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TheOtherDave comments on Luminosity (Twilight Fanfic) Discussion Thread 3 - Less Wrong

10 Post author: Alicorn 30 December 2010 02:37PM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 04:09:50PM 2 points [-]


Either I have completely misunderstood what Elspeth just did, or Elspeth's power is quite a bit more useful than anyone is considering. I'm hoping it's the former.

That is: OK, yes, Magic cares about whether "Alice and Jasper are doing something kind of like what Del did to Pera" is true or not. But how does Magic have that information to query in the first place?

It's essentially a question about the strength of Alice's alliances, which means memories from before Alice was Chelsead are pretty much irrelevant, and I can't think of any other mundane source of information from which that datum derives. So either I'm missing something significant (entirely possible), or Magic itself is the source of that datum.

If it's the latter... doesn't that suggest that Magic can detect not only whether what Elspeth is saying (or considering saying) is honest, but also whether it is true?

That seems like it can't be right. At least, if it is right, Siobhan ought to immediately hand Elspeth a list of useful true/false questions to have Magic answer.

And I don't follow why the trick with using Memory to extract analogous situations from the past is even necessary. Wouldn't asking Magic whether it would allow Elspeth to say "Alice and Jasper are still loyal to the Volturi" and similar tests achieve the same result?

Comment author: [deleted] 29 January 2011 04:58:09PM 1 point [-]

doesn't that suggest that Magic can detect not only whether what Elspeth is saying (or considering saying) is honest, but also whether it is true?

Magic only cares whether Elspeth believes it is true. If she said "Alice and Jasper are still loyal to the Volturi" it would probably not sound true, because Elspeth wasn't sure of that at the moment.

What Magic helps Elspeth do is tell the truth, and to tell it in a particular way that the other person will understand. So the indirect trick she is using here was spelled out back in chapter 5:

Here is how I use my power to learn things about other people.

It takes a very, very long time. It's completely indirect. There is some guesswork. There are always gaps. I can't just call up my power and point it at someone and learn who they are.

First, I make a guess about the thing I am trying to learn. Then, I think of something about myself that is like my guess. And then I figure out how I would explain that part of myself to the person, and see if the explanation refers to things about my guess. If it is, then my guess was close to right.

It's confusing, and it took me a long time to figure out. Here's how it might work. Suppose I go back to Kora's town and find her, and she seems sad. I figure out as much as I can without any magic and I decide that my best guess is that she misses her best friend who is out of town. The closest thing I have to that is when I miss people who I have had to leave behind - people like Kora.

So I think about how I would tell her the way I feel about that. If I wanted to say to Kora, "I miss my old friend Raine as much as you miss your best friend", then that would mean saying that will make Kora understand something true, because that is how my power works. Then I would know that my feelings about Raine and Kora's about her friend are the same.

But it would not make sense to tell Kora that. I'm never going to see Raine again, and Kora's friend will come home, for one thing. I knew Raine for a much shorter time and we were not as close. And that is the biggest problem with using my power to do this. It only works if I make a correct guess, and I can only make a correct guess if I have something that's sort of like what's going on for the other person.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 06:21:01PM 0 points [-]

Sure, that was the limitation she was operating under back in Chapter 5, when (among other things) she wasn't able to interact with Magic as a separate subagent.

She communicates with her ability radically differently, now; there's no particular reason to believe the same limitation applies.

But, sure, maybe she experimented with this off-camera and concluded that it still does, for whatever reason, and we just haven't read about that. So, OK, maybe she can't attempt to say "Alice is still loyal to the Volturi" and see whether Magic objects.

Instead, she has to come up with an example from her memory of someone experiencing something like what it would be for Alice to still be loyal to the Volturi, and then attempt to say "Alice is in a situation kind of like that example" and see whether Magic objects.

Fine... it's magic, it has whatever limits it has.

And maybe those examples have to be actual memories... maybe it won't work if she says "Consider Vanessa, a hypothetical Volturi guard who is pretending to no longer be loyal to the Volturi in order to fool her friends into trusting her. Alice is in a situation similar to Vanessa's" and see whether Magic objects. (Similarly, maybe comparing Alice's situation to that of a character in a novel or a movie won't work.)

Regardless, in all of those cases Elspeth is constructing a version of the statement "Alice is doing X" and consulting Magic about the truth of that statement, when Elspeth herself does not know whether Alice is doing X.

If that actually works -- and it sure does seem to have -- then Magic has access to information that Elspeth does not have access to, and it seems that this is a huge tactical advantage that everyone appears to be neglecting.

For example, Bella was wondering earlier whether what she sensed was a packmate of Jacob's. So, Elspeth can come up with some memory of some witch using a power on a wolf that includes its packmate, then try to say "What Bella is sensing is like that" and see if Magic objects.

For example, suppose Elspeth wants to know whether the Volturi are actively hunting them right now. So, she comes up with a historical example of situations where the Volturi were actively hunting someone who wasn't sure whether they were hunting him or not, and tries to say "Our situation is kind of like so-and-so's."

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Presumably there are limits to this, but it seems like establishing those limits and using her power within them would be... um... a good plan.

Comment author: JGWeissman 29 January 2011 06:39:58PM 2 points [-]

I think the way it works is that Elspeth asks if referencing Alice and Jasper''s experience of whatever they are going through now would help them understand this memory that Elspeth believes is true.

Though this explanation seems backwards from what is implied by:

"Yes," said Magic, "this sounds about right. I would let you use this story to say something true about Alice and Jasper."

I would have expected it to be:

"Yes," said Magic, "this sounds about right. I would let you use Alice and Jasper's experience to say something true about this memory."

Comment author: Alicorn 29 January 2011 07:11:05PM 0 points [-]

You're right, I wrote that backwards. I'll fix it now.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 07:17:25PM 0 points [-]

Ah. That helps clarify matters. Thank you.

Comment author: alethiophile 05 February 2011 09:49:23PM 1 point [-]

As far as I can tell, what Elspeth is doing is, in talking to Alice, seeing if her magic, which helps her communicate the truth to people in ways they will understand, would suggest analogies between the current situation and previous situations. I.e., if Elspeth were trying to explain the situation of Addy and Pera to Alice, would her magic suggest Alice and Jasper's own situation as an example? If so, then that means that Alice and Jasper's situation is analogous to that of Addy and Pera, and hence it implies something about their motives. Magic has a mind-reading power, kind of, whose intent is solely to determine how to comprehensibly explain the truth to someone. Elspeth is using this for a method not originally intended, in order to determine something about Alice and Jasper. Thus, it's not an oracle; it depends critically on Elspeth currently being in communication with someone who knows the answer.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 05 February 2011 11:05:04PM 0 points [-]

Mostly agreed... the subsequent edit of Magic's reply made that much clearer.

As per other thread, it is not clear to me that what the boundaries of "in communication" are, and it's not clear to me what sorts of information Magic has access to. That said, I'm increasingly concluding that I'm somehow being obtuse, because this seems to be clear to everyone else.