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Comment author: knb 01 March 2015 08:23:15AM 1 point [-]

Maybe Harry needs to solve the nature of magic. Magic acts on human expectations: things happen the way they are expected to happen, within certain rules. Psychological features like intention, emotion, and desire have real effects on the outside world. It seems magic only makes sense in a "human-designed" universe. So the likeliest scenario to HP should be that his universe is a simulation. The limits of Time Turners could be viewed as rules imposed by the simulation-keepers to keep the simulation computable. The Mirror of Erised seems to suggest the same thing. It might be a sub-program baked into the fabric of the simulation to help inhabitants determine their CEV.

There would be an interesting kind of symmetry if Harry's current AI-box problem turns out to be a double-boxing. Will Harry talk himself out of Voldemort's box by warning that they all are in another box?

A problem with this that I see is that Harry's "End of the World" prophecy seems to imply the simulation has a Halting Oracle. I can think of some rationalizations for this, though.

Comment author: ThePrussian 28 February 2015 07:09:34AM 2 points [-]

"No doubt they disapprove of many aspects of the American lifestyle, but mostly they are interested in signalling to their fellow Muslims the purity of their opposition to US power in the middle east."

But why do they object to US power? They object, in their own words, to US power because it dilutes the purity of Islam. They are not struggling for national liberation, but for theocracy. Their explicit goal is the establishment of a vast theocractic empire - the attack on America was a part of that, to rally the faithful to their cause. Take Palestine, for example - Al Qaeda doesn't even think Palestine should exist, except as a province of the Caliphate.

What is "meddling in local affairs" in this context? According to what they say, it is as much American pop culture and the spread of "decadence" (liberalism) as it is the support of certain tin-pot tyrants.

That isn't to say there aren't objectionable US policies. But please don't confuse why you might object to a US policy with why an Islamic fanatic might object to it.

Comment author: knb 28 February 2015 05:46:39PM 1 point [-]

What is "meddling in local affairs" in this context?

Overthrowing Muslim governments (including democratically elected governments), massive military, logistical, and even direct participation in Saddam Hussein's attack on Iran, invading and occupying various countries, etc. No, I don't believe US pop culture is a major reason they attack the US.

Comment author: knb 28 February 2015 03:16:30AM *  3 points [-]

I think its pretty clear in this case that the root of Al Qaeda's hate of America has nothing to do with America's freedom. There are many countries which are just as free--if not more so--than the US. (Has Al Qaeda ever bothered to condemn Japan?) No doubt they disapprove of many aspects of the American lifestyle, but mostly they are interested in signalling to their fellow Muslims the purity of their opposition to US power in the middle east. Attacking a shared common enemy is a tactic for increasing support for Al Qaeda throughout the Muslim world. The root cause of the Anti-American sentiment is the very real history of US aggression and meddling in local affairs.

Likewise, when US politicians condemn rival countries for human-rights violations, you can be sure that they don't actually care about human rights. Hence they frequently condemn Russia, Syria, and Iran while being close allies with countries that are much less democratic and much more oppressive (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain.)

Comment author: knb 26 February 2015 01:39:26AM 1 point [-]

Are there any good guesses out there of what the apocalyptic-seeming prophecies about Harry might mean? The one about tearing apart the stars could be a reference to star-lifting. Could the "end of the world" prophecy just mean that Harry would change the world or something?

Comment author: passive_fist 16 February 2015 09:58:25PM 4 points [-]

Considering options for reducing environmental impact of energy, it seems it would be both more economical and more environmentally sound for a large group of people to get together and invest in a nuclear power plant than for each of them to individually install solar panels on their roofs. Taking the USA as an example, the typical home consumes about 15,000 kWh/year and an average home solar installation providing this power would have a total cost of $30,000, or about $12,000 after city rebates and tax credits. It would provide power for about 20 years without extensive maintenance. If a million people got together and paid $5000 each, however, they could fund a full-size nuclear power plant and get the same amount of power for 60 years (they would actually get about 18,000 kWh/year, and the excess capacity could be sold off to fund power plant maintenance).

Comment author: knb 19 February 2015 10:20:11PM *  0 points [-]

Does the solar power estimate include the cost of batteries for providing electricity at night?

Comment author: iarwain1 17 February 2015 01:59:06AM *  3 points [-]

Scholarship hack: Get accepted to UMUC. All University of Maryland libraries are interconnected, and as an online college UMUC will ship books anywhere in the US (not sure about Hawaii / Alaska) free of charge + free return shipping. So for the price of the application fee you get access to 12 university libraries with delivery to your doorstep.

Disclaimer: I myself haven't done precisely as described above, since it's not necessary for me - my neighbor takes UMUC classes and lets me use his account.

Does anybody else have similar hacks? Any similar institutions that'll ship to your door?

Comment author: knb 17 February 2015 08:49:06AM 1 point [-]

So for the price of the application fee you get access to 12 university libraries with delivery to your doorstep.

Did you forget to add the price of tuition? Still this might be a great idea if you're working toward a degree (that accepts UMUC credits) at a school that doesn't pay for books.

Comment author: knb 16 February 2015 09:51:21PM 2 points [-]

Interesting example, but have you actually done a cost/benefit analysis to show that it would be beneficial? If your analysis looks good, I would be more likely to take this seriously as an indictment of the rationality of the anti-aging enthusiasts. Currently, it just seems like grandstanding.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 February 2015 03:05:27PM 6 points [-]

The Killing Curse 2.0. Harry is never going to hate someone enough to want them dead,

ಠ_ಠ Why are you taking Harry's far mode pronouncements as binding on his near mode actions? Not only is that dubious for humans in general, we know Harry has a mysterious dark side that can take control and does want people dead if they're annoying.

I could imagine him being sufficiently angry with Quirrel to consciously put him outside of his monkeysphere

I don't see how that's different from "hating" Quirrel; if you Other someone by being angry at them, you don't stop being angry at them once they're Othered.

he can send information back another six as long as he figures out the plan now.

How? Remember the bits about being careful to not leak info to allow people to go back in time? (Though 'info' clearly is defined as being 'plot-relevant info' rather than 'physics-relevant info,' so that independent time travel is possible at all.)

Comment author: knb 16 February 2015 07:04:29PM 2 points [-]

I believe it's the Killing Curse 2 that Harry believes he can't use (he can't be indifferent to killing someone.)

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 February 2015 01:15:42AM *  5 points [-]

Istvan's constant self-promotion bothers me. I never heard of this guy until two years ago, when he published The Transhumanist Wager. I read that and reviewed in Cryonics magazine because it involves cryonics as a subplot.

Then I started to see his writings in several places. And last summer he got on one of John Stossel's specials on the Fox network, where both he and Stossel represented him as a leader in the cryonics community.

Again, I signed up with Alcor a quarter century ago, and I never heard of Istvan until early in 2013. Who made him a "leader" in the cryonics movement, and based on what criteria?

Now he has started a "Transhumanist Party" and he wants to insert himself into American national politics. We could see him in one of those debates with the other off-brand Presidential candidates from the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and other fringe groups.

Now, I approve of the fact that he wants to draw attention to some ideas for technological progress that we should push on a lot harder than we have so far. But what has he really offered us other than telling us about his action-hero life on the sailboat, how he doesn't want to die, please read his novel (he often discounts his Kindle version, or even offers it for free), and vote for him for President?

Comment author: knb 04 February 2015 12:08:48AM 1 point [-]

I think "Transhumanism" is a political non-starter as it just has too many weird/negative mental associations. A serious attempt at a pro-science/pro-technology political party should start by shedding the term "transhumanism" and some of its associated themes, like cyborgs and strange/unnecessary human modification.

There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for technology and science among the Millennials and even some Gen Xers, but most of it is just frittered away on worthless projects like Solar Freakin Roadways and enthusiasm for consumer electronics.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 02 February 2015 09:54:13PM 1 point [-]

The New Yorker claims that the 2011 Davis review (not meta-analysis) found that open offices hurt creativity, but I don't see that in in the paper. It only uses the word "creativity" twice, once citing Csikszentmihalyi, and once in the bibliography. If you have read the paper and claim that it does talk about creativity, can you suggest a better word to search for or give a more specific citation?

Comment author: knb 02 February 2015 10:25:08PM 0 points [-]

I haven't read it, I was relying on the New Yorker's interpretation.

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