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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 5

6 Post author: NihilCredo 02 November 2010 06:57PM

- This thread has run its course. You will find newer threads in the discussion section.

Another discussion thread - the fourth - has reached the (arbitrary?) 500 comments threshold, so it's time for a new thread for Eliezer Yudkowsky's widely-praised Harry Potter fanfic.

Most of the paratext and fan-made resources are listed on Mr. LessWrong's author page. There is also AdeleneDawner's collection of most of the previously-published Author's Notes.

Older threads: one, two, three, four. By tag.

Newer threads are in the Discussion section, starting from Part 6.

Spoiler policy as suggested by Unnamed and approved by Eliezer, me, and at least three other upmodders:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR 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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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.

It would also be quite sensible and welcome to continue the practice of declaring at the top of your post which chapters you are about to discuss, especially for newly-published ones, so that people who haven't yet seen them can stop reading in time.

Comments (648)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 07 November 2010 11:43:23PM 18 points [-]

(ch 58)

I'd thought this question would have already been raised, given the nature of this site and the author, but I haven't found it, so here goes.

Harry has already stated his intention of becoming as a god, and I'm not inclined to bet against him. He has already achieved partial Transmutation and Dementor-eradication, both considered impossible by other wizards, by virtue of his greater understanding of the Underlying Nature of Reality, and it seems likely he's just getting warmed up, and the Rule of Cool is with him, and the author seems sympathetic to that sort of transcendence (unlike most authors, whom I would expect to be setting Harry up for an Icarus flameout and a lecture on hubris).

It would not take much, really. Let him start researching an "Increasium Intelligencium" spell, and all bets are off.

So it seems reasonable to ask the question: is Harry Friendly?

I mean, obviously he avoids the Vast majority of unFriendly design space, simply by virtue of being human. He isn't going to tile the galaxy with paperclips or anything like that. But as I understand the idea, most human minds aren't Friendly either (are any?). It doesn't ordinarily matter, because humans aren't capable of hard takeoff, but given the precarious power imbalances inherent in the MOR-verse perhaps Harry is an exception.

Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the kind of "god" Harry is capable of "becoming as" isn't sufficiently scary to be worth invoking that kind of decision process for.

But how would we (or, more to the point, his peers) know that? At the moment, they seem to be doing the typical human thing of estimating Harry based on their prior experience with teenagers/wizards, and they will probably go on doing that because that's what humans do. But if they were more rational people who updated their model of Harry based on the evidence of his exceptionality, what would they conclude?

And if he isn't guaranteed to be either not-that-scary or Friendly, does his very existence pose an existential threat to humanity? Is the rational thing to do to stop him before it's too late?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 November 2010 12:08:52AM *  12 points [-]

So it seems reasonable to ask the question: is Harry Friendly?

Perhaps the purpose of the entire narrative will be to gut-punch the readers with a lesson in Friendly AI, by showing Harry acting determinedly and rationally to ensure his own Friendliness, but failing anyway.

Comment author: NihilCredo 08 November 2010 12:33:30AM 7 points [-]

To me, the most likely candidate for the role of an allegory of AI in MoR currently seems to be the Source of [Atlantean] Magic, assuming that Harry's speculation wasn't completely off the mark.

(My Wild Mass Guess on the matter would be that Harry will eventually discover that the Source was the Atlanteans' equivalent of a moderately unFriendly AI, which didn't destroy the world but did wipe away Atlantis. Eliezer will then be sorely tempted to go on an all-out Author Filibuster (TVTropes) on the subject, but will manage to restrain himself to a couple of paragraphs in the Author's Notes.)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 November 2010 01:14:34AM 5 points [-]

I'll be disappointed if Harry doesn't turn out to have been completely off the mark there.

I mean, the process he went through was roughly "Hey, look at this thing I don't understand. It doesn't behave at all the way I would expect it to. Um... maybe X is an explanation!" with no particular justification for privileging X over the uncountable number of hypotheses he could have come up with instead.

Worse, the hypothesis he came up with was pretty much unfalsifiable, and doesn't make any particular predictions. It doesn't "pay rent," to quote an early OB post.

The moralist in me does not want Harry "rewarded" with a correct answer for reasoning that way.

That having been said, I grant that if I knew the SO[A]M existed, I would conclude that Harry was somehow being influenced by its existence such that the theory of SO[A]M was more available, which doesn't require any additional assumptions given that it is necessarily responsive to wizards' thoughts to begin with. (That is, I don't want to repeat the reasoning error I made elsewhere regarding Quirrell being polyjuiced.)

But right now I don't know that.

Comment author: gjm 08 November 2010 01:11:13AM 11 points [-]

My feeling is that the more obvious UFAI-alike in MoR is Quirrelmort. Consider: Inhumanly fast (newspaper reading; duel with Bahry). Inhumanly intelligent (passim). Very powerful in part because of being inhumanly fast and intelligent. Interested -- supposing him to be Voldemort, on which topic I shall say no more -- in defeating death (just the sort of thing someone might ask a superintelligent AI to find ways to do).

Speaking of which: "Tell them I ate it", says Quirrell concerning the destroyed Dementor. Dementors in MoR are a symbol of death, even if many wizards don't quite grasp that. Dumbledore doesn't, but Harry surely does. Is Quirrell really not concerned that Harry may get the message: "I am a death-eater"?

Comment author: Sniffnoy 08 November 2010 01:21:32PM 3 points [-]

But does Quirrell know, or suspect, that Dementors are a form of death? If not he wouldn't even notice.

Comment author: gjm 08 November 2010 01:56:50PM 4 points [-]

Well, like Harry he is unable to cast Patronus v1.0, and he seems to understand just fine when Harry calls the Dementors "life-eaters" in ch58.

Comment author: thomblake 08 November 2010 01:23:57PM 4 points [-]

I mean, obviously he avoids the Vast majority of unFriendly design space, simply by virtue of being human. He isn't going to tile the galaxy with paperclips or anything like that.

We don't know much about how stable human values are under recursive self-modification. It's entirely possible (albeit seemingly unlikely) that humans even tend towards tiling the galaxy with paperclips in particular.

Comment author: DanArmak 08 November 2010 02:38:46PM 6 points [-]

It's entirely possible (albeit seemingly unlikely) that humans even tend towards tiling the galaxy with paperclips in particular.

Compared to the Vast space of minds in general, they certainly do. Few minds in that Vast space have heard of the concept of a paperclip, after all.

Comment author: Mercy 11 November 2010 02:38:45AM *  17 points [-]

Not having read fanfiction before, one thing I find fascinating about MoR is the Americanisation. Mostly it's just fun to spot trivia but the way Eliezer deals with class is pretty curious and I thought I'd get some thoughts down:

Rowling is very careful in the series to draw her heroes from a cross section of the "honest" classes: Ron obviously is very stereotypically working class, Hermoine's upper middle (though not management) and the Dursleys are little englanders.

So kicking Harry up to Hermoine's class (and giving him a multi-barelled surname to boot! Though I'm not sure if that's a stereotype in the US?) and replacing Ron with the aristocratic Draco narrows the class perspective quite a bit. I wonder if this contributes to the more personal air to the fic's conflicts, particularly as Quirrelmort lacks Voldemort's evil aristocrat act, and Draco's now more of a racist than a snob. I'm thinking of reading some more american fanfics, to see how they handle things, it's an interesting insight into how the american's think about class (I'm looking forward to the American adaption of Skins for similar reasons, though in that case the relationship is reversed).

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 14 November 2010 11:12:52AM 7 points [-]

...giving him a multi-barelled surname to boot! Though I'm not sure if that's a stereotype in the US?

I'm not sure what stereotype you're referring to, but the length of Harry's surname reads to me as almost a parody of the inclination to signal egalitarianism. I take it as evidence that his adopted parents (particularly the father) are Very Liberal, but that's all.

Class, Americanization

I hadn't actually noticed that particular issue before, but now that it's been pointed out, it seems to me more like a LessWrong-related bias than an American one. We like to focus on big, progressive, constructive issues, and upper-class people are in a better position to do so meaningfully; stories with disenfranchised characters are more likely to deal with apartment cows like 'how can I keep my abusive stepfather from attacking me' and 'how can I afford to replace my broken wand', which we don't generally like to think about.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 17 November 2010 04:31:09AM 5 points [-]

I'm not sure what stereotype you're referring to, but the length of Harry's surname reads to me as almost a parody of the inclination to signal egalitarianism. I take it as evidence that his adopted parents (particularly the father) are Very Liberal, but that's all.

In countries with an aristocratic tradition, upper class people tend to have multiple middle names and surnames to better show off all the prominent families the person descends from.

Comment author: David_Gerard 17 November 2010 09:40:19AM 3 points [-]

This tends not to be done in Britain. (Hyphenation does appear at all social strata to some degree.)

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 November 2010 12:14:43PM 6 points [-]

My big problem is the amazing breadth of American idiom that somehow falls out of the mouth of a child brought up by Oxford academics. Those kids really just don't talk like that. Not even slightly. It jars every single time and gives the impression of an author who can't be bothered.

Comment author: JGWeissman 15 November 2010 09:48:28PM 10 points [-]

If the characters in a story are supposed to be speaking Mandarin, no one, not even bilingual Chinese Americans, will complain that the American author wrote the dialogue in American English rather than the words the characters are literally speaking. Unfortunately, it appears that British English is too close to American English for dialogue between British characters to receive the same concession.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 28 November 2010 10:34:28PM 3 points [-]

As an American, I don't particularly mind the Americanisms. If EY tried to write in British English, it would come out stilted and sound wrong to both nationalities. If he got a Britpicker, it would take longer for new chapters to come out. I don't like either of those options. On the other hand, translations are being done into Chinese, Korean, and German. Is there anyone here willing to translate it into British?

Comment author: shokwave 14 November 2010 01:00:20PM 4 points [-]

If it helps you suspend disbelief, the early chapters gave me the impression that Harry was brought up by books, with his parents playing a supervising role at best.

Comment author: whpearson 14 November 2010 08:10:40PM 3 points [-]

There are things that assume American style systems that just don't exist over here. In the first chapter it talks about "Elementary Schools", where in the British system it would be Prep schools, probably (they tend to be classed the "best"). And Tenure doesn't exist in the same way.

It didn't jar with me too much. I just ignored the fact it was supposed to be British, to be honest.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 November 2010 02:14:44PM *  4 points [-]

Kids like that are already brought up by books. And Hermione talks like that in the story too. No, it's a common careless HP fanfic author failure mode, not anything clever or intentional.

Comment author: thomblake 15 November 2010 09:07:22PM 4 points [-]

I don't really see it as careless; it's just a work obviously written by an American.

Well, I guess I do see it as careless, in the sense that "I don't care".

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 14 November 2010 03:29:29PM 4 points [-]

This seems like something that would take some amount of work to fix in case the author did care. Problem with speech pattern differences is that you have no idea they're there if you're not familiar with the target speech pattern, so it's not like regular fact checking where you can generally tell when you're dealing with something tricky. I'm not terribly familiar with spoken English and had no idea about incongruent Americanese in the lines, though I can't think of anyone sounding very British either now that you mention it. The most straightforward fix would seem to be to run the dialogue through a native British English speaking editor, and that's a bit heavyweight for a fanfic.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 November 2010 04:46:16PM 8 points [-]

In fanfiction, the problem is solved (if the writer cares) collaboratively-- American writers trying to do British English well is such a common problem that the proof-reading and copy-editing has a name: Britpicking. I assume that most of that is done by native speakers.

The problems can be subtle. I was shocked to find that modern British English doesn't include "gotten". How do they make it through the day without such a useful word?

And I'm not going to mention the book because the author's a friend, but she writes excellent British English. When she had a couple of short passages of American dialogue, the result was agonizing. She didn't make the typical error of exaggerating differences, but there was something very wrong with the rhythm.

Comment author: NihilCredo 14 November 2010 05:11:07PM 4 points [-]

The problems can be subtle. I was shocked to find that modern British English doesn't include "gotten". How do they make it through the day without such a useful word?

They just use "got" - at least, that's what I was taught in school.

And I would definitely appreciate it if Eliezer had a Britpicker "fix" HP:MoR. There should be good chances of a sufficiently dedicated fan in Albion.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 November 2010 09:47:34PM *  4 points [-]

Preferably someone who lives in Oxford or Cambridge and knows from personal experience what the smart children of academics in those cities talk like. LessWrong would be one of the few sites where there would actually be quite a lot of people fitting that criterion ...

Comment author: [deleted] 14 November 2010 07:15:07PM 3 points [-]

Aside: As an American, I've often been quite surprised to find out that authors were British (if I read the books before I got background on the author.) My reaction is "British? It can't be!" This has happened with Alan Moore, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Charles Stross. I wonder when my brain will figure out that not everyone who's fun to read is from my home country.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 November 2010 05:13:16PM *  3 points [-]

It bloody does include "gotten"! It's just regarded as an "Americanism", hence evil to the purity and beauty of the sacred English tongue [*].

British writers writing 'Merkin can be painful. I'm Australian and even I can tell.

[*] may not be 100% pure nor 100% sacred. Beauty may vary. Grammar may have settled in shipping.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 November 2010 12:08:25AM *  3 points [-]

I did two polls because of annoying constraints. The second one has comments, the first one may eventually get comments.

The results back up what you've said.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 November 2010 06:01:16PM 3 points [-]

Thanks. At this point, since I did get this confirmed by someone British, I'm going to do a livejournal survey. There may be local variation.

Comment author: Mercy 15 November 2010 10:10:06PM 2 points [-]

I don't buy your second point here, because while in reality yes, the rich have the ability if not necessarily the inclination to deal with the world's problems, stories about those problems tend to maximise emotional impact by making their protagonists part of whatever strata of society is most affected by them. In the story of english democracy, the Chartists are much more sympathetic than Disraeli, and Christy Moore is unlikely to write a song praising John Major for his role in the peace process.

If Eliezer were writing an original story with a similar plot to MoR, he'd be well advised to amp up the prejudice against Muggle Borns and make his hero one. I suspect the narrow class focus here is an incidental result of the intersection of his interests and Rowling's, particularly her fondness for "salt of the earth" working class stereotypes. That is, Rowling made all the smart kids posh and Eliezer picked all the smart kids.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 November 2010 12:01:23PM *  3 points [-]

Good point about narrowing of the range of classes-- now that you mention it, the effect is a little claustrophobic for me compared to canon.

I think not having Hagrid has somewhat of the same effect-- he comes off as a something of a low-status outsider, even before we find out he's half giant.

I'll be curious to see if you find patterns about class in American fanfic, but it's worth remembering that it's a non-random sample and probably won't give you a complete view of how Americans think about class.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 November 2010 02:25:00PM 4 points [-]

Now I'm wondering what fiction about a rationalist who's not extraordinarily intelligent and who's up against significant prejudice would look like.

Comment author: cousin_it 14 November 2010 02:46:12PM 10 points [-]

Now i'm wondering about that too. The best way to show how rationality wins (if it does, in fact, win) would be to show how it works even for someone of average intelligence - otherwise you can never be sure if you're looking at the effects of superior intelligence instead.

Comment author: NihilCredo 14 November 2010 05:06:43PM 3 points [-]

A very intelligent but irrational person is easy to show, but a rational yet dumb one seems much harder to me. I suppose you could ham-fist it by making them suck at various intellectual challenges - any better ideas?

Comment author: Vaniver 14 November 2010 05:21:30PM 5 points [-]

A very intelligent but irrational person is easy to show, but a rational yet dumb one seems much harder to me. I suppose you could ham-fist it by making them suck at various intellectual challenges - any better ideas?

I thought early Bella from Luminosity did a pretty good job at showing someone rational but with no special cognitive abilities (we're talking about averages, here, not idiots). She just had noticed her limitations and practiced at overcoming them, but that by itself was very good at making her more effective.

One of the simplest author tricks I can come up with is to give your character a thought speed and stick to it. Harry seems to run through ten lines of text in seconds, sometimes, but if you go with, say, your speed reading aloud you can get a reasonable estimate of how long it takes an average person to ponder something. People can mention how they zone out; they can miss opportunities; they can not come up with a good enough solution in time. They can make conscious decisions about what they will and will not think about.

Comment author: cousin_it 14 November 2010 05:15:36PM 4 points [-]

Stubbornly refusing to believe in magic.

Stubbornly agreeing with an outside view prediction even when faced with many convincing arguments why this example is special, if most examples are expected to have similarly convincing arguments.

Stubbornly refusing to consider solutions to a problem before examining it more carefully.

Quickly changing opinion when faced with a valid argument, even though it "should" be emotionally unconvincing.

Comment author: MartinB 15 November 2010 09:55:28PM 2 points [-]

half giant

wonder how his parents managed that

Comment author: shokwave 16 November 2010 09:28:52AM 2 points [-]


Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 November 2010 08:04:44PM 16 points [-]


Somewhat trivially... I hadn't realized that Patronuses (Patroni?) could be sent on remote missions, or that they were able to track down individuals whose location the casting mage didn't know (as Professor McGonagall seems to do here).

I'm trying to figure out why, given that, anyone would break into Azkaban to give prisoners temporarily relief from Dementors, rather than just send a Patronus (or hire someone who can send a Patronus) to do the same thing.

So far I can't think of a plausible reason. Admittedly, Patronuses can't bring chocolate, but that seems inadequate reason to take the additional risk of breaking in personally.

Am I being dense?

Comment author: Unnamed 02 November 2010 08:34:53PM 10 points [-]

A related nitpick: I was wondering why McGonagall's Patronus found this Harry if there are multiple Harrys around at this time because of his use of the Time-Turner. It seems likely that either the earlier Harry is still around at this time, or the later Harry has come back and is around at this time, or both. Is it because this Harry is using his Patronus?

(A similar issue about communicating with people who have time traveled naq oebhtug gurve pryy cubarf came up in another work of fiction, but I won't say anything more about that to avoid spoilers.)

Comment author: marchdown 03 November 2010 10:09:58AM 3 points [-]

I want to propose two more possible solutions.

First, as I initially assumed, wards that Quirrel cast at Mary's are rendering them undetectable to patronus communication. That way, if there were no second Harry in Azkaban and third Harry on the way back, McGonagall's patronus wouldn't be able to contact him at all.

Second, for all we know about patronus' methods of travel, it might get autonomously dispatched directly to target's location, which is normally unique. There are no conservation laws that prohibit patronus splitting into two independent messengers, as there are no conservation laws preventing you from having two mirror reflections, or two acoustic echoes at the same time; and reflections and echoes can be interacted with in magical ways in Potterverse. That means that all two or three copies of Harry can get the same message, give non-conflicting answers, and McGonagall won't suspect anything.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 02 November 2010 08:45:27PM 3 points [-]

The reason Harry lied to McGonagall, was because he didn't want her to know his location, and suspected that the only thing she was going to warn him about was that Quirell might be involved in a break in at Azkabam, which he already knows about. If her Patronus had reached earlier Harry, he would have listened to her and told the truth, and she would have arrived, and he certainly wouldn't have time travelled. But then there would have been no attempt to enter Azkabam, and so she wouldn't have know that something was wrong. Since time-turners don't cause these sorts of paradoxes, her Patronus had to find later Harry.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 November 2010 08:46:17PM 2 points [-]

I was initially wondering about this too.

Actually, I was thinking about it the other way around: that maybe Harry had to make sure not only that he arrived earlier than the time he recorded so he'd be there for Minerva to find, but also that he arrived after the time of the communication to avoid there being two Harrys for the Patronus to find.

But putting it that way made me realize that no, clearly that isn't a problem: the Patronus (did/does) find the Harry in Azkaban, regardless of what else might be true.

As you point out, we don't know how it did so... maybe it flipped a glowing animal-headed coin... but we know it did so, by observation, and Harry does too.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2010 08:49:08PM 3 points [-]

Azkaban's future cannot interact with its past.

Comment author: Unnamed 02 November 2010 09:18:03PM 5 points [-]

McGonagall and the other two Harrys aren't in Azkaban, so don't see why that fact would make her Patronus go to the Harry that is in Azkaban.

Comment author: bogdanb 03 November 2010 11:20:04AM 3 points [-]

I get this as meaning you can’t use the Time-turner inside Azkaban. I’m not sure if this is relevant to the story, but could one “duplicate” himself (or more) outside Azkaban, and then get all copies inside it? E.g., go to Azkaban, get out, go back to before entering Azkaban, and enter again? Are you forbidden to go back in time over a period you were in it, or is your copy prevented from approaching, or what?

Comment author: DaveX 03 November 2010 04:02:17PM *  12 points [-]

A copy with knowledge of a Azkaban at a certain time seems forbidden from approaching/entering Azkaban at a prior time. See "Azkaban's future couldn't interact with its past, so she hadn't been able to arrive before the DMLE had gotten the message," in Ch55. The restraint isn't so much when the DMLE gets the message, it's when Azkaban sends the message. It can't send a message that affects its past.

Azkaban might be a good place to try a can of Comed-tea.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2010 05:27:16PM 2 points [-]

This must mean that when Harry's Patronus knows that another Patronus is looking for it, it isn't because Harry, say, went back in time and sent himself a Patronus message. (Which would have been problematic on its own: where would the information have come from in the first place? It'd be a stable loop with no reason to exist, and I'd like to think such things don't happen.)

So either someone who has non-time-travel knowledge of Dumbledore's actions sent this message to Harry (and who could have done this?)...

or his Patronus knows this on its own, and it isn't a message after all.

The first option is unlikely, but I am confused by both options. A Patronus isn't actually that intelligent is it? And even if Harry's Patronus is, how would it know that another Patronus is looking for it?

Comment author: DanielLC 05 November 2010 05:20:02AM 2 points [-]

where would the information have come from in the first place?

The same place where "Don't mess with time travel" came from.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 November 2010 11:00:36PM 2 points [-]

I have a theory about that, actually. If the experiment had gone just as Harry expected, would he have been able to avoid the temptation to write something different on the paper, just to see what happens?

Quite possibly the only stable time loop was one which involved a sufficiently creepy experimental result.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2010 03:05:35PM 4 points [-]

My pet theory was that Harry wrote "Don't mess with time" to himself because in a previous iteration, he had succeeded in using Time Turners to quickly factorise, and then parlayed this capability into a money-making scheme; shortly followed by a world takeover-cum-ascension to godhood, realised it was overall a bad thing, had one of his "this is that moment twenty years from then where I look back and point to exactly where it went wrong" moments, and used his power to return to that time, complete with the knowledge that he shouldn't mess with time. Which leads to him writing "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" down, which leads to him seeing that, realising none of this, but writing down "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" with the same level of fear and thus the same hand-shakiness, and thus we get a stable loop.

I would like to point out that this theory is both more consistent with the evidence available to us from the story, and more consistent with what we know about Eliezer: that a world that simply cheats is aesthetically unpleasing; and that it would amuse him to hide this from us.

Comment author: Randaly 05 November 2010 04:01:32AM 2 points [-]

Patroni are sentient!

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2010 08:48:35PM 3 points [-]

I hadn't thought of that, but (in canon) only members of the Order of the Phoenix can use their Patronuses that way.

Comment author: Alexei 02 November 2010 09:01:37PM 7 points [-]

I bet the Patronus' power isn't very strong when it's far away for its owner. It's just strong enough to get the message across, but not enough to repel dementors.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2010 11:33:34PM 9 points [-]

I hereby declare this to be fact. Not least because otherwise Harry would be tempted to send his Patronus into the Dementors' pit at any time, which problem I had thought about and planned to have him just not think of.

Comment author: Pavitra 03 November 2010 09:46:21PM 6 points [-]

Does this count as a violation of the "don't say 'Eliezer said X'" rule? :P

Comment author: EchoingHorror 18 November 2010 11:04:50PM 15 points [-]

Tonight, after the Deathly Hallows premier, there are going to be readers who don't normally advertise HP:MoR flooding social networking sites with posts about the movie. Posting more chapters by the time they get to their computers to do so could get them to include their joy over the superior story in this flood, simply by relevant association, advertising MoR and spreading the love. Using the release of the canon movie in this way is the right thing to do, if there are chapters ready to be posted, and the fact that I desire moar MoR is a mere coincidence.

Comment author: Yvain 18 November 2010 06:05:23PM *  14 points [-]

I haven't exhaustively read all these comments and all the reviews, so these theories might have been presented before, but here are two things I'm thinking:

-1- (medium probability) Quirrell seemed genuinely surprised to learn Harry had a mysterious dark side after the learning to lose chapter. He may not have realized this until they met, but he probably generated the hypothesis that it was a fragment of Voldemort very quickly. I think his bringing a Dementor to Hogwarts was his attempt to verify this hypothesis.

It was mentioned in Stanford Prison Experiment both that Quirrell is unusually sensitive to Dementors (probably because Voldy is unusually afraid of death) and that Harry's dark side is unusually sensitive to Dementors. Since Quirrell knows he is unusually sensitive, he theorizes that if Harry's dark side is really Voldy, Harry should be unusually sensitive. So he brings in the Dementor, arranges for the wand to be placed next to it, waits to see how badly Harry is harmed, and then pulls the wand away before there's any permanent damage.

Because of how badly Harry was harmed, he concludes that he probably does have a fragment of Voldemort in him. He asks Harry where he would hide horcruxes as a confirmation of this.

-2- (loooong stretch, low probability) We know that unspecified bad things happen if you meet yourself time-turning and that this is generally discouraged. If Voldemort went back in time at some point (maybe after his defeat in canon) thus causing some of the differences between canon and MoR, then the sense-of-doom interaction between his and Harry's magic could be Voldemort meeting Voldemort-fragment out of temporal sync with itself.

Comment author: aleksiL 03 November 2010 10:11:29AM 10 points [-]


Has the nature of Harry's mysterious dark side been established yet? If not, the latest chapter gives a strong hint toward it being a shard of Voldemort.

In chapter 56, Harry discovers that his vulnerability to Dementors is due to his dark side's fear of death. And, back in chapter 39, in the discussion between Harry and Dumbledore it was suggested that Voldemort was motivated by fear of death. Not quite proof, but interesting nonetheless.

Comment author: sanyasi 26 November 2010 07:46:30AM 9 points [-]

Chapter 61: 'There was another pause, and then Madam Bones's voice said, "I have information which I learned four hours into the future, Albus. Do you still want it?"'

This seems like a useless question. A bit of information was already conveyed representing the fact that Amelia Bones was 4 hours into the future & found some information that would be useful to Dumbledore. Is this not sufficient information transfer in and of itself to prevent Dumbledore traveling backwards?

Sorry if I'm confused, but reasoning about time is hard, and my diagrams are not as helpful as Snape's and Dumbledore's.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 26 November 2010 10:02:49AM 6 points [-]

"Is this not sufficient information transfer in and of itself to prevent Dumbledore traveling backwards?"

Obviously it is not. I'm sure that Harry would find it ludicrous that such a rule exists permitting the transfer of this one bit of information but not the rest of it... but neither Amelia nor Dumbledore think in terms of "bits".

Btw this "6-hours" window? Though I don't expect it, it'd be hilarious if in-story this had anything to do with the infamous "TimeCube" ramblings. Something like "Gene Ray was once an Unspeakable that went insane trying to figure out the mysteries underpinning the 6-hours rule.".

Comment author: EchoingHorror 27 November 2010 06:30:17AM 26 points [-]

It seems to be anything that would change the actions of the ones who hear it can't be passed back. I'm thinking it's a simulation that's processing 6 hours at once, with the earliest arbitrarily small unit of time being finalized at the same rate new time starts processing. So Harry just needs to upgrade the universe's hardware and he'll be good to go further back, but he should be able to get around the maximum daily uses per Time-Turner before then.

In other words:

All Cube Truth denied. 4-corner days, 24 hours divided by 4 corners is 6 hours per corner. The math is simple but no wizards will debate me. Time-Turner can only turn one corner at a time. 4 days are in one rotation. If Time-Turner turned more than 6 hours it would be in a previous day! Turners are connected in ONEness with Time and to disconnect equates death of opposites.

Comment author: WrongBot 27 November 2010 07:22:56PM 6 points [-]

This is the best timecube reference I've ever seen. I think its very clear that the wizarding establishment is afraid of confronting your revolutionary claims.

Comment author: TobyBartels 26 November 2010 10:39:51AM 2 points [-]

Obviously it is not.

That's not obvious; what's obvious is that Amelia thought that it was not. (I guess that Dumbledore also thought that it was not, since he had to think about whether he wanted the information anyway.) Amelia might actually be wrong here; she's good, but time travel is confusing.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 November 2010 06:08:32PM 9 points [-]

An easy way of linking to all the past discussion threads is to link to the harry_potter tag, which doesn't require updating all past discussion threads every time a new thread is created. Except that this latest thread is tagged with "harrypotter" instead, which ought to be changed.

Comment author: NihilCredo 04 November 2010 03:56:14PM 3 points [-]

Thanks. Fixed.

Comment author: bentarm 07 November 2010 10:26:36PM 8 points [-]


erm... Harry was worried that they'd figure out that he'd used partial transfiguration to make a hole in the wall, but he's not worried that they might figure out that he's just about the only wizard on the planet who would ever think of transfiguring a rocket-powered broomstick? Surely that idea has Harry James Potter Evans-Verres stamped all over it?

Comment author: NihilCredo 08 November 2010 12:38:27AM *  3 points [-]


Sirius Black, and then Hagrid, rode a flying, roaring motorbike.

This was wizarding propulsion on a Muggle vehicle, rather than the reverse, but it makes a rocket broomstick quite a bit more believable.

Comment author: DanArmak 08 November 2010 02:26:13PM 3 points [-]

It's an obvious idea for any Muggleborn wizard, at the very least.

The only reason it hasn't been used to escape Azkaban before is that everyone was using Quirrel's original "perfect" plan. :-)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 25 November 2010 11:31:08PM *  7 points [-]

I'm not happy with the rule about time travel not allowing travel more than six hours back of information. If that's the case then time travel should be much less common since anything sharing the same light-cone segment will transmit information back based on minute changes to gravity. This only makes sense if it means information that humans would regard as information because magic works like that. If that's the case, I'm really waiting for Harry to find the explicit rules for that and then find a loophole to engage in major havoc.

Comment author: Raemon 26 November 2010 02:21:26AM *  4 points [-]

I think a pretty straightforward answer is that for it to be information, an intelligent being has to perceive it as such. I don't think there's a loophole - if you would successfully send information farther back in time using any means, Time Gets Mad, and things somehow work out so that you don't. And even if you get around that, unspeakably bad things probably happen.

However, I suspect that the six hours is an artificial safeguard built into the spell. You could PROBABLY create a new time travel spell that can go seven or eight hours without breaking things. I doubt the 6 hour limit is actually the snapping point. It's just the limit to what you can do before you start to deal damage to reality. Going farther once might work, but if everyone did it then Very Bad Things happen. If the payoff matrix for "everyone defects" is that the universe stops existing, you should probably cooperate.

Edit: NVM, reread the end of the chapter, and it seems like if there's any way to go more than six hours, period, it's such a well kept secret that no one thinks its possible. Then again, this would not be the first time Eliezer has employed the "powerful weapon being an amazingly well kept secret" thing, and it was somewhat foreshadowed when Harry mused that maybe scientists had come up with things worse than nuclear weapons.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 December 2010 04:18:47AM *  5 points [-]

I doubt the 6 hour limit is actually the snapping point. It's just the limit to what you can do before you start to deal damage to reality.

If the six hour limit is or resembles a natural limit of any kind, which it may, it seems most likely to correspond to one quarter of a day, where "day" might be sidereal, stellar, or solar (probably not civil). Hours are just... very artificial, and while magic seems perfectly happy to abide by artificial rules, this limit is likely to predate accurate timekeeping (and accurate timekeeping precedes the careful pinning down of how long an hour is!)

The "quarter-day" interpretation would have the following implications:

  • Depending on which sort of day limits time travel, certain astronomical phenomena would mess with time travel.

  • Six hours is unlikely to be an exact figure, and the figure in question may vary depending on seasonal and geographical context.

  • Time travel in outer space will behave very strangely.

Comment author: pjeby 26 November 2010 02:47:06AM 11 points [-]

However, I suspect that the six hours is an artificial safeguard built into the spell.

Either that, or that's the size of the simulation's event buffer. ;-)

(That is, it might be a hard limit on the size of time loop the simulation is able to process, if they're actually in a simulation.)

Comment author: sfb 05 December 2010 03:26:49AM *  2 points [-]

it seems like if there's any way to go more than six hours, period, it's such a well kept secret that no one thinks its possible

Yet Dumbledore says that someone erased Atlantis from time, and I'm guessing Atlantis existed for more than six hours. (Also, it was erased from time in such a way that people still know about it).

We know that earlier wizards were stronger, yet the book says "time turners can't go back more than six hours" multiple times, so it seems an important fact and widely believed by the characters. We know that strong Dumbledore can't do it, nor can efficient Quirrellmort (or he wouldn't suggest to Harry the plot with Bulstrode), and that time travel can be blocked long-term by the Wizards who created Azkaban. I think it will be a matter of partial-transfiguration style understanding for Harry to find some kind of loophole.

Comment author: Raemon 05 December 2010 04:01:43AM *  2 points [-]

Yet Dumbledore says that someone erased Atlantis from time, and I'm guessing Atlantis existed for more than six hours. (Also, it was erased from time in such a way that people still know about it).

I think Atlantis serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when you TRY to go back more than six hours.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 December 2010 04:20:30AM 4 points [-]

I think Atlantis serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when you TRY to go back more than six hours.

That's what you get when you program your universe without checking your array indexes consistently!

Comment author: sketerpot 26 November 2010 03:26:15AM *  2 points [-]

Perhaps the six hour limit was placed on time travel a long time ago, by wizards much more powerful than today's, who knew (perhaps first-hand) how nightmarishly screwy time travel could get. This sort of thing has precedent: the Interdict of Merlin prevents the most powerful magical knowledge from being passed on in writing. The reasoning is similar, too: some magic is just that dangerous.

Comment author: Raemon 26 November 2010 03:35:12AM *  3 points [-]

I would not be surprised if the destruction of Atlantis involved Time Travel. Especially if we consider that this fic might be influenced by "Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time."

Comment author: gwillen 26 November 2010 04:29:25AM 6 points [-]

I think I can actually deflect this one by appeal to Actual Reality. (Some familiarity with quantum mechanics required.) Note that photons, by virtue of their momentum, have gravitational pull; yet in the quantum double-slit experiment, the gravitational pull of the photons is not enough to "collapse the waveform" as to which path they have taken. This seems to me to be exactly the same sort of "prohibited information" as in the fic. The best explanation I'm aware of for this is that the uncertainty in the quantities involved is high enough that, even though the photons' gravitational pull could in theory transmit information, in practice the resolution of the universe is simply not high enough for that to happen. The same thing could be at work here.

I feel like I just used a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Comment author: Jack 03 November 2010 12:12:34AM 7 points [-]

I'm not reading the comments to these threads because I'm a few chapters behind. Do you all feel like the comments here are valuable contributions to this site's content? Like I said, I'm not reading them so for all I know the heavy discussion and high karma indicates a really productive and insightful conversation. But the Harry Potter stuff is dominating the recent comments thread and this is the 5th top level post hosting it.

Comment author: bentarm 03 November 2010 12:22:22AM 12 points [-]

I think I second the intention of this post. Clearly a lot of people here are interested in discussing MOR, but that shouldn't dominate LW.

Proposal: why not move the MOR discussion threads to the discussion section, where they won't clog up the "recent comments" for those who aren't interested in the story.

Comment author: TobyBartels 05 November 2010 06:38:38AM 4 points [-]

The MOR reaction threads began before the Discussion section existed, but you're probably right.

Comment author: FAWS 09 November 2010 01:04:24PM *  6 points [-]

How did Sirius manage to switch with Peter?

With Harry thinking the best way to break out of Askaban not to be sent there in the first place when he first hears about Sirius, the Quibbler story that Sirius and Peter are secretly the same person and someone Fawkes is particularly unwilling to leave in their Askaban prison cell mumbling "I'm not Sirius" over and over I have very little doubt that it somehow happened. I see no way to show that all just to have been a red herring that's even the least bit awesome. And then it has also repeatedly been mentioned that there seems to have been no reason for Sirus to search out Peter on that day and been made abundantly clear that those events did not transpire as in canon.

So how did he manage it?

Just forcing Polyjuice down Peter's throat doesn't seem like it would be enough since it's limited to one hour. Maybe Peter is a metamorphmagus (or human-form animagus or something) and Sirius imperiused or otherwise mode-locked him? If there was a way to trade bodies I think it would have been hinted at by now.

Comment author: HonoreDB 19 November 2010 12:34:38AM 3 points [-]

I made the same argument on tvtropes independently. My thought was that Sirius and Peter were human-form animagi of each other, as a wizardry analogue to getting matching tattoos. Although maybe one's choice of animagus form is involuntary: Peter was completely obsessed with Sirius at the time that the two performed the spell, but not Sirius with Peter, so Peter's form was Sirius but Sirius, to his surprise, turned into a dog instead. Maybe that's why they broke up.

I'm not sure the dementors see people the way we do: they certainly don't in canon. If Peter's mode-lock wore off in Azkaban, the dementors might not notice or care.

If Fawkes thinks that Peter is innocent, he probably is. But maybe Sirius is too. Maybe Sirius was the only one who knew that Peter was the secret-keeper, so he assumed that Peter betrayed the Potters but he'd never be able to prove it. So he switched identities and faked his own death, and remains ignorant to this day that Voldemort doesn't need a traitor to find his victims.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 09 November 2010 01:20:54PM 2 points [-]

If Sirius is innocent, and Dumbledore knew it but couldn't prove it, then the swap could have been done by Dumbledore, replacing some other Deatheater (not necessarily Peter) with him.

Goblet of Fire (and Barty Crouch Jr's escape after swapping with his mother) shows us that Dementors are okay with you bringing in a fresh victim to trade for a less fresh one.

Comment author: FAWS 09 November 2010 01:44:32PM 3 points [-]

That would be possible, but doesn't match the hints. Sirius would have been in Askaban, it wouldn't explain the confrontation, and the scene with Fawkes would be out of place if Dumbledore knew.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 05 November 2010 07:48:31PM *  6 points [-]


I think I figured out Quirrell's plan, or at least what the big challenge for Harry is going to be.

Quirrell spoke of Voldemort learning Slytherins secrets from the basilisk, tempting Harry. Oh but the snake is dead, too bad all those secrets are lost.

Now Harry figures out that his mysterious dark side is Voldemort, has all those secrets, and apparently can be 'reformed'.

So he can have all those secrets (and at some point he is likely to be made to need them) but to get them he has to strengthen the horcrux-voldemort talk to it and listen to it.

Comment author: Yvain 25 November 2010 10:53:50PM *  16 points [-]

Chapter 61:

So Voldemort is a perfectionist seeking the "most powerful" combination of enemy, servant, and ancestor. Nice and good. But it sounds like if he were maybe a little less perfectionist, he could get any servant (I'm sure Lucius could spare Crabbe or Goyle, or he could just buy a house elf), any enemy (it's not like he doesn't have enough enemies, and anyone who wasn't an enemy before he took their blood would certainly be afterward), and so the only even slightly hard-to-come-by ingredient is the bones of the ancestor. So why in the name of Merlin haven't the bones of all Voldemort's ancestors been dug up and placed in a locked box under Dumbledore's desk? How come Mad-Eye Moody is out guarding the graveyard as if leaving Dark Lord Resurrection Ingredient #3 literally lying in the ground is at all safe?

(even so, an MoR-worthy solution would be for Voldemort to grab a sufficiently old hominid from a museum and assume it was common ancestor to everyone, but it would at least slow him down).

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 26 November 2010 01:28:49AM 5 points [-]

I congratulate you on noticing your own confusion. Yes, I thought of that.

Comment author: Desrtopa 26 November 2010 04:16:16AM 3 points [-]

Canon Voldemort killed his own father. Since he was already planning to make the horcruxes anyway (or perhaps that was how he started? I forget.) what I would have done in his place was secure some of his bone at that time so I would have it available I case I ever had need to revive myself.

Of course, I would also have had Bellatrix donate some flesh, which I would keep frozen somewhere inconspicuous, unless the recipe actually requires that it be fresh.

Comment author: Waffle_Iron 26 November 2010 03:40:38AM 3 points [-]

I had assumed that Dumbledore had destroyed the remains but posted a guard at the grave in case someone showed up.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 26 November 2010 01:34:22AM 2 points [-]

Another question is: would the most immediate or the most distant ancestor possible count as the best option for Voldemort? If the most distant, then he'll probably be wanting Salazar Slytherin's bones. If their location is known.

A hominid fossil might have no living descendants at all.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 November 2010 04:18:19PM *  5 points [-]

Chapter 59

I'm a bit miffed about Dumbledore apparently knowing about the requirements for Voldemort to cast the spell to restore his body. That wasn't part of the prophesy, that was, in the original canon, magic of Voldemort's own creation. Even if Dumbledore knows Voldemort to be capable of such a thing, he shouldn't know how. One difficulty of compressing plot elements from a series that takes place over seven years into a one year space is that you have to be extra careful that people don't suddenly start knowing things they shouldn't know.

EDIT: Eliezer has addressed this point in the tvtropes thread for MoR. It seems that I misremembered, and canon Voldemort did in fact refer to the potion he used in The Goblet of Fire as an "old piece of dark magic," thus robbing him of the one legitimate piece of ingenuity with which I still credited him.

I wonder if, given the nature of their relationship, Harry's blood will not actually be useful for Voldemort's spell? After all, in the original, Harry had opposed Voldemort-as-Quirrel, and destroyed one of his horcruxes, but the fact that he was ultimately responsible for Voldemort's death was, as this version of Harry has already noted, in no way due to Harry's own actions.

It might be enough that Harry is ideologically opposed to Voldemort, and intends to defeat him when he comes back, but practically everyone in the country ideologically opposes Voldemort. In the original, he noted that he could have used the blood of anyone who once fought against him, and chose Harry for the special protection that would confer upon him, but this Harry has never fought against him.

The spell doesn't call for "blood of the student."

Comment author: David_Allen 20 November 2010 05:14:47PM 4 points [-]

I wonder if, given the nature of their relationship, Harry's blood will not actually be useful for Voldemort's spell?

Perhaps that means that Dumbledore's blood is required instead.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 November 2010 08:02:15PM *  4 points [-]

I would think not, if we were going on the original canon's rules, but in the original the potion didn't require flesh of one's most faithful servant, otherwise Wormtail would never have done.

Eliezer may have altered the requirements to make achieving the same goal more difficult for Quirrelmort, because if he wanted to he could easily have already gathered all the ingredients the original Voldemort did, and probably without anyone noticing to boot.

Requiring the blood of one's worst enemy would neatly preserve the thematic symmetry in this version of the potion, so in that case it would make sense if Dumbledore is the only candidate.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 November 2010 10:10:57PM 1 point [-]

Eliezer may have altered the requirements to make achieving the same goal more difficult for Quirrelmort, because if he wanted to he could easily have already gathered all the ingredients the original Voldemort did, and probably without anyone noticing to boot.

First, ask yourself how you would set things up if you were Lord Voldemort. Then, reread Ch. 53.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 November 2010 11:04:25PM *  10 points [-]

I'm afraid I haven't a clue how I would set things up if I were Voldemort, because I'm still not clear on what it is he's actually trying to accomplish. Assuming I were simply trying to defeat Dumbledore, I can think of what I might have done that would explain some of Quirrel's actions, but not others.

Actually, on second thought, if my opponent were Dumbledore, I think I do know what I'd do, because it's a Dark Lord strategy I've contemplated before which seems practically tailor made to the situation.

V jbhyq neenatr sbe gur perngvba bs n erq ureevat cebcurfl juvpu bhgyvarq fhccbfrq cererdhvfvgrf sbe zl qrsrng, fb gung zl rarzvrf jbhyq ubyq bss ba nggrzcgvat gb qrsrng zr va rkcrpgngvba bs n frg bs bppheeraprf gung jbhyq cebonoyl arire unccra. Qhzoyrqber, jub oryvrirf va gur cbjre bs fgbevrf, jbhyq yvxryl nggrzcg gb shysvyy gur cebcurfl yrggre naq fcvevg, ybpxvat uvz vagb na haivnoyr fgengrtl V jbhyq or pbzcyrgryl cercnerq sbe.

V'z abg ng nyy pbasvqrag gung guvf vf jung Ibyqrzbeg vf npghnyyl qbvat gubhtu, gurer'f fgvyy n terng qrny vg jbhyq yrnir harkcynvarq.

Comment author: major 21 November 2010 03:59:32AM 5 points [-]

What, nobody? Oh, well.

Voldemort stands next to the crib of his destined enemy, the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, the completely defenseless one year old child. The Dark Lord's most faithful servant, Bellatrix, is waiting for him at the graveyard, near his father's grave. One Side-Along-Apparition, and not even death will slow Voldemort down for long.

Too bad he died the moment he touched the baby.

Comment author: CronoDAS 07 November 2010 11:19:46PM 5 points [-]

Is "I'm not serious" a The Dark Knight reference?

Comment author: topynate 07 November 2010 11:41:33PM 13 points [-]

There's a brilliant bit of speculation in the reviews on FF that it's actually "I'm not Sirius". Makes sense to me, I was trying to imagine what "worst memory" would prompt "I'm not serious". Although now that you mention it, a guy like the Joker might end up that way.

Comment author: Trippyamine 09 November 2010 07:21:58PM 8 points [-]

If I remember correctly, the non-patronus Fawkes also lingered at that cell, which would make sense if there was an innocent trapped in there in place of Sirius.

Comment author: cousin_it 04 November 2010 03:21:36PM *  5 points [-]

The latest A/N links to an awesome picture that gave me two minutes of non-stop laughter. Best fan art yet IMO.

Comment author: Costanza 05 November 2010 03:53:48AM 10 points [-]

Gosh golly gee whiz, that's me! I'm blushing with gratitude!

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 02 November 2010 07:40:38PM *  5 points [-]

(up to #56)

The title "Stanford Prison Experiment" evokes the possibility of Harry taking on some of the feelings and brutality of Voldemort during his roleplay. So far it doesn't seem like he's fallen.

Not that I would expect him to become like Voldemort - the prison roleplay experiment mostly demonstrated that people have unrealistic fantasies about how heroic they would be if placed in a role, e.g. they were a soldier in Nazi Germany, when in fact they'd behave the same as any other person in that environment. We wrongly blame others' nature for their behavior rather than their circumstance (FAE).

The most Stanford-prison we can expect from Harry is that in having a useful, cringing, unquestioning minion, he may start to more-than-pretend to treat her like one.

Comment author: Pavitra 20 November 2010 07:18:50PM 4 points [-]

Chapter 59 Author's Notes

I think I've finally come up with an answer to everyone who asks "How long is this fic going to be?", which is that it will resolve at least as much as got resolved in canon, but in less story time.

Does "story time" mean word count (the time it takes to tell the story), or in-universe chronology (the time of which the story tells)?

Comment author: David_Gerard 20 November 2010 08:39:17PM *  7 points [-]

Given it's already longer than the first three books of canon, the second seems to make more sense.

This will, of course, miss one thing that is nice about the canonical books: they show Harry change through adolescence.

Comment author: ata 02 November 2010 07:37:24PM 4 points [-]

From the latest Author's Notes:

ADDED 1: Several readers commented that tension was rising and falling in Ch. 56. On reflection, they were right, and I've done a minor rewrite accordingly.

Does anyone have the original version? I'd like to compare.

Comment author: Khoth 26 November 2010 07:56:31PM 3 points [-]

Chapter 61: I don't get what the laws of time are supposed to be. At one point, it seems that it's impossible for information to get back more than 6 hours, by any method. At another (and for the test they plan to do on Harry), it's impossible for a single person (or time-turner?) to go back more than 6 hours over the course of a day(/24 hour period?). Or both (with a strange coincidence between the absolute limit and the personal daily limit).

In any case, Harry can pass the test without breaking any laws of Time if he can find someone else with a time-turner.

Comment author: FAWS 25 November 2010 07:05:51AM 3 points [-]

This thread is going to reach 500 posts soon. Should future threads be posted in the discussion section?

Comment author: Unnamed 25 November 2010 05:52:05PM *  16 points [-]


Vote this comment up if you think that future MOR threads should continue to be posted here on the main page, not in the discussion section.

vote discussion section, reason for this poll, karma balance

Comment author: Unnamed 25 November 2010 05:51:19PM *  16 points [-]


Vote this comment up if you think that future MOR threads should be posted in the discussion section instead of here on the main page.

vote main page, reason for this poll, karma balance

Comment author: Unnamed 27 November 2010 03:58:53AM 2 points [-]

The poll is evenly split (tied 13-13 now), which I see as support for moving to the discussion section, considering that the poll is located in the middle of the MOR comments.

I was leaning in that direction anyways. Most of the MOR discussion is about the story, not that closely related to rationality or that interesting to people who aren't reading MOR. And these discussion threads do clutter up the site, especially for people trying to follow the site via the Recent Comments. We've had over 3200 MOR comments over the past 6 months (over 17 comments/day). Plus another 600 Luminosity comments over the past 3 months. Having so much fiction discussion on the main page also doesn't accurately reflect what LW is about.

One disadvantage of switching is that it's a bit inconvenient. For one thing, the tags are separated - a main page tag only shows main page articles, and a discussion section tag only shows discussion section articles - so you won't be able to get all the MOR discussion threads just by clicking on one tag. Also, the MOR thread might help get people who found LW via MOR to stick around, and that won't work as well if it's hidden away in the discussion section. But I don't see those as strong enough reasons to stay on the main page, especially since it seems like the story still has a ways to go.

This thread is already over 500 comments. I plan on posting Part 6 in the discussion section later tonight, but first I'll wait a few more hours to allow for disagreement and debate.

Comment author: Manfred 05 November 2010 08:25:31PM 3 points [-]


I'm a little doubtful. Harry suddenly gained super emotional powers, an area in which he's been shown to be lacking, and yet he hasn't thought to also hide himself under the cloak.

Unless he's giving himself away because he wants to. In which case it's still a problem, because that would be dumb. "Father had told Draco about the Rule of Three, which was that any plot which required more than three different things to happen would never work in real life. Father had further explained that since only a fool would attempt a plot that was as complicated as possible, the real limit was two."

So I'm curious to see what will happen for more than one reason.

Comment author: Carinthium 17 November 2010 04:09:40AM 6 points [-]

How long until the next chapter is posted anyway?

Comment author: roryokane 23 November 2010 06:32:56AM 5 points [-]

The answer to Harry’s question at the end of Chapter 60, “Why am I not like the other children my own age?”, is, of course, that he is the protagonist of a story, and therefore he must do interesting things to amuse the readers. It would be pretty cool if he actually realized that and started considering in his decisions the likelihood that this story will have a happy ending and the likelihood that he will be killed off as a result of a minor accident as opposed to an epic duel with Voldemort. It would be really hard to write, though, and Harry would naturally be cautious about thinking he’s in a story, to protect against being Wrong Genre Savvy, so we are unlikely to see this.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 23 November 2010 09:13:41AM *  4 points [-]

As per a comment by Pavitra in an earlier thread, I think it might be that he's a copy of Voldemort, without (most of?) Voldie's memories - hence the single soul under the hat, the red remembrall, and various insinuations by Quirrelmort.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 23 November 2010 09:30:05AM 5 points [-]

In the latest couple chapters, the remembrall's importance has been revealed I think: He was at broomstick flying class, and yet he had forgotten Newtonian mechanics and thus failed to see they didn't apply to broomsticks.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 23 November 2010 12:44:22PM *  4 points [-]

That doesn't seem like sufficient payoff, especially since there was no way to anticipate that meaning ahead of time. Also, that's not really something Harry forgot, more something he didn't even notice.

Comment author: gwern 23 November 2010 06:36:26PM *  6 points [-]

I don't like this interpretation because I don't think there's any problem to solve.

My memories tell me that broomsticks in both the books and movies were determinedly Newtonian, and not Aristotelian. Broomsticks do not stop instantly, people smash into the ground when they can't pull up enough, and so on. Before I accept that Eliezer has not made a mistake or is not deliberately diverging from canon and so there is even a forgetting for the remembrall to be linked to, I want to see some citations where broomsticks act in a clearly Aristotelian manner.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 November 2010 07:59:44PM 3 points [-]

It seems that they might act in a hybrid Aristotelian/Newtonian manner. Certainly in canon they talk about broomsticks having maximum speed not maximum acceleration. And people have trouble pulling from being near to hitting the ground, something which sort of makes sense in an Aristotelian framework because objects want to go to the ground.

Outside canon, the movement of the broomsticks in the movies does seem to be a definite mix but this is likely more due to standard movie physics than anything else.

Comment author: gwern 23 November 2010 08:12:19PM 4 points [-]

I remembered the top speed from the whole Firebolt/Nimbus sequence of events, but I don't regard that as even weak evidence for Aristotelian mechanics.

Wind resistance/drag means that there's a 'terminal velocity' even in free fall; change of acceleration simply changes a broomstick+wizard's terminal velocity upwards, doesn't remove it at all.

(Another example: my car operates according to Newtonian mechanics in the real world - but still has a top speed, which is why I'm not setting land-speed records on Nevadan salt flats in my spare time.)

Comment author: DanArmak 25 November 2010 10:24:10AM 2 points [-]

And people have trouble pulling from being near to hitting the ground, something which sort of makes sense in an Aristotelian framework because objects want to go to the ground.

It makes sense by postulating that a broomstick always goes where it's pointed (no Newtonian momentum), but there is a maximum angular speed for turning the broomstick. The rider applies force to turn the broomstick, which means there's resistance, so it's not difficult to assume that the resistance creates an effective maximum angular speed.

This doesn't sum up to Newton, of course, because this maximum angular speed isn't dependent on current linear speed.

Comment author: Vaniver 23 November 2010 03:03:19PM 6 points [-]

Um, I thought it was pretty clear that he forgot he wasn't supposed to use his Time Turner for silly shit like that.

Comment author: NihilCredo 24 November 2010 01:00:13AM 6 points [-]

That was also my belief up until this passage:

"More importantly, why did the Remembrall go off like that?" Harry said. "Does it mean I've been Obliviated?"

"That puzzles me as well," Professor McGonagall said slowly. "If it were that simple, I would think that the courts would use Remembralls, and they do not. I shall look into it, Mr. Potter."

In-universe, this is little evidence for or against anything. But from a narrative point of view, if the answer to "What did the Remembrall flare up about?" had been "Do not use the Time-Turner for showing off", this was the time to reveal it, rather than show Harry and McGonagall being confused. Certainly it wouldn't be an answer worth waiting over forty chapters for.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 23 November 2010 09:04:55PM *  3 points [-]

I agree that you could read it like that, but I'd have thought that if it was something immediate like that, we'd have seen Harry realize and acknowledge it to himself. There doesn't seem much point in leaving it a bit mysterious if that's all it meant.

Comment author: cousin_it 22 November 2010 10:42:22PM *  6 points [-]

I just had an awesome misreading of Ch. 60. Quirrell says to Harry, "People don't care in the slightest, and if you had not led a vastly sheltered childhood you would have noticed that long ago. Console yourself with this!" and hands him a game console. Wham, Dumbledore's hero neutralized.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 November 2010 02:40:57AM *  4 points [-]

I was thinking whether, considering the nature of the wizarding world, Azkaban is really that unreasonable a punishment for Death Eaters. Keep in mind that in order to deter crime (to acausally prevent it) a potential criminal calculating the expected utility of committing a crime must get a negative value.

This value depends on:

  • EB, the criminal's expected benefit from getting away with it.

  • SP, the severity of the punishment should he get caught.

  • p, the probability of getting caught.

Specifically we want (1-p)×EB < p×SP or equivalently (1/p-1)×EB < SP.

In this case the expected benefit of successfully taking over the government and establishing a dictatorship is quite high. Also the Death Eaters were only stopped by a complete stroke of luck, so p is quite small. This suggests we need a very sever punishment to deter would be dark lords and their minions.

The punishment needs to be so sever that even though the would be dark lord and his minions have a good chance of succeeding, they're still deterred because of how severe the punishment would be on the off chance that they fail.

Given this, condemning them to spend the rest of their lives being tortured by dementors sounds about right.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 November 2010 03:47:30AM 6 points [-]

I have always had the impression that, in real life, people treat very small probabilities of being caught as zero, however severe the punishment. Maybe I'm wrong, but if I'm right torturing criminals isn't a good strategy.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 29 November 2010 06:15:58AM *  3 points [-]

I have always had the impression that, in real life, people treat very small probabilities of being caught as zero, however severe the punishment.

That depends on how available the punishment is.

Comment author: alethiophile 27 November 2010 06:14:27AM 5 points [-]

Azkaban was not created, in-canon, in order to specifically deter potential Dark Lords. Its history is never stated, but it seems likely that it is a fairly old arrangement between the wizards and the dementors. It was created, instead, as a prison for ordinary criminals (viz. the woman Harry hears pleading while in Azkaban, who is forced to keep reliving the moment of her presumably accidental murder). The Dark Lord and his followers were indeed put in Azkaban when the opportunity arose, but this was for their crimes in the way of murder and such, not for their intention to take over magical Britain. Dark Lords are not very common (the only marginally-modern ones mentioned are Voldemort and Grindelwald, and Grindelwald is not even put in Azkaban, nor ever really messes with Britain except with the Muggle side, aka World War II). With this in mind, I think it becomes very obvious that Azkaban is vastly, awe-inspiringly overkill in the SP.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 November 2010 07:15:51AM *  3 points [-]

The Dark Lord and his followers were indeed put in Azkaban when the opportunity arose, but this was for their crimes in the way of murder and such, not for their intention to take over magical Britain.

Many Death Eaters were put in Azkaban, but Voldemort never was. Indeed, there's no evidence in canon that Azkaban has ever been used to hold a Dark Lord.

Also, and this has come up before although I forget whether it was in this specific thread, increasing the severity of punishments statistically tends not to result in a reduction in the rate of crimes, whereas increasing the certainty of punishment does. Creating a justice system on the assumption that criminals are good rationalists would be profoundly misguided.

Comment author: gwern 27 November 2010 07:40:53PM 2 points [-]

Indeed, there's no evidence in canon that Azkaban has ever been used to hold a Dark Lord.

I suppose this depends on what we consider evidence. I would personally assign high credence to that based on 2 considerations:

1) that there have been quite a few Dark Lords, such that they are considered a generic natural category and are spoken of collectively; the Harry Potter wikia includes a list of 9 wizards/witches who don't appear in canon events, but I'm not sure on what basis they are listed. 2) the only other Dark Lord whose disposition we know of was put into an institution much like Azkaban, but not Azkaban for at least 2 plausible reasons (Grindelwald having built that prison himself, leading to it being poetic justice that he be confined there rather than Azkaban; and having rampaged mostly over Europe, and not Britain.)

Given that Grindelwald was not given the death penalty, it seems reasonable to think that captured Dark Lords are not executed out of hand, but imprisoned; and where to imprison the many Dark Lords but Azkaban?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 November 2010 04:43:59AM 5 points [-]

It's also useful, if you're going to do this kind of equation, to decide ahead of time how many innocents tortured for how many years you're willing to exchange for a reduced chance of political insurrection... and to develop as realistic a sense as you can of how reliable your courts are, so you don't fool yourself into thinking the quantity is lower than it is.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 23 November 2010 05:14:35AM 3 points [-]

I'm considering doing a more detailed calculation, including such things as false positives and the fact that you don't have perfect information about criminal's utility functions as a top level post.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 November 2010 05:25:31PM 7 points [-]

(nods) This sort of thing is worth thinking about cautiously before supporting, even in theory. A few other points worth considering in a more detailed analysis:

Beliefs vs. actuality

It's not the actual probability of getting caught that matters for deterrence, it's the potential criminal's belief about that probability.

That is, if I only have a 1% chance of being caught but I believe I have a 99% chance of getting caught, I'm easier to deter. Conversely, if I have a 15% chance of getting caught but believe I have a 0.0001% chance of getting caught, I'm difficult to deter (at least, using the kind of deterrence you are talking about).

Similar things are true about EB and SP -- what matters is not the actual expected benefit or cost, but rather my beliefs about that expected benefit/cost.

Magnitude vs. valuation

People's valuations of a probability of a cost or benefit don't scale linearly with the magnitude of either the cost/benefit or the probability.

Which means that even if (1/p-1)×EB < SP is a manageable inequality for crimes with moderate risks and benefits, SP might nevertheless balloon up when p gets small enough and/or EB gets large enough to cross inflection points.

So the threat of a lifetime of psychological torture might not be sufficiently unpleasant to deter certain crimes. Indeed, it might be that for certain crimes you just aren't capable of causing enough suffering to deter them, no matter how hard you try.

Knock-on effects

Official policies about criminal justice don't just influence potential criminals; they influence your entire culture. They affect the thinking of the people who implement those policies, and the people whose loved ones are affected by them (including those who believe their loved ones are innocent), and of their friends and colleagues.

The more extreme your SP, the larger and more widespread the knock-on effects are going to be.


For my own part I think Azkaban, and the whole theory of criminal justice that creates places like Azkaban, is deeply flawed and does more harm than good. I could use stronger terms like "evil," I think, with some justice.

Also, I think the endpoint of the kind of reasoning illustrated above is in practice the conclusion that our best bet is to instill in everyone an unquestioned belief in a Hell where people suffer eternal torment, and unquestioning faith in an infallible Judge who sends criminals to Hell. After all, that maximizes perceived SP and perceived p, right?

Unfortunately, the knock-on effects are... problematic.

There are better approaches.

Comment author: hairyfigment 24 November 2010 12:09:43AM 2 points [-]

I believe Harry considers some punishments completely out of bounds, too severe for anyone. Certainly I do. The following may have no connection to the real reasons for this; but even without Many-Worlds you have a non-zero probability of personally suffering any possible punishment. Legally allowing a given punishment for anyone seems to produce a non-zero increase in this probability (even in a world without Polyjuice). Some possible punishments may have such negative utility for you that a course of action which avoids such increases, but which almost certainly leads to your death, would still have positive utility. Azkaban seems like a good candidate for such a punishment.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 24 November 2010 05:14:17AM 4 points [-]

The following may have no connection to the real reasons for this; but even without Many-Worlds you have a non-zero probability of personally suffering any possible punishment. Legally allowing a given punishment for anyone seems to produce a non-zero increase in this probability (even in a world without Polyjuice).

On the other hand, reducing the deterrent for potential dark lords, increases your probability of winding up living under a dark lord at which point your chances of suffering horrific torture, either in Azkaban or somewhere else, is greatly increased. Assuming you don't consider being wrongly punished in Azkaban under the current administration vastly worse then being punished and/or tortured under a dark lord, you can't simply declare certain punishments out of bounds.

Another way to think of this is that any government that fails to provide sufficient deterrent to prevent successful overthrows will be overthrown. This process will continue until you get someone who is willing to be sufficiently brutal. So it doesn't matter how nice your ideal government would be; if it can't prevent overthrows, you won't get to live under it.

Comment author: James_K 25 November 2010 05:20:44PM 2 points [-]

Furthermore even if one is a pure consequentialist, there may be a case for acting like a deontologist in some cases. While a perfectly rational entity can properly weight costs and benefits, people can't. Chances are if a person's moral code says "it's a good idea to subject some people to mind rape for decades" that person has made a mistake, and one should account for that.

Comment author: Carinthium 23 November 2010 05:01:29AM 3 points [-]

Doesn't that assume people are rational?

Comment author: Desrtopa 15 November 2010 01:11:45AM 4 points [-]

I'm inclined to wonder if Harry's ability to block the killing curse with his patronus might be enough to clue Quirrelmort in to how it works. Possibly any collision of their magics would have produced a similar effect, but if not, it still makes thematic sense that the patronus would be able to block a killing curse, since it represents defiance of death. Given that Harry has already told him that he made the patronus by thinking about the eradication of death, I wonder if Quirrelmort might have enough information to piece together the nature of Harry's revelation.

Comment author: marchdown 17 November 2010 10:05:48AM 6 points [-]

I believe that Quirrel, being the overeducated ruthless genius that he is, has already understood Harry's revelation, but has his own obstacles to casting human patronus, some that are not so easily overcome. For one, he may already be a bit too dead.

Comment author: FAWS 15 November 2010 01:24:47AM *  2 points [-]

He should be able to deduce the nature of the dementors from Harry's invisibility cloak being able to hide the wearer from them (which should be readily apparent from Harry's summary of events and the fact that Bella was wearing it). Other things like what you point out or Harry's parselmouth description as life-eaters could help, but the cloak thing by itself should be quite sufficient given Quirrel's previously displayed deductive abilities. I don't think he will be able to cast a true patronus, though.

Comment author: Desrtopa 15 November 2010 01:43:40AM 4 points [-]

The fact that the true invisibility cloak effectively hides one from dementors doesn't necessarily mean that dementors personify death, only that whatever mechanism they use to detect people is also blocked by it. The cloak is said to be able to hide one from the gaze of death itself, but that doesn't mean that if the cloak hides you from something's gaze, that thing must be death. The hint Harry used doesn't really carry in the opposite direction.

The life-eaters part does sound like a clue though.

Would a person have to think about universally conquering death to cast a true patronus, or is it enough to imagine personally conquering it? If all it requires is the latter, I can certainly see Quirrelmort managing it.

Comment author: cousin_it 24 November 2010 09:05:59AM *  2 points [-]

A note about the fic in general.

Harry gets frustrated when Dumbledore claims to not know what to do with immortality and immediately claims to have an immortal soul. It means Dumbledore compartmentalizes and does not "truly believe as he speaks". But Harry exhibits the same compartmentalization when he defends democracy to Quirrell and simultaneously wants to become a "Light Lord". And belief in democracy doesn't mesh very well with establishing scientific conspiracies, either.

Comment author: alethiophile 07 November 2010 09:15:33PM 2 points [-]

Rocket broomstick is epic. I wonder what happens when the Transfiguration wears off in however long it does? Very small hail over Azkaban?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 November 2010 01:52:20PM 2 points [-]

Chapter 43: I think "nocebo" would be clearer than "placebo".

Comment author: Pavitra 03 November 2010 09:54:04PM 3 points [-]

Most people know what the placebo effect is, but have never heard the word "nocebo". The current version is strictly wrong, but probably better for most readers. If we're going to pick these kinds of nits, I'd assign a rather higher priority to replacing "sentient" with "sapient".

Comment author: NihilCredo 25 November 2010 11:22:33PM *  3 points [-]

Chapter 61:

Two minor (and easily fixable) plot holes:

1) Harry never got around to tell McGonagall that the Hat called her an impudent youngster etc., and it's an interesting enough exchange that one doesn't expect it to have happened off-screen. More importantly, he freely told the story to random Ravenclaw pesterers just minutes after his Sorting, so it wasn't at all a safe security question since it's the kind of funny anecdote two-thirds of Hogwarts would know by now.

2) Lesath addressed Harry as his (Dark/Light) Lord, and didn't stick around to hear Harry "compare" himself to God while talking to Neville; nor does it seem likely that he would have learnt it indirectly at a later point.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 25 November 2010 11:44:10PM 2 points [-]

2 isn't a plot hole. Severus saw Harry make the comparison. That's what matters to the analysis.

Comment author: shokwave 25 November 2010 11:44:09PM 2 points [-]

Lesath addressed Harry as his (Dark/Light) Lord, and didn't stick around to hear Harry "compare" himself to God

Snape was pointing out that Lesath unknowingly prayed to Harry.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 November 2010 01:47:41PM *  3 points [-]

Ch. 57-58: I'm finally forced to abandon my original misplaced expectations about the fic. I thought it was trying to be realistic in the Watt-Evans sense, but now I see that awesomeness is more important to Eliezer than plausibility. (Scaring away twelve Dementors who approach close while the Patronus is down? Building a rocket from memory?) Okay, this kind of fiction makes for an enjoyable read too.

Now that I think of it, the plan has been doomed since Ch. 56, and possibly earlier. Harry's idea of dealing with McGonagall involves using the Time-Turner again. This means a version of Harry must leave Mary's Place before Harry and Quirrell begin their elaborate precautions, and maybe before they even order their food (Ch. 51). Whoops.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 10 November 2010 02:40:37AM 3 points [-]

As long as an object exists you can transfigure something to it. You don't need to know everything about a device to transfigure a duplicate.

Comment author: AdShea 08 November 2010 10:52:13PM 3 points [-]

To be fair, building a solid-fuel rocket from memory wouldn't be too hard as it's all of 2 materials and rather simple in shape. Depending on how much knowledge of the subject free transfiguration takes he won't need anything more than his making of buckystring.

Comment author: DaveX 10 November 2010 02:13:50AM 2 points [-]

Two materials is true for a solid rocket motor, casing/nozzle + propellant. However, instead of a bare motor lit with a simple Incendio, this muggle tech seems to be a fully tricked out Berserker PFRC rocket complete with an electronic ignition.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 08 November 2010 02:04:40PM *  3 points [-]

Harry's idea of dealing with McGonagall involves using the Time-Turner again. This means a version of Harry must leave Mary's Place before Harry and Quirrell begin their elaborate precautions in Mary's Room, and maybe before they even order their food (Ch. 51). Whoops.

Harry's response is correct, assuming McGonagall's Patronus visited after they activated Time-Turner the first time. It means that they can Time-Turn again (somewhere hidden), enter the room before it's sealed by their first versions, wait hidden in the room for first versions to travel in the past (disappear from timeline), then open the room and let Harry meet McGonagall.

Comment author: Pavitra 09 November 2010 05:27:06AM 2 points [-]

Right. Given the Cloak of Invisibility, "must leave Mary's Place" does not imply "must be seen leaving Mary's Place".

Comment author: orthonormal 07 November 2010 08:18:25PM 3 points [-]


Upon reflection, I still think Quirrell held the Idiot Ball in Chapter 54, by misjudging Harry's probable reaction to an AK attempt.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2010 02:50:18PM 9 points [-]

A Patronus (incorporeal!) intercepting an Avada Kedavra spell is bizarre and ridiculous. Anything less ridiculous would not have been able to interfere. With hindsight, sure, he should have known, but he doesn't have hindsight, we do. Before the event, he couldn't have possibly planned for Harry interfering like this, and we can see he already planned for any more probable level of interference - making Harry lie down on the steps far away, ordering him not to get involved, etc. If you really honestly think he should have expected a smart eleven-year-old boy possessed of a stronger-than-usual Patronus charm to be able to deflect the undeflectable curse, then he also should have planned for some equally bizarre event such as Dumbledore breaking the Apparation wards on Azkaban in order to teleport in front of the Avada Kedavra spell, and just taking it on chin because he's invincible.

Honestly. Quirrell would have to be holding either the Idiot Ball or Batman's belt in order to prepare for this.

Comment author: orthonormal 08 November 2010 04:59:52PM 5 points [-]

You're right- here's the Idiot Ball, in my pocket all along.

Comment author: NihilCredo 08 November 2010 03:03:22PM 3 points [-]

I think orthonormal was referring to Harry becoming royally pissed off and quite a bit more suspicious, more than (or rather than) Harry blocking the Killing Curse.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2010 03:12:00PM 3 points [-]

Ch. 58 shows that Quirrell expected the Auror to dodge, and had plans in case he wouldn't be able to dodge. Harry would have been royally pissed that Quirrell tried, right up until Quirrell says exactly what he said to Harry when confronted about it later. And hell, if his explanation worked when Harry was that far into believing Quirrell was evil, it would have definitely worked immediately after the fact.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 08 November 2010 05:22:26PM 5 points [-]

Ch. 58 shows that Quirrell expected the Auror to dodge

No it doesn't. It shows that Quirrel knows what to say in response to being accused of trying to kill someone to make it look like that wasn't actually his intention.

Given that AK is an Unforgivable, and according to canon the caster must 'mean it' to cast such a spell, I'm fairly confident that Quirrel's explanation is a lie, though I will admit that I haven't checked the exact mechanism for that kind of spell failure - if a not-meaning-it casting of AK would produce a similar visual effect, he could be telling the truth, and it could have been significantly safer than it looked - but in that case, why would he claim that he was intending to move the auror, rather than explaining that the spell was actually harmless?

Comment author: [deleted] 09 November 2010 05:12:45AM 4 points [-]

According to canon, the spell must be cast with hatred. I'm not sure it has to be cast with the intent to be lethal.

Comment author: DanArmak 09 November 2010 12:18:07PM *  2 points [-]

Also, I doubt that when Voldemort kills some random mook he's feeling personal hate towards him. And IIRC in canon Quirrelmort (ETA: no, not him, another Evil Teacher) kills some lab animals in class to demonstrate the killing curse; I'm sure he didn't hate them. The requirement for hatred is a sort of "Negative Emotions == Dark Side" thing.

Comment author: thomblake 09 November 2010 02:21:00PM *  2 points [-]

And IIRC in canon Quirrelmort kills some lab animals in class to demonstrate the killing curse

You're thinking of Barty Crouch Jr. masquerading as Alastor Moody in Goblet of Fire.

EDIT: typo

Comment author: shokwave 09 November 2010 04:51:10AM 1 point [-]

No it doesn't. It shows that Quirrel knows what to say in response to being accused of trying to kill someone to make it look like that wasn't actually his intention.

So him having an excuse prepared for when he casts AK and doesn't end up killing an Auror is evidence that he was intending to kill the Auror? Then him not having an excuse for when he fails to kill the Auror would have been evidence that he wasn't intending to kill the Auror..

That he had an excuse ought to be evidence that he was intending to cast the Avada Kedavra and miss. The story makes more sense that way, too: Consider what would have happened if Quirrell had actually killed the Auror, without some crazy reaction from Harry's magic. Now consider what would have happened if Quirrell had just barely missed. The first option has Quirrell and Harry in an emotional, full-blown argument in the middle of Azkaban with Bellatrix watching the Dark Lord berating a henchman for killing someone, and they haven't escaped yet. The second option has protestations from Harry quickly squashed and a ready escape, with Bellatrix seeing the Dark Lord mock his henchman for failing to kill, leaving behind an Auror who will tell everyone they are looking for a phenomenally powerful sallow-faced wizard all by himself, not a professor and a student.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 09 November 2010 12:37:00PM 6 points [-]

You're misinterpretating the parent comment's argument. It didn't say Quirrel's excuse was evidence he was intending to kill the Auror. It said it didn't SHOW he wasn't intending to kill him.

There's a difference between 'shows' and 'is evidence for'. I'd say that "shows" typically means "is CONCLUSIVE evidence for".

That Quirrel had an excuse IS evidence he was not intending to kill the Auror -- of course it's evidence for that. It's just not CONCLUSIVE evidence for that.

Comment author: DanArmak 09 November 2010 12:18:43PM 2 points [-]

leaving behind an Auror who will tell everyone they are looking for a phenomenally powerful sallow-faced wizard all by himself, not a professor and a student.

Leaving behind a memory-wiped Auror who has no idea what happened.

Comment author: whpearson 08 November 2010 03:48:05PM *  3 points [-]

Harry is masterful at interfering.

Personally if I was Quirrell I would have expected a smart eleven-year-old boy with a strong desire to help people to very easily muck up a prison break in Azkaban. He almost did it when he almost killed himself with his strong patronus thinking about killing all the dementors. No doubt there are other things that could have gone wrong. No Plans survive first contact with the 11 year-old Harry.

Edit: Also: Why did Quirrell need the guy to dodge from an AK spell, if he could get through his shields to move him magically? Why not just place him wherever he wanted him.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2010 04:02:33PM *  5 points [-]

And I maintain that Quirrell planned out all the reasonable methods for Harry to interfere, and took steps he felt were enough to combat these methods. That they weren't enough is not something he could have known ahead of time; he was reasoning under uncertainty. We aren't reasoning under uncertainty: we are reasoning with the certain fact that he did not prepare for enough ridiculousness. He doesn't have that fact!

If you want to claim that Quirrell should not have been surprised, should have been prepared for anything Harry could do because he is that much better than Harry and that if he isn't that much better, he is holding the Idiot Ball, well... this is where the needs of the story comes in. If Harry is to be masterful at interfering and creating dramatic tension, he needs to be surprisingly good at interfering: if he can't surprise Quirrell, he can't interfere, because it will already be planned for.

I maintain that EY is doing a believable job of keeping Harry surprising, because even if a perfect rationalist had updated on all the evidence available to Quirrell so far, it could not have predicted that Harry would be able to interfere, under the restrictions Quirrell had placed on Harry.

By the way, that is where all these rationalisations for Quirrell holding the Idiot Ball are coming from. Quirrell is updating on all evidence prior to his decision and making the right decision. We're updating on evidence that comes after his decision: namely, that his decision was wrong. It is, of course, very tempting to say that Quirrell did something wrong, and that is why his decision was always wrong. But it was right when he made it! That later evidence makes him wrong does not mean he was always wrong; we are not talking facts here, but decisions.

Comment author: whpearson 08 November 2010 05:07:23PM 3 points [-]

I'm not so much concerned with the reasoning around the duel (apart from why AK was needed to make someone dodge). I'm mainly against Quirrell taking the boy to Azkaban in the first place. General common sense says that is not a good idea unless it is a desperate situation. Especially since Quirrell can't cast magic on Harry if he decides to do something rash.

What is the expected utility of taking Harry to Azkaban in total, from Quirrells point of view?

Comment author: Eneasz 08 November 2010 06:39:48PM 4 points [-]

unless it is a desperate situation

How many more months could Bellatrix last in there?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 November 2010 03:14:31PM 2 points [-]

I don't think the relevant category here is an incorporeal Patronus intercepting an Avada Kedavra spell, so much as it is Harry's magic coming into contact with Quirrell's. Which does seem like a possibility plausible enough to be worth considering.

Also, Harry has a history of interacting unusually with Avada Kedavra spells, which might lead one to predict an unusual interaction in this case as well.

That said, I expect a lot of that is hindsight bias.

Comment author: shokwave 08 November 2010 03:22:55PM 3 points [-]

Which does seem like a possibility plausible enough to be worth considering.

Quirrell put Harry on the steps, out of direct line of fire, so that Harry wouldn't try any magic to interfere with the duel or be hit by magic accidentally, and at this point he (rightfully) didn't know the Avada Kedavra could be intercepted or deflected by any magic, so he shouldn't have expected that Harry would be able to send any magic at all out into the line of fire of the spell.

I think it is mostly hindsight bias: before this particular event, nobody knew you could put magic in the way of an Avada Kedavra. Therefore, Quirrell should not have expected that Harry could put magic in the way of his Avada Kedavra, causing the reaction.

Comment author: Unnamed 08 November 2010 06:18:47PM 3 points [-]

A big weakness in Quirrell's plan (assuming he wanted a successful prison break) was counting on Harry to maintain a stable Patronus. Harry is young, inexperienced at casting Patronus, and in a place liable to cause extreme emotional reactions, and he must maintain a Patronus strong enough to keep them hidden from Dementors but not so strong that it starts destroying Dementors or attracting attention.

The trouble started when Harry's escalating Patronus attracted the Aurors' attention, which was a foreseeable (and foreseen) risk. And it doesn't seem all that surprising that Harry's Patronus would go out when he saw Quirrell cast Avada Kedavra (although it is very surprising that it would block the spell).

Comment author: PhilGoetz 07 November 2010 09:26:55PM *  2 points [-]

I'm enjoying the story; but am bothered by this passage:

The Dementors were coming.

"My Lord, you - you should not risk yourself for me - take back your Cloak -"

"Be silent, fool," hissed an angry voice. "When I decide to sacrifice you I will tell you so."

She's got a valid point, said Slytherin. You shouldn't risk yourself for her, there's no way her life is as valuable as yours.

For an instant Harry considered sacrificing Bellatrix to save himself -

Bella's life isn't just less valuable than Harry's. Her life has a large negative value. Harry should be trying to prevent her escape. This righteous, humble talk about why Harry can't save himself instead of her is exactly the sort of thing that makes me so exasperated with comic-book superheroes; and just the sort of thing I was hoping the Methods of Rationality would expose, or at least avoid.

It does work out better than if Harry had tried to save himself - but, it's a story. This story is remarkable partly because it uses a rational protagonist; but it could also be remarkable for making more concessions to reality than most stories. This is a case where it failed to make a concession.

Comment author: NihilCredo 07 November 2010 09:43:03PM 3 points [-]

To be fair, that passage was a full chapter before Harry realised (very belatedly) that Quirrell might have been lying about the psychiatric healer and Bellatrix's kernel of goodness.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 07 November 2010 09:46:14PM *  3 points [-]

On a related note,

If you think your own life is valuable enough that you're not willing to take on an eighty percent probability of dying in order to protect all the prisoners in Azkaban, his Slytherin side observed, there's no way you can justify taking a twenty percent risk to your life to save Bellatrix and Professor Quirrell. The math doesn't add up, you can't be assigning consistent utilities over outcomes here.

The logical side of him noted that Slytherin had just won the argument.

It seems the author is flat-out telling us that Harry is deliberately acting irrational, and commends him for it. Curious.

Comment author: Vaniver 08 November 2010 01:02:31AM *  2 points [-]

It seems the author is flat-out telling us that Harry is deliberately acting irrational, and commends him for it. Curious.

The math does add up, though: Quirrell is at least four times more important than all of Azkaban put together. It's like how, in my mind, at least 10% of the loss caused by the 16-40k guillotine deaths in the French Revolution is from the early death of Lavoisier.

It's pretty clear from the times it's come up that Harry's utilitarianism is either mistaken or too unnatural to actually guide his behavior- and so this just seems like more evidence of that.

Comment author: NihilCredo 08 November 2010 12:41:35AM 2 points [-]

Are you sure? In this fic, Slytherin isn't always bad.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 November 2010 09:39:19PM *  3 points [-]

Bella's life isn't just less valuable than Harry's. Her life has a large negative value. Harry should be trying to prevent her escape.

If she kills again, then yes, she shouldn't be saved. But this is a claim about consequences unrelated to the value of her life itself. If she can be saved and prevented from killing others, she should be.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 08 November 2010 05:26:54AM 1 point [-]

By TDT, the fact that she did a lot of evil things in the past is reason enough to assign her life less value.

Comment author: nshepperd 08 November 2010 10:34:32AM 2 points [-]

Only if how much value people like Harry and Quirrel would assign to her life was a significant factor in her decisionmaking. Chances are that at the time the idea that someone might want to save her from azkaban never even crossed her mind.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 08 November 2010 05:34:16AM 2 points [-]

For game-theoretic reasons? (If so, even though this isn't about consequences, it still seems very worth separating from the terminal value of her life.)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 08 November 2010 05:59:35AM 3 points [-]

(If so, even though this isn't about consequences, it still seems very worth separating from the terminal value of her life.)

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Part of my point is that even if "she can be saved and prevented from killing others", she probably still shouldn't be.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 08 November 2010 08:58:38AM 4 points [-]

It's still about consequences, just not causal consequences. It might be that saving the murderer has an acausal consequence of leading to more murders in the past. This should of course be taken into account, and is harder to guarantee.

Comment author: DanArmak 08 November 2010 02:28:50PM *  4 points [-]

If you buy the acausal "reality is not turing-computable" view of the HPMOR universe, then none of our usual reasoning methods work all that well. I'm surprised Harry hasn't been making a bigger deal of this fact.

Comment author: David_Gerard 13 November 2010 08:58:38PM *  1 point [-]

"It might be that saving the murderer has an acausal consequence of leading to more murders in the past."

... This sentence makes no sense to me at all as a statement in conventional English.

What are the meanings of the words in this sentence, what are the beliefs that I would need to hold for this sentence to make sense, and how would they pay their rent?

(I am not asking for a list of sequences to be directed to. I am asking for the translation from deep LessWrong jargon into conventional English.)

Comment author: Alicorn 13 November 2010 09:26:56PM 9 points [-]

I'll try my hand at the translation, although the rent-paying thing is above my pay grade.

Something like: "If you save a murderer, that means you are the sort of person disposed to save a murderer. That means that in the past, murderers, insofar as they had accurate beliefs about your dispositions, will have been less disincentivized to murder."

Comment author: Perplexed 13 November 2010 10:40:34PM 13 points [-]

what are the beliefs that I would need to hold for this sentence [about acausal consequences] to make sense, and how would they pay their rent?

the rent-paying thing is above my pay grade.

Above my pay grade too, but as I am an amateur, I won't let that deter me.

First, you would need to believe that free will is an oversimplification. More specifically, that what may appear to be a free-will moral decision made today (about saving a murderer, say) is actually a decision the making of which is spread over your entire past life (for example, the point in your life where you formed moral opinions about murder, revenge, and so on). And not just spread over your life, but actually spread over the entire history of our species, in the course of which the genes and cultural traditions that contribute to your own moral intuitions were formed.

Second, you would have to believe that your moral decision today is so correlated to those aspects of the past, and those aspects are so correlated in a causal and deterrent way to the past behavior of potential murderers, that your decision nominally made today about punishing a murderer is correlated "kinda-sorta-causally" with the number of past murders.

And third, you would have to realize that if you actually refer to this as a "causal" relationship, you probably will no longer be invited to the best dinner parties, and therefore you would choose to call this relationship "acausal". It is basically a way of signaling your own mental hygiene - scare quotes would also suffice, but the word acausal has become entrenched.

Rent paying. Hmmm. I'm going to get cute here and say that this holding these beliefs is not not really about paying your rent. It is about paying your taxes. Your duty to society and all that.

Comment author: Kutta 16 November 2010 10:32:44AM *  3 points [-]

My short take: your decision algorithm that outputs saving or not saving the murderer is instantiated multiple times. Anyone who tries to predict your output also runs a more or less precise simulation of your algorithm. Suppose a perfect predictor murderer in the past. In this case, no matter what your decision is, the prediction was the same.

So, you can reason this way: "although I don't know my final decision yet, I know that it correlates with the prediction perfectly. Therefore I also have to consider the consequences and resulting utilities of the prediction when making the decision. Shouldn't I just act then as if was controlling the output of both my current algorithm and that of the predictor, weighing the utilities together? I should output a decision now such that maximizes utility over present and past, because the past prediction mirrors the current me perfectly."

And if there are imperfect predictors involved (or algorithms with imperfectly correlated outputs), you reason as if you had imperfect control over their outputs. As far as I managed to understand it, this is TDT. Note that there is some interesting self-referentiality: the TDT algorithm computes the expected utility of its own "possible" outputs, and then makes output with maximum utility.

Comment author: cousin_it 03 November 2010 10:14:26AM *  2 points [-]

The more I think about 55-56, the more potential holes I find.

McGonagall (or people from the Ministry) successfully detected the use of a Time-Turner before, in Ch. 18. So they will detect it now and all clues will point to Harry. It can be patched over by saying Mary's Room (or Quirrell's wards) makes the event undetectable.

I don't understand the rules regarding Patronuses. Can't McGonagall ask her Patronus where it found Harry, if Dumbledore can ask his Patronus similar questions? Or, alternatively, can Dumbledore send his Patronus to Harry, like McGonagall did, and then ask something like "is he here in Azkaban?"

To everyone saying Harry will create a third copy of himself to save the day: he can't easily do it without Quirrell's assistance, because the Time-Turner is locked. One possibility would be for him to find the original Quirrell and ask for help.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 03 November 2010 10:26:47AM 3 points [-]

McGonagall (or people from the Ministry) successfully detected the use of a Time-Turner before, in Ch. 18.

Did they? IIRC, it was all indirect evidence.

Comment author: sfb 14 November 2010 11:45:27AM *  1 point [-]

"Charms of Unbreakability and flawless function had been cast upon the Muggle device." - chapter 58

Quirrelmort should have cast Flawless Function on his plan to rescue Bella.

(And on his body, so he doesn't get ill, age or die).

Comment author: Danylo 07 November 2010 05:28:49PM *  1 point [-]

(Chapter 58)

Harry, once again, plays (or is played like) the fool. He places his life in obvious danger by going with Quirrell, and trusts Quirrell. Again. Agh! Here's what a suspicious Harry would think: Harry is the only one who knows that Quirrell is responsible for break in. Harry plans on staying behind. Quirrell can't stop Harry from staying behind with magic, and can't convince Bella to stop either. One choice left for safety -- manipulate Harry into making the vastly more dangerous choice and leaving.

I feel like the Harry of these past 8 chapters is a lot more human than the Harry of the previous 50 chapters. Much too trusting, much too simple-minded.

On the other hand, Quirrell's stated plan explains Bella's rescue. Bella is a symbol of Voldie, Voldie is needed as an antagonist to create the 'mark of good.' Downside? I don't see Harry agreeing to use Bella as a tool.

EDIT: Which isn't to say I'm particularly dissatisfied with the novel. No, I'm just agonized. I'm sure Eliezer has some grand plan and I, the common reader, am just blinded by my biases.

Comment author: AdShea 08 November 2010 10:19:15PM 2 points [-]

The more trusting Harry may be an artifact of his being terrified. He got played on his dislike of the Dementors to get him in there. Once the shit hit the fan he was running terrified and taking whatever solution appeared to him. In this case Quirrelmort sounding even slightly reasonable (remember he's been talking to himself to keep the dementors off) would be accepted. I'll be interesting to see what happens when he gets back to civilization.

Comment author: PeterS 07 November 2010 06:20:22PM 0 points [-]

They're finally out of there. Let us never speak of these chapters again!

Comment author: Carinthium 10 November 2010 11:23:07PM 2 points [-]

The reason being?

Comment author: PeterS 11 November 2010 12:47:03AM 4 points [-]

Chapters 55-58 seemed to me to contained very little content. At least not much that was fun/interesting. What content they had was superfluous and repetitive. The only real obstacle for Harry were the Dementors*, and he seemed to defeat them trivially. At the end of Ch. 54, suspense was high, but (at least from my perspective) it really fizzled out.

Comment author: FAWS 26 November 2010 01:36:07AM 1 point [-]

61: So they plan to ward Askaban against "opposite reaction". What would that even mean? Are they all going to fall down through the floor for lack of an opposite reaction pushing them up?

Comment author: Kingreaper 26 November 2010 01:44:19AM 4 points [-]

Hogwarts interferes with electrical devices, but brains still work.

There certainly seems to be a common thread in many magic worlds that "physics doesn't work, but all the stuff physics causes that most people intuitively EXPECT to happen, still happen"