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Coscott comments on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 119 - Less Wrong

4 Post author: Gondolinian 10 March 2015 06:10PM

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Comment author: Coscott 10 March 2015 09:12:58PM 20 points [-]

Two quotes that are scary together:

"There can only be one king upon the chessboard. There can only be one piece whose value is beyond price. That piece is not the world, it is the world's peoples, wizard and Muggle alike, goblins and house-elves and all." - Albus Dumbledore

"I shall not... by any act of mine... destroy the world... I shall take no chances... in not destroying the world..." - Harry Potter

Harry is unfriendly. When it comes time for harry to choose between saving all the people and a small chance at saving the world, you will all learn to regret helping him get out of the box.

Comment author: William_Quixote 10 March 2015 11:57:32PM 9 points [-]

I think there is evidence that "magic" has natural language processing and is capable of taking context and intent into account. I don't know that Harry wouldn't be unable to interpret distorting the world as killing everyone. Particularly dice the person he gave the vow to was particularly concerned about and motivated by the death of people (or at least of one specific person).

Comment author: Subbak 10 March 2015 10:04:40PM 7 points [-]

So you mean that Voldie screwed it up AGAIN when he tried to mess with a prophecy? Man, some people are simply not meant to hear prophecies.

On the other hand, the Vow did not change Harry's terminal goals. While he may not work to undermine the Vow itself, it is possible that before coming to the horrible realization that he has to protect the world above its people, he lets enough slip to other so that they may find a way to remove the Vow (or put him back in a box). Also, the Vow has some loopholes:

That I shall not... by any act of mine... destroy the world... I shall take no chances... in not destroying the world... if my >hand is forced... I may take the course... of lesser destruction over greater destruction... unless it seems to me that this >Vow itself... leads to the world's end... and the friend... in whom I have confided honestly... agrees that this is so. By my >own free will... If a good agent ever learns the full text of the Vow, they can use the loophole to make a dead man's switch and destroy the world if a significant fraction of its people are gone. Also "it seems that this Vow itself leads to the world's end" would probably be true if Harry ends up killing everyone to save "the world". More specifically, when making the Vow, Harry was probably picturing the people in it rather than the physical planet. Because Atlanteans did not speak English, it seems reasonable to assume that the intended meaning of the speaker, rather than the actual words he used, is binding. He may yet get out of this one.

Comment author: DanArmak 10 March 2015 10:44:37PM *  2 points [-]

On the other hand, the Vow did not change Harry's terminal goals.

If Coscott is right about the Vow protecting "the world" and not "its people", then it very much did change Harry's terminal values.

it seems reasonable to assume that the intended meaning of the speaker, rather than the actual words he used, is binding

The intended meaning of the three persons making the vow have to match, or the Vow won't work. And I think that two randomly chosen Death Eaters, who have absolutely no idea that people could survive without the Earth, who don't even suspect that there's been manned spaceflight, would indeed think that "the world" is "the Earth".

Comment author: Subbak 11 March 2015 06:57:48AM 3 points [-]

If Coscott is right about the Vow protecting "the world" and not "its people", then it very much did change Harry's >terminal values.

OK, I misspoke. It did not change what Harry feels are good terminal values. He may not in any way choose to assist (even by being passive) someone who would want to change that terminal value, but as long as he has not realized what Coscott may have realized, then letting people with terminal value "make sure human life goes on" know about this Vow will not be in conflict with his Vow. They can then come to their own realization. Basically Harry is unfriendly, but he's not intelligent enough yet that he can predict the outcome of every action like, say, Celestia does. He can still accidentally out himself and be dealt with.

The intended meaning of the three persons making the vow have to match, or the Vow won't work. And I think >that two randomly chosen Death Eaters, who have absolutely no idea that people could survive without the >Earth, who don't even suspect that there's been manned spaceflight, would indeed think that "the world" is "the >Earth".

But the last part (when to ignore the Vow) depend only on Harry and Hermione's subjective evaluation. So what the Death Eaters think is not really in question.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 11 March 2015 01:35:13AM 2 points [-]

If Coscott is right about the Vow protecting "the world" and not "its people", then it very much did change Harry's terminal values.

Yes. I though that Harry's Unbreakable Vow was the perfect vehicle for EY to show the dangers of UFAI, but it doesn't look like he is going that way.

Comment author: avichapman 11 March 2015 02:11:26AM 7 points [-]

In the text, they made it clear that the vow was based on the meaning of the words and not the words itself. V said that it was important that everyone understood the meaning.

Harry would not consider star lifting or terraforming or the creation of a virtual world at the expense of the actual one to be 'destroying the world'. He would considering 'destroying the world' to mean 'the ending of all life' or somesuch.

Comment author: WalterL 11 March 2015 04:04:38PM 0 points [-]

I think you are right. I hadn't considered that, and I don't think Harry has either, but while Harry was thinking that "destroying the world" meant killing all the dudes, the Death Eaters were thinking of the ground blowing up, and there were two of them, so their interpretation probably prevails.

Comment author: William_Quixote 11 March 2015 05:01:36PM 6 points [-]

As further evidence that the vow blocks killing all the people consider this.

The vow blocks Harry from telling muggels about magic and starting mass healing. At the time it blocks him the ideas he thought of were transfiguring nuclear weapons and plagues that could replicate before the transfiguration wore off. Neither of those poses any danger to "the world" but they pose great danger to the worlds people. Harry doesn't think of up quarks until after he has already been blocked. So the vow seems to be interpreted as killing everyone being the end of the world. Which is quite possibly how Harry understood it.

Comment author: AnthonyC 11 March 2015 08:02:00PM 1 point [-]

He also thought of antimatter, negatively charged strangelets, black holes, and up quarks, any one of which could, potentially, physically destroy the Earth.

Note also that if the vow interprets the words to mean the physical Earth, then future starlifting Harry could make a replica Earth and move all the muggles there, then tell them about magic.