand, it would be really cool if Quirrel/Voldemort were a claw on a finger of a conspiracy of evil alien wizards. Presumably, Cthulhu is part of the middle layer.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 October 2010 08:58:53PM 1 point [-]

I came to realize in time that what I thought was a bug was a feature, however frustrating that may be for me, so please rot13 that comment with the warning "spoilers even if you've read all chapters".

Comment author: DaveX 01 November 2010 09:28:15PM *  2 points [-]

Chap 65:

Harry's treatment of the different (agents?) in his head make me wonder about the MOR Horcrux mechanics and the possibility of making copies of a being. If the horcrux copying process is repetatively damaging, like analog copies of a wax cyinder recording, there would be a degradation in each stage, and the last horcrux, Harry would be the poorest copy. Or if each horcux was same-quality, there might have been only something like limitations on the first analog-digital conversion, and successive generations of copies might be exact, like digital-to-digital. The ability to copy consciousness is interesting. One can, a la Star Trek transporters, destroy the original to keep from having duplicates, you could let either the scanning process not destroy things, or you could make the construction process repeatable. High-fidelity digital reproduction make software and IP copies have constant marginal cost, and I wonder what that might mean for copies of consciousness.

If Voldemort can have a number of horcruxes, each of which can regenerate a new Voldy, why can't he generate multiple selves from them? Would a being with the ability to copy itself do so, or not? A team of Voldemorts, or post-horcrux-Voldemorts would be more powerful and resilient than a single one. Or is Voldemort too selfish to work with himself?

Comment author: TobyBartels 02 November 2010 05:05:57AM 5 points [-]

Would a being with the ability to copy itself do so, or not?

Most of them do, for reasons that should be obvious.

Comment author: DaveX 02 November 2010 03:33:22PM 1 point [-]

Copying mind state differs from sexual or asexual reproduction. I was wondering how the MOR soul-splitting, copying, backup, imprinting, and possession mechanism works and how it might be exploited.

Could, for instance, Harry split his soul into its separate agents without the act of murder? Or is the important part of the Horcrux magic stealing someone's soul to use as media to make a copy your own soul? How close are Harry's suppositions in Ch20 to the MOR-reality?

Comment author: wedrifid 02 November 2010 03:49:12PM 3 points [-]

Could, for instance, Harry split his soul into its separate agents without the act of murder? Or is the important part of the Horcrux magic stealing someone's soul to use as media to make a copy your own soul? How close are Harry's suppositions in Ch20 to the MOR-reality?

Evidence for a 'soul' and the need to eliminate another in order to do horcrux like magic gives some credence to theories that MoR is in a simulated world. You need to wipe out an existing virtual machine in order to put an extra instance of yours there, splitting your own may require dividing your 'soul/computational resources' between multiple instances, etc.

Comment author: LucasSloan 16 October 2010 07:23:38AM *  2 points [-]

New Chapter: 50.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 29 October 2010 01:38:10AM *  6 points [-]

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

And few people trust Harry; and with good reason.

The more rational someone is, the less you can trust them. The less rational someone is, the more you can trust them. You can trust a bigot to keep acting bigoted. You can trust a religious zealot to stay true to her faith. You can trust someone who votes the party line without thinking to keep voting the party line.

Whereas, a religious zealot who actually thinks about her religious principles is much less reliable. The Jesuits are a perfect example of this - religious, but prone to thinking about their religion, and thus a neverending source of heresy and controversy within the Church. A politician who actually thinks about the issues might break with his party, or vote differently than the people who elected him expected.

How much does society rely on our irrationality, on our inability to change our minds or avoid signalling our true intent, and our inability to avoid following through on our emotional commitments (revenge, punishment, reward, nepotism)? What's the social cost of rationality? Is it reasonable to think that people have evolved to be less-than-optimally rational?

Comment author: shokwave 29 October 2010 06:03:09AM *  7 points [-]

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

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

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

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

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 October 2010 01:12:06PM 4 points [-]

This gets to one of the Hard Problems, both for FAI and a great deal of life. How can you tell who can be trusted to do a good job of taking your interests into account?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 29 October 2010 09:05:54PM 2 points [-]

But what if our irrationalities aren't quick-and-dirty heuristics optimized for speed? What known cognitive biases are even applicable to running away from a lion?

What if some of our cognitive biases are evolved adaptations that make human society work better? It would be pretty surprising to me if this weren't the case!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 October 2010 09:28:50PM 4 points [-]

Just because they are evolved, doesn't mean they are optimal. An evolved adaptation can be just as "dirty" as a fast cognitive heuristic; the architectural constraints of learning through genes can be just as constraining as those of coming up with something to do fast.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 29 October 2010 09:56:29PM 4 points [-]

Yes, and let me add to that, just because something was adaptive when humans evolved doesn't mean it is at all adaptive now. To use a concrete example, the weight humans put on anecdotes is likely connected to the fact that in our ancestral environment, that was the primary source of data about what the risks around us were. However, now this leads to silly things like people being terribly scared of shark attacks precisely due to the rarity of such attacks making them get a lot of news coverage.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2010 01:44:57AM 1 point [-]

I've put forward a hypothetical, not claimed a proof. What's the point of responding, "But that isn't necessarily the case"?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 31 October 2010 05:29:25AM 2 points [-]

You know, you're right. I was responding to peripheral aspects of your proposal rather than central ones, which is a waste of everyone's time. My apologies.

So, OK... rolling back: if I'm understanding you, you're hypothesizing that our biases are not design flaws, but rather adaptations to obtain the group-level benefit of having individuals be more irrational and therefore predictable.

(Is that right? I'm trying to infer a positive claim out of a series of questions, which is always tricky; if I've misunderstood your hypothetical it might be helpful to restate it more explicitly.)

Perhaps irrationality does provide a group-level benefit, as you suggest. For example, maybe it's easier to get valuable group behaviors by manipulating irrational people than by cooperating with rational ones. That doesn't strike me as too plausible, but it's possible.

Even granting that, though, I have trouble with the idea that the benefit to individual breeders exceeds the costs to the individual of being more easily manipulated by others.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 October 2010 10:27:29PM 0 points [-]

evolved adaptations that make human society work better

ERROR: POSTULATION OF GROUP SELECTION IN MAMMALS DETECTED

Comment author: timtyler 31 October 2010 08:41:24AM 6 points [-]

evolved adaptations that make human society work better

ERROR: POSTULATION OF GROUP SELECTION IN MAMMALS DETECTED

Speech seems like an evolved adaptation that makes human society work better.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2010 01:42:50AM *  4 points [-]

Error: Most of human history is a recounting of group selection in humans. Every time one group of people displaces another group by virtue of superior technology or social organization, that's group selection.

Having a belief in, or at least openness to, group selection, is one of my rationality tests.

In related news, this weeks Science has the clearest demonstration of group selection that I've seen: The ability to self-pollinate in plants gives individuals a great reproductive advantage; but also increases the likelihood of the entire species going extinct. The presence of a feature (self-pollination) that provides an advantage to the individual, provides a disadvantage to the species, that causes species-level selection.

Comment author: timtyler 31 October 2010 07:56:59AM 3 points [-]

Most of human history is a recounting of group selection in humans. Every time one group of people displaces another group by virtue of superior technology or social organization, that's group selection.

That is one definition of "group selection". However, there is another definition - according to which "group selection" must refer to a different theory from "individual selection" - a theory that makes different predictions. For that you would need to show that the genetic traits that led to technological mastery benefited groups in a way that was systematically different from the way that they benefited the individuals that composed those groups.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 01 November 2010 02:13:00AM 2 points [-]

I think it suffices to show that selection can operate at the level of the group. Even if all of the traits involved provide some advantage to individuals, if they also provide an advantage to the group, then group-level selection needs to be considered.

It is more interesting if you can show that a trait that does not confer an advantage to an individual, has an effect on group selection. But it is an unreasonable bias to demand that group selection requires traits that do not provide any advantage to an individual, and yet at the same time not insist that the theory of individual selection requires traits that do not provide any advantage to the group.

Comment author: Perplexed 31 October 2010 05:42:17AM 1 point [-]

This is something of a quibble, but you really shouldn't think of species-level selection as a kind of group selection. In both group and individual selection, it is the species that evolves. But in species-level selection, the species does not evolve. It is selected - it either lives or dies.

Another key difference - the usual argument against group selection is that it is ineffective since individual selection is a stronger force. That is, individual selection is said to push harder and change the species more than does group selection. But comparing species-level selection and individual selection, it makes no sense to say that one is more powerful than the other. They are playing different games.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 01 November 2010 02:18:52AM *  2 points [-]

This is something of a quibble, but you really shouldn't think of species-level selection as a kind of group selection. In both group and individual selection, it is the species that evolves. But in species-level selection, the species does not evolve. It is selected - it either lives or dies.

Sorry, but I think this is completely wrong. Species-level selection isn't "like" group selection. It is group selection. In group selection, groups are selected for or against. That is the mechanism for group selection. That is the mechanism for group initially described by Darwin in chapter 4 of Descent of Man, and defended by Edward Wilson. It just happens not to be the straw-man depiction used by some opponents of group selection. They chose to ignore selection at the group level because it is easier to rebut group selection if you first assume that it doesn't happen.

Can you provide a reference for that usage?

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2010 04:59:49PM 3 points [-]

With Chapters 55-56, I have some theories regarding Quirrell's true plan. He is Voldemort (or rather contains a piece of Voldemort) but we know he doesn't want Harry dead; he's had ample opportunity to simply murder Harry if that was the goal. I think rescuing Bellatrix is a distraction as well, really nothing more than a cover story or "fortunate side effect" of achieving the true goal. If rescuing Bellatrix was the true goal, he wouldn't have jeopardized the mission by attempting to murder the auror.

I think Quirrell's ultimate goal is the Dementation of Harry, probably in order to draw out Harry's dark side (which I think is the horcrux-fragment of Voldemort). He tried this at Hogwarts and it would have worked if not for Hermione's intervention. Since he was unlikely to be able to bring Dementors to Hogwarts a second time, he concluded that he'd have to bring Harry to Azkaban. The rescue plan is a cover story designed to persuade Harry into going to Azkaban--although I suppose Quirrell figured he might as well make the rescue target someone who could actually be useful to him/Voldemort if freed.

So basically Quirrell deliberately put himself out of commission, thinking that Harry would quickly fall prey to the Dementors in such a situation. The hole in my theory is that this seems like an all-or-nothing play: he's now revealed at least three pieces of important information to Harry (1. His own willingness to kill innocents; 2. The spell-clash aspect of their joined magics--which for my theory to be correct, Quirrell must already have known about; and 3. Quirrell's own insanely-high power level). These three pieces together are probably enough to make Harry suspect that Quirrell is an aspect of Voldemort, once he has the chance to think things through. Quirrell is subtle enough that he should have had a backup plan in place in order to retain Harry's trust in the event that Harry is not Demented, but I can't imagine what that might be. Maybe Quirrell's backup plan involves the Imperius Curse or memory charms or something. I'd say that "Kill Harry" would be the simplest and most obvious backup plan, but I think Voldemort wants/needs Harry alive.

Not a prediction so much as a guess: Bellatrix's Innervate charm did work on Quirrell. He's currently faking unconsciousness (and remaining in the form that gives himself some protection from the Dementors) as he waits to see whether Harry will or will not succumb to Dementation.

Comment author: David_Allen 02 November 2010 09:25:25PM 3 points [-]

So basically Quirrell deliberately put himself out of commission

To counter this, it was Harry's actions that lead to the fight with the auror. Up to the point that Harry almost lost control of his patronus Quirrell had been acting to shield Harry's hearing, perhaps fearing that exact response. I don't think there is any evidence that the fight was inevitable.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2010 10:52:50PM 2 points [-]

I agree that it's unreasonable to expect that Quirrell could have anticipated the entire chain of events that led to the duel with Bahry. However, it's not at all unreasonable to expect that a duel with one or more aurors would occur at some point during the course of breaking in and out of Azkaban, and in fact we know that Quirrell planned for this contingency, because he gave Harry standing orders for what to do if/when it happened. So, while that fight was not inevitable, a fight was always likely.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 October 2010 06:17:22PM *  3 points [-]

A few thoughts, just to go on record with them. As always, apologies if I'm repeating well-covered ground; I have not read all the comments on this thread, nor am I likely to. I would appreciate pointers to comments I ought to read, though.

Polyjuice, Bahry would have called it, if he'd thought that anyone could possibly do magic that delicate from inside someone else's body

OTOH, the same person is described in ch52 as

the... man Professor Quirrell had Polyjuiced into.

It's unclear whose voice that is in, but the same sentence describes the voice as "unfamiliar," which suggests we're getting Harry's POV rather than Word Of God. So Harry believes Quirrell Polyjuiced into this man.

So either: A. Harry is right, and Bahry is mistaken about what's possible while Polyjuiced. B. Bahry is right, and Harry is mistaken about what happened. C. They're both right, and something weird is happening. (E.g., Harry's companion is not actually doing magic as delicate as he appears to be doing, or some such thing.)

B seems most plausible to me, as Bahry ought to know about such things. The simplest explanation is that he isn't Polyjuiced at all -- the "sallow lanky bearded man" with the "low and gravelly" voice is Harry's companion's natural form. (Of course, there might be other means of changing his appearance that we've never heard of before, but that would be a cheap narrative trick.)

Which suggests he is not and never was the actual Quirrell. And also that he is not and never was anyone Harry would recognize (from pictures, from extrapolation in mirrors, etc.)

Professor Quirrell had pointed out that there was no plausible reason for him to be possessed by the shade of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

So either: A. There is in fact no plausible reason for this. B. There is a plausible reason, but neither Quirrell nor Harry can think of one. C. There is a plausible reason, but Harry can't think of one, and Quirrell is pretending not to be able to think of one.

The most likely of those given the data I'm aware of is A. Which suggests that Professor Quirrell is not and never was possessed by Voldemort (ETA: er, I mean, by the shade of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named).

Which is not to say that Harry's companion isn't or wasn't.

Comment author: jimrandomh 27 October 2010 08:00:39PM 5 points [-]

The fact that Quirrel sometimes reverts to zombie mode suggests that Voldemort is teleoperating that body. Perhaps he has more than one body for that purpose, and simply used a different body for the breakin, rather than polyjuicing the first one. It would be odd that both bodies could assume snake-form, but I see no reason in principle why that magic wouldn't be transferrable.

If that's what happened, then the Quirrel body might still be alive somewhere. Voldemort might be alive (in which case he would return to Quirrel's body, and pin the blame on Harry), or temporarily dead, in which case Quirrel's vacant body might turn up somewhere.

Comment author: Unnamed 28 October 2010 08:08:38PM 3 points [-]

This is plausible, and fits with my speculation that Quirrell's been Dementor-kissed.

On the other hand, Harry still feels a sense of doom when Quirrell is in zombie mode, which suggests that Voldemort isn't completely gone then.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 October 2010 03:25:11PM 2 points [-]

Re: Voldemort teleoperating Quirrell... if there's a quick summary somewhere of why this is a plausible explanation for Q's occasional zombie mode, I'd love a pointer.

Re: remote-snakeform... if that's what's going on, it would be better writing to introduce the possibility of remote animagusing somewhere along the line. Lacking any such introduction (or have I just missed it?) it seems a far simpler explanation that Harry's current companion and Harry's DODA instructor share a body, and that body is a snake animagus. (cf hooves, horses, zebras)

Comment author: thomblake 27 October 2010 06:40:13PM 4 points [-]

Yeah, I think the naive reading is that the narration is from Harry's POV, and Quirrell Polyjuiced into the man (as planned), and Quirrell is such a badass that he can do whatever magic he wants while polyjuiced, which is unusual enough for Bahry not to expect it.

And Quirrell claiming there's no plausible reason to think he's possessed by Voldemort is just him thumbing his nose at the reader (aside from the usual misdirection).

Comment author: Unnamed 28 October 2010 05:14:43PM 1 point [-]

chp 54

So much for Harry's intent to kill. The Most Dangerous Student in the Classroom gets to his first real battle and he does just the opposite.

I guess Harry's Gryffindor/Patronus side is leading the way here, not his Slytherin/dark side (as I mentioned in the last paragraph of my other comment).

Comment author: JoshuaZ 28 October 2010 06:00:32PM 10 points [-]

Well, it wasn't an individual who deserved death. Harry may have an intent to kill but he isn't going to direct it at someone like an Auror without a lot more provocation.

Comment author: David_Allen 29 October 2010 05:51:07PM 1 point [-]

The rot13 use is becoming excessive in this forum, there is already a spoiler warning on the post. Let EY make a special request for it when he thinks speculation goes too far.

Comment author: Unnamed 29 October 2010 09:13:06PM 8 points [-]

I think the policy should be that you do not need to rot13 anything about HMPOR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it's fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that "Eliezer said X is true" unless you use rot13.

More specificallly, (and I have to use rot13 here), vg'f svar gb jevgr nobhg Ibyqrzbeg pbagebyyvat Dhveeryy (jvgubhg hfvat ebg13), ohg lbh qb arrq gb hfr ebg13 vs lbh zragvba gur qryrgrq nhgube'f abgr nobhg gung be pynvz gung Jbeq bs Tbq unf rfgnoyvfurq gung D=I.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 October 2010 10:24:06PM 2 points [-]

I affirm that this is what I think the policy should be. Speculation does not require spoilers.

Comment author: Random832 11 April 2012 01:49:00PM 3 points [-]

Downvoted for endorsing a policy that requires people to keep track of whether something is still in the current version of the fic. I didn't know until today that the thing Unnamed put in rot13 had been "disrevealed".

Comment author: wedrifid 13 April 2012 09:35:56AM 1 point [-]

Downvoted for endorsing a policy that requires people to keep track of whether something is still in the current version of the fic. I didn't know until today that the thing Unnamed put in rot13 had been "disrevealed".

I only just discovered what you meant here. I totally agree. Enforcement of 'unrevelation' spoiler policies is utterly absurd and is a norm that I would oppose rather than support.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 October 2010 06:05:11PM 2 points [-]

I wonder how difficult it would be to add a "Rot13 this" button to the options under each text item (that is, next to "Vote up" and "Vote down" and so forth).

That would significantly reduce the nuisance factor associated with reading r13'd posts, without the site having to give up whatever value it is people see in using them.

Not that I'm offering to write the code, or anything actually useful like that. Just ruminating.

Comment author: Perplexed 29 October 2010 06:13:25PM 5 points [-]

This is not an endorsement of the add-on , but if you use Firefox

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 October 2010 06:22:20PM 2 points [-]

/dave feels sheepish/

Yes, of course there would be such a thing, and I ought to have looked for it rather than proposing that the feature be built into the site itself. Clearly, my intuitions have been distorted by working on self-contained rather then Web apps for too many years.

Thanks for both the thought and the pointer.

Comment author: JGWeissman 29 October 2010 06:17:00PM 3 points [-]

If we are going automate this, we should just use spoiler tags, so the marked text can be revealed on highlighting, or when a button is clicked or whatever.