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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 6

6 Post author: Unnamed 27 November 2010 08:25AM

Update: Discussion has moved on to a new thread.

After 61 chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and 5 discussion threads with over 500 comments each, HPMOR discussion has graduated from the main page and moved into the Less Wrong discussion section (which seems like a more appropriate location).  You can post all of your insights, speculation, and, well, discussion about Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fanfic here.

Previous threads are available under the harry_potter tag on the main page (or: one, two, three, four, five); this and future threads will be found under the discussion section tag (since there is a separate tag system for the discussion section).  See also the author page for (almost) all things HPMOR, and AdeleneDawner's Author's Notes archive for one thing that the author page is missing.

As a reminder, it's useful to indicate at the start of your comment which chapter you are commenting on.  Time passes but your comment stays the same.

Spoiler Warning:  this thread is full of spoilers.  With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13.  More specifically:

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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.

Comments (541)

Comment author: Pavitra 14 December 2010 05:47:33AM 14 points [-]

Dumbledore is an r-strategist.

He tells Harry to carry around a random object purely on the theory that "it is wiser to do than not", and he tells Blaise that it's important to have multiple plots going at once. His basic strategy is to try as many things as possible, in the hopes that a few of them will work.

Furthermore, he's in pretty much the ideal situation for r-strategy: a highly chaotic environment, and few to no direct rivals or real peers.

Comment author: HonoreDB 18 December 2010 03:10:45AM 7 points [-]

I like this analogy.

Dumbledore's cost per plot is also very low: he has a large supply of minions whose time would otherwise be wasted playing Unicorn Attack, and he has no credibility to lose when his plots fail.

He also tries to force his rivals to be play the same way, since they don't have his advantages. If Voldemort is scheming to get at the Philosopher's Stone by year's end, he has to simultaneously target the third-floor corridor, Harry's father's rock, the Hogwarts vault at Gringotts, and who knows what other decoy locations. Similarly, Dumbledore engineered a three-way tie in Battle Magic to try to force Quirrell to pursue three different plots (Quirrell being a rival for the students' hearts and minds).

Comment author: DanArmak 29 November 2010 04:00:11PM *  14 points [-]

Harry missed an opportunity to do good with Lesath. He should have given him orders that would make him behave in a way that might make him happier. Like:

"Acquire friends. Acquire power. Acquire happiness. Try to publicly join a faction, if any will have you, so that you aren't a loner associated with the one Death Eater that even other Death Eaters repudiate, but are instead associated with respectable Slytherins. If Slytherins won't have you because you're worthless as an ally, try moving to Hufflepuff. Note that Neville was willing to defend you from bullies; make him and others like him like you. Publicly repudiate your mother if plausible."

And even more importantly:

"Do not ever try to act on my, the Dark Lord Harry's, behalf, or to help me, without explicit orders from me. Not if you're sure you'd be helping me greatly. Not if you're sure I'd approve afterwards. Not if you're among Death Eaters. Not even if you come face-to-face with your mother. Not if you think I ordered it but you can't be sure because I wasn't talking literally. Not if you get mailed orders from me and you know they're from me because they appear under your pillow while you're sleeping and everybody knows only I can do the impossible. Not ever. If I want you to do something, you'll know."

As it is, my story-pattern-matching is yelling that Harry is going to be exposed by Lesath trying to help him.

Comment author: Mercy 29 November 2010 11:10:39PM 5 points [-]

Those would all be excellent ideas if Lesath was a perfect Occulemens. As it is, as far as Harry knows Snape may very well be mind-reading as a matter of routine. He's probably get away with claiming to be playing along for the sake of manipulating Lesath, but given the circumstances cannot be blamed for playing it safe.

Comment author: DanArmak 29 November 2010 11:16:34PM 5 points [-]

Harry should certainly say to Lesath: "I am not your Lord and I did not free your mother from Azkaban, but since you wrongly believe that I am and did, here are my orders for you, which you will notice benefit you and not me."

Snape was the one who originally introduced Harry to Lesath with the intention of helping Lesath (at least, he didn't mind that Harry helped him). He wouldn't be surprised if Harry reacted this way.

Comment author: [deleted] 29 November 2010 05:26:24PM 4 points [-]

"Acquire friends. Acquire power. Acquire happiness. Try to publicly join a faction, if any will have you, so that you aren't a loner associated with the one Death Eater that even other Death Eaters repudiate, but are instead associated with respectable Slytherins. If Slytherins won't have you because you're worthless as an ally, try moving to Hufflepuff. Note that Neville was willing to defend you from bullies; make him and others like him like you. Publicly repudiate your mother if plausible."

I like this idea, except I'd leave out the last bit if it were me. You've already left yourself some wiggle room with the "if plausible," so you probably wouldn't get Lesath into much trouble that way, but given what we've seen of him fanatic & public loyalty seems to be a big part of his nature. It's probably the only reason he's in Slytherin (loyalty to the idea of Slytherin, I mean--I bet he had to beg the Sorting Hat, as otherwise he seems completely unsuited to the House). It looks like he's formed his identity around that loyalty, and it might do a number on his head if he had to suddenly act in an inconsistent manner.

That capacity for loyalty would make him a great minion though. Harry already caught himself wishing for a Bella of his own, and now! Here's her son, pledging his life...

Comment author: DanArmak 29 November 2010 08:28:12PM 2 points [-]

It looks like he's formed his identity around that loyalty, and it might do a number on his head if he had to suddenly act in an inconsistent manner.

A fourth-year Slytherin who doesn't understand the concept of pretending in public isn't worth feeding to a pet snake. He doesn't have to speak against his mother so much as to keep quiet and find a way to avoid bullies.

But what you say is true. All the more reason he should associate with Hufflepuffs - they can appreciate loyalty.

Comment author: HonoreDB 29 November 2010 04:36:48PM *  2 points [-]

Harry missed an opportunity to do good with Lesath.

Agreed. I think if Harry had had proper prep time (which he would have if he hadn't assumed it was a different L.L.) he would most likely have done this. Unless Hermione has succeeded in shaming him into stopping.

As it is, my story-pattern-matching is yelling that Harry is going to be exposed by Lesath trying to help him.

There is a strong similarity to a certain storyline in Death Note, isn't there? But unlike Mikami, Lesath doesn't have the power to expose Harry other than by coincidence, because Harry hasn't trusted him with any information.

There's certainly a danger of Lesath ridding him of a meddlesome priest, or jumping in front of an Avada Kedavra.

Comment author: DanArmak 29 November 2010 08:20:31PM *  2 points [-]

There's certainly a danger of Lesath ridding him of a meddlesome priest, or jumping in front of an Avada Kedavra.

Exactly. He might compromise Harry by doing some stupid and/or evil thing and then, when found out, telling everyone he did it for Dark Lord Harry. Like ridding him of a meddlesome Hermione by pushing her down the stairs, since Draco told all Slytherin that Harry and Hermione are enemies.

Imagine Lesath trying to be to Harry what his mother was to Voldermort. Only even less intelligently.

Comment author: TobyBartels 28 November 2010 02:28:32AM 14 points [-]


Has anybody unscrambled Harry's secret message?

(To avoid spoilers, please give your answer in rot13.)


Comment author: NihilCredo 28 November 2010 03:16:04AM *  15 points [-]

On a slightly more serious note....

Flitwick: "Yes, Harry, what is the matter?"

Harry: "I have been instructed to deliver a message to you, Professor. "Silver on the tree"."

Flitwick: "I... see. May I ask who sends this message, Harry?

Harry: *pause*

Flitwick:"...the Headmaster? Prof. McGonagall? Prof. Snape?"

Harry's inner Hufflepuff: Next time maybe let's not be so lazy with doing a few extra Caesar shifts, eh?

Comment author: HonoreDB 28 November 2010 05:21:16AM 6 points [-]

Harry: I don't know if I'm supposed to say.

Remember, Innocent!Harry has no idea what's going on.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 November 2010 08:13:17AM 5 points [-]

I'll fix it.

Comment author: TobyBartels 28 November 2010 03:19:14AM 2 points [-]

Good point! Since Harry's ruse seems to have succeeded, this looks like an oversight on Eliezer's part.

Next time maybe let's not be so lazy with doing a few Caesar shifts, eh?

Which reminds me: While this cypher may be the kid-brother type, it used to be the major-governments type. So for unEnlightened Wizards, maybe it still is enough to fool major governments!

Comment author: [deleted] 28 November 2010 06:00:00AM 4 points [-]

In Order of the Phoenix, Sirius Black seems to know that codes exist, at least. Although he dismisses them as "breakable" and decides to communicate over a floo network connection instead (which makes me wonder if wizards know about one-time pads, and if there are any spells which can break them).

Comment author: AdShea 01 December 2010 12:17:48AM 2 points [-]

Given that the magical community didn't seem to get into mathematics much, and provably strong crypto needs a ton of math, I could see how they never went beyond Caesar Ciphers.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 November 2010 06:02:32AM 3 points [-]

I went through the trouble of finding a tool to brute force the Caesar cipher before I realized that of course it would be in rot13. I feel silly now.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 November 2010 02:54:18AM 9 points [-]

(To avoid spoilers, please give your answer in rot13.)

Har har.

Comment author: Raemon 29 November 2010 08:18:25PM *  13 points [-]

Chapter 63: The last chapter was very satisfying. I was afraid it might be something along the lines of "and then Harry went to Ravenclaw dorm and glanced at Hermione sadly and then when to bed, the end." Instead I got not one but TWO good Hermione scenes,as well as a nice resolution for literally every character. While I look forward to the next act, I think I can spend the next month in relative peace. So thank you.

One thing that's been concerning me is Harry's view of Hermione. I'm assuming/hoping that you intend to delve into this further, because idolizing someone to the degree that Harry does Hermione is not healthy. I had a friend/romantic-interest (who did not return my affections in that way) that I put on a pedestal. And unlike Hermione, she really HAD been dedicating her life to helping people. I looked at her as a beacon of hope for what humanity could be like. And she knew that's how I looked at her, and it was hella awkward and it (along with other factors) caused us to drift apart for a while.

By now I've successfully split my "beacon of human salvation" mental construct and the "replica of my friend" mental construct into two separate thing, allowing me to have hope for humanity that is not contingent on a friend being flawlessly perfect and a person I can treat like a real friend even when they make mistakes.

This was touched upon a little when Hermione realized "I haven't helped anyone." Not exactly the same circumstances that I was in, but seems to indicate that Hermione has room for growth and isn't quite as good (yet) as Harry thinks she is.

Comment author: katydee 02 December 2010 04:38:23AM *  6 points [-]

I've been on the opposite end of this-- someone believed, for complicated reasons, that I was an angel or living saint-- and I can confirm that it's really weird and that it caused me to avoid interacting with the person in question for a long time.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 December 2010 10:24:55AM 14 points [-]

There's a substantial fraction of the total people who know me who believe I'm a beacon of human salvation, and even though that's exactly who I try to be, it still weirds me out.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 June 2012 07:14:48PM *  17 points [-]

I just wanted to note that people take everything you write very seriously and tend to up vote everything. They only go berserk and punish you heavily if you contradict your earlier self from the sequences. Which is funny if you think about it, shouldn't they assume that your.more recent position is the better one?

Anycase, I've thought up of an experiment that might interest you. Try posting all your regular interaction, except the stuff where your represent SingInst or do sort-of-moderator-like stuff, with a sock puppet account for 3 months. I wonder how your experience of LW would change. It would give you some information about how your status influences how people treat you here. Or perhaps you may be better off not knowing...

Of course maybe you've already tried this - if so, can you tell us the results? With graphs if you have them. Mainly I like graphs, but if you don't want to you don't have to.

Comment author: Karmakaiser 22 June 2012 07:27:48PM 5 points [-]

This is a good idea. I am really in support of the graphs. There are not enough graphs here lately.

Comment author: Tuxedage 22 June 2012 07:16:18PM 4 points [-]

I agree; It must be done for science!

It would be an interesting experiment in the prevalence of the Halo effect of the LW community.

Comment author: GLaDOS 22 June 2012 07:44:09PM *  7 points [-]

I agree; It must be done for science!

He really should do this experiment. At the conclusion of the test there will be delicious ca... M&Ms? Taste the rainbow Eliezer! And think of all the things we can learn!

Comment author: NihilCredo 29 November 2010 09:13:16AM 12 points [-]

Ch. 63, writing as I read:

I wonder what's the Death Eaters' opinion of phoenixes. If they agree that they're a force for good, seeing one of them in Dumbledore's retinue should make them ask themselves a few questions (a generic problem whenever you put a public, physical moral compass in any world, really - it becomes much harder for the villains to delude themselves into thinking they're heroes). Perhaps they think they're just creepy, winged endorphine peddlers.

Cool that Hogwarts has invented onion routing seven years in advance. Although I don't think it's a big improvement in security when the three messengers are so close to each other, and so much more likely to (occasionally) conspire to piece together the connection.

For the couple of seconds I considered Harry's guess on LL, I brightened up considerably. I dearly hope you don't plan for the fic to finish before you get a chance to write Methods!Luna.

Lesath... you know, I always hate pathetic characters in fiction, they make me cringe whenever they show up and I smile when they disappear from the story, but Lesath made me realise that MoR didn't have a truly pathetic character, Neville having "leveled up" extremely quickly, and I got the gut feeling that that was a missing piece that just got fixed.

Amelia didn't wonder how a ten-years-in-Azkaban Bellatrix could have not just killed, but obliterated the same man who had just defeated Bahry? Not that there aren't answers (say, a Geas-type spell, with a lethal payload to be triggered by Bellatrix).

Glad to see that Alastor is as badass as expected in a powered-up story like this. The one-shots where Moody raised Harry were one of the few fics on your "Recommended" page that I enjoyed, and I believe I see the influence at work here.

Voldie on LSD would make a good omake. Rigorously to be written while crunk.

Verdandi, or rather Verðandi, is one of the Norns, a sort of Norse version of the Greek Moirae and Roman Parcae. I don't believe that's the right reference, though?

And the Bahl reference I didn't get at all, but I haven't read much sci-fi or fantasy.

Hey, remember all the flak you took when Harry agreed off-screen to the nutty plan? If it encouraged you to spend more effort on this beautifully human piece of HJPEV self-reflection, I'll be sure to bring the torches and pitchforks next time.

The paragraph where Harry veers into evolutionary psychology reads like a perfect example of the kind of common, self-indulgent evolutionary psychology that I think gives a bad name to meaningful evolutionary psychology.

My instant thought on the "and a deck of playing cards": If that's a Deck of Many Things, Santa Claus is certifiably insane and possibly Dumbledore.

I wonder who will be the one to break the King of Hearts (that someone will is almost a given). Most likely not Harry. It could make an interesting contest.

Author's Notes: What, no mention of Three Worlds Collide? Also, Twitter is worse than television.

Well done. Enjoy your hiatus, you've deserved it - this conclusion to Act I was far more thorough than I expected.

Comment author: Kingreaper 29 November 2010 08:15:36PM 6 points [-]

I wonder what's the Death Eaters' opinion of phoenixes. If they agree that they're a force for good, seeing one of them in Dumbledore's retinue should make them ask themselves a few questions (a generic problem whenever you put a public, physical moral compass in any world, really - it becomes much harder for the villains to delude themselves into thinking they're heroes). Perhaps they think they're just creepy, winged endorphine peddlers.

Phoenixes encourage you to go out, and throw yourself full-strength against a problem, regardless of whether you can solve the problem, regardless of your chance of death.

To a slytherin, this is simply irrational. Gryffindor is brave, AKA foolhardy. Slytherin is devious AKA rational. The gryffindor method is the phoenix method: ignore the dangers that stand in the way of your goal.

Comment author: CronoDAS 30 November 2010 11:32:30PM 5 points [-]

Verdandi, or rather Verðandi, is one of the Norns, a sort of Norse version of the Greek Moirae and Roman Parcae. I don't believe that's the right reference, though?

"Verdandi" is Belldandy.

And "Bahl's Stupefaction" is the Idiot Ball.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 11 January 2011 09:24:51PM 11 points [-]

In regards to the nearly empty vial left in Bellatrix's cell:

Back when we first saw the flask, I remember there being confusion over the point of leaving something foreign behind what was supposed to be "the perfect crime." It definitely came in handy once they were found out, but it didn't make sense to leave it behind when there was a serious possibility that they could have gotten away with it. I was thinking about the arc the other day when it (belatedly) occurred to me just what Quirrell might have been thinking.

Just before this point, we are told that in the MOR-verse, a prisoner stays in Azkaban until their sentence is up, even if they die. For those with life sentences, their corpse stays there until they need the cell. Furthermore, snake!Quirrell confirms that she's alone, and thus is the only live prisoner in her particular area. Therefore, it would be reasonable to say that after Bellatrix died, the Aurors would stop frequenting that particular area until the next time someone who does "worse than murder" needs to be locked up. Even then, it's possible that there are other empty cells, or (more likely) that the guards dispose of the older corpses first, for the symbolism if nothing else. So it seems probable that even after the guards return to frequenting that corridor, Bellatrix's cell would probably be left alone the longest.

Additionally, much ado has been made over the destructive powers that Dementors have on their surroundings. And Bellatrix, being considered the most evil person in Magical Britain after Voldemort "died," is in the very worst location, in close proximity to the nest of over a hundred Dementors.

Moreover, Dumbledore makes a point of stating that the titanium bars of the cage of the Dementor that is brought to Hogwarts were trueforged, since they would last longer than if they were created magically. He also notes that while the Dementor would start to degrade the cage, it would take longer than a day, possibly implying that the destructive field is strong enough to make the destruction of titanium within the course of a few hours a serious concern.

All of this leads me to believe that Quirrell’s reasoning was that if they had managed to pull off the perfect crime, the guards would have discovered “Bellatrix” dead from Dementor exposure in the morning. I don't see the guards investigating a cell very carefully—or at all, really—when a prisoner dies in such a natural way, so the vial being put in the corner and covered in the strip of cloth that "nearly blend[ed]" in with the wall would keep them from noticing that anything was amiss in a cursory glance. After that, the cell would have been left alone for a long period of time, very near to the majority of Dementors, with the flask possibly being magically created as well. In all likelihood, this would have resulted in there being no traces whatsoever by the time anyone else would have entered the cell, preserving the perfection of the crime.

And if the crime wasn’t as perfect as Quirrell thought? Then they have a clue left behind, one with all the earmarks of Voldemort, neatly diverting suspicion away from Harry.

Comment author: Raemon 28 November 2010 11:35:48PM 11 points [-]

Warning, big swath of text coming through.

I've recently been rereading the story from the beginning. By now the whole thing has a bit of a halo effect and judging things without bias is getting tricky. So kudos on accomplishing that... but there are a few issues that I think harm the piece overall. They didn't hurt my enjoyment of it, but they end up limiting it to a smaller audience. There's a lot of smart people who would love this fic if there weren't certain things that turned them off to it.

The main problem is that Harry too absurdly intelligent to believable at first glance. In the first few chapters people tend to assume that the "primary change" is simply that Petunia married someone different, which isn't enough to justify him not only being saner but being genuinely smarter than the original Harry was. My sister was particularly annoyed by this. I'm not sure how much of that had do with her reading it before you updated the intro-text to say "multiple points of departure." But by now she's internalized Harry as a creepily overintelligent jerk and I can't get her to give it a second chance, despite the clues you've dropped more recently about why he is the way he is. And while you've put a lot of effort into showing that Harry is not always right (and is in fact, often grossly wrong), the bleed between your own opinions and writing style and Harry's opinions is often difficult to distinguish.

Something about the early chapters makes it particularly hard to tell, and if I had to pick the single biggest issue, it would be your portrayal of Dumbledore. I know that you're writing from Harry's perspective, and Harry's perspective is flawed. I suspect you also want us to keep guessing about what precise changes you've made to Dumbledore's character. Is he insane? Why/did he kill Narcissa? Etc. I'm sure there's other plot elements that you're foreshadowing that we haven't picked up on yet. But even when I try to compensate for that... the character simply reads... off. Too weird, too dim, too much of a different character than the one we remember. My suspicion is that Dumbledore's personality IS pretty different from your own, so writing him convincingly is simply difficult. If that's true, well, fair enough.

I understand what you were trying to do in chapter 39, but he really comes across as a strawman. Not because his reasons for deathism are poorly thought out (it's fine for him to either have undisclosed information or just lack that kind of rationality) but because he seems to fail to understand how angry/disappointed Harry is in him. Dumbledore should NOT be bad at that kind of empathizing, and that's what makes him look genuinely stupid instead of simply having a different viewpoint. If he's only pretending to be bad at understanding Harry.... eh, I'll withhold judgment in case you have an awesome resolution to that scene planned out for later, but right now it doesn't read as clever foreshadowing to me, it just reads as a character who's written oddly.

I think chapter 39 would work a lot better, though, if it wasn't set up by chapter 17. This is our main introduction to Dumbledore, and it's just... too weird. Too insane in ways that Dumbledore was not traditionally insane, too dim sounding when Harry starts talking about locating Hypothesis. (I confess I'm biased a bit simply because the "detector box" thought experiment has never been compelling for me. Yes, it makes sense, but it doesn't register at all on an emotional level, so taking a few paragraphs to describe it just feels weird and offputting).

I'm not a skilled enough writer to do it better, especially without knowing all of your longterm goals for the story. But I think chapter 17 is something you should revisit at some point. If there's a way to accomplish the same goals without feeling so different from Canon!Dumbledore, and without making Harry look genuinely smarter, then the character would feel more real and you'd probably hold on to a wider audience.

By chapter 62, it's become clear that this IS the Dumbledore we know and love, just a little more realistic when it comes to fighting a war and perhaps a tad more whimsical. But the audience has to wait a long time to find that out, and I can't see any reason that we had to wait for that. I appreciate the way you force us to think "hmm... DO we really trust this guy in this alternate universe?" but the overall way you go about it just feels... off.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 28 November 2010 11:43:44PM 5 points [-]

Is [Dumbledore] insane?

Ch. 61: "And there is no one else in the world who would accidentally overestimate my wit, and leave me a message I cannot understand at all."

Why/did he kill Narcissa?

Ch. 62: "The Death Eaters learned, toward the end of the war, not to attack the Order's families."

Comment author: Raemon 28 November 2010 11:45:36PM 4 points [-]

I didn't say there weren't good clues. Just that those clues come too late to help with the sort of person likely to give up around chapter 20.

Comment author: Raemon 04 January 2011 04:57:12PM *  10 points [-]

Chapter 65:

I thought the way chapter dealt with Hagrid was very appropriate. The fact is Hagrid wouldn't have much to add to the story and Harry wouldn't be able to interact with him well, but that fact IS a little sad. If Harry had been the POV character at the time we might have gotten a little sense of that sadness, but having us experience it through McGonnagal helps remind us that there are real social consequences to the way Harry thinks about things.

I understand, intellectually, why Harry is still working with Quirrel. It's not necessarily rational, but it makes sense for emotional reasons that I can buy. But the fact is there's only so far I can go along with this before the reader-character disconnect becomes too great. Yes, we have information Harry doesn't, but what started out as interesting irony is becoming really frustrating, to the point that I just won't be able to root for Harry if he continues down this path.

On a related note, if Harry is becoming increasingly hard I think the story will need alternate sources of the warmth and humor that defined it in the beginning, to help break up the sheer bleakness. On top of that, I'd already been hoping to see more chapters from the POV of Padme, Hermione and various other secondary characters. The small exchange between them in chapter 65 has me hoping we'll get some of that soon.

Comment author: Eneasz 07 January 2011 10:09:22PM 4 points [-]

Can I ask for clarification as to WHY a Harry/Quirrel alliance is a bad thing?

Please don't say "because he's Voldemort". It seems possible that MOR!He-Who-Sall-Not-Be-Named wasn't pure evil, and it's been hinted that even good people like Dumbledor used some decidedly evil tactics. Furthermore, it is strongly suggested that Quirrel/Voldemort have learned quite a bit from the first attempt at world-optimization and are taking corrective action.

Is it because this path leads to taking over the world? This seems a strange objection if we consider that one of the purposes of at least a portion of the HPMoR readers is to create a minor god. World-optimization is an explicit goal.

Is it because if a Harry/Quirrel alliance takes over they won't implement at CEV? Is that necessarily a bad thing if we consider that a CEV may well result in Azkaban staying open?

I love the battle of wits between the two, especially because it seems a large part of it isn't just "using" the other person, it is attempting to convert the other person to one's own view. And I think I particularly love this battle because I myself am often caught between cynicism and idealism, and I find myself rooting for BOTH of them at the same time. As a result, I kinda hope they both win together. Maybe end up using each other for balance, each one preventing the other from swinging too far to one extreme (or at least from taking extreme action). Everyone needs a check, and only Harry is powerful enough to be Quirrel's, and only Quirrel is powerful enough to be Harry's.

Comment author: Raemon 07 January 2011 11:32:20PM 3 points [-]

There's a lot we don't know about Quirrel, which might turn out to make him a good guy, or an interesting guy, or a guy who we ultimately would root for for one reason or another.

Right now, we don't know those things. What we do know is that he killed Rita Skeeter for, as far as we can tell, no good reason. That's one thing we know for sure which Harry specifically doesn't know, and IMO it's enough to assume that (from our perspective) Harry should not be working with Quirrel. Eventually we may learn new things, but for now the disconnect is too great for me.

I do like the interaction between two when it comes to the "battle of wits," as long as its an actual contest and not Harry going along with things that are obviously a bad idea. So far we haven't really seen Harry's response - all he either says or even thinks is "let me think about it." So maybe I'm needlessly worrying. But seeing the first thing Harry do after participating in what was clearly a [i]very bad series of decisions[/i] is to initiate a similar conversation to what led to those decisions in the first place.... it just made me feel really squicky.

Comment author: Eneasz 08 January 2011 12:02:36AM 5 points [-]

after participating in what was clearly a very bad series of decisions

I've heard this a lot. I'm still not sure I agree with it. Harry gained quite a lot from the excursion. A great deal of knowledge about magic, about the politics of the wizarding world, about Quirrel himself. He discovered new uses for the Deathly Hollow, new ways to fight Dementors, and how he functions in life-threatening situations. A lot of practice in problem-solving under intense pressure. And two very powerful wizards now owe him... something? A favor? At any rate, it worked to strengthen ties, he can more readily call on them in the future. And a fellow student will follow any order he may ever give, unto death.

On the other hand, he also lost his freedom and a portion of his soul, and mauled a guard with rocket-fire. If Harry was asked before the adventure began "Are you willing to get the above advantages and penalties in exchange for a 1% chance of death and a 30% chance of capture and disgrace?" he would have very likely said no.

But he also saved another person from Azkaban, a person who was being tortured to death. That's huge, especially for Harry. Throw that into the mix as well and he might very well have accepted. At any rate, it's not blindly obvious that he'd immediately reject it as a very bad decision.

And for our side we got to witness a huge amount of character growth, a fair bit of plot development, and a very entertaining series of chapters. Literary figures get some wiggle room for "poor decisions" in the interest of a good story. Not in an "idiot ball" sort of way, but how much fun would Moby Dick have been if Ahab had just said "Eh, it's a dumb whale, shit happens" and got on with life?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2011 07:33:53PM 18 points [-]

how much fun would Moby Dick have been if Ahab had just said "Eh, it's a dumb whale, shit happens" and got on with life?

Congratulations, you just wrote "Moby Dick and the Methods of Rationality".

Comment author: Raemon 08 January 2011 04:21:22AM 3 points [-]

It was a bad decision specifically because, as Harry himself articulates, he did not actually properly weight the pros and cons. It could have very well BEEN the right decision if he had spent more time evaluating it. But instead he made his decisions based on the assumption that his life had a plot.

I should clarify that I DON'T have any problem, from a literary or a reader perspective, with the decisions Harry made towards the end of Act 1. Eliezer put a lot of effort into setting up that finale so that it made sense in context, and had a huge emotional payoff. But I feel that that effort has now paid off in full. For me to get behind Harry making a new set of questionable decisions, I need more proper setup for it to feel right.

Granted, there are people who felt from the very beginning that Harry was psychotic and evil, and stopped rooting for him as soon as he dismissed Ron. And nothing will satisfy those people. And my own preference is just that - my own preference, and it may be that the story Eliezer set out to tell will not fully satisfy me either. I'm simply stating my own concerns.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 08 December 2010 11:15:12PM 10 points [-]

I suggest that the clock that Dumbledore gave to Trelawney contains at least one recording spell, to make sure that if she has another prophesy, Dumbledore will find out about it.

I further submit that he has placed similar spells on various objects of hers, so that he as this assurance even when she isn't near the clock.


Comment author: Schlega 03 December 2010 05:49:31AM 9 points [-]

"And before you ask, it must be the original grave, the place of first burial, the bone removed during the ritual and not before. Thus he cannot have retrieved it earlier; and also there is no point in substituting the skeleton of a weaker ancestor. He would notice it had lost all potency."

I wonder how long a ritual can last. If it was started ten years ago but never finished, would that be a loophole?

Comment author: FAWS 27 November 2010 08:34:36PM *  9 points [-]

62: Huh, somehow (nearly?) everyone who speculated how Harry would get out of that one forgot that they hand out time machines to children so they can attend more classes.

Comment author: DanArmak 27 November 2010 11:29:18PM 9 points [-]

Including Dumbledore and Snape and McGonnagal! Who really should know better. They speculate that Harry was forced to use his Time-Turner for the Dark Lord, but they don't even think to check up on all the other children who have one? For shame.

Comment author: Yvain 28 November 2010 12:24:22AM 8 points [-]

I think the missing insight was that there were students who would be willing to convey messages back in time with no explanation and keep their mouths shut.

Comment author: Alicorn 27 November 2010 09:11:12PM 5 points [-]

...Which is weird, because unless they want to prohibit students from taking certain pairs of electives, no two classes should take place simultaneously for any given house and year.

Comment author: alethiophile 27 November 2010 09:33:47PM 24 points [-]

That is an oddity. However, note that they don't have computers, and setting up a schedule properly for everyone who's signed up for whatever classes seems like it might well be incredibly difficult without same. It could be that someone saw this and said 'F* it, just give them time machines.' That would certainly fit with the level of sense shown so far in magical Britain.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 November 2010 08:16:50AM 24 points [-]

It could be that someone saw this and said 'F* it, just give them time machines.'

I now declare this MoR!canon.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 November 2010 12:33:06AM 5 points [-]

I've been to college and suffered the frustration of trying to juggle classes that take place at inconvenient times relative to each other. But we don't seem to have the conflicts divulged to the students. Hermione "just signs up for everything", she doesn't say "gosh, it looks like this class and that one conflict, so I'll have to pick one - but I can't choose! Aaah! - Professor McGonagall, isn't there something you could do?!"

Comment author: Halceon 27 November 2010 10:22:39PM 3 points [-]

They do, however, have magic. And if there are charms that specifically identify trash to clean, then there must be charms that can organize words on parchment according to a few simple rules.

Comment author: erratio 27 November 2010 11:38:06PM 8 points [-]

The rules are not that simple. School timetabling is NP-hard and even stimulated annealing is unlikely to get it completely correct.

Comment author: wedrifid 03 December 2010 02:41:08AM 5 points [-]

The rules are not that simple.

The rules are simple. So are the rules for Go.

stimulated annealing

I had to look up whether that was, in fact, a new kind of optimisation algorithm. It certainly sounds like it should be. ;)

Comment author: Halceon 28 November 2010 12:17:42AM 3 points [-]

Ok, objection noted. My first sentence, however, stands and they still have magic.

Though this might be a matter similar to the clocks - nobody has thought of doing it, so it hasn't been done.

Comment author: erratio 28 November 2010 01:43:20AM 8 points [-]

I should probably have been clearer: the reason classes are often scheduled at the same time is because it's impossible not to. You have some amount of staff, each of whom have to teach some amount of lower level and/or elective classes, and then you have a couple hundred students each of whom pick 5-7 (or whatever it is, I haven't read the books recently) electives in whatever combination most appeals to them. The chances of not having a collision anywhere in the whole timetable are pretty damn low. Non-magical schools deal with collisions by forcing students with unpopular combinations to change one of their options (which is what my school did), or by offering a an extra class during lunch or outside regular school hours (which I've heard of other schools doing)

Comment author: wedrifid 03 December 2010 02:44:01AM 2 points [-]

They do, however, have magic. And if there are charms that specifically identify trash to clean, then there must be charms that can organize words on parchment according to a few simple rules.

And house elves. There are almost certainly spirits of intellect they could summon too! If not, they have had time to do plenty of selective breeding on their chattel. That said... HP wizard authorities are really thick when it comes to these things.

Comment author: erratio 27 November 2010 11:35:16PM 6 points [-]

It's not that weird. School timetabling is hard (probably NP-hard, since the best way to do it by computer is stimulated annealing followed by human tweaks. In reality it's pretty much always done entirely by hand), and it's normal in regular schools for uncommon elective pairs (for example, computing and art) to be scheduled at the same time.

Comment author: DaveX 28 November 2010 03:01:33AM 3 points [-]

After reading that Bones and Dumbledore had timeturners, and remembering that if the ministry hands them out to schoolchildren, I thought probably any ministry official rating an iPhone, Blackberry, or Franklin Planner would have one as well. So, certainly the Dark Lord should/could/would have recognized their utility and gathered a few for his side.

Comment author: cousin_it 02 December 2010 07:11:38PM *  8 points [-]

Ch. 62-63: I think I found a plot hole. Not as big as the one with eagles in LOTR, but close.

Why didn't anyone ask Harry to drop his occlumency shields and check his memories? There are three people who can propose it:

1) Dumbledore: should have done it immediately upon picking up Harry in Mary's Place, because he still suspected him then. Also the Animagus potion isn't evidence that Harry is innocent, why does everyone think it is?

2) Snape: knows about the existence of the covert message-passing network, knows about the Time-Turners given to students, knows about McGonagall's woefully inadequate method of testing Harry's Time-Turner (just giving Harry a tricky task instead of confiscating the device and checking it), knows Harry had a motive for the crime. A natural first step would be to read the minds of all students with Time-Turners to see if they conveyed suspicious messages on that time/day. He may even stumble upon that accidentally while reading students' minds later.

3) Moody: an order of magnitude smarter and more paranoid than Dumbledore. Should suggest inspecting Harry's memories immediately upon learning the details of the story, e.g. the use of Muggle artifacts in the jailbreak.

Final note: unlike the Time-Turner test, this one can be carried out at any later time unless Harry Obliviates himself or something. It took me three days to get the idea, in-universe characters should be smarter and more motivated than me, so I give them three days of story time and then I will officially declare them stupid.

Comment author: JGWeissman 05 December 2010 10:04:47PM 8 points [-]

The obvious test I noticed they failed to perform involves Dumbledore asking Harry to summon his patronus.

Comment author: marchdown 07 December 2010 06:06:22PM 5 points [-]

That's why I think that Dumbledore is covering up for Harry to a certain extent.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 02 December 2010 07:45:37PM *  6 points [-]

In general, this is explained when bringing up Occlumency in the first place. If he was good enough, he could readily agree to dropping his shields, then just keep them up. How would they tell? Again, this is assuming that he's good enough, but it does mean that they could never be certain. If they were motivated enough, they could Imperios to make sure he actually did it, but it is an Unforgivable...

1) I agree w/ JoshuaZ, Dumbledore might not want to further antagonize Harry w/o quite possibly gaining anything from it. It might be worth the risk, though.

2) That is quite possible, but I think that Snape's biggest hurdle in this is that he is still seriously underestimating Harry. Though the fact that Quirrell had to deduce that the girl had a Time Turner, and not just know, means that he possibly wouldn't know that there's a Slytherin w/ a Time Turner, or even necessarily that there are any issued at the moment. He could, through checking his student's schedules, but he might not know offhand.

3) I really wouldn't say an order of magnitude smarter than Dumbledore, he's just tuned his mind to that kind of thinking through decades of experience. Again, I agree w/ JoshuaZ in that Moody wouldn't be thinking of him as an option. He honestly might not even know the information that would be required for him to make that deduction, like Harry's predilection for Muggle artifacts.

edit: I forgot to say, I did not think of the animagus potion as evidence of Harry's innocence, but rather of Voldemort's guilt. Rather than making Harry less likely, it merely makes Voldemort more likely.

Comment author: cousin_it 02 December 2010 07:48:43PM *  3 points [-]

Harry isn't good enough to fool Dumbledore's Legilimency, and he knows that. See Ch. 58:

He had decided to keep the memories. For one thing, they were important. For another, he and the Defense Professor had started planning this a week ago, and Harry wasn't about to obliterate the whole last week, or explain to Bellatrix exactly what needed to be Obliviated. Harry could probably fool Veritaserum, and if Dumbledore insisted that Harry drop his Occlumency shields for a deeper examination... well, Harry had acted heroically throughout.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 02 December 2010 07:55:15PM 4 points [-]

Harry knows it--or believes it, at least. Does Dumbledore?

Comment author: HonoreDB 02 December 2010 07:55:15PM 5 points [-]

To these three, the animagus potion is such a blatant Voldemort calling-card that it screens off Harry's involvement. Not only that, they simply haven't thought of the idea that Voldemort and Harry are working together, so to them Voldemort's involvement exonerates Harry.

Voldemort's potion was just that good of a trick. The only people it could fail to work on were people who were plotting at too low a level, and they were fooled by the time-turner test.

Comment author: cousin_it 03 December 2010 07:43:09AM *  4 points [-]

Maybe I'm being obtuse, but why is it a Voldemort calling card?

Comment author: orthonormal 21 December 2010 05:14:04AM 4 points [-]

Even if they don't suspect Harry, they should still have searched his memories in order to figure out what event might have triggered the time-paradox. That really ought to trump any concerns about Harry's mental privacy, and besides, they should expect Harry to go along with it.

Comment author: marchdown 05 December 2010 08:32:02PM 4 points [-]

I think that the story leaves a lot of uncertainty in its depictions of other characters' disposition towards Harry and each other. We still don't know what level Dumbledore's playing on. Did he notice Harry in the prison cell (he could, since he might have mastered the deadly hallows)? Did he connect the hole in the wall or transfigured rocket fuel with Harry's magic style? Could he stop rocket-powered broomstick in time? Is he Santa Claus? Did he mislead McGonagall to try the flawed test? Did he prompt Snape to confront Quirrell at Mary's Place? What does he know and suspect about Quirrell?

McGonagall seems to be irrationally optimistic about everything and hopeful about Harry. Snape underestimates Harry, or at least doesn' t interfere with him all that much. Mad-Eye doesn't know Harry personally, or else he would probably instantly unravel all of his plots and half of Quirrell's and Dumbledore's for good measure.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 02 December 2010 07:14:56PM 2 points [-]

1 is a good point, but Dumbledore doesn't know how good Harry's barriers are and may not want to further antagonize Harry. 2 is certainly an issue and it could easily occur to Snape. 3 isn't that much of a big deal since it isn't at all clear that Moody is thinking about Harry as an option at all.

Comment author: mag 02 December 2010 12:46:04PM 8 points [-]

Harry has decided, I'm sure correctly, that Quirrell's ability to flawlessly adopt any persona and simulate any intention for long stretches of time while simultaneously furthering his own (true) goals makes him impossible to trust. But if Harry buys into Quirrell's claims, Harry is equally capable of perpetual, undetectable duplicity and therefore equally unworthy of trust. And if he believes that's the case, it's just going to isolate him further, since he'll conclude that anyone who wants to be his friend is either irrational or overlooking the factors that make him an untrustworthy person. So Quirrell may have just convinced Harry that literally all of his relationships, present or future, are tantamount to a sort of deception. Good job!

Comment author: Vaniver 02 December 2010 02:00:39PM 8 points [-]

Oddly enough, salvation here might come from Draco, with his arguments that influence/manipulation/persuasion is, far from being evil, actually a good thing and you can't have healthy relationships without it.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 27 November 2010 10:14:46PM 8 points [-]

I am very interested in what the effect of magics to nullify "opposite reaction science" will be. Biochemistry cannot work in such a regime, and unless the witch actively puts in something to account for this, you're going to get a lot of dead Aurors and prisoners; although I suppose they'll learn this as they experiment with the jinx. Even if it does work in the sense of not instantly killing everyone in the area of effect, there will be much weirdness; whatever humans expect when they start to consciously think about physics, our reflexes have to be tuned for Newtonian mechanics. I will look forward to seeing how plausibly weird this can get.

On another note, I wonder if we can create a repository of links to other Internet discussion of the fic? I'll start with this thread on Orson Scott Card's discussion site.

Comment author: thomblake 29 November 2010 07:36:50PM 5 points [-]

My take on this is that it's just an illustration that wizards really don't understand science, and they'll be unsuccessful at implementing their anti-physics charm.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 29 November 2010 01:01:58PM 2 points [-]

Isn't the normal force dependent on/related to this? My mental image is of people falling through the floor because the normal force doesn't automatically balance their weight.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 27 November 2010 03:31:26PM 8 points [-]

Should we maybe add a prominent note to the prior threads that current discussion is here? New users who aren't aware of the discussion sections may have trouble locating the new thread.

Comment author: Unnamed 27 November 2010 09:54:02PM 3 points [-]

Threads 1, 3, and 5 have been updated with a link here.

Comment author: gjm 28 November 2010 02:51:54AM 3 points [-]

4 too, now. Thanks for the reminder.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 27 November 2010 02:41:40PM 8 points [-]

I was bothered by the irrationality preceding the whole prison sequence. Harry thinks of himself as one of the first people able to adequately investigate an entire branch of previously unknown human capabilities. capabilities so powerful that they have the promise of significantly speeding up human progress toward nullifying existential threats and eliminating vast swaths of needless suffering. and then he puts himself in personal danger of death to save one innocent person.

now from a story telling perspective it was great. I even regard it as a worthy trade off since we got some choice anti-democracy bits out of it.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 November 2010 07:54:52PM 7 points [-]

It's like Harry is Harry Potter instead of Eliezer or something!

Comment author: alethiophile 27 November 2010 10:19:50PM 4 points [-]

This does seem like it would be the proper rationalist manifestation of canon!Harry's 'saving people thing'. He's just more self-aware about it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 November 2010 08:09:16PM 7 points [-]

Thinking about ch63 (which is among my favorite chapters to read so far)...

I am, of course, curious to see what the implications are of Harry's formally declaring opposition to Death.

But more than that, I am curious about the implications of his epistemology.

Ultimately Harry breaks his connection to Quirrell because he realizes Quirrell can maintain a surface appearance that is radically distinct from his deep structure, and consequently Harry can't know what Quirrell "truly" is. As distinct from, say, Hermione or Draco, who (Harry believes) can be read on the surface.

That seems to suggest that Harry has entirely given up on the idea of judging people by what they do... at least, when it comes to Quirrell.

Well, and Hermione. After all, this is precisely Harry's criticism of Fawkes: Fawkes only judges her based on what she has done, rather than on "the notion of there being something that a person is".

Now, in the real world, I know a lot of people who have more or less this attitude; who judge people based on their apprehension of some kind of core self, and believe that core is what really matters, and that judgments based on people's actions are inadequate by comparison. But those people don't describe themselves as rationalists. Indeed, most of them talk about that "core self" in language that soi-disant rationalists dismiss out of hand. Presumably Harry isn't going that route.

I will be interested to see what route he goes instead.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 November 2010 03:23:11PM 2 points [-]

That seems to suggest that Harry has entirely given up on the idea of judging people by what they do... at least, when it comes to Quirrell.

Quirrel is a schemer and what he does or rather wants you to think he does is not what he really did. Let's take the dementor for an example. What Quirrel did was bring a powerful creature within reach of Harry with the effect of almost killing him. But also with the effect of teaching Harry the true Patronus. How would you judge Quirrel according to this deed? With a more straight forward character you could assume he really wanted to teach the children to defend themselves which probably is good. And Harry realized that this straight forward reasoning doesn't apply to Quirrel.

Comment author: DanArmak 29 November 2010 10:01:41PM 2 points [-]

I am, of course, curious to see what the implications are of Harry's formally declaring opposition to Death.

Meh. He declares war on Azkaban, not on Death. I suppose it could be read (very) broadly to mean he declares war on severe torture.

If only he'd shut up and calculate, he'd realize that to prevent the largest amount of suffering he should dedicate his life to researching magical means of granting immortality to everyone, like the Philosopher's Stone.

Comment author: Eneasz 02 December 2010 07:04:40PM 5 points [-]

Meh. He declares war on Azkaban, not on Death. I suppose it could be read (very) broadly to mean he declares war on severe torture.

He was already at war with Death, AND with Azkaban/severe torture. The big character-shift in 63 is that he no longer believes in democracy. If he becomes God, he will not necessarily be a CEV, he'll do what he personally believes to be right.

Comment author: thomblake 17 January 2011 07:57:09PM 4 points [-]

he no longer believes in democracy. If he becomes God, he will not necessarily be a CEV, he'll do what he personally believes to be right.

Democracy isn't CEV. People will vote for all sorts of things when they're not as good or smart as they could be.

Comment author: David_Allen 29 November 2010 11:22:30PM 7 points [-]

If only he'd shut up and calculate, he'd realize that to prevent the largest amount of suffering he should dedicate his life to researching magical means of granting immortality to everyone, like the Philosopher's Stone.

Granting immortality is not the same as preventing suffering. Maximizing life span may in fact maximize the opportunities for suffering.

Future suffering or death must be discounted to provide a present value. It is more valuable to save a life now than to save a life a year from now, all else being equal.

Harry would also have to consider opportunity costs and the likelihood of success. He knows that dementors can be killed now. Finding an acceptable magical approach to immortality is less certain, and may actually take more time to develop than a non-magical approach. Harry's optimal approach may be to kill dementors now, research the nature of magic, and to wait for muggle science to find immortality.

Comment author: CronoDAS 04 January 2011 05:07:19PM 6 points [-]

Chapter 65:

Should Harry believe what Quirrell told him about the destination of the Portkey?

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2011 08:31:33PM *  25 points [-]

And where did the Portkey lead to before Quirrell tapped it with his wand?

Comment author: dclayh 05 January 2011 02:05:56AM 5 points [-]

I was more interested in Quirrell's statement about the note. Have we seen evidence before that the lawyer/genie style of not-technically-lying is particularly relevant in the magical world? Veritaserum, perhaps?

Comment author: Desrtopa 05 January 2011 02:27:11AM 5 points [-]

Magical means of compelling truth do seem like a good reason to develop a habit of being able to mislead others without technically lying to them.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 05 January 2011 10:29:36PM 2 points [-]

Would veritaserum allow you to remain in a state in which you are capable of deliberately misleading, even if by strict reading of what you say, it's true from a certain perspective?

(I guess we'd have to in part know something about the mechanism of its operation, and why it is that in the MoRverse, being an occulamens makes you immune to it, before we could guess at that)

Comment author: WrongBot 04 January 2011 10:46:43PM 2 points [-]

Yes. It's a question that could be verified by a third party without too much difficulty, and I think Quirrell would strongly disprefer to be caught lying. Making Harry mistrust the note-sender may be to his advantage, but I don't think it's enough to outweigh the downside.

Comment author: Broggly 05 January 2011 07:57:53AM 2 points [-]

If he did (somehow) know about the note before Harry told him about it, there could well be some plausibly deniable reason he could later give as to why he was only able to say "London" and not "The Chancery Building"

I'm not sure what potential risks portkeys could have over long distances (in Canon Potter, to say nothing of MOR Potter) so this might not actually be evidence of trickery on Santa Claus' part, although since neither of the two brought it up I'm probably just fighting Santa Claus not intending to send Harry to Salem because that's just what Eliezer wants us to think.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 13 December 2010 09:36:36PM *  6 points [-]

An inconsistency (handing Harry an unnecessary Idiot Ball).

In Ch. 61, Harry uses the following as an impostor recognition precaution:

M: What did the hat tell me to tell you?
- H

"Ah," Minerva said aloud in surprise, her mind taking a moment to place the question, it wasn't the sort of thing you'd forget but she hadn't been thinking in that mode, really - "I'm an impudent youngster and I should get off its lawn."

But in Ch. 12, Harry announced this fact publicly, thus making the weight of evidence of the correct response lower than of other things he could've asked:

"You want to know what happened? Fine! Here's part of what happened! I told the Hat that Professor McGonagall threatened to set it on fire and it told me to tell Professor McGonagall that she was an impudent youngster and she should get off its lawn!"

Comment author: Kingreaper 13 December 2010 10:00:43PM *  5 points [-]

Harry doesn't actually suspect McGonagall, but wishes to seem as though he does. As it's a goal that's a degree removed, he probably didn't think it through a thoroughly as he could have. Especially with the stress of other issues weighing on his mind.

Whether anyone will pick up on that depends on their faith in Harry's abilities. In general, I don't think they're so convinced that he's supersmart, and capable of maintaining composure in situations where he's under significant threat, that they'll find it unusual. Hence, his actual goal (convincing them that he needs convincing) is achieved.

So, considering those two factors, I wouldn't really consider it an idiot ball. Just Harry being human, rather than a hyperintelligent FAI.

Comment author: grautry 28 November 2010 04:15:53PM *  6 points [-]

Chapter 62.

Well, that was interesting.

I'm wondering whether the general opinion of Harry as dark is going to change as a result of a freaking phoenix following him around.

Incidentally, I've honestly got mixed feelings about this issue. Dumbledore is completely correct in his "it's not that simple" sentiment but Dementors are evil.

I'm actually wondering whether Wizards in general agree with Azkaban torture or if they just feel that Dementors have to be dealt with somehow. Since everyone 'knows' they're invulnerable, they decided to deal with them by assigning them the role of prison wardens. There's not much else that you can do against an enemy that cannot die except to reach some sort of an agreement with them. In the end, it's probably better if they prey on prisoners then on everyone else. It's monstrous, yes, but does anyone here honestly have a better solution, if you accept the premise that Dementors are indestructible?

If that's the case then Harry keeping his uber-Patronus secret might actually be detrimental to his cause of ridding the world of Dementors.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 November 2010 05:30:22PM 8 points [-]

It's monstrous, yes, but does anyone here honestly have a better solution, if you accept the premise that Dementors are indestructible?

Were I involved in the decision-making, and assuming the Dementors are not just indestructible but also unimprisonable, unteleportable-to-the-surface-of-Jupiter, and so forth, I'd like to think I would present the following argument: "Right now, we can't defeat the Dementors, so we do best to negotiate some kind of agreement with them. We ought to continue researching a way to defeat them, and implement it when we find one. If we negotiate an agreement that we find convenient or easy to ignore, our odds of doing those things decrease, so Azkaban is a bad solution. I propose instead that we institute a lottery and feed the selected people to the volcano god -- um, I mean, the Dementors. I further propose that we do so publicly, and that the only exception we allow is for people who are actively and effectively working on solving the Dementor problem."

But I would expect to be voted down.

At which point I would be briefly tempted to "walk away from Omelas," but wouldn't follow through on it.

Comment author: gwern 29 November 2010 04:26:08PM *  30 points [-]

But "pessimistic" wasn't the correct word to describe Professor Quirrell's problem - if a problem it truly was, and not the superior wisdom of experience. But to Harry it looked like Professor Quirrell was constantly interpreting everything in the worst possible light. If you handed Professor Quirrell a glass that was 90% full, he'd tell you that the 10% empty part proved that no one really cared about water.

Well. That settles it for me - Quirrel is based off Robin Hanson.

EDIT: It saddens me a little that this is my most-upvoted comment ever.

Comment author: sanyasi 30 November 2010 05:17:53AM 7 points [-]

And Mad Eye is Bruce Schneier.

Comment author: gwern 30 November 2010 04:38:39PM 2 points [-]

Is he really? I've read Schneier for years and I don't get any vibes off Moody. For example, Moody espouses all sorts of complicated theories which are the sort of 'movie plots' that Schneier derides.

If anyone, I think Mad Eye is James Jesus Angleton, or possibly Moody is an 'anti-Schneier'. (Personally, I think Eliezer is simply exaggerating Moody in the spirit of I'll-show-you-true-constant-vigilance!)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 03 December 2010 06:53:35AM 4 points [-]

Because Moody wonders whether the Muggles are just pretending to have wards - that's a Schneierism.

Comment author: Vaniver 02 December 2010 02:06:00PM 6 points [-]

Man, this just makes the fanfic-as-idealized-autobiography bells go off in my head even more.

(Also, I totally sympathize on the most-upvoted sadness.)

Comment author: mag 02 December 2010 05:30:56PM 2 points [-]

You hit the nail on the head when you describe the story as "idealized autobiography," but I think it makes sense for one's most important ideological frenemies (Hanson) to end up getting represented in a satire chiefly about ideology.

Comment author: WrongBot 29 November 2010 07:50:08PM 4 points [-]

I've been getting this impression, too; there have been several occasions where Quirrell has advocated something very close to Hanson's signaling theory of human behavior.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 06 January 2011 12:04:56AM 5 points [-]

Maybe I missed something here, but what reason does Harry have to be so certain that phoenices follow good people in the first place?

Comment author: FAWS 06 January 2011 12:35:29AM *  2 points [-]

Probably his chats with Fawkes. The phoenix song seems to convey more than just words.

Comment author: Leonhart 04 January 2011 10:38:21PM 5 points [-]

Chapter 65, HP on PQ: "I think maybe that's what he's getting wrong - that he's cynical about everything else, but not about cynicism itself."

Did anyone else remember this exchange?

Comment author: PeterS 10 December 2010 11:35:09PM *  5 points [-]

In some attacks it's okay to hold of on proposing solutions. In others, it's not. Presumably, there actually are some bad people in Azkaban, and not just, say, people responsible for an accidental death. Before Harry destroys the prison, he needs to think carefully about what is to become of these people.

What's required of a maximum security wizard prison? You clearly need to subdue any magical powers which would allow the prisoners to revolt or escape. At a minimum then, confiscate wands and put up anti-Disapparition charms. This might not be enough, as in canon it's possible to perform magic without a wand. Voldemort was able to terrorize the other orphans by "hand-to-hand" magical means before he had even been introduced to wand-based magic! So what else can you do? You could Somnium prisoners for the duration of their sentence, but this seems both inhumane and ineffective as a means of punishment (if that's actually a goal of imprisonment).

We don't really know enough to say to what degree it's possible to subdue a wizard's magical powers without bringing in the Dementors. If Dementors are just a reification of the fear of death, perhaps you could terrorize the prisoners in some manner as to achieve a similar effect. This would be unacceptable from Harry's point of view. In canon, we see that some people's magical abilities diminish due to heartbreak (Tonks and possibly Tom Riddle's mother). It might be possible to exploit this phenomenon somehow, but then again it could fail to work on psychopathic prisoners.

Given what we don't know, it's possible that all solutions to this problem are inhumane (i.e. the only way to suppress magical ability is by trauma). We don't live in the HP:MoR universe, so we can't do much research on the possibilities, but Harry should!

EDIT: The thought occurred that you could transfigure the prisoners into Muggles. Could be possible, but only for short periods of time (and may require at least a 1-1 ratio of guards to prisoners).

Comment author: FAWS 10 December 2010 11:51:55PM 9 points [-]

Allow the worst prisoners to choose between Askaban, taking an unbreakable vow not to escape the normal prison and execution.

Comment author: PeterS 11 December 2010 12:01:56AM 4 points [-]

Good idea. But this effectively makes failing to "go quietly" punishable by death.

Comment author: Schlega 14 December 2010 09:38:54AM 3 points [-]

Replace execution with Somnium. That way, people who prefer death over imprisonment can be revived if they are later exonerated.

Comment author: MoreOn 13 December 2010 01:09:03AM *  4 points [-]

What's the purpose of imprisonment in the first place?

  1. To guard the society from criminals.
  2. To punish the criminals (revenge on the behalf of the relatives/victims).
  3. To redeem the criminals (so that they don't commit another crime).

The way Harry's been acting, seems like he'd strongly prioritize #3 over the other two. And considering that he didn't hold too much of a grudge against Draco for gom jabar'ing him, and believed that Bellatrix can be turned back into an okay human being, it seems like he would want to devise some sort of a method to redeem criminals.

And thanks, TobyBartels, for noticing my circular vocabulary issue.

Comment author: TobyBartels 13 December 2010 03:54:27AM *  2 points [-]

[Obsolete material has been moved to the bottom.]

It's worth breaking (1) up into two parts:

  • To keep those specific criminals from harming society.
  • To deter other criminals.

None of this affects your main point much: that in any case #3 is very important to Harry. (So I vote you up regardless.)

[Obsolete material follows.]

You ask what's the purpose of punishment, and one of your answers is punishment. I have two hypotheses towards what you actually meant:

What's the purpose of imprisonment? 2. Punishment.


What's the purpose of punishment? 2. Revenge.

Did you mean one of these, and if so then which?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 December 2010 09:42:39AM 4 points [-]

I'm pretty sure that one of the common purposes of punishment is to make the people who are imposing it feel better. This may or may not be a glitch by some utilitarian standards.

Comment author: wedrifid 13 December 2010 04:03:02AM *  2 points [-]

It's also worth breaking (1) up into two parts:

Further, it is worth breaking up (2. Revenge) into two parts:

  • To deter other criminals.
  • So that you are the kind of person that other criminals, given mind reading instincts far more advanced than your ability to adapt your emotional responses, would not have f@#ed with in the first place.
Comment author: cousin_it 07 December 2010 01:00:55PM 5 points [-]

I finally realized what all this slithering reminds me of! If you want to experience the same emotions as Harry and the other kids when they weave Slytherin-style plots, lying to X about Y and to Y about X, brilliantly escaping from detection... just try juggling two or three concurrent girlfriends or boyfriends.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 07 December 2010 09:38:10PM 8 points [-]

Or if you want to do it in a way that isn't unethical, you can play Illuminati or Diplomacy or The "A Game of Thrones" Boardgame.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 December 2010 08:41:16PM 6 points [-]

just try juggling two or three concurrent girlfriends or boyfriends.

I'm actually rather curious as to what that would be like, specifically how difficult it would be to keep the intrigue from exploding. I'm actually thinking that these days Facebook would be most irritating hurdle.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 07 December 2010 03:00:31PM 2 points [-]

just try juggling two or three concurrent girlfriends or boyfriends

...who don't know about one another.

Comment author: David_Gerard 07 December 2010 03:22:40PM *  5 points [-]

just try juggling two or three concurrent girlfriends or boyfriends

...who don't know about one another.

From experience, open and informed polyamory isn't actually less work.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 07 December 2010 07:31:45PM 6 points [-]

Honest N-way relationships involve less plotting, lying, and escaping from detection than dishonest ones, which was my point. But, agreed, they still involve work.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 07 December 2010 06:24:13PM 2 points [-]

I think he added that line in reference to this part of the first poster that said:

lying to X about Y and to Y about X, brilliantly escaping from detection

Hopefully, that would not be included in an open relationship of any kind.

Comment author: Danylo 07 December 2010 12:55:02AM 5 points [-]

What were the two fanfics you recommended for their beauty?

Comment author: Yvain 28 November 2010 09:39:17PM 5 points [-]

"You're not my phoenix now... are you?"


"Oh," Harry said, his voice trembling a little, "I'm glad to hear that, Fawkes, because I don't >think - the Headmaster - I don't think he deserves -"

Harry stopped, took a breath.

"I don't think he deserves that, Fawkes, he was trying to do the right thing..."


"But you're angry at him and trying to make a point. I understand."

Did Fawkes' "caw!" mean "yes" or "no"?

I interpreted it as meaning "no", then Harry says he's glad because Dumbledore doesn't deserve to have his pet leave him because he was trying to do the right thing, but Fawkes is angry and wants to show Dumbledore how mad he is by giving him the cold shoulder for a short while.

One of the reviewers interpreted the caw as "yes', then Harry says he's glad because he doesn't think Dumbledore deserves a phoenix, then he takes a breath and sort of changes his mind and briefly applies principle of charity to Dumbledore, but understands that Fawkes is trying to make a point by leaving him.

Which way is intended?

Comment author: Manfred 28 November 2010 09:58:12PM 8 points [-]

I believe we should turn this over to RoosterTeeth.

"Fawkes, does caw mean yes?"


"Holy shit! He just said caw means yes. I speak phoenix!"

"Yeah, unless caw means no. In which case, he just said no, caw does not mean yes."

"What, no way. Hey Fawkes, am I right?"


"Hah, see?"

Comment author: gjm 28 November 2010 01:54:32PM 5 points [-]

I just noticed something that surprised me. In chapter 16 of MoR, you'll recall, Harry comes up with a long list of ways to use random things in the classroom for combat. One of them was to ram a wand into someone's eye socket.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, someone actually does attack someone by ramming a wand into their eye socket. The attacker is Neville Longbottom. (And as it happens he has pretty good reasons for doing it.)

So far as I am aware, no one in canon ever sharpens Hufflepuffs' bones to make weapons.

Comment author: alethiophile 27 November 2010 09:00:58PM 5 points [-]

A question: In canon, Dumbledore is satisfied with letting Harry go home to the Dursleys' in the summers because the magic that Lily imbued Harry with on the night of her death somehow extends to the home of her blood relatives. Shouldn't this effect happen in MoR as well? Assuming so, why is Dumbledore paranoid about allowing Harry to go home? Is it simply that canon!Dumbledore doesn't know about the ritual of the blood of the enemy?

Also, why isn't Hogwarts warded somehow against Portkeys? In canon, Voldemort gets Harry off for the blood of the enemy ritual by tricking him (through Crouch-Jr.!Moody) into touching a Portkey. Is there some ward similar to Azkaban's anti-anti-gravity that requires a password in the Portkey spell, and Crouch-Jr.!Moody was able to get the password? Or is that just a gaping, obvious hole in the defenses? (Actually, the fact that no one ever invaded Hogwarts with a Portkey suggests that there are some wards against Portkeying in.)

Comment author: NihilCredo 27 November 2010 09:57:20PM 5 points [-]

Shouldn't this effect happen in MoR as well?

During the Christmas break, Quirrellmort was able to get as far as the Verres-Evans garden, so if the protection is in place it extends at most to the physical walls of the house, which isn't much - first, because Harry isn't likely to stay secluded (and even if he swears to do so, his parents won't, and while outside of Dumbledore's authority he is susceptible to blackmail), and second, because there are probably sufficiently creative solutions to that little snafu (hijack and crash an airplane on the house? I doubt the Power of Love super-enchantment turned the building into an adamantium-darksteel nuclear bunker).

Comment author: DanArmak 28 November 2010 07:54:39PM 4 points [-]

Also, why isn't Hogwarts warded somehow against Portkeys?

When Snape and McGonnagal travel to Mary's, they have to take the Floo to Gringotts first, and remark that this is the fastest way out of Hogwarts. Presumably a Portkey would be faster (since it could take them directly where they wished), so either Dumbledore doesn't have Portkeys prepped for major locations like Diagon Alley (which would be stupid), or MoR!Hogwarts is warded against leaving by portkey.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 November 2010 12:11:11PM 5 points [-]

Is there any chance of moving the 5 older threads to the discussion section as well? That would make it easier to find them all by tag and unclutter the main section.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2010 08:00:43PM 13 points [-]

It has only just occurred to me that the fact that Harry ultimately proved unable to forgive Quirrell for casting Avada Kedavra is kind of brilliant.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 05 January 2011 05:01:24AM 4 points [-]

What's the policy/netiquette on fanfiction based on HPMoR?

I have a small story idea (not big, one chapter long) but I don't know how Eliezer feels about such things.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2011 07:29:27PM 6 points [-]

What's the policy/netiquette on fanfiction based on HPMoR?


Comment author: Alicorn 30 January 2011 07:30:31PM 5 points [-]

Also, if anyone's curious, derivatives of Luminosity/Radiance are also OK.

This means someone could write a MoR/Luminosity crossover if they were so inclined.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 January 2011 03:57:28PM *  4 points [-]

From here:

All fanfiction involves borrowing the original author's characters, situations, and world. It is ridiculous to turn around and complain if your own ideas get borrowed in turn. Anyone is welcome to steal any ideas from any fanfiction I write.

Eliezer also has a section specifically devoted to HPMoR fanfics in that page, though at present it only contains Once Upon a Tower. It seems pretty lonely in there, all by itself... why don't you write your story and give it some company?

Comment author: thomblake 17 January 2011 06:58:42PM 2 points [-]

I asked him once, here. He reacted favorably. (for the curious, work in progress).

Comment author: Eneasz 21 December 2010 08:34:19PM 4 points [-]

Given Dust Specks vs Torture, at what level of dis-utility to everyone else alive (adjusting both disutility-per-person and total-number-of-people-in-existence) should Harry's multiplications tell him to shut up and accept the torture in Azkaban as preferable to whatever inconveniences everyone else may suffer by implementing a less torturous prison system?

Comment author: TobyBartels 22 December 2010 01:24:39AM 5 points [-]

At some point he must admit that, of course. But given how messed up and untrustworthy the administration of Magical Britain is, he ought to err on the side of destroying Dementors until he's able to get better information.

Comment author: Eneasz 22 December 2010 03:18:20PM 2 points [-]

I ask specifically because I disagree with the conclusion that anything is justified as long as a large enough number of people are inconvenienced, and I was wondering if seeing the counter-argument put in such strong emotional terms in HP:MoR was convincing to anyone on the other side.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 December 2010 04:57:41PM 7 points [-]

Well, for my own part I don't find the two arguments comparable, because they talk about different things.

Harry's situation, like real-world situations, is about expected utility calculations. He's asking the question: "given my best estimates of the probabilities of various outcomes to my actions, and of the utility of those outcomes, including my best estimates of my estimates being wrong, what actions provide the most expected utility?"

But DSvT isn't like that at all. If I Introduce imperfect information and human cognitive limitations to the dust-specks argument and the whole thing collapses... how do I know there's actually a choice between torture and lots of dust specks? How do I know how many dust specks there are? How likely is it that whoever gave me this information is lying? And so forth.

This isn't unique to the dust-specks argument. Any thought experiment that depends for its force on a really really big disutility, but which doesn't take into account the magnitude of the probability of that disutility or the associated expected disutility, is hard to translate into a world of imperfect information and human cognitive limitations, where probability and expected utility are all we have to work with.

To say that more concretely: if we put Harry in the position of absolutely believing that he must choose between 50 years of torture or 3^^^3 dust specks, should Harry shut up and torture? Well, it probably doesn't matter: the most likely conclusion from that premise is that Harry is insane.

Comment author: Eneasz 22 December 2010 07:44:39PM 4 points [-]

This, in my mind, puts the entire premise of the DSvT post in a very dark light. Given what we know about the real world and the real limitations of practice (vs theory) then the only effect of the DSvT post is to make people more likely to torture (or to excuse torture) in the real world - which is exactly where the hypothetical is completely inapplicable. It makes the world a slightly worse place for no benefit.

Or at least none that I can see. Is there a benefit I'm missing?

And if not, does this make it a mini-basilisk? Something that's true but that everyone's better off having never read?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 December 2010 08:25:56PM 5 points [-]

The costs and benefits seem fairly analogous to those of "trolley problems," which is well-travelled ground at this point, so I won't try to cover it again.

If you can see a benefit to trolley problems in general, it seems you ought to be able to see the same benefit here. Conversely, if you don't, then it seems you should have the same objection to trolley problems involving death, torture, murder, and other bad practices.

Personally, I invoke Weber's Law in these sorts of cases: when a posited delta is smaller than the just-noticeable-difference, I stop having faith in anyone's intuitions about it, including my own. Anyone who wants to compel me with an argument in such a case needs to do more than appeal to my intuition.

Comment author: mkehrt 30 November 2010 07:20:57AM 4 points [-]

rot13ed because I am convinced I am correct and so this counts as a spoiler ;-)

It's pretty obvious to me that Santa Claus is fvevhf oynpx, nffhzvat gung "v'z abg frevbhf" zrnaf ur vfa'g va nmxnona.

Has this been discussed? It seems to fit, especially given the way things worked out in canon.

Comment author: NihilCredo 07 December 2010 03:51:12PM *  5 points [-]

Ch. 61:

"Mr. Potter is an Occlumens? You gave him an invisibility cloak and he is immune to Veritaserum and he is friends with the Weasley twins? Albus, do you have any idea what you have unleashed upon this school?"

I can't believe we all glazed over this one. I only know because a TVTroper noticed in the thread. And Eliezer posted in that thread shortly thereafter and made no comment on it.

Yes, it's possible that McGonagall is just assuming, or that Dumbledore lied to her. But still.

Comment author: TobyBartels 12 December 2010 07:28:46PM 3 points [-]

I can't believe we all glazed over this one.

I glazed over it because I always assumed that Dumbledore had given Harry the cloak; he had it in his possession in canon, after all, and there's no reason that he shouldn't have had it in MoR just because nobody's an idiotic fool (which as I see it is MoR's main departure from canon).

So when I read that, I forgot that it was supposed to be a mystery.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 07 December 2010 06:21:22PM *  3 points [-]

I do think that Dumbledore was the one that gave him the cloak.

However, McGonagall was shocked that he had -an- Invisibility Cloak, not -the- Invisibility Cloak. If she knew that Dumbledore had the Potter's cloak (assuming same as canon), then the odds of Harry getting a completely different cloak would be low enough that she could assume that Dumbledore gave Harry part of his inheritance.

I think that she just made an assumption, considering it very unlikely that he got it any other way since his access to the family vault is limited.

Comment author: Vaniver 02 December 2010 01:57:17PM 3 points [-]

An undiscussed alternative, of course, is dhveery. He probably was able to pick up the Cloak, and has a strong incentive to port Harry someplace special if Harry cracks.

My personal guess is Lupin, though. I think the Black/Pettigrew story is wrapped up in MoR with one of them dead and the other in Azkaban, but Lupin has the connections and freedom and desire.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 28 November 2010 09:40:58AM 4 points [-]



Margaret Bulstrode was being watched and/or later questioned, and Dumbledore just put Harry in jail.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 November 2010 11:09:24AM *  2 points [-]

I think I can go ahead and say, now that Ch. 63 is up, that there are exactly two characters in this fic who will reliably think of that sort of thing, and they are Professor Quirrell and Mad-Eye Moody.

It's only the Idiot Ball if it has been previously established that the character is too intelligent to make a mistake. Not all characters in this fic are supposed to be that intelligent!

Comment author: lsparrish 27 November 2010 08:59:47PM 4 points [-]

62: The ending very nearly made me cry.

Comment author: major 28 November 2010 12:53:18AM 8 points [-]

Ch 62. Holy crap! Dumbledore killed Narcissa in response to the kidnapping and murder of Aberforth?! That doesn't sound right. For one thing, how can he still own the Bird of Good, then?

Comment author: DanArmak 28 November 2010 07:57:14PM 3 points [-]

Well, he didn't free the prisoners of Azkaban, so how can he still own the Bird of Good? Clearly there's room for some disagreement between Dumbledore and the Bird without breaking up their relationship.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 28 November 2010 03:19:57AM 3 points [-]

"Not giving into blackmail" sounds like letting Aberforth (etc?) be killed by the Deatheaters rather than giving into demands, but I dunno if it was implied that Narcissa was direct revenge for that, or if that was a separate incident.

Comment author: Document 28 November 2010 07:31:42AM 2 points [-]

The relevant sentence is "The Death Eaters learned, toward the end of the war, not to attack the Order's families.". At least, that's the one that made me say something like "oh crap" out loud.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 12 December 2010 04:45:39PM *  7 points [-]

On first reading of Ch.1, I got the impression that Harry was giving too much credit to the possibility of magic being real, since the prior must be such that even taking the effort to make the test would be incorrect. But now it's blatantly obvious that the whole cognitive distortion event was caused by magic!

But this bizarre certainty... Harry was finding himself just expecting that, yes, a Hogwarts professor would show up and wave a wand and magic would come out. The strange certainty was making no effort to guard itself against falsification - wasn't making excuses in advance for why there wouldn't be a professor, or the professor would only be able to bend spoons.

Where do you come from, strange little prediction?

(Notice a reference to belief in belief, distinguishing true anticipation.)

Comment author: TobyBartels 13 December 2010 03:58:03AM 4 points [-]

I no longer remember what I thought when I first read Chapter 1, but now I don't think that Harry should need this cognitive distortion (which I agree is there) in order to make the effort to test. He would propose (and then make) the test anyway, to try to settle the dispute between his parents.

Comment author: alethiophile 14 December 2010 06:44:17AM 4 points [-]

I would say that while there are hypotheses with such low priors as to make it irrational to expend the effort to check them (and Harry would probably have assigned such a low probability to the existence of HP-style magic, and magical Britain, before he got the letter), one of these hypotheses being promoted specifically to your attention in the manner of the letter probably raises the prior to the point where it's worth testing, at least.

Comment author: Yvain 14 December 2010 09:24:23PM *  24 points [-]

The probability of magic is still vanishingly vanishingly low, but given how useful magic would be it might still be worth Harry's time to test for it.

I hereby dub this class of argument Pascal's Muggle

Comment author: alethiophile 17 December 2010 10:33:10PM 4 points [-]

It's also worth noting that the letter does not only provide several orders of magnitude jump in the prior for whether magic exists or not, but also provides a method of testing its existence that is much lower-cost than before (beforehand, Harry would have had to do some fairly strenuous things to break The Masquerade; with the letter in hand, he merely needs to send a reply.)

Comment author: Unnamed 04 January 2011 04:52:45AM 3 points [-]

The first post-hiatus chapters are up.

Comment author: tenshiko 04 January 2011 03:38:51AM 3 points [-]

Is there anyone around who has some money to throw around for anyone who'll write Tenga Toppa Gurren Rationality 40K? I'm afraid I don't at the moment and lack the skills/canon familiarity to do so myself. Fiddling with Ramna Reasoning 1/2 but can't find a good title.

Comment author: HonoreDB 04 January 2011 07:29:17AM 23 points [-]

Inspired by the omake:

A fragment from a lost folio of Hamlet.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 January 2011 11:45:23AM 4 points [-]

I beg to be allowed to post this (with attribution of course) in Omake Files #3.

Comment author: HonoreDB 05 January 2011 12:48:24PM 3 points [-]

I'd be honored!

Comment author: Alicorn 04 January 2011 01:52:59PM 2 points [-]

Very nice.

Comment author: NihilCredo 05 January 2011 05:38:39PM *  11 points [-]


Comment author: tenshiko 05 January 2011 07:31:26PM 2 points [-]

I assume in this context it would mean P(~Ranko)=1/2?

Comment author: WrongBot 04 January 2011 05:07:50AM 7 points [-]

Concur that that is the most amazing crossover I have ever imagined.

I'd really like to write a Buffy fic called "Once More, With Thinking" and have it focus on cooperative rationality, but I lack the skillset and have no idea how to plot it.

Comment author: orthonormal 17 December 2010 12:27:23AM 3 points [-]

Chapter 62-63:

It bugs me that Harry instantly dismissed the idea that Voldemort was behind the Azkaban breakout, without considering the possibility that Voldemort might be in some way behind Quirrell.

Ironically, he lacks the necessary information that would falsely exonerate Quirrell (i.e, that the most direct Voldemort-centered plan would go directly to the ritual rather than to the healer).

Comment author: Danylo 30 November 2010 03:21:48AM 3 points [-]

Is Harry already aware of the Horcrux's and the need for a servant to revive Voldermort? He seemed to completely ignore that bit of information when Dumbledore mentioned it to him.

Comment author: Raemon 30 November 2010 06:03:21PM 4 points [-]

He completely ignored a lot of information because he was still processing a lot of old information, was trying to maintain a false personality in front of an incredibly intimidating wizard, and was exhausted to boot.

Comment author: Document 29 November 2010 10:20:46AM 3 points [-]


In the conversation with Hermione at the chapter's end, is Harry breaking his promise to Quirrell to "speak...in exactly the fashion you would speak if you knew nothing"?

Comment author: HonoreDB 03 December 2010 06:40:03PM *  2 points [-]

"What's been going on?" she said. "There's all sorts of rumors. There were people saying you'd run off to fight Bellatrix Black, there were people saying you'd run off to join Bellatrix Black -" and those rumors had said that Hermione had just made up the thing about the phoenix, and she'd yelled that the whole Ravenclaw common room had seen it, so then the next rumor had claimed she'd made up that part too, which was stupidity of such an inconceivable level that it left her completely flabbergasted.

"I can't talk about it," Harry said in a bare whisper. "Can't talk about a lot of it. I wish I could tell you everything," his voice wavered, "but I can't... I guess, if it helps or anything, I'm not going to lunch with Professor Quirrell any more..."

Yes, he is. A promise to lie can be broken or kept with equal loss of honor.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 03 December 2010 06:50:44PM 4 points [-]

Only if one assumes that the loss of honor from lying is independent of the lie(s) told.

Comment author: cwillu 05 December 2010 08:15:29AM 3 points [-]

Harry has already been forbidden from leaving the Hogwarts wards without sufficient cause and escort by this time; lunch with Quirrell was explicitly included in this ban. That's not far from what he'd say as an innocent.

Comment author: FAWS 29 November 2010 10:39:54AM 2 points [-]

Nothing about the break-in. He can talk about other matters, presumably including Quirrel's answer to his "Why am I not like other children", which did make him trust Quirrel less and is a plausible topic of conversation either way.

Comment author: ciphergoth 28 November 2010 10:47:56AM 3 points [-]

"If Harry Potter and Voldemort fight their war with Muggle weapons there will be nothing left of the world but fire!"

"What?" said Minerva. She had heard of guns, of course, but they weren't that dangerous to an experienced witch -

I haven't read the books - is Minerva's incredible ignorance of the Muggle world here canonical?

Comment author: David_Gerard 28 November 2010 02:24:30PM 6 points [-]

Yes, it's used frequently for comic effect (e.g. Arthur Weasley's enthusiasm and lack of clue concerning Muggle artifacts).

Comment author: Strange7 27 November 2010 07:09:16PM 3 points [-]

Is Dumbledore obsessed with manipulating dramatic archetypes because he figured out that he's actually living in a work of fiction?

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 28 November 2010 10:46:53AM *  2 points [-]

If so, wouldn't he be less worried about doing things the LotR way? After all, if he's fictional, the author will most likely make it work out regardless. Not that the whole concept really makes much sense - a fictional character can only "realize" precisely what the author wants them to, anyway.

Comment author: ronnoch 14 December 2010 09:41:04PM 5 points [-]

In his author's notes, Eliezer said that MoR was the 5th or 6th most reviewed HP fanfic (or something like that). How does he know? Is there a list of top-reviewed fanfics somewhere?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 05 January 2011 07:40:16PM *  4 points [-]

The LotR fanfic has a same basic theme as the MoR: Rationality leads to power and corruption. Both have an evil villain who is smarter, more rational, and more conventionally evil than the protagonists. LotR makes it more explicit: The ring makes you more rational, and this is synonymous with making you more evil.

But "corruption" is a word wielded by the less-smart. MoR portrays Voldemort with much more sympathy than any conventional fantasy would.

And we must remember that Eliezer's CEV depends on the supposition that there is no absolute morality, no basis for calling Dumbledore morally superior to Voldemort, or Gandalf morally superior to Sauron. (If there were, then instead of CEV, we would seek to discover a superior morality, or at least to distinguish good morals from bad ones.)

This fits a pattern in which rationality opens ones eyes to possibilities that are shut out by conventional morality; and acknowledging those possibilities makes one appear evil to the conventional eyes telling the story.

I wonder where Eliezer can go with any conventional fantasy story, as their entire purpose is to validate moral presuppositions that (I think) he rejects entirely. Will MoR lead to a vindication of Voldemort?

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2011 10:02:00PM *  4 points [-]

And we must remember that Eliezer's CEV depends on the supposition that there is no absolute morality, no basis for calling Dumbledore morally superior to Voldemort, or Gandalf morally superior to Sauron.

Do you expect that Eliezer would agree with what you just wrote? I personally would bet at 99:1 odds that he would disagree strongly with the second half (as the other commenters have pointed out).

If you think that he would disagree strongly, have you considered that it's more likely you've misinterpreted his position (apparently Eliezer admits that the metaethics sequence isn't his best-written material) than that he's misinterpreted himself?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 05 January 2011 07:54:27PM 5 points [-]

And we must remember that Eliezer's CEV depends on the supposition that there is no absolute morality, no basis for calling Dumbledore morally superior to Voldemort, or Gandalf morally superior to Sauron.

Going from "there is no absolute morality" to "there is no basis for calling agent A morally superior to agent B" is a much broader jump than you make it seem here. The first part I agree with; the second part is much less clear to me.

If by "basis" you mean "absolute basis," well, OK, but so what?

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 05 January 2011 09:52:50PM 4 points [-]

Um... I wouldn't say CEV is based on a rejection of the idea of an objective moral standard, since Eliezer himself doesn't exactly reject that:

Yes, I really truly do believe that humanity is better than the Pebblesorters! I am not being sarcastic, I really do believe that. I am not playing games by redefining "good" or "arbitrary", I think I mean the same thing by those terms as everyone else. When you understand that I am genuinely sincere about that, you will understand my metaethics. I really don't consider myself a moral relativist - not even in the slightest!

From The Bedrock of Morality: Arbitrary?.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 January 2011 09:37:34AM 2 points [-]

Will MoR lead to a vindication of Voldemort?

I expect the story will make explicit what's been hinted at so far: that Voldemort is the product of Dementation, and is brain damaged. This would, by Eliezer's lights, place him in a different moral frame of reference to normal, neurologically intact humanity. Voldemort's not mistaken about how he should be using his talents. He's now an inhuman mind pursuing inhuman ends.

Comment author: TobyBartels 17 January 2011 10:10:31PM *  2 points [-]
Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 09 January 2011 09:40:57AM 2 points [-]

Ch. 38 typo: Veritaseum -> Veritaserum

Comment author: TobyBartels 09 January 2011 07:19:45AM 2 points [-]

Is there any consistency in which works of speculative fiction exist in MoR (as works of speculative fiction) and which ones actually happened (in some warped way) in MoR?

I had vaguely formed the hypothesis that Harry has read only things that appeared before 1991, so that anything after that is fair game for shout-outs. But I never seriously tested that. Seeing Peter Pevensie in Ch 65 has ruled this out (which means that probably lots of things already ruled it out that I didn't notice or forgot).

So how does it work? If Peter Pevensie was a real person in MoR, does this mean that C.S. Lewis didn't write The Chronicles of Narnia? Does this mean that Lewis didn't have the same influence on Tolkien? Does this mean that the version of The Lord of the Rings that Harry and Dumbledore have read is not quite the same as the version that you and I have read? Where does it all end???

Comment author: thomblake 17 January 2011 08:46:03PM 2 points [-]

I had vaguely formed the hypothesis that Harry has read only things that appeared before 1991, so that anything after that is fair game for shout-outs

Yes, I had the same rough hypothesis and it seems correct when amended with "Except when something else is funnier or more awesome"

Comment author: TobyBartels 17 January 2011 09:34:48PM 2 points [-]

Now we need TVTropes links: Rule of Funny, Rule of Cool (which links to more variations).

Comment author: PhilGoetz 05 January 2011 06:32:56PM 2 points [-]

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

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 05 January 2011 09:54:06PM 2 points [-]

FFN does this routinely but infrequently. As soon as you see a popup appearing, hit "back" in your browser, then "forward," and you'll get the fic.

Comment author: alethiophile 05 January 2011 05:09:39AM 2 points [-]

I really can't wait until the next army fight, and I hope it's described rather than just alluded to. Be interesting to see whether the intuition of the others is correct that his mental upgrade will make him even better at mock battle, or whether his new focus will simply make him not care.

Comment author: Eneasz 02 December 2010 07:42:08PM 2 points [-]

I love the unexplained references when I get them. :) The Princess Bride took me by surprise and made me lol. But I can't figure out what book/movie/whatever this is a reference to, any help?

Moody had once seen an addicted Dark Wizard go to ridiculous lengths to get a victim to lay hands on a certain exact portkey, instead of just having someone toss the target a trapped Knut on their next visit to town; and after going to all that work, the addict had gone to the further effort to lay a second Portus, on the same portkey, which had, on a second touch, transported the victim back to safety. To this day, even taking the drug into account, Moody could not imagine what could have possibly been going through the man's mind at the time he had cast the second Portus

Comment author: Sheaman3773 02 December 2010 07:51:44PM *  5 points [-]

I know that some fans of this story have never read the original series, so on the assumption that you are not kidding, that's a reference to the fourth Harry Potter book. Bahl's Stupefaction was a reference to the Idiot Ball trope.

Comment author: alethiophile 29 November 2010 06:00:06AM 2 points [-]

Dumbledore refers to Moody's eye as the Eye of Vance, and says that 'if the Eye of Vance does not see a thing, it does not exist' (or some such). Does this mean that Eliezer has decided to go with the 'more specific artifact' reading of his dichotomy in an earlier AN? (Discussing the power of the Cloak, and how in canon Moody's eye can see through it.)

Also, is it significant that one of the Aurors in the response team is named Emmeline Vance?

Comment author: Randaly 29 November 2010 07:19:40AM *  5 points [-]

I don't think the name's significant- it's taken from canon, and the Eye of Vance is a shoutout to Jack Vance's The Eyes of the Overworld.

Comment author: alethiophile 30 November 2010 04:04:30AM 3 points [-]

Question answered by Chapter 63. If Eliezer can work a connection between the Eye of Vance and Emmeline Vance (that's more interesting than 'old ancestor made it'), it would be awesome.

Comment author: Aharon 29 November 2010 05:59:38PM 3 points [-]

I thought it was a reference to the D&D Eye of Vecna, especially after the left leg of Vance was mentioned (Vecna is a powerful D&D villain who left behind an eye and a hand, and if - as expected - somebody tries to get both and succeeds, something bad happens, although I don't remember what exactly).

Comment author: Broggly 05 January 2011 08:15:03AM 5 points [-]

Then of course, there's the fabled Head of Vecna.


After losing one player to decapitation, they quickly realised their mistake: they hadn't attatched the new head fast enough.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 29 November 2010 06:49:48PM 4 points [-]

Yes, that's what it is referencing, but there's another level of reference, "Vecna" was an anagram of "Vance" the last name of writer "Jack Vance" whose magic system influenced D&D magic. So Eliezer has used the unanagrammed version.

Comment author: TobyBartels 29 November 2010 06:37:54AM 2 points [-]

The Eye of Vance! (not serious)