Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

post by Alsadius · 2012-12-22T07:55:08.205Z · score: 4 (9 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 594 comments

This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 87The previous thread has passed 500 comments. 

There is now a site dedicated to the story at hpmor.com, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on hpmor.com.) 

The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: 12345678910111213141516, 17.

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Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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

594 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T17:19:27.983Z · score: 24 (36 votes) · LW · GW

An edited paste of a conversation I had with a friend

Alicorn: I'm increasingly disappointed with Hermione's character. Eliezer has never been great with female characters, and he's trying so hard with her, but he's made her so silly, so pathetically, appallingly silly. She's not stupid, she's not evil, but she's more a child than anyone else who gets character development and she is such a silly girl. I don't mean, like, she has a sense of humor, which is the other meaning of the word "silly". She is not Pinkie Pie, she's just a ninny.

Alphabeta: To be fair, all the other people her age with that much development are fucking crazy.

Alicorn: All the girls in their year are silly, though, I don't think this is just Hermione's personal character flaw that she has to have because she got developed a certain amount. It's more irritating in her, because we see more of her and it's contrasting against higher intelligence, but all the girls are silly.

Alphabeta: That sounds like something Eliezer needs to hear

Alicorn: yeah, I'm considering pasting this conversation in the LW discussion thread

Alphabeta: Also, in fairness, most of the boys are silly, and McGonagall is very good at not being silly. Okay, most of the NPC boys are silly.

Alicorn: McGonagall is not silly, it's true. McGonagall may be the best female character Eliezer has done. But I'd feel better about it if she'd been revised for hypercompetence while Moody was a minor side character serving as a cautionary tale about wasting time on low-probability risks, or something.

Alphabeta: Well, Director Bones is competent, even if she did drop the ball on Quirrelmort's identity pretty hard

Alicorn: Bones hasn't been invited to a place of significance in the protagonist's story. As far as Harry is concerned, she is set dressing. Moody just got promoted.

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

Alicorn: Good question. I'll paste that too :P

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-22T18:40:25.958Z · score: 26 (28 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly, Hermione seems the least unbelievable of the major child characters. Harry is just a freak of nature - I was a gigantic multi-sigma outlier nerd at that age, and I couldn't have held a candle to Harry. There is no way any 11 year old has read and understood the entire corpus of quantum mechanics, cognitive science, science fiction, and rationalism writings, no matter how much of a bibliophile they are. Draco is less unreasonable, but he still carries himself like someone much older than 11. Hermione, on the other hand, is basically just a smart girl with a good memory, who's struggling to keep up with a force of nature and fighting with the evil chancellor's kid.

Ultimately, 11-year-old girls are supposed to be silly sometimes. Hermione still manages to be more serious than most of the actual people that age I know. I think our expectations are just skewed by the university-aged kids in middle school.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T18:56:29.849Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you. Hermione is a more believable child than the others. However, the way in which she achieves that is not because she is better written (she's not), but because she has different flaws, which Eliezer assigns to characters of her age and gender with overwhelming regularity, in a context of generally handling female characters clumsily.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-22T23:38:03.768Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Harry isn't being a silly boy in Ch. 87?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-22T23:50:37.499Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Only if 27-year-old Luke was being a silly boy when he broke up with someone by 20-page essay with ev-psych primer. (BTW, did you intend the reference?) Stupid, but not childish.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T00:24:31.269Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I said to Luke when I read that, "You know, Luke, it hasn't happened yet in the story, but I'd already planned out, before I read your post, that when I want to have Harry screw up a conversation with Hermione as badly as possible, I'm going to have him start talking about evolutionary psychology. You literally did that in the way I'd imagined as the worst way possible." (Though the actual chapter didn't come out quite that way when I wrote it - there isn't anything about evolutionary psychology until the very end.)

So I thought of this as a stereotypically male-stupid thing to do, and independently Luke, who happens to be male, went and did it. Can you name a woman who's done the same?

comment by tenshiko · 2012-12-23T05:24:55.615Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't read Harry's statements as stereotypically male-child-stupid or even stereotypically male-stupid, but stereotypically hyperintellectualist-male-stupid - as in specifically similar to behavior like Luke's, not that of any non-Internet non-rationalist man I've actually met. A male child of ordinary intellectual background, no matter how stupid, could not have made the specific mistakes Harry made here, because he drew his deemed-inappropriate ideas from "enlightened" papers.

A good example of stereotypically male-child-stupid is Ron's lines you quote here (and many of Ron's actions in general). These are stupid comments Ron was able to make in spite of not having read any papers.

Hermione's reactions are stereotypically female-child-stupid. She reacted the way she did precisely because of not reading these particular enlightened papers. This is the exact opposite of Harry's stupidity! I think I understand why you wrote the scene with these results - Harry has read lots of rationalist papers you think more people should read, while Hermione in spite of her intelligence does not have the exact same background. However, because Hermione's actions fit with "stupid female child" - not alleviated by her intelligence - and Harry's with "stupid-though-very-intelligent male adult" (Harry's reading on these specific psychological ideas is very incongruent with that of even most well-educated 11-year-old boys), we get subtext like Alicorn points out about female infantilism and so on.

As for some anecdata, last month when I was explaining to a progressing-to-ex-boyfriend that he did not meet my paramour standards, he said I should consider lowering my standards, and I said he was proof that strategy could not possibly work for me.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T05:44:56.452Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

...do note that Hermione at one point reacts in a genre-savvy fashion by saying that it's fine for Harry to have a dark side.

Please keep in mind that a lot of this apparent problem is generated by the unalterable fact that Harry, who has Stuff Going On and has been through hell as the title character and has to grow fast enough to be competitive with people like Dumbledore and Professor Quirrell (all genders chosen by Rowling) happens to be male, whereas Hermione, who like many other characters is going to have difficulty competing with Harry at this point in the story, happens to be female. I mean, suppose Rowling had made her professionally paranoid Auror a woman. It's not unthinkable that someone might complain about how Harry, a male, managed to land a stun on Madam Moody. Symmetrically, if Draco had discovered Harry doing science with Hermione some chapters earlier, he wouldn't have had the same reaction but he would've had an equally difficult reaction for Harry to deal with, and yes I would've figured out some way to make the adultery joke there too.

The main lesson I'm learning is that there are potential Problems when you arrange the plot so that you have the main character interacting with two different tiers of powered characters (Harry-Draco-Hermione and Harry-Dumbledore-Quirrell) and you haven't arranged the plot to have the main character's companions go through everything the main character does... but that problem is far too late to correct now.

P.S: In retrospect there's exactly one important canon character in this story whose gender I could freely choose, and I did happen to make her female, but that's not going to be apparent until later.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T13:58:43.573Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

P.S: In retrospect there's exactly one important canon character in this story whose gender I could freely choose, and I did happen to make her female, but that's not going to be apparent until later.

Clearly, this line is the only important part of this comment. Let the games begin!

(Tonks would be the obvious guess, since there's long been speculation about gender-bending metamorphamagi. But she's presented as female in canon, and Eliezer would probably object to the notion that the mere ability to change body shape would count as changing sex.)

comment by NihilCredo · 2012-12-23T20:53:16.111Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, he didn't say "she's not going to appear until later", he said "that's not going to be apparent until later". This suggests that the character has already appeared, doesn't it?

(I might have guessed that the androgynous Voldemort could have been a female character in this fic, but I believe Eliezer has already flat-out stated that he's sticking to Quirrell = Voldemort.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T21:49:27.051Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, he didn't say "she's not going to appear until later", he said "that's not going to be apparent until later". This suggests that the character has already appeared, doesn't it?

Ooh, well caught.

Hmm, Tonks has already appeared...

comment by Eneasz · 2012-12-27T22:59:30.789Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going with Penelope Clearwater. The competent, sober, older-Ravenclaw-prefect role could have been just about anyone (thus fulfilling the "important character who's gender I could choose" requirement), but Penelope was chosen (thus the "make her female" requirement). She hasn't done anything outstanding yet, thus the "apparent until later".

I've had strong suspicions for a while that both Penelope and Goyle will have awesome roles to play in the future.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-28T17:43:23.079Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't Penelope the only older Ravenclaw we're shown in canon?

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-28T01:52:07.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is that why you chose her specifically to be voiced by Zoe Chace?

comment by Eneasz · 2012-12-28T17:44:54.844Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hm... not consciously. I just felt like she'd be a good match, and wouldn't take too much time.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T16:10:11.544Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer would probably object to the notion that the mere ability to change body shape would count as changing sex

I have no idea what Eliezer would think on the subject.

My feeling is that if a metamorphamagus is changing the body, then this means changing the hormones-- they're a member of the sex they appear to be in every way with the possible exception of childhood memories. (I don't remember at what age the ability to metamorphize kicks in.)

I could argue that that they're "really" a gender we don't have a word for.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T04:48:55.849Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea what Eliezer would think on the subject.

Allow me to enlighten you.

My feeling is that if a metamorphamagus is changing the body, then this means changing the hormones-- they're a member of the sex they appear to be in every way with the possible exception of childhood memories. (I don't remember at what age the ability to metamorphize kicks in.)

Well, that depends on how said hormones are affecting brain development during childhood and in the womb - and I don't recall hearing tales of transsexuals taking such hormones having, say, their sexual orientation affected. (I haven't researched this.)

On the other hand, there's mention in canon of a baby changing their hair color, which would indicate that it doesn't "kick in" at a specific point in time. I'm not sure what this means for the gender-changing-Tonks hypothesis; is there any research into children with irregular levels of sex hormones, or who started taking hormones in childhood?

I could argue that that they're "really" a gender we don't have a word for.

Androgynous? Hermaphrodite? Genderqueer? Those are words, and while their meanings are ... fluid ... they could all probably be applied to such an individual.

Ultimately, we can never be entirely certain one way or the other without Word of God; magic can cover a multitude of sins. Unless his opinions have changed since he wrote that article, however, I'm guessing the most she could achieve would be an inferior "penis-shaped vagina", perhaps with looks based on a specific individual for realism. If her powers actually bother dealing with hormone levels and such, it's presumably dealt with automatically, so it could simply refuse to mess with sex hormones beyond certain limits. She carried a baby to term in canon, and there was certainly no mention of having to avoid certain transformations. Not that there would be, necessarily.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-23T07:13:35.819Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, a guessing game. I'll go with... the Giant Squid.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T18:09:20.570Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, it's clearly Mrs. Barbara Dementor.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T11:16:20.212Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fawkes

comment by undermind · 2012-12-24T01:06:12.170Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mrs. Hat-and-Cloak

comment by Spurlock · 2012-12-25T05:23:50.139Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hat & Cloak turning out to be McGonagall would be the most mind-bending and awesome plot twist ever. Unfortunately Hat & Cloak isn't a canon character (right? I didn't read the books), so this wouldn't fit EY's hint.

comment by NihilCredo · 2012-12-23T20:46:04.886Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fawkes is male in HPMOR.

e: unless the "that's not going to be apparent until later" means that he will be revealed to have actually been female all along later on.

comment by Manfred · 2012-12-23T15:34:29.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would guess that phoenixes are hermaphroditic. Or maybe they're spontaneously generated?

comment by keen · 2015-02-22T01:13:14.354Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

...there are potential Problems when you arrange the plot so that...

True conflict strengthens narrative. But then, you're not really complaining about creating problems for your characters.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T22:27:09.544Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't read Harry's statements as stereotypically male-child-stupid or even stereotypically male-stupid, but stereotypically hyperintellectualist-male-stupid - as in specifically similar to behavior like Luke's, not that of any non-Internet non-rationalist man I've actually met.

If I had to imagine a male doing that with a straight face in Real Life, it would likely be a right-wing dick talking through his ass who likes evolutionary psychology because it supports his position rather than because he actually has a good understanding of it (Exhibit A). OTOH, I can imagine hyperintellectualist males doing that tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally the joke would fall flat unless his interlocutor was hyperintellectualist herself.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T22:18:04.656Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Can you name a woman who's done the same?

Real or fictional? If the latter, Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory does similar stuff.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T00:08:34.212Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Harry was fumbling. He was not silly. He expressed reasonable propositions in clumsy ways. Hermione was silly throughout.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T01:56:12.061Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe it matters that the girls in MOR are silly even when they aren't under pressure.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T21:13:50.916Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Most students in HPMOR are silly when not under pressure (witch counterexample: Penelope Clearwater). They're also named after fan artists with upcoming cameos. Who tend to be female.

And yes, there's a Gossipy Hens trope in HPMOR, the converse of which is the horrible dating advice dispensed by males with their parody PUA community, both of whom are there because someone has to horribly misinterpret the situation, and which are gender-correlated because... well, because that part is realistic and there are things in HPMOR that happen because that's what the prior causal forces output, not necessarily because that's how I freely decided the outcome should be.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-24T01:04:20.317Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is making me realize that these discussions tend to not have a sense of scale. I'm not crazy about the undifferentiated gossiping mass (and it's reached the point where I'm not having as much fun with it-- it was funny the first time or three), but I don't think it's a huge flaw. It's entertaining to see the gossip get more rationalist, but not in a way that seems to help it be more accurate.

I hadn't noticed there was a parody PUA community, it just seemed as though there was occasional bits of PUA stuff showing up now and then. Definitely time to reread.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T00:32:42.236Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

By the standards of our community, yes, you're never supposed to flee in tears, and Harry has right-of-way to express any ideas he wants. Hermione has not been raised with this ideal, and Harry has not yet pressed it on her.

And canon!Hermione in her fifth-year, who delivered Umbridge unto the centaurs, wouldn't have fled in tears; and Harry could have told her about Draco much earlier, confident that 5th-year!Hermione could put on a mask around Draco and keep it up.

This is first-year!canon!Hermione:

Ron was in a very bad temper by the end of the class.

"It's no wonder no one can stand her," he said to Harry as they pushed their way into the crowded corridor. "She's a nightmare, honestly."

Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It was Hermione. Harry caught a glimpse of her face—and was startled to see that she was in tears.

"I think she heard you."

"So?" said Ron, but he looked a bit uncomfortable. "She must've noticed she's got no friends."

Hermione didn't turn up for the next class and wasn't seen all afternoon. On their way down to the Great Hall for the Hallowe'en feast, Harry and Ron overheard Parvati Patil telling her friend Lavender that Hermione was crying in the girls' toilets and wanted to be left alone. Ron looked still more awkward at this, but a moment later they had entered the Great Hall, where the Hallowe'en decorations put Hermione out of their minds.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T00:39:32.829Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and? The canon scene is Hermione "crying and wanting to be left alone". That is not particularly silly - it's emotional, but not even all that childish; depressed or particularly put-upon adults cry and want to be left alone. You, by contrast, have Hermione hysterically, italicizedly telling Harry that he cannot do science with two people at once, and doubling down on it even after she has a chance to realize that this is preposterous.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T01:23:32.461Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through. This creates a power balance problem where Harry, as main character, has been to Azkaban and Hermione hasn't, and fighting bullies isn't quite enough to make up for that. However, I would indeed maintain as a literary matter that this Hermione has been through more hell than the quoted canon!Hermione and is visibly more powerful and competent. Methods!Hermione doesn't flee in tears if Ron calls her a nightmare, though she would've at the start of the year. She probably wouldn't even notice.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-12-23T02:29:19.017Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

For an otherwise rational fanfic this seems oddly like a rule out of Dungeons and Dragons.

Edit:Also, it seems like at this point Hermione has gone through some pretty awful stuff also so by this logic her competence level should have gone up a lot.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T05:37:07.175Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger" is D+D-esque now? Experience makes people better, as a rule, as long as you can avoid being broken by it.

Also, Hermione's competence level has gone up a lot. You don't think she's a lot stronger than she was at the beginning of the story?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T02:55:55.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

She didn't get a chance to fight during that - it doesn't work quite the same way.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-12-23T03:00:32.373Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that makes this if anything sound even more like D&D. Where is the motivation for this rule coming from? Is there any evidence humans actually act this way at all? The only related evidence I'm aware of goes in the other direction: Traumatized children are more likely to have behaviorial problems and lower IQ after the fact. Citation. (Thought that just popped into my head, could reduced levels of corporal punishment and generally more stable lives be a contributing factor to the Flynn effect?).

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T03:17:32.404Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

It did work out that way in my own life.

There's a Dilbert cartoon in which Dilbert thinks he's really just been faking it since sixth grade.

At age 17 I went through a bit of hell bad enough that I don't particularly want to talk about it, and three weeks later woke up one morning and realized that I would never feel like that Dilbert cartoon again. Literally, just woke up in the morning. It wasn't the result of any epiphany, it seemed more like something biological my brain just did in response. My main reaction was, "Why couldn't my brain have done this three weeks earlier when it would've #$&%ing helped?"

Not sure how that squares with the research, and I couldn't point to anywhere in my life where it happened except that one point.

However, the actual literary logic is something more like, "Once you show Harry thinking his way out of Azkaban, it is no longer possible for him to lose an even battle to Draco - the reader won't believe it." I don't think the 'power up through trial' thing is actually unrealistic, I mean, if I come out of this planet alive I'm probably not going to be fazed by much after that. But it's the more fundamental literary reason why so many stories work that way. You will perceive that this also points in the direction of, "Being run over by a truck isn't the same as punching the truck to a standstill" in terms of whether you powered up after that.

Even so, imagine Methods!Granger fleeing to the bathroom after just hearing Ron call her a nightmare. That could've happened in Ch. 9, maybe, but now Granger has fought three older bullies successfully and you'd be, like, "Yeah right." But she hasn't been to Azkaban, either.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-23T04:41:30.169Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Even so, imagine Methods!Granger fleeing to the bathroom after just hearing Ron call her a nightmare. That could've happened in Ch. 9, maybe, but by this point Granger has been fighting older bullies successfully and you'd be, like, "Yeah right."

Wait wait wait. Just hearing Ron call her a nightmare? That's not at all why Hermione is crying! Hermione is crying because:

  1. She's a muggleborn.
  2. She has no friends.
  3. Everyone knows she has no friends.
  4. No one has decided to befriend her, even though they know that she doesn't have friends.

Hermione realizes that her best isn't good enough. It doesn't matter that she's good at magic; she's a muggleborn. It doesn't matter that she's helpful; other people don't like her despite her good intentions. It doesn't matter that she's hurting; other people don't care. And so a homesick little girl hides her frustration and pain in the bathroom.

In Methods, the same comment will have a different effect because the reality on the ground is different.

Beyond that, how one responds to social and combat situations is often different; one can easily develop strength in one without strength in the other.

comment by NihilCredo · 2012-12-23T21:55:56.977Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I mean, if I come out of this planet alive I'm probably not going to be fazed by much after that

My opinion of you has ebbed and flowed a lot, Eliezer, but one thing for which I doubt I will ever stop loving you is the way you can talk like a science fiction character with the most perfect nonchalance.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-23T13:17:53.333Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The "that made me stronger" feeling might not be all that correlated to actually becoming stronger.

comment by cousin_it · 2012-12-23T14:44:59.490Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it makes you more confident, thus making you better at all tasks that have confidence as a limiting factor.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T01:26:52.322Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

You keep starting comments with "Erm..." and then talking past me; I'm really not sure what to make of it. You don't actually have to respond to criticism of your fic if you don't want to...

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T02:56:58.524Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I usually don't respond, but I care unusually much about what the author of Luminosity thinks.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T03:01:40.282Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm.

One of my subagents thinks for some reason that it would be helpful for me to present, instead of direct criticism, a discussion of my own writing weaknesses and what I do / want to do about them, thereby lightly grazing some fraction of what I would say directly about your writing. The subagent thinks that this will be less likely to make you defensive. Is it off-base?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T03:12:42.110Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Very possibly on-base. I think my brain is worried that other people will read this and say, "Ah, Eliezer is a patriarchalist writer" instead of, "Oh, well, invisibly behind the scenes Eliezer was trying to juggle this and a dozen other writing problems and desiderata simultaneously and this is what we got." Talking about your own analogous writing problems seems much more likely to lead the wider audience to the second conclusion.

I had no particular intention to talk past you; as we both know, conveying meaning using words is hard, and I might not've understood your intended main point.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T03:59:48.017Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, here's my first pass at this.

I'm more comfortable with female characters myself. Both Luminosity and Radiance have girl protags; the Elcenia books are a mix, and of the finished ones there's two female protagonists, a male one whose girlfriend spends a lot of time in the spotlight, and an ensemble cast that only mostly belongs to the male character I think of as its center. I could make up reasons why that isn't something I did on purpose. Luminosity and Radiance are fanfiction. I didn't invent Rhysel, Julie did; Julie also invented Talyn, and his story spends more time focusing on his romance than Rhysel's did; Ilen's not a strong enough character to hold up his own entire book until the very end of the plot; Ehail hardly counts because she's so wispy and much of her book is a vehicle for plot that just happens conveniently nearby her...

But that's a cop-out. I could have written Luminosity with a rationalist Edward if that had struck my fancy, if I'd been willing to lean a little farther away from the canon conceit. I could have given Bella a son instead of a clone of Renesmee with a less silly name, that was completely open to me to have her make that choice when she had the choice. If Ilen's too weak to carry a book without help from his sisters and his mother and his niece and his girlfriend (and his brother and his dad, some), why does Ehail hold up hers so much better, when she's at least as wobbly a personality? (Is it because she has a more supportive love interest? Not entirely.) When I rebooted Elcenia, it was open to me start anywhere. I didn't need to start with Rhysel, or start with Rhysel's summoning - I could have written a book about Narax or Revenn or someone first. Heck, writing a book about Narax's backstory might have been a stronger opening, and I only just now thought of it. Talyn has a lot of complex motivations besides his girlfriend's existence. Does she really need that many perspective chapters? Does he really need to do so many things because of her? Probably not; and this might make his book weaker or stronger that he does, but the reason I did it that way wasn't because I made an artistic choice, it was because it felt natural to spend about a third of Talyn's book in Leekath's head.

(I'll try to stick more to Luminosity examples; I don't know how much Elcenia you've read.)

I think I'm reasonably good at keeping tertiary characters of both genders on an even footing. In Luminosity, Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley are equivalents; Sulpicia and Afton are equally irrelevant mates-of-villains-who-matter.

When I promote them to greater importance, my male characters start to fall apart.

Bella finesses Edward's motivations almost immediately and is too much of a force for him to exert any meaningful pressure however much she loves him, and by the end of Radiance he's her glorified radio. Jacob is not smart enough or special enough to keep up with Elspeth except in the literal sense of accompanying her throughout some of the story, and he doesn't even get a chance to win her affection on his own, he coasts on Chelsea's "help". Where canon makes Jacob a force to be reckoned with at least as wolves go, I passed him over completely in the first book until the very end, in favor of his sisters who get literally no appearances in the original quartet. My hand wasn't forced there. I could have made Jacob the alpha and left Rachel and Becky in college and Hawaii where Meyer put them.

Alice is cleverer and more charming than Jasper, Esme is less of a caricature of naive goodness than Carlisle, Emmett's motivations are shallower than Rosalie's. Aro is powerful and dangerous, but rather than bother with giving him a competence upgrade to challenge my girls, I threw in an original (female!) witch-vampire wildcard. When I needed a random non-witch Volturi, I picked a name with no attached character out of the back of Breaking Dawn, didn't know it was a man's name, and invented a half-sympathetic female dancer instead and had to retcon why she would be called "Santiago". Maggie the lie detector is important and adorable with a strong voice and a personality. Charles the truth detector - who has comparable presence in canon - is a throwaway vaguely creepy flashback line in the mnemic blast. Liam's subordinate to Siobhan and Tia's subordinate to Benjamin - guess which couple gets to do anything meaningful? Heidi and Corin both have combat-relevant powers - guess who's still relevant at the Volturi's last stand?

I try to compensate for this. I don't work that hard, because I have lots of other things to focus on, and I know I'm one author in a literary environment that is pretty thoroughly dominated by other people's male protagonists, but I do try. The two Elcenia novels I'm currently in the middle of have one male and one female protagonist, and the former's story is longer - but come to think of it, Mallyn is very thoroughly shaped by the females in his life. He's closer to his mother than his father; his sisters than his brothers; his girlfriends, crushes and platonic female friends than his male friends. I could disclaim responsibility here too - Mallyn's not originally mine either, he's Julie's, she could have changed that if she'd decided he was gay or more comfortable with his dad or more interested in befriending Kaylo than Korulen, but I'm writing this now. If I want to rebalance this, I need to downplay Sashpark, play up Aaseth, downplay Rithka and play up Nemaar, downplay Finnah and play up Eran, postpone Kimmet's introduction for as long as I reasonably can and try to build up Mallyn's relationship with Gyre. I have the tools. But the male characters on that list don't interest me as much; I don't want to spend as much time talking to them through Mallyn's lips.

(It will not surprise anyone, I imagine, that Elcenia has so many characters that I once named 200 of them from memory.)

I can write a variety of male personalities. Talyn and Jacob and - oh, let's throw in a Goldmage character, Wiar - are all very different from each other and all unambiguous dudes. And all those personalities fracture a little under stress, when I try to zoom in on them. I can make this work for me. Talyn's unstable, he goes off and does wild and arrogant things and he doesn't have to act within a very narrow band of character traits for my betas to laugh and go "Talyn is being so Talyn!" Jacob's an intellectual half-step behind everyone around him because he doesn't have a vampire brain or massive intellectual gifts; when I don't know what to do with him, I can have him struggle to catch up. Wiar's gradually losing his memory and I only have to sustain him for a few more chapters before it would be inconsistent for him to have more than fragments of a personality left at all. And despite the fact that I can cover for myself like that, I wish I knew how to write male characters who were solid all the way through. Who react instead of going fuzzy in my head when things happen to them. Whose perspectives remain plain and whose motives remain followable at times when I'm now tempted to dip into their girlfriends' perspectives instead. Who have voices, who will talk fluently through me - instead of being lists of traits that I compare mechanically against pressures and histories to see what permissible results get spat out.

[Is this helpful?]

Edit: It just occurred to me that I might be able to remove one of my crutches when I get around to writing some of the gay male protagonists I have waiting in the wings. There's an Elcenia lead couple of boys I'll get to once I'm deeper into the politics arc. But then, one of them has a dominant twin sister... you see how hard this is?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-23T12:41:23.298Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What happens if you write a female character then go back and change the pronouns?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T14:12:19.779Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have never tried this. I don't think it would feel comfortable.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T16:26:22.292Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen it mentioned elsewhere as a way of finding out what background assumptions one has about gender.

Unfortunately, I have no obvious way of tracking down the cite, but I think the author found that when the male characters were given female pronouns, the amount of agency they showed became very unattractive. I don't remember what the shift was when the male characters were given female pronouns.

On my first reading of Mieville's Embassytown, I kept getting thrown out of the story because I couldn't believe the protagonist was female. I think it's because she was more interested in travel than in people. On the second reading, it wasn't a problem.

comment by NihilCredo · 2012-12-23T22:13:54.345Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A prominent pop-culture example is the Mass Effect sci-fi game series. Unless Commander Shepard's gender is directly relevant (such as during romantic subplots), he/she will say the exact same lines whether man or woman.

Over five years and three lengthy and ambitious games, I've probably read hundreds of pages of people discussing every aspect of the series and its narrative. The single time I can remember anyone saying that 'FemShep' felt a bit off was in direct response to the above observation; outside of that, she was wildly popular and often named as a positive model for the writing of female protagonists.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-12-24T11:39:41.371Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tangent: This basically does that. It doesn't work perfectly on hpmor, though - it swaps the pronouns just fine, but only some of the names, so you have to not only remember that Harry is now Harriet but also do that without being thrown off by the fact that Hermione is still Hermione but with male pronouns. That's patchable (eg, eg), but I don't know that it'd be worth the trouble.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T04:36:21.732Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how you'd do if you were writing (smart) children to whom most grownup sexual issues were theoretical.

comment by tenshiko · 2012-12-23T05:37:07.508Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Grownup sexual issues in the sense of acquainting one's genitalia with someone else's body parts are (mostly) theoretical for (not too precocious) children! Issues of one's sex are decidedly NOT. From a very, very young age - maybe for boys it doesn't become non-theoretical until middle school, but I'd laugh at the idea that girls aren't hyperconscious of gender expectations after the age of about five. MOR!Hermione is constantly comparing her relationship with Harry to "Romances" she has read, expecting herself to fill such a role under constant societal encouragement and reinforcement of how girls just act that way and melt in a variety of creative manners whenever they so much as think momentarily of love. That's something she never ever would have been exposed to and acting upon if she hadn't needed to visit McGonagall in December.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T21:26:38.250Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's why I said 'sexual' not 'gender'.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-12-23T19:58:18.043Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

maybe for boys it doesn't become non-theoretical until middle school

For many boys, gender is non-theoretical some years earlier than that, thanks to: ① adults pointing them at "boys' toys" (trucks, guns, rockets, army men, footballs) and away from "girls' toys" (dolls, ponies, kitchenware, jump ropes), and ② other kids, notably older kids, teasing boys as "sissies" or "girls" (!) if they stray too much outside of gender roles.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T04:40:30.299Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

One time I wrote a short story where the child protagonist and eir best friend literally do not have genders yet, does that count?

comment by zslastman · 2012-12-25T11:46:06.841Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This post has been very educational to me. The people in my head are either direct copies of me or opaque blocks of remembered behavior by others. I'm not even confident I can tell the difference if someone else is writing them. The fact that it works like this for you is humbling. I wonder how much of that is talent, and how much is skill...

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-25T14:01:53.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most of it is practice. I've had the named characters kicking around in my head for much of my waking time for years.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T17:28:59.256Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Wise Villain: doesn't make heroes' lives difficult, keeps them underpowered.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-04T16:30:16.338Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Vegeta from Dragon Ball once deliberately had himself beat to near-death for that very reason.

comment by dspeyer · 2013-01-03T20:01:13.651Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Specifically:

Sign up for the Auror preparation program in your sixth year. It's the next best thing. Oh, and if a famous Auror offers to oversee your summer internship, just ignore anyone who warns you that he's a terrible influence or that you're almost certainly going to die.

comment by Exetera · 2012-12-23T02:12:33.056Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So, by this law, Harry and the Weasley twins disturbing Neville outside the Hogwarts Express on the first day was the objectively right thing to do?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T02:54:33.262Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If they'd known the true consequences with certainty in advance... sure.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T14:01:02.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

Why?

EDIT:

However, the actual literary logic is something more like, "Once you show Harry thinking his way out of Azkaban, it is no longer possible for him to lose an even battle to Draco - the reader won't believe it." I don't think the 'power up through trial' thing is actually unrealistic, I mean, if I come out of this planet alive I'm probably not going to be fazed by much after that. But it's the more fundamental literary reason why so many stories work that way. You will perceive that this also points in the direction of, "Being run over by a truck isn't the same as punching the truck to a standstill" in terms of whether you powered up after that.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T05:46:42.695Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

By the standards of our community, yes, you're never supposed to flee in tears, and Harry has right-of-way to express any ideas he wants.

In a public debate, yes, that is bad form.

But getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture, and finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with someone who wanted to do horrible things to her. Violation of basic trust and in group solidarity.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T03:17:20.353Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but I wasn't sure you did that on purpose.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T09:52:13.269Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Harry is just a freak of nature... There is no way any 11 year old has read and understood the entire corpus of quantum mechanics, cognitive science, science fiction, and rationalism writings, no matter how much of a bibliophile they are.

Agreed. It works in the story because you don't think about it normally, and can mentally substitute him for an adult and forget he's nominally supposed to be 11. But it's really jarring when attention is called to it as in this chapter.

Admittedly this is an issue with a lot of child based literature, but I suppose its especially noticeable in HPMOR because attention is being explicitly directed at the internal mental processes of the characters.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T10:07:57.890Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Either that, or HPMOR has magic even stronger than parental love in it.

(I allow every work of fiction a quirk or two that isn't actually plausible, because to not do so is to vastly reduce the variety of stories that I could read. HJPEV I can tolerate, but another divergence from sanity on the same scale would start to really strain my disbelief)

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-01-03T21:29:34.119Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I understood quantum mechanics at 11. Possibly better than I do today, on account of having invented my own theories because I despised the existing ones as hopelessly out on a limb. (Short summary of my quackery: Einstein and quantum physics were/are wrong about light emission and quantized energy, and Rhydberg was right and gave up too quickly.)

My first adult book, at the age of 6, was Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It was startling to reread it as an adult and realize I had -comprehended- it at that age, so familiar was much of the material. I was reading and understanding thermodynamics papers when I was eight or nine. My father loved physics, and we'd discuss Feynmann's ideas on long carrides, of which there were many. I was formulating alternative explanations for light when I was twelve.

I had read the entire Wheel of Time series, or what existed of it at the time, several times by the age of 11. If I had been more interested in Science Fiction than Fantasy, I would have been a rough approximate of the Harry Potter from Eliezer's story. And if I had discovered rationalist literature, I would have devoured it, probably to the detriment of my mental health today; I was so far gone into Spock territory that -Atlas Shrugged- was a wake-up call that I should pay attention to my emotions when I finally read it.

So I find the character more than believable. He's actually rather more emotional and less calculating than I would have been, in his shoes.

comment by Alsadius · 2013-01-04T05:32:29.318Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose that if any website would have users who could compare to HJPEV, it'd be this one...

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-01-04T06:16:43.835Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His outlook is in many respects considerably healthier than mine were at that age; I truly believed in rationality for rationality's sake. But I don't find him an unbelievable character.

The really incomprehensible parts to me are things that I know some other people are capable of, such as emulating other people in their minds. His internal arguments are completely alien to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-22T21:11:19.075Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH, she was sorted into Ravenclaw, so she ought to be a top-quartile 11-year-old. (My model of real-world 11-year-olds is very vague, though, so I dunno. OTOH, IME there are plenty of adults exhibiting as much silliness as Hermione did in this chapter, so...)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T04:06:58.744Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

MoR canon points out itself that Ravenclaws aren't necessarily the cleverest, they're selected mainly for the virtue of scholarship and curiosity.

Dumbledore was a Gryffindor, and Riddle and Snape, and in the present generation, Draco, are all Slytherins, and they certainly don't seem like they could be outside the top quartile.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T06:06:05.927Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The top quartile of 11 year olds is not really an impressive group. Even the top percentile(assuming as a handwave 100 kids per class)...well, they're still 11. I was in the top percentile at that age by most Ravenclawish metrics, and I was painfully stupid until at least my mid teens(and probably later, truth be told).

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T05:03:06.359Z · score: 16 (22 votes) · LW · GW

I've read through the back and forth with EY on Hermione here.

I think the criticisms of EY's treatment of Hermione's silliness share Hermione's silliness.

Hermione is all wound up with feeling not as good as Harry, with a Greater Prodigy crisis, and twists that up in gender ideology. Notice that Draco, the boy born to rule, has no problem accepting Harry's greater competence, and certainly doesn't get in a gender based tizzy over it. Who cries for Draco's unflattering portrayal?

Look at Harry, Draco, and Hermione. Who is more emotionally balanced? Who has a healthier interpersonal outlook? Who isn't going to be a Dark Lord, no matter what? Who is actually the best student? Who treats people the best?

You want to talk about silly? How about Harry's moral tizzy over sentient food. Cannibal!

Keep in mind that Hermione won the first army battle. While the other generals were busy being brilliant and ordering others about, Hermione was busy organizing her team to get the best out of them.

Yes, Hermione doesn't have the sheer power Harry does. Why does she, and apparently others, think she has to have that power or she will be less than?

As for the Mars vs. Venus discussions between Harry and Hermione, whatever Hermione's silliness, Harry's always comes off looking worse in my eyes. And on the literary side, before 87 I was starting to feel that the tone had gotten rather grim and analytical, and worried that the light human touch in the book had been cast aside for grim heroic daring do. 87 was a relief.

Quirrell remarked on how Harry was exceedingly good at killing things. I don't think that's the right measure of overall competence, whether Harry or Moody. Hermione has basic good sense and decency that all the competent killers lack.

When I project out the story arc, Harry may win the battle, but the future belongs to Hermione. Better than Dumbledore, better than Moody, better than McGonagal, better than Harry. Though having said it, I wonder if Hermione will get a phoenix visit, take down Azkaban herself, and possibly not survive. There's been some foreshadowing on that.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T05:13:28.422Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm... I'm not saying that Hermione is written without virtues, or without net rather a lot of virtues. Hermione's lovely and I would want to be friends with her. I'm saying she has this flaw (it is fine that she has a flaw, characters need those) and that so do all the other girls her age (it is not fine that they all share it, characters need variety) and that it's representative of a larger pattern of mishandling female characters (also not fine).

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T05:32:14.196Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Could you precisely state the flaw you see? You say "silly" a lot, but what specific behavior do you find objectionable, and why?

I don't see the same behavior in the silly girls and Hermione. The girls play gossiping romantic fantasy, which Hermione herself has contempt for. The closest behavior is Hermione getting emotional about her relationships with Harry and other people, and what people think of her. Is having emotions about what others think a character flaw?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T05:54:31.522Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I go into more detail a bit elsewhere in the thread. She becomes hysterical about Draco, indulging some bewildering sort of friend-jealousy or romantic precociousness, moralizing to an unforgiving degree that she cannot possibly endorse if she thought about it for thirty seconds, making sweeping unsupported assertions about human psychology, determining of a sudden for no reason that Harry was supposed to be Science Monogamous with her, throwing a tantrum that is not necessarily age inappropriate but is not in keeping with her typical level of personal maturity, making their genders way more salient than they needed to be (she does throughout the fic, it's weird), identifying herself for some reason as a "poor innocent little girl" victimized by a question that she just made relevant enough for Harry to ask...

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-23T06:20:50.535Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

No offense (and I'm a boy so quite probably biased about this, fair warning) but are you sure you know what girls are like in real life? I know in a utopian world there would be no gender stereotyping, but in my honest experience, even as someone who strongly wishes stereotypes would all burn and die, girls in schools do gossip, and stress about relationships, and quite possibly are prone to sensitivity and preoccupation about love, even if it is culturally rooted.

Just wondering I guess if you've been so successful in emancipating yourself from that stereotype (congratulations on that) that you've ended up with unrealistic expectations of what is actually normal for girls.

That said I don't know you and don't want to come across as though I'm certain of what I'm saying either, just reporting on my brain's response to your comment.

EDIT: Typo fix

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T14:21:38.438Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Up until I was about Hermione's age, my friends were nearly all girls, and they were an even mix beyond that. I am not claiming anything so preposterous as that girls do not gossip or fixate on interpersonal matters. Of course they do; it's not even limited to children. I am saying that girls are not uniformly silly creatures, differentiated only by name, approximate g factor, and school House.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T07:33:07.133Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I think it would take more than 30 seconds to get over the fact that someone you rely on to be your only equal friend does not have a symmetrical relationship where you're similarly important, not to mention his OTHER close friend is the guy who has said he wants you dead.

comment by Sheaman3773 · 2013-08-19T17:26:22.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hermione explicitly thinks that it's sad that Harry only has her for a friend, while she can have other people that she enjoys spending time with. She thinks that it's flattering, but also a lot of pressure. If anything, this makes it seem that she's upset that the relationship is more symmetrical than it initially appears.

I fully agree with the part about the additional relationship being with someone who wants to do unspeakable things to her, however.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T06:55:45.520Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I said it elsewhere, but I'll reiterate and expand here.

Getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture for attempted murder of someone who she recently discovered wanted to do horrible things to her, and then finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with that someone. Threats to security, violation of basic trust and in group solidarity, where the stakes are a torture death for her and the allegiance of her best friend and savior, who she had recently resolved to stick by in the face of a persistent threat to her own life.

Maybe the inside view of that would be hugely emotional, and might impair dispassionate thought a tad?

Me, I think it was a narratively appropriate scene for him to reintroduce a little cliched comedy. It was a little overdone on both sides for comic effect, but that's how you make comedy. I thought it worked. I thought it was fun. I think he tends a little toward slapstick with his comedy, and it's not intended to be taken as entirely realistic character development.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2012-12-23T12:25:36.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Strongly agree, also like to point out:

she cannot possibly endorse if she thought about it for thirty seconds

What makes you assume she will endorse it after she has had time to calm down and think about it for 30 seconds? I endorse incoherent positions all the time that I then am forced to retract on reflection. Doesn't everyone? If our knee jerk reactions to things were correct we wouldn't all be here arguing on LW.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-23T13:09:10.270Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer obviously agrees with you, but... Hermione doesn't sound silly at all to me. Okay, explicitly believing that sufficient lack of sympathy makes one an inherently bad person is silly, but no sillier than Dumbledore's deathism. And the jealousy is completely justified. Harry encouraged the rivalry, then promised they would study magic together - that they'd be the team to crack it, the only researchers in the wizarding world, not that she could lend a hand as human library. Of course they're supposed to be Science Monogamous. And it's not like he's met another great scientist; he's going out of his way to teach science to someone who hated her.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T11:30:27.270Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I tried to get one of my friends to read MoR and he quit after about Chapter 20 because he was getting annoyed at how the children weren't acting like children. I think from his point of view, the disparity you're identifying between Hermione and Harry, say, doesn't count as mishandling Hermione so much as mishandling Harry... as far as my friend's point of view is concerned, Hermione acting silly is a completely appropriate response to what she's been through, and there is something deeply wrong with Harry Potter.

And... this is hard to talk about because I feel like I constantly have to make sure what I'm saying doesn't count as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy. I have some small understanding of male privilege. It would be nice if I could be given the benefit of the doubt on this. (Now I'm trying to figure out if that counts as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy...)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-12-24T03:31:09.984Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And... this is hard to talk about because I feel like I constantly have to make sure what I'm saying doesn't count as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy.

Don't worry about it. Complaints about "Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy" are mostly an excuse to enforce norms about things you can't say.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-12-24T10:13:19.405Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Complaints about "things you can't say" are mostly defenses of extortionate strategies in social relations.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T22:59:18.580Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

making their genders way more salient than they needed to be

IME people very often do that in real life.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T06:05:25.956Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, Hermione versus Azkaban. I want that.

If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express.

Also it would be a nice touch of realism: no one good person solves all the problems.

But there are three hard literary problems here:

  • the author has probably got another Azkaban answer in mind, based on Harry,

  • the author would have to prepare the ground for Hermione grokking the "Death ain't inevitable" approach to Dementors,

  • it would be tricky to write a realistic Harry who, even from Harry and the reader's POV, was "protecting Hermione's back while she saves the day" as opposed to "rescuing Hermione". The rearguard samurai who buys the hero time is a fiction staple, but it's not a default role for Harry.

  • [Edit: ] as wedrifid wisely points out below, Hermione has to have a good reason to believe she has to take the lead, since Harry is demonstrably better at the average Confrontational Solution than she is.

But if it happens I will be ever so happy.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-12-23T06:28:53.239Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express.

It would also reflect terribly on Hermione. She'd be an utter fool to attempt that kind of thing without using Harry's brilliance and resourcefulness. Her influence over Harry is one of her most useful powers and killing stuff ingeniously (and surviving) is pretty much Harry's specialty. It isn't hers.

It's one thing to insist on having your own team in a school battle-games. It's quite another to waste the opportunity to accept aid (and in this case even leadership) from an ally in a situation that means the life and death of yourself and others. It'd be disgustingly immature, take 'silliness' to a whole new level and be completely irrational. Unless Hermione's goal in attacking Azkaban really is more about her ego and signalling and not about the need for Azkaban to be attacked for some direct reason... and she had some reason to be completely confident that it wouldn't kill her.

No respect points for ego when it is at the expense of shut up and multiply.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T06:38:33.081Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, to make it plausible you do have to put Hermione in an impatient or infuriated state of mind, and Harry has to be out of contact. So, for example, suppose:

  • Harry is elsewhere, preparing his next move against Voldemort; and

  • Hermione gets dragged to Azkaban on a visit by someone intending to intimidate her, and she concludes it is just as monstrous as Harry thinks. (Actually, she'd probably be even less tolerant: Hermione is not a lesser-evil-excusing sort of person, once you jolt her out of her status-quo bias.)

You could argue that would be enough -- Hermione is good at hard work and righteous indignation, and she and Harry could be arranged by the author to have discussed hypothetical Azkaban strategies beforehand. If you wanted added pressure on Hermione,

  • someone threatens her with death or, indeed, imprisonment within Azkaban.

In which case Hermione might rationally decide to "go out with a bang."

The hardest part of this (in a literary sense) would be keeping Harry away from Hermione for the critical period.

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-23T06:46:28.194Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But Hermione isn't really rational, she's just intelligent. I don't think she can perform a feat of astounding rationality in this fic, as you are suggesting. Her idea of morality is flawed and naive. If I imagine her going to Azkaban and destroying it, it would be for decidedly uninspiring reasons to me, as a rationalist.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T09:08:40.845Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused. What would you suggest as an example of an "inspiring reason" to go and destroy Azkaban, that does occur or could occur to Harry, that would not normally occur to Hermione?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-24T03:15:31.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I go into more detail in the post below, but I only picture Hermione attacking the dementors under some kind of time pressure with Harry unavailable.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/g1q/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/8441

But I'd disagree that it would reflect terribly on Hermione. It wouldn't be optimal, but few people behave optimally. Lily's futile attempt to save Harry was suboptimal, but I don't think it reflected terribly on her.

Unfortunately, Hermoine's particularly suboptimality is exactly this - trying to prove that she is as effective and powerful as Harry, and so not wanting Harry's help. She should know better. And she does, in a sense, and better than Harry or Draco. She was the general who got her army to help do the planning for the battle. She could accept their help, and sought it out. But her Prodigy Superiority Complex is threatened by help from Harry.

This whole scenario is taking a grim turn in my mind. Hermione may sacrifice herself to destroy the dementors, only to have Harry see that the sacrifice was unnecessary, and could have been avoided if he updated the note he gave to her on dementors.

comment by conchis · 2012-12-28T07:01:19.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It wouldn't necessarily reflect badly on her: if someone has to die to take down Azkaban,* and Harry needs to survive to achieve other important goals, then Hermione taking it down seems like a non-foolish solution to me.

*This is hinted at as being at least a strong possibility.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T06:43:57.751Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For the literary problems:

We've already gotten the scene where Harry decides he has something else to do besides killing dementors.

Harry has expressed that he's sure Hermione could learn the True Patronus and wouldn't be able to stop herself from destroying Azkaban. She already has the secret in a note from Harry. She's been introduced to Fawkes. And she was led to her first bullies by flashes of gold and red.

He could have Harry taken to Azkaban, and Hermione break him out. That would be a bit too femi-cliched for my taste, but you never know.

Harry might be off somewhere, and Hermione will need to face the choice of going to Azkaban alone. She might face the choice believing that Harry is dead. EY has referred to Stephen Donaldson before. A "Lord Mhoram's Victory" scenario could fit nicely. (Very moving scene from Donaldson, and perfectly in line with EY's sense of life.) Along that line, maybe all the Dementors besiege Hogwarts (Harry and Dumbledore being elsewhere), slowly wearing down the defenses, and General Sunshine remembers the note from Harry, runs off to get it, and as she overcomes her fear of Dementors and resolves to fight them, she hears a great CAW! and is faced by a phoenix that transports her into the midst of the Dementors and she destroys them all.

I think the groundwork has been laid, and the plot turns aren't so difficult. Hermione as taking McGonagal's in mounting the defense of Hogwarts works for me.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T08:30:18.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, good point, the author's prepared for Hermione to take on Azkaban. The trick will be motive.

If Hermione harrows Azkaban for Harry's sake, that's Hermione the faithful NPC, not Hermione who has wishes and dreams of her own.

If Hermione harrows Azkaban because it's the right thing to do, that will be pure awesome.

As you say, if Hermione believes Harry is dead, especially if she believes some other innocent is about to be sent to Azkaban, she could spring into action quite on her own.

I think you've convinced me 66% that Hermione, not Harry, takes on Azkaban.

What I don't feel so confident of is that the author will manage to do this in a way that Hermione's motive is "because it's the right thing". The gravitational pull of "Harry causes all interesting good things" is strong.

Avoiding the "Harry causes everything good" gravitational field isn't an insoluble problem. But EY has a lot of other balls to juggle besides the harrowing of Azkaban.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T09:43:40.068Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

" You have courage enough for Gryffindor, said the calm voice of the Sorting Hat in her memory, but you will do what is right in any House I give you. You will learn, you will stand by your friends, in any House you choose. So don’t be afraid, Hermione Granger, just decide where you belong..."

"Why, no," said Professor Quirrell. "I stopped trying to be a hero, and went off to do something else I found more pleasant."

"But you don't have to be a hero, Miss Granger," said Professor Quirrell. "You can stop anytime you please."

That idea... ...had occurred to her before, several times over the last two days.

People become who they are meant to be, by doing what is right, Headmaster Dumbledore had told her.

Hermione Granger, I shall be less subtle than is usual for a mysterious old wizard, and tell you outright that you cannot imagine how badly things could go if the events surrounding Harry Potter turn to ill.

The most powerful wizard in the world had told her that, when he was talking about how important it was that she not stop being Harry's friend.

Staying with Harry is not for Harry's sake, it is the right thing to do. I think you're over constraining the solution.

And I wouldn't say that the harrowing of Azkaban is the point - it's the destruction of the dementors. The continual torture provided by the dementors is what makes Azkaban an abomination.

Although wouldn't it be strange to have someone else defeat Death besides Harry? He's learned much more about death than he knew when he first cast the True Patronus, and he has the invisibility cloak.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T10:01:21.158Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A Hermione who risks all against Dementors "to help Harry" is not nearly as interesting to me as a Hermione who risks all against Dementors because they're evil regardless of Harry.

We'll all help our friends. Pick any evil person in history -- they had friends. If they're a political leader, they had lots of admirers.

The fic itself has Harry make the point that if you're only interesting in helping an "us" and not a "them", that's a pretty weak sort of good that easily turns to evil.

I think in a fic so full of extraordinary characters, Hermione deserves to be extraordinary enough to do awesome things even for strangers, even when she doesn't think her friends will benefit, because a world without dementors is just better.

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-23T06:49:34.862Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can well imagine Hermione getting a phoenix. Her potentially resulting self-sacrifice could well be a climactic point in the fic, in fact. Its effect on Harry would be interesting to see, too.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-23T07:13:14.239Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Its effect on Harry would be interesting to see, too.

Just reading that makes me sad.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:53:37.510Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

As a rule, "And what effect does this have on the protagonist?" is the most commonly answered question in narrative. That's what being the protagonist means, really.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T01:20:06.145Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I think the female sex in HPMOR comes off poorly for three reasons:

  • The major adults are mostly men. "Female" ends up also signifying "childlike."

  • The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

  • Hermione and McGonagall are not tragic or ambitious. Draco and Dumbledore can "level up" in HPMOR to agendas worthy of Harry's, but Hermione and McGonagall, being largely tame cooperators, are overshadowed by their even-grander-than-before comrades.

If we wanted to imagine alternate versions of the fic with less of this difficulty, some conceivable changes would be:

  • Give Hermione and McGonagall risk-defying agendas of their own. (Make them Aragorns or Boromirs, not Gimlis and Pippins.)

  • Make the boy students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Evil Overlord Plans just as much as the girl students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Romantic Entanglements. ("No way, dude! Snape's going to take out Quirrell with his Godelian Braid Potion!")

  • Make Harry need the help of other students more, so that we can understand the girls' gossip as how they let off steam and not as what unimportant people do.

But I think this fic is too nearly done, and too big, to contemplate such changes at this point.

comment by Solvent · 2012-12-23T04:57:35.421Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

This is a very good point. As a reader, I think those 'silly young boy' conversations would probably get old for me faster than the girl ones.

comment by Bakkot · 2012-12-24T03:47:24.568Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They'd get old really fast for me, considering that there isn't a good way for sports stories to even be about main characters.

comment by Sheaman3773 · 2013-08-19T17:31:01.267Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unless I'm misunderstanding you, there is a good way for sports stories to be about main characters--you have the main characters be a part of the teams being discussed, say with school sports. That wouldn't work in this fic, of course, but it is possible in general.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T03:12:54.097Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

This is much of the reason why in the real world I'm usually way more comfortable with being in all-female (except for me) groups than in all-male groups (unless they are particularly high-Openness). Sports bore the crap out of me.

comment by taelor · 2012-12-23T05:14:38.888Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is kinda tangential, but this just now occured to me: I am male, and my too biggest hobbies are watching pro- sports and playing tabletop RPGs; while various folk ontymologies define these two activities as being on opposite ends of the jock-nerd spectrum, I have always maintained that they are actually quite similar (I am not the first person to comment on this similarity) Both fandoms have a reputation for being male dominated; my question is: is this a co-incidence, or is there something about emotionally investing in naratives that have been basically woven whole cloth from what is essentially a random number generator that is off-putting to girls?

(Possible confounding factor: I'm admittedly not your standard sports fan, though we're apparently a sizable enough minority to get our own negative stereotypes and labels as sportsnerds/statheads.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-23T11:36:24.175Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

emotionally investing in naratives that have been basically woven whole cloth from what is essentially a random number generator

Video games and gambling also are more stereotypically masculine, and I can't think of any stereotypically feminine thing in that reference class, so you might be on to something.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:49:16.024Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, the more stereotypically-female forms of gambling are things like slots, which have no narrative, while men stereotypically go for the more narrative games like poker.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T01:59:38.667Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hermione is ambitious-- she wants to be a hero. Unfortunately, it seemed to me as though it was mostly because it sounded cool more than because there was much she wanted to accomplish or protect. Since then, she's taken it on more seriously, though.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-02T22:45:05.849Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Her motivations might make her less pure as a hero, but they emphasize that she is ambitious.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T06:10:34.599Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which adults do you consider major? Dumbledore, Quirrel, Snape, and McGonagall seem the definites, with Moody, Tonks, Flitwick, and Bones as second-stringers. That's 1/4 or 3/8, which is majority-male but not absurd.

I do like your second suggestion, though, even if your first is hard to reconcile with canon, and your third is hard to reconcile with MOR!Harry.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T06:27:37.096Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, there's nothing absurd, individually, about the mostly-male lead adults, the author's distaste for sports comedy, and having Hermione and McGonagall be far less hubristic than the men.

The author is largely following canon in each of these, except for minimizing Quidditch (for which I, for one, am heartily grateful) and for adding in shipping humor (which I also like). The trouble is the cumulative effect.

I see not the slightest evidence that the author wants Hermione and the other females to come off as narratively second-best to the men.

But in the absence of a positive force impelling Hermione et al toward narrative grandeur, they end up being defined as compliant like McGonagall, or trivial like the romantic gossipers, NPCs rather than PCs in either case.

EY observes that Hermione doesn't need more brainpower to be a force in the story. Unfortunately, since she's in a story, not a collection of biographies, she does need more narrative impetus to get her to engage in story-like behavior alongside the men.

The same is true, at a smaller scale, for Padma as versus Neville and Blaise. The boys have tolerably specific ambitions; the girls don't. Hermione wants to be "a hero"; Harry has a list of specific large problems he's aiming to solve. The narrative outcome was inevitable.

When your main characters are as aggressive and grandiose as Harry and Quirrellmort, anybody without an active force to make them narratively prominent ends up looking second-rate.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T07:03:30.887Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a fair criticism.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T15:26:48.680Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Alicorn: McGonagall is not silly, it's true. McGonagall may be the best female character Eliezer has done. But I'd feel better about it if she'd been revised for hypercompetence while Moody was a minor side character serving as a cautionary tale about wasting time on low-probability risks, or something.

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

EDIT: I meant that she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent.

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

(It's a fandom in-joke.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-02T22:48:22.945Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

Exactly! Just like Hagrid was in canon.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T16:58:21.260Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

It didn't seem that way to me-- McGonagall is shown enough respect by other wizards and witches that she's clearly above average.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T22:21:15.129Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I meant that more in terms of she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent.

Hmm, that didn't come across very well.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:55:25.466Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's fair. She's competent, but she's not superhuman. In a fic based around the interaction of ~3 people who are(Harry, Quirrell, and Dumbledore), she's going to come off second-best.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-22T18:10:41.251Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This relates to something I think I've been seeing-- most of the boys are silly but it's because people are silly.The girls are silly because they're girls.

On the other hand, I've only read HPMOR once. Does this seem like a fair reading?

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-22T18:42:11.005Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Can you point out any concrete examples of what you mean?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-22T19:57:01.243Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not right now-- I'd have to do a serious reread, I think. I can do some generalities though, if that might help.

First, I realize that analyzing stereotypes in fiction is difficult because it's about background assumptions (aleifs?) of the author and the readers interacting with each other. And I keep wondering why so much thought goes into GRRMartin possibly stereotyping his female characters when King Robert is a more simple negative gender stereotype than I think any of the female characters are.

Part of the problem is that the girls in HPMOR seem like an undiferrentiated gossiping mass. I admit that I haven't noticed differences among the minor boy characters, either, but at least they don't all seem like they're all the same.

Alicorn, what have you noticed?

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-12-22T21:09:15.266Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I'm quite on the same wavelength here, but what I'm seeing is that the boys are mostly proto-somethings - not just the obvious ones, like Harry being on the road to being a Light Lord or Draco gearing up to be the first reasonably-enlightened Lord Malfoy, but even relatively minor characters like Neville and Ron, you can get a pretty good idea of what kinds of people they're going to be when they grow up by looking at what they're like now and extrapolating - and the question of what kinds of people they'll be is taken seriously, too, in how things are framed and how the other characters react to things. (Harry's very first interaction with Neville, for example.) The girls don't really seem to have that same quality of being adults in training; even Hermione's heroism arc was more about her reputation and ego in the here-and-now than anything I can imagine her continuing past age 16 or so, and it takes a lot more work to imagine any of them having interesting roles as adults - it feels like it really doesn't matter whether any of them do anything more interesting than being housewives.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-23T01:29:15.271Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's it: the girls don't aim for distinctive future selves, the boys do.

Blaise and Neville are each trying to become something, and it's something different in each case. The girls? Not nearly so much.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-12-23T11:10:39.915Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This seems a strange comment to me. After the SPHEW arc I think I have a much better understanding of the thoughts and ambitions of e.g. Padma (doesn't want to fall back into harmony with her sister and is now seeking a non-evil way to do this), Susan (voice of caution through the influence of her Aunt, non-arrogant enough to seek out Tonks help) or Tracey (Darke Lady who'll have everyone as her husband), than e.g. the characters of Dean Thomas or Seamus Finnigan or even Blaise Zabini. Possibly even Neville Longbottom.

comment by Daniel_Starr · 2012-12-24T02:11:08.693Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The boys get the HPMOR equivalent of "I want to be a selfless doctor" or "I want to be an important politician."

The girls get the equivalent of "I don't want to be like my relatives" or "I want to be adored by lots of men".

The girls' aims seem defined by types of relationships, which makes them more fragile and harder to visualize than aiming for a type of occupation.

This doesn't mean that Padma wouldn't be cool in reality. (Real-life outcomes seem determined as much by search method as by deliberately planned destinations.) But in a story, it gives her less narrative impact.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-12-24T10:16:20.991Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The boys get the HPMOR equivalent of "I want to be a selfless doctor" or "I want to be an important politician."

I don't see it. Can you speak specifics? What does Blaise Zabini, or Neville Longbottom or Lesath Lestrange or Seamus Finnigan or Dean Thomas get in regards to the above?

On my part, I see Blaise want to amuse himself via lots and lots of counterproductive-to-his-own-good plots, Neville wanting to avenge his parents, Lesath wanting to be Harry's minion, and I don't remember Dean and Seamus ambitions at all...

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-12-23T15:40:55.980Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

have a much better understanding of

This isn't what I was talking about.

We don't need to know the details of what a character is trying to do to see that they're acting in a goal-directed kind of way, or to infer some general things about the types of goals they're going after. It's kind of like - imagine watching a documentary about rubber balls, and there's a two-minute clip in it about how they're shipped that shows a truck and gives a vague handwavey map of the transportation network. At the end of the documentary, you'll know much more about rubber balls than trucks, but that doesn't make rubber balls more complex or more interesting than trucks are - and you have enough information to know that, even if you can't say much more about trucks than that they exist and can carry things over long distances.

What I was actually trying to get at is a bit more subtle than even that, though - even the boys who aren't actively trying to become specific plausible types of narratively-coherent adults are pulled into that by the assumptions of the people surrounding them, whereas the girls don't just care less individually (of the ones you named, only Padma has anything remotely like a realistic goal for adult-herself, as opposed to a simple set of character traits or a silly fantasy that obviously won't happen), the people around them don't take an interest in the issue, either.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T20:52:41.512Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the "undifferentiated gossiping mass" bit.

Any specific example has a corresponding counterexample. Padma Patil, for example, gets nonzero development and, IIRC, perspective time, which could go a ways to counter "undifferentiated gossiping mass" - but a male character on about her tier of importance, like Blaise Zabini, gets to enact plot and is more distinct as a single person than she is. Even Ron, who is of negligible relevance, has a named skill that differentiates him from the background. Does Padma? As far as I can recall Padma is just sort of generically informedly bright. Hermione's intelligence, gratuitous perfect recall, and magical prowess can go a ways to counter "female characters are less competent" - but the most competent characters, even if you don't count the protagonist, are all male.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-22T23:48:25.124Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Padma feels to me like a much more important character than Blaise Zabini, and a more developed character too. I could go into detail but I'm not sure I should, since that sort of thing an author is supposed to communicate through story. I wonder how that perspective difference developed?

comment by LucasSloan · 2012-12-23T00:00:59.363Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems clear to me that Padma has a future, whereas Blaise has none. This isn't quite the same as saying that she has been more important than he. Also, Padma has been developed as a character insofar as she has actually been changing over the course of the story, but her personality is only slightly more explored than Blaise's.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T03:45:50.159Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't off the top of my head think of anything Padma has done apart from trade places with her sister, whereas Blaise was helpful to Hermione's start as a general, pulled off the ridiculous underwater plot, and had the badass moment of sitting exactly in the middle of the room. I even know something about his mother.

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T04:44:08.948Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Padma had the subplot where she was mean to Hermione and Harry "reformed" her or whatever. She is put as second in command in Dragon Army and is respected enough by Draco to make him realize why his father said that Ravenclaw was an acceptable House from which to choose one's wife. She is shown to be powerful and loyal in both the armies and in SPEW (her prismatic sphere or whatever is mentioned to be particularly strong; she doesn't hesitate when Hermione tells her to go find help). Finally, she sort of kind of notices that something is wrong when interacting with Tonks!Susan while the others all think that Susan is a double witch. I'm not going to argue about whether she's more important than Blaise but she definitely does more than just switch places with her sister.

On the topic of Blaise, we can be fairly confident that almost none of what happened in the underwater battle was the result of his competence; he was just the headmaster's tool. Also, we are shown that he isn't that skillful a leader as without the advantage of the green glasses he loses his battle against (I think) Dean Thomas. On the other hand, Padma successfully leads Dragon army to victory after Draco looses his duel with Hermione.

comment by Manfred · 2012-12-23T15:42:16.416Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. This suggests that an important factor might be reader bias as well. Though really, all anyone remembers Blaise Zabini for is his moment-of-badassery. Anyone without an in-writing moment of badassery is going to seem less memorable no matter what.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T06:59:34.013Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

...yep.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2012-12-23T04:09:34.838Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In terms of memorable badassery, sure, Blaise seems to have more. But Padma feels more relevant, and more developed. It's just that she's so incredibly not in the spotlight that people seem to gravitate toward Blaise as the most ascended of the first years because of how showy his displays were. Outside of the plotting in the battles, Blaise doesn't seem to do anything, whereas Padma is around and interacting with people and even got Harry to do something politically dangerous to protect Hermione's reputation.

I was actually a little surprised that the tvtropes article made Blaise out to be the most notable ascended extra, when he had effectively one moment in the spotlight and the plotting surrounding that, whereas Padma seems like a more consistent secondary (or maybe tertiary) character.

comment by Exetera · 2012-12-23T15:22:17.964Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that this perception of undifferentiated gossiping masses may be affected by bias in what the named characters listen to. The male population of Hogwarts might well seem like an undifferentiated Quidditch-loving mass if it weren't for Harry's tendency to fling Quieting Charms around when he wants to get out of conversation. (And, as a more literary reason, the girls' gossip is often plot-relevant whereas Quidditch jabberings wouldn't be.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T01:49:19.735Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I admit I don't remember Padma, but that may be more a matter of me than the book. I'm not the most focused reader on the planet.

If the boys were as stereotyped as the girls, I think they'd be constantly boasting and talking about which wizard could defeat which other wizard and making fart jokes.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-23T00:19:27.020Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the "undifferentiated gossiping mass" bit.

Me too; I can't remember the differences between the various female students that aren't Hermione. They feel like background - possibly because they don't interact with Harry very much and they spend most of their on-screen time talking to each other.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-12-23T11:22:28.265Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I feel that the SPHEW arc clearly differentiated half a dozen girls' personalities.

I still wouldn't really know much about Dean Thomas vs Seamus Finnigan. Do you really feel that you couldn't tell apart Tracey's and Susan's characters?

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-23T12:01:59.935Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't even remember the names of the different girls. There's one named Susan?

Then again, I don't remember the minor male characters you mentioned either...

::goes and looks up chapter 87 again::

You know, I thought that "Hypothesis: Hermione Granger" section actually was just the usual gang of girls talking again. I didn't even notice that it wasn't until just now...

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-12-23T12:18:16.460Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Well here's a reminder of the SPHEW members for the benefit of all: The following is the impression I've already gotten from their personalities

From Hufflepuff:
Susan Bones - cautious, loyal, feeling they're getting into DOOM and trying to avert it.
Hannah Abbot - smaller than the rest, shy, but trying too hard sometimes in order to impress the others - and Neville

From Slytherin:
Tracey Davis - very theatrical, very very eager, getting into the Darke Lady spirit, most silly of the girls, wants Draco and Harry for her husbands
Daphne Greengrass - attempts to seem dignified and self-controlled as befits her Most Ancient House, also crushing on Neville

From Ravenclaw:
Hermione
Padma Patil - currently trying to find a non-evil way of not-falling-back-into harmony with her sister Parvati)

From Gryffindor:
Lavender Brown - most enthusiastic about the hero/superhero thing, with costumes and catchphrases and such
Parvati Patil- only one who's personality I'm not certain about.

comment by ewbrownv · 2012-12-23T04:07:44.370Z · score: -6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

So what?

From a storytelling perspective, authors are not obligated to make their main characters (or even 50% of main characters) female. Considering the way the whole SF&F genre has been taken over by gritty female urban fantasy vampire hunters in recent years, finding a decent story with a male lead is actually a nice change.

From the perspective of realism, the fact that the most competent characters are male is to be expected. That really is the way the world works, thanks to the fact that males have a flatter bell curve with longer tails on just about every measure of ability. It isn't the result of an evil male conspiracy, and there's nothing wrong with an author depicting this elementary fact of (current) human nature accurately.

So I'm left wondering how your comments amount to anything more than "I'm unhappy because you aren't writing the story the way I would have done it."

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T04:12:43.255Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You're missing my point by a long ways. I'm not complaining about the main character. I keep explicitly saying "even if you don't count the protagonist". I'm mostly examining how the not-protagonists stack up against each other. Your remark about variance might be on point, except I'm complaining not only about the ratio of competent males to competent females, but also about the specific sorts of insufficiently varied flaws that are depressing the female characters' abilities/badassery.

comment by ewbrownv · 2012-12-23T06:26:04.749Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I was commenting specifically about the end of your previous comment, not the whole topic. Sorry if that wasn't clear. But as to this new point, why should an author feel obligated to gender-balance the complexity of the flaws they assign to minor characters?

Yes, I'm aware that there's a fairly common intellectual position claiming that authors should devote vast amounts of energy to worrying about that sort of thing. I just think that's a deeply misguided enterprise. A good author will naturally come to a pretty reasonable balance in the natural course of writing a story, and any major tweaking beyond that point is more likely to make the story worse than better.

Do you really think HP:MoR would be a better story if EY had spent a few weeks listing all the characters by gender, and trying to tweak the plot and insert details to 'balance' things? As opposed to, say, working out plot complications or dreaming up new moments of awesome?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T08:12:21.235Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I do think it would be better if the girls had more varied characteristics-- flaws, virtues, and interests. Who knows, there might be something generated from more interesting characters which would lead to more moments of awesome.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T14:14:47.917Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really think HP:MoR would be a better story if EY had spent a few weeks listing all the characters by gender, and trying to tweak the plot and insert details to 'balance' things?

You're strawmanning me. I will reply to you no further.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T14:30:07.576Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really think HP:MoR would be a better story if EY had spent a few weeks listing all the characters by gender, and trying to tweak the plot and insert details to 'balance' things? As opposed to, say, working out plot complications or dreaming up new moments of awesome?

Well, there's always coinflips. Much quicker than lists.

Of course, that's harder with fanfiction...

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T15:28:02.641Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Beware! You have summoned the ancient demon of Sexism. You must pay for your hubris ... in blood.

(Blood is another word for karma, right? Right.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T15:23:06.139Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This relates to something I think I've been seeing-- most of the boys are silly but it's because people are silly.The girls are silly because they're girls.

So, you're saying that showing boys as silly is realistic, but showing girls as silly is sexist?

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T15:44:59.654Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The argument she's making is that the silliness of the girls is all uniform and dependent on them being girls, namely that they all gossip about Harry, Hermione, and Draco in a romantic context. Now this isn't true if you take the SPEW members into account, but I can sort of see it if you only consider unnamed or cameo female characters in their dining hall conversations. She's also saying that the silliness shown by the male characters isn't so obviously determined by their gender (see: lack of silly conversations about Quidditch and other suggestions mentioned in the comments of this post).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T16:03:14.762Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

All of that, plus the girls' gossip being so heavily underlined for humor-- and to be fair, I thought a good bit of the humor was funny. This is bigger deal than it sounds like since I think almost all humorous fantasy and science fiction is more like a sequence of humor-shaped objects than anything that makes me want to laugh.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T22:09:27.080Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was being somewhat sarcastic there.

On reflection, it seems like we do see the girl NPCs being silly ore often, but we see them more often period (perhaps because Hermione cares more about reputation, and she's a girl,I dunno) and all NPCs are shown similarly silly. But that's just my general impression, I haven't exactly counted.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T18:12:12.182Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-22T20:21:17.770Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

Given the Quibbler article and everything, I'd actually expect it to be Draco that he uses as his example.

comment by Nominull · 2012-12-23T02:19:47.119Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Given how anxious he is about the idea of romance I would think he would tend to shy away from anything that realistic. Snape is safe since a teacher/student relationship would be excluded on ethical grounds. Draco could actually happen, and so better not to think about.

comment by wuncidunci · 2012-12-23T00:07:51.988Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Considering how Hermione reacted to the Science-with-Draco bit we can guess her reaction to might-marry-Draco-instead. Would totally look to her like Harry tried to keep his options open depending on how his orientation turned out after puberty.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T18:22:01.665Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Would totally look to her like Harry tried to keep his options open depending on how his orientation turned out after puberty.

I would have to support Harry here. Asking someone to declare love before they even know their sexual orientation is completely irrational.

comment by wuncidunci · 2012-12-23T20:12:52.189Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did not say this view of it would be accurate or rational. Hermione was however very upset in this scene and already saw Draco as a rival for Harry's friendship.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-23T19:32:12.556Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, but the correct reply is "I'm just not into you right now, if that changes I'll tell you and you tell me if you've moved on yet", not "You and the guy who threatened to rape-murder you should carry torches for me and I'll pick the one I like best when I hit puberty". Hermione is feeling betrayed because she's not special enough to Harry, telling her that she's only special because of her gender won't help matters.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:46:08.449Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Only if you assume that love has to be sexual.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-24T01:07:51.601Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In this context 'love' refers to romantic love, which is mostly sexual(ized).

Other kinds of love are different, but Hermione wasn't talking about them. For instance she wouldn't be offended that Harry also loves his parents.

comment by lukstafi · 2013-05-29T08:04:11.274Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

? I have a different conception of romantic love. I could swear I've been in love with my kindergarten teacher. And I was "dating" girls two years later. It ended though as this part of myself grew introvert, still before puberty.

comment by Bobertron · 2012-12-22T20:04:12.411Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think being jealous of Draco was the first really silly thing. But before, in Taboo Tradeoffs, she was only a damsel in distress. And before that she was the protagonist in Self Actualization, and that whole story-arc was pretty silly.

I don't think that she is very silly. Things like thinking that, going to McGonagall is the responsible thing to do, seem silly, but only in comparison to Harry. But if she doesn't start doing things that are relevant, soon, she will seem pretty pathetic. (Her actions in SA weren't relevant, and in Taboo Tradeoffs it wasn't really her actions).

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-22T17:57:26.332Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

I think this is because Harry doesn't deeply understand / have preferences between the various attractive male archetypes, and so when he sees Snape he thinks "male" instead of, say, "brooding, vulnerable, dark, assertive, high standards male."

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-22T22:39:19.954Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like it's just because he very recently had a conversation with McGonagall where "Hey, I might turn out attracted to Snape" was relevant (to judging girls who are attracted to him), so he's primed to think of him as an example.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-22T22:49:08.077Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm aware. I think that the additional details add precision.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T18:04:43.600Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Silliness. He's already entertained the thought of marrying Professor Quirrell.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-22T18:41:40.325Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

But only in an obviously joking way. Snape seems to be the one all the girls go for, so he assumes that he'd do the same if he were gay.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-22T18:41:05.328Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. But in that particular conversation, they were discussing the class of females that finds Professor Snape attractive. Harry, inexperienced in differentiating between the flavors of male attractiveness, has no idea what information McGonagall is conveying when she refers to a "certain sort of girl" that is drawn to Snape. As far as he can tell, she means "heterosexual plus unknown," and he rounds "unknown" down to zero when forecasting for himself. (Great use of probabilistic reasoning there, Harry.)

If he did understand, he would have been able to identify that Snape probably wouldn't be his type, even if he were interested in men.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-22T23:19:53.810Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The research on same-sex attraction is kind of weird. 10% is a good ballpark guess for how many men are habitually into men (with about an even split between gay and bi), but Kinsey (old data, time for a replication) gives more of a 20% total (with an even split too), using an unclear mix of attraction and behavior. But he also says that 46% (?!) of men have ever been attracted to a man. Maybe Harry is guesstimating that the probability he's into men in general but not Snape and the probability he's not much into men but Snape is an exception more or less cancel out?

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-23T00:27:33.457Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Kinsey used interviews, and there are some issues with sampling bias with his work - Almost all research on this since has used surveys. Which give wildly differing percentages depending on how the question is asked. asking about behavior in very carefully neutral tones:

"How long has it been since you have had sex with a man ?: Day, week, month, year, never" "How long has it been since you have had sex with a woman? Day, week, month, year, never"

Usually gives results in the 10% range, Asking outright if people are gay or lesbian, 2 to 3 %., A lot of this can be ascribed to the fact that LBGT is not just a preference, it is also a subculture - Just because you sleep with members of the same sex does not guarantee that you feel like a part of that subculture.

Snape... That is both the author and the character being funny.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-22T21:14:12.697Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it's supposed (by the author, not necessarily by the character) to be silly.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-02T23:02:22.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Start pursuing some more Harry Potter fanfiction and you might find some people don't think it's all that silly at all.

comment by Sly · 2012-12-22T17:37:42.132Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

When my girlfriend and I sat down last night to read the latest chapter she actually said to me after starting: "Ehh, this is a Hermione chapter, let's do something else and read this later."

I think I agree with you.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-02T22:32:51.464Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

McGonagall isn't silly, but she is the weakest Order-of-the-Phoenix character we've seen by far. She's always too stupid to understand what the wizards are talking about. She, much more than Hermoine, is a female character that is not strong enough.

It would be interesting to see more of Bones. She has certainly shown herself pretty bright and likable, and we haven't seen her priorities and tastes be as questionable as the other competent characters (Dumbledore, Snape, Quirrell, Moody).

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T18:07:47.596Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think a lot of this should be blamed on Rowling, not Eliezer. Hermione is pretty much the same as she is in canon, and I don't think we can fault him for not upgrading her.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T18:10:21.167Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree on all counts. Hermione does have a silliness flaw in canon, but it's much weaker. And Eliezer upgraded everyone else important.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-22T23:37:37.575Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Erm... a basic theory of MoR is that all the characters get automatic intelligence upgrades, except for Hermione who doesn't need it and starts out as exactly similar to her canon self as I could manage, thus putting everyone on an equal footing for the first time. I presume you're familiar with the literary theory which holds that Hermione is the main character of the canon Harry Potter novels?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T00:11:58.368Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Is that seriously what you were trying to do? I don't think canon Hermione actually has an eidetic memory, for one thing. And canon Hermione is not as silly. Even early on she has the ability to sort of... roll her eyes and move forward, when that's called for. Canon Hermione lectures but does not moralize; canon Hermione is not this romantically precocious.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T15:54:16.466Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What are the details about Hermione's memory in canon? Isn't there a bit about her remembering exactly what someone said, one of the other characters being surprised, and her explaining that she can remember because she listens?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T17:36:18.164Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

She certainly has a good memory, but she does not casually memorize 100% of things.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-27T08:07:03.028Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"I've tried a few simple spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard—I've learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough—I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?"

MoR:

"Do you have an eidetic memory, Hermione?"

Hermione shook her head. "It's not photographic, I've always wished it was but I had to read my school books five times over to memorize them all."

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-27T14:56:22.994Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I always interpreted her as exaggerating in canon; MoR leaves less room for that interpretation but if you read it differently to begin with I suppose they're not really as in tension as I thought.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-27T16:26:49.828Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I always interpreted her as exaggerating in canon

She quotes textbooks word for word, all the time. It's practically a running gag. I always assumed that Rowling thought that was a side effect of being smart.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-12-28T03:08:20.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

She quotes textbooks word for word, all the time.

I am having difficulty finding evidence of this. Could you perhaps give an example? (Ideally, a passage from the book.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-28T19:19:18.876Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In Half-Blood Prince, when Snape is first teaching the class about silent casting, he asks if anyone can explain why it's useful in combat. Hermione's answer is identical to that given in the textbook, which Snape comments on.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-12-29T00:12:22.574Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly an example. Are you are referring to this:

"Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you're about to perform," said Hermione, "which gives you a split-second advantage."

"An answer copied almost word for word from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Six," said Snape dismissively (over in the corner, Malfoy sniggered), "but correct in essentials."

This is basically Snapish for "You got the only correct answer, but I still hate you. Had you given an incorrect answer, I would told you that you suck as a person. Thankfully, the correct answer to this question is in a schoolbook. As such, I'll still use this opportunity to tell you that you suck as a person." It does not seem to have anything to do with Hermione actually having an eidetic memory.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-29T14:54:37.612Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, that's the one. Only Snape would criticize someone for having the answer too right (although there are overtones of "Guessing the Teacher's Password" here.)

(I never said that Hermione had an eidetic memory, only that she quotes textbooks.)

comment by Sheaman3773 · 2013-08-19T18:27:11.383Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As a teacher-in-training, I feel that I should say that while I do feel utterly appalled at Snape's pedagogical practices, there is a problem with reciting directly from the textbook.

That is, if you are quoting the textbook precisely, then how is the teacher to differentiate between remembrance and understanding? That is why teachers of more writing-oriented subjects often ask for the students to give their answer in their own words, to better gauge understanding.

There's also the possibility of the book having too limited a viewpoint, something that Severus "The Half-Blood Prince" Snape would definitely agree with, but he probably was just being a terrible human being, yes.

comment by blashimov · 2012-12-28T04:49:10.207Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeesh, I know she at least once remembered the right section and page, then read from the book, and I feel like she's quoted books before, but darned if I can find it easily.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-23T00:23:52.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What about fanon!Hermione?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T00:40:45.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't remember seeing an MoRish Hermione in any of the fic I've read.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T08:05:45.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation? It's at least got a very smart Hermione who understands that she has to think about what she's doing in order to defend what she cares about.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-23T14:12:35.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Haven't seen it; I'll take a look.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T14:24:58.548Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Is this seriously as close to canon!Hermione as you could get it? I assumed she got edietic memory to replace her canon intelligence, since everyone was getting the intelligence upgrade anyway. And the whole Bad/Good thing seems almost completely original to HPMOR, although it's possible it's a fanon thing I just haven't come across.

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T18:23:36.023Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

All the adults certainly were, but what about the students? Draco was the same before Harry started corrupting him, Ron's still an idiot, Neville is still a Hufflepuff, etc. Maybe Fred and George are a bit more awesome, and Zabini is an entirely different person, but aside from that Harry's peers seem to have been kept to the same level. If Hermione were a sensible person, she'd probably outclass Harry just as much as she does in canon, and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-22T23:42:47.011Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent

Yeah, exactly. Also Equally-Upgraded!Hermione plausibly ought to be smarter than the author.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:03:11.649Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If you think Draco is the same, you need to reread canon.

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T20:09:41.657Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you referring to the sexual stuff? I don't think that shows a difference in his personality so much as a lack of censorship. I could easily conceive of canon Draco making such comments, but them never being in the books due to censorship.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:24:41.065Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I'm referring to the competence. Canon Draco was a small-minded bully. Remember the Most Dangerous Student in the Classroom bit? Canon Draco made enemies every time he opened his mouth.

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T21:16:24.620Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Alright, you win there.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-22T20:41:16.818Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

MOR Draco had a course of education from his father that there was no evidence for in canon.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-12-23T01:49:08.219Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

MOR Draco had a course of education from his father that there was no evidence for in canon.

Yes, there is a causal explanation for why Draco is entirely different and much more powerful than in canon.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-26T00:09:35.219Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I just had quite a dismal thought. Harry is in disbelief the entire wizarding world is not pursuing the stone as priority one, which is a reasonable enough reaction.. Except.. How many wizards actually manage to die in their beds? Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground. Harry was not raised by his grandparents! none of whom ought to have passed away from natural causes. Those elders we hear about are in the main fairly high up on the "competency/scary/power" scales. The logical implication being that wizards are not overly concerned about old age, because very few of them ever die from it. Something else - A dark lord, screwing up a spell, the magical wildlife, a succession dispute.. will get you first.. This logic could well deter a lot of people from attempting alchemy ; Succeeding in making a stone without being as good a survivor as Flamel carries a significant risk of dying now to violence instead of in 90 years to natural causes.

Of course, this also means that Flamel might not be very unique at all. If the stone is widely regarded as a nuisance magnet, successful crafters may be keeping a low profile.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-12-28T17:10:28.906Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground.

They just had a magical war in which pretty much everyone lost a lot of their family, as noted in the earlier chapters.

comment by AnthonyC · 2013-05-03T14:14:44.060Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And another one 40 years earlier.

And these are wizards whose power comes from knowledge, so this is often a world where Old Is Strong. We might expect older people (in good health, because of healers arts, as Harry notes when talking to Dumbledor eabout immortality) to be closer to the front lines.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T07:26:34.167Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The logical implication being that wizards are not overly concerned about old age, because very few of them ever die from it. Something else - A dark lord, screwing up a spell, the magical wildlife, a succession dispute.. will get you first... This logic could well deter a lot of people from attempting alchemy ; Succeeding in making a stone without being as good a survivor as Flamel carries a significant risk of dying now to violence instead of in 90 years to natural causes.

For that matter, screwing up an attempt to make the Philosopher's Stone might very well be one way to invite a premature death. Alchemy isn't necessarily safe.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-26T11:33:35.492Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good theory. The only objection I see is that it does not explain why the few wizards who have survived to a moderately old age do not pursue the stone. (It cannot be the case that all wizards die before they get close to dying of old age, as there are several old wizards running around both in HPMOR and canon. (e.g. Dumbledore))

In other word, while this theory explains why young wizards don't try to make the stone, it does not explain why wizards who are already old don't try for it.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-26T23:11:50.737Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Couple of options:

1: They do. Once a decade or so, someone succeeds and promptly takes full advantage of the fact that nobody is going to connect the youth of 16 they now have the look of with the magus of 160 they were, assume a new identity and keep their gob shut. For maximal hilarity, this could explain the rumor about double witches - there is no such thing, but youthful witches and wizards with absurd powerlevels? Real, if rare.

2: The rite does not work well, or at all, for the old. Several options:

2a: The muggle mythos about the stone is not entirely off base. The creation of the stone requires a level or type of virtue exceedingly rare in people who have survived 150 +years in the wizarding culture.

2b: "Alchemy" is wizarding euphemism for "Tantric Magic", which is why all the books are restricted and while the spirit may be willing... >,) This also explains why Flamel only shares the stone with his wife - You can only help people you sleep with. This, of course, also rather nixes any of our heroes doing it anytime the next 5 years or so.

2c: For reasons similar to potions, the rite just does nothing for a caster over the age of 15.

3: Merlins interdict is screwing with the recipe- anyone wishing to make a stone has to do the research from scratch, and without an extant community of alchemical researchers, that is a project beyond the capability of any intellect ever born. - Flamels success happened in a context that no longer exists.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-27T22:10:59.532Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like the idea that Merlin's interdict has ruined any community of alchemical (or any other kind of magic) researchers who don't work face to face.

comment by undermind · 2012-12-22T22:20:58.506Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

In any fic that comes out in installments, there's incentive for the author to have ever-more-gripping plot, for the sake of readers' short attention spans. I'm glad Eliezer has not fallen into this spiral, and still feels able to post a chapter in which no new plot developments happen (other than characters finding out about previous events).

So have a heart-shaped red-foil-wrapped candy.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2013-03-03T14:39:48.932Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, time to amuse ourselves while waiting for the next chapter.

When last we saw Hermione Granger, she was considering mass producing immortality to clear Harry's debts. I say we should see if we can think of things she could do to make money that are even more disruptive of the status quo than that.

1: "Hi Harry! I created a workaround for Merlins interdict! How much do you think I should charge for teaching someone Al-Azhims Greater Gate"?

2: "I found Rowena's Library Annex. Also, Rowena. anno 987 english: Incomprehensible. But her latin is excellent, so I think we are good to go."

3: "I used a wit-sharpening potion to devise a better wit-sharpening potion... "

4: "The good news is, I now have 27 metric tonnes of gold on hand. The bad news is, about that international wizarding secrecy decree..."

comment by mjr · 2013-03-11T21:33:00.461Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"I've had limited success in permanent transfiguration; no forms but I can power some nuclear reactions with my magic, the effects being ... as lasting as one might expect of the end product. Where would one sell weapons-grade plutonium in quantity?"

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-03-03T17:08:59.474Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"My experiments in time-turned computational arithmancy were going perfectly fine until the ghost of Alan Turing showed up. Alan, do tell Harry here what you told me about Dho-Nha geometries ...."

comment by PotKettle · 2013-05-17T05:27:47.429Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"I managed to get a fully functioning perpetual motion machine via Maxwell's Demon, not much use on the Magical Marketplace, but I think a Muggle initiative might be received a little more positively."

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-12-28T17:09:24.130Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

From Reddit: A concise summary of all plot high points in HPMOR.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-22T20:45:50.088Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Harry is missing a point, tough. Flamel is 600 years old, and started out powerful. Presumably, "trying to blackmail / kidnap Flamel" has been the endpoint of the careers of enough dark lords that they do not attempt this anymore.

,,, Wait. alchemical diagrams need to be drawn "to the fineness of a child's hair"? ... ... Eh,, I think it entirely possible that Flamel is the only wizard to ever manage to make a stone because he is the only wizard to ever try it while young enough to use his own hair. In which case, Hermione is going to show up with a working stone shortly.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T02:29:45.735Z · score: 27 (29 votes) · LW · GW

Harry's failing pretty badly to update sufficiently on available evidence. He already knows that there are a lot of aspects of magic that seemed nonsensical to him: McGonagall turning into a cat, the way broomsticks work, etc. Harry's dominant hypothesis about this is that magic was intelligently designed (by the Atlanteans?) and so he should expect magic to work the way neurotypical humans expect it to work, not the way he expects it to work.

In particular his estimate of the likelihood of a story like Flamel's is way off. Moreover, the value of additional relevant information seems extremely high to me, so he really should ask Dumbledore about it as soon as possible. Horcruxes too.

Edit: And then he learns that Dumbledore is keeping a Philosopher's Stone in Hogwarts without using it and promptly attempts a citizen's arrest on him for both child endangerment and genocide...

comment by Solvent · 2012-12-27T12:10:56.078Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Harry's failing pretty badly to update sufficiently on available evidence. He already knows that there are a lot of aspects of magic that seemed nonsensical to him: McGonagall turning into a cat, the way broomsticks work, etc. Harry's dominant hypothesis about this is that magic was intelligently designed (by the Atlanteans?) and so he should expect magic to work the way neurotypical humans expect it to work, not the way he expects it to work.

I disagree. It seems to me that individual spells and magical items work in the way neurotypical humans expect them to work. However, I don't think that we have any evidence that the process of creating new magic or making magical discoveries works in an intuitive way.

Consider by analogy the Internet. It's not surprising that there exist sites such as Facebook which are really well designed and easy to use for humans, rendering in pretty colors instead of being plain HTML. However, these websites were created painstakingly by experts dealing with irritating low level stuff. It would be surprising that the same website had a surpassingly brilliant data storage system as well as an ingenius algorithm for something else.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-27T23:27:45.347Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We have some weak evidence, namely McGonagall asserts that new charms and whatnot are created on a regular basis, which puts an upper bound on how difficult the process can be. But point taken.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-23T12:09:07.272Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It might be too surprising and horrible for him to let himself think that people might have access to the obvious stand-in for cryonics and just ignore it.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-24T00:28:43.113Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He already knows that the Dark Lord's death protection requires killing people. (Does it prevent physical degeneration or dying of old age?)

comment by PotKettle · 2013-05-17T05:33:42.950Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Somehow circumventing the Hayflick Limit is a possibility I suppose.

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T14:54:45.210Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You can't use the fineness thing as a reason for the Philosopher's Stone to be unique to Flamel as it says explicitly in the chapter that all alchemical magic has the same requirements, and it doesn't sound at all like Flamel is the only one who can do alchemy.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T03:32:47.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

,,, Wait. alchemical diagrams need to be drawn "to the fineness of a child's hair"? ... ... Eh,, I think it entirely possible that Flamel is the only wizard to ever manage to make a stone because he is the only wizard to ever try it while young enough to use his own hair.

I don't see why this would be an advantage over an experienced alchemist who's old enough to use their own children's.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T16:40:14.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or any other children's for that matter. Or they just know from experience how thick hair is. (It varies a lot between people, at least as much as between ages.) Or they're dedicated enough to make it much finer than needed just to be sure.

comment by gyokuro · 2012-12-22T21:30:44.009Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do strands of hair really become thicker over time? I doubt this.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-22T22:58:06.582Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

No, I am thinking that the process of making the stone may simply not work for wizards that have begun to age. - That the crafting process draws on the youth of the wizard or witch crafting the stone, - the hair of a child. And it has to be the hair of the crafter - Everyone after Flamel have substituted the hair of some random kid, which just does not work. it is a spell that can only be done at all by a child prodigy, Which explains why it has not been duplicated - Very, very few teenagers and below would try it. This would also explain why he has not mass produced it - He can not make it again.

Also, there is the point that Hermione knocking off a philosophers stone out of the blue would derail everyone's plots in the most hilarious fashion. Flamel's Stone locked away behind insane security? Too bad Dumbledore, there is a second one in a students trunk. Heck, she would probably start selling the darn things.

comment by tenshiko · 2012-12-23T05:02:55.547Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Probably? Definitely - the whole idea is her Get Rich Quick scheme to repay Harry.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T07:41:32.511Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You don't need to sell the literal hen that lays the golden eggs to make money from it. It turns stuff into gold, remember?

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-23T07:52:46.472Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

the literal hen

Penalty for incorrect use of the word 'literal'.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T08:17:15.829Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. In my head I wanted "literal" to modify "golden" but not "hen" or "eggs." I guess that didn't work out so well on paper.

comment by TobyBartels · 2012-12-23T09:18:50.276Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Try ‘You don't need to sell the hen that lays the literally golden eggs’.

comment by victordrake · 2013-04-27T19:54:30.494Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it was a goose.

comment by TobyBartels · 2013-04-28T15:08:08.889Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So it was!

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-23T08:18:32.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yhea, the open selling of stones would be more about "Not being kidnapped" than "making money". Her defenses rather obviously not being up to Flamels standards (and Flamel appears to rely in large part on hiding!)

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-22T21:34:14.805Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Baby hair is very fine...

comment by gwern · 2012-12-22T23:46:52.688Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have read that the reason shaving seems to make hair thicker and stubbier has something to do with the thicker hair taking longer to grow. The baby hair may remain as fine all one's life, but be slowly hidden under the slower-growing thicker hair?

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T03:36:28.114Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Shaving doesn't actually make hair thicker and stubbier, it just takes off a hair's tapered point and exposes a cross section.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T17:00:56.455Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure not. While I don't examine the hair in my hairbrush hair by hair, it all looks to be of about the same thickness.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-22T08:04:51.530Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

"owner of a transportation company that won the 19th-century shipping wars... monopoly on oh-tee-threes"

I literally facepalmed.

Also, wow, Harry must absolutely love the taste of foot.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-12-22T11:32:40.744Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just got that right now.

comment by MartinB · 2012-12-22T12:04:44.722Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't get it. How about a hint for non American Readers?

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-22T12:26:31.582Z · score: 28 (28 votes) · LW · GW

It's not American slang; it's internet slang, I guess? (The following is an explanation for anyone who both reads MoR and these discussion threads but isn't familiar with fanfiction in general.)

"Ship" is a term of art in fan communities deriving from "relationship" that indicates you think two fictional characters in some fictional universe should be together, e.g. "I ship Harry and Hermione" means "I think Harry and Hermione should be together." A substantial amount of fanfiction is centered on shipping, e.g. you might write fanfiction where Harry and Hermione get together explicitly because you are dissatisfied with the fact that it didn't happen in canon.

"Shipping wars" are a kind of conflict that can occur in fan communities between people who ship different couples involving the same fictional characters, e.g. Harry/Hermione vs. Ron/Hermione.

"OT3" is short for "One True Threesome"; it derives from "OTP," which is short for "One True Pairing" and refers to a couple that you ship very strongly, and I guess it means a threesome that you ship very strongly, e.g. Harry/Hermione/Ron. I suppose an OT3 is one way to resolve a shipping war...

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-22T15:30:02.240Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which is especially appropriate, given the other things that happen in this chapter.

comment by LauralH · 2012-12-22T12:14:15.452Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's just fanfic terms: "shipping wars" are people who argued over, say, Harry/Hermione vs. Ron/Hermione, and "OT3" in that case would have been Harry/Hermione/Ron. (The original acronym was OTP=One True Pairing.)

comment by MartinB · 2012-12-22T12:20:50.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ok thats rofl worthy. I got the OTP with google, but didnt make the connection to the fanfiction usage of shipping. My guess was a reference to Vanderbuilt and similar guys at see.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-22T20:03:18.883Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I was guessing it was some sort of Scientology reference - oh-tee-three being OT3 or Operating Thetan level 3. Which made no sense to me, but I couldn't do any better.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-22T22:32:02.160Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I laughed so hard I sprained something in my neck. I wonder if I can sue Eliezer?

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-22T11:43:34.082Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't get it. I googled "OT3" and it looks like it either refers to part of the process of becoming a Scientologist or "one true threesome," and I don't see what either of those things has to do with 19th-century shipping. Can someone explain?

comment by Plasmon · 2012-12-22T17:58:40.663Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

In chapter 62, Harry remains in control of his emotions when Dumbledore "imprisons" him

"You're saying," Harry said, his voice shaking as the emotions inside burned through the outer calm, "that I'm not going home to my parents for Easter."

Despite his emotional state, he admits to Dumbledore that he understands his motivations. Realising that he had no true reason to be angry with Dumbledore, he kept his anger in check.

In this chapter, we see a protagonist loose control over their emotions. (as far as I remember that's the first time this happens, but it's a long read and I might be wrong). I suppose the intent is to show that the protagonists are, for all their intellect , still fairly emotionally immature children.

The autor's notes say

Come on, you knew Harry was going to screw up that conversation.

There are two people in this conversation. True, Harry could have modelled Hermione better, he could have predicted she would be upset and steered the conversation differently. It is equally true that Hermione could have modelled Harry better and she could have realised that he did not mean to cause emotional turmoil, and that his conversation style is in fact a sign of respect : it means that he believes she can handle the truth, that he doesn't need to walk on eggshells around her.

To put the blame for this debacle exclusively on Harry seems insulting to Hermione : she's not an NPC, she too carries responsibility for what happens.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T00:44:16.994Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You're correct as a matter of rationalist etiquette, but...

Harry is the only student character who sometimes has that level of control over his emotions. Dumbledore can do that. Professor Quirrell can do that. Severus Snape can do that almost all of the time (see Ch. 27). Professor McGonagall tries to do that. Draco, Neville, Hermione, and any other first-year student you care to name except Harry can't.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T16:45:44.245Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And that's the real reason Harry feels Hermione can't compete with him on an equal basis. He respects no-one except Quirrel as a rationalist. Or just as rational.

comment by NihilCredo · 2012-12-23T21:20:02.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hey, since Plasmon brought up chapter 62: can we assume that whenever the fic resumes, there's going to be a scene of Harry's parents visiting Hogwarts?

(I post this less in order to get an answer than to prevent the off-chance you forget about it and end up having to squeeze in a hasty explanation for the missing visit.)

comment by LucasSloan · 2012-12-23T23:32:44.073Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Draco can't? What happened to Quirrel saying that he was strong enough to lose?

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T23:53:32.154Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Do you remember the first time he lost for real? He put a dark torture spell on Harry and locked him in an unused classroom.

comment by DanPeverley · 2012-12-24T23:51:11.915Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Plausible mechanism which would allow both immortality and lead to gold: The Philosopher's stone is a device which makes lasting transmutations. Thus, it would be necessary to re-use it every once in a while to stay young, but a single usage would suffice to turn materials into other materials.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-29T12:10:20.943Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Making Petunia pretty is a lasting transmutation. I keep thinking that's a significant plot point.

In fact, Cat Girl was a lasting transmutation too. Didn't seem like it's so hard to make a lasting transmutation.

comment by AnthonyC · 2013-05-03T14:17:30.270Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Control, however, seems hard and crucial.

comment by grautry · 2012-12-22T15:00:37.930Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Re: Flamel and his open-secret-recipe for the Philosopher's Stone.

Here's a quote from chapter 61:

His strongest road to life is the Philosopher’s Stone, which Flamel assures me that not even Voldemort could create on his own

And yet, the recipe is openly available for everyone to see. If anyone could reproduce the stone from the recipe, it would be the very intelligent, rational(and very interested in immortality) Voldemort.

So, how do we reconcile these two facts?

One option is, of course, the published, known recipe is a fake. The stone is real but Flamel lied to everyone about the recipe. That's certainly a plausible - if boring - explanation of the facts. The other plausible explanation is as Harry says - maybe the stone is a fake. Maybe Flamel is immortal because of Horcruxes and he invented the stone as a way to keep people off the trail of his phylacteries. Maybe Flamel isn't immortal at all, maybe he pulls of a Batman Begins Ra's Al Ghul style of immortality. Any of a dozen options is possible.

However, if we take things at face value, I think we can end up with a more interesting conclusion - I think this might be our first piece of evidence(it's not very good evidence, but evidence nonetheless) that the Interdict of Merlin is an actual, real magical effect, rather than just a cultural thing or a legend. The reason people can't reproduce the stone is because the Interdict obscures some part of the recipe.

I guess this is testable - do we know if Flamel had any apprentices to whom he tried to personally explain how to make the Stone?

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-22T15:26:41.431Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think this might be our first piece of evidence(it's not very good evidence, but evidence nonetheless) that the Interdict of Merlin is an actual, real magical effect, rather than just a cultural thing or a legend.

Why would we doubt it? It's a fact that high level spells cannot be passed down in writing. Surely many wizards tried to, if only to discover which spells are "high level". Presumably there's a sharp distinction between spells that can be written down and those that cannot. If wizards occasionally invented new ways to write down spells previously thought to be "high level", then they wouldn't assume that any other high-level spells couldn't also be written down by unknown techniques.

The simplest explanation for wizards believing in the Interdict is that it matches their personal experience. The Interdict behaves like a law of nature; every powerful wizard would rediscover it, even without existing tradition.

do we know if Flamel had any apprentices to whom he tried to personally explain how to make the Stone?

I don't think Flamel wants to explain to anyone how to make it. Instead he hoards it to himself.

My primary reason for thinking this is due to narrative causality. Harry wants immortality for everyone. If Flamel was like Harry, he would not be in hiding, instead he would be a famous immortal wizard who spent centuries trying to teach the best wizards of each generation (like Dumbledore) to duplicate his feat - or making more Stones for others. The actual Flamel seems set up to be a deathist and eventual foe of Harry's.

The other possible explanation is that making the Stone requires harming others so much that it becomes immoral to make it. This is true of a certain other famous way of making the Philosopher's Stone, and it also matches the Fundamental Law of Potion-Making.

comment by kilobug · 2012-12-22T20:52:42.021Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think making the Stone requires an evil act, or Dumbledore wouldn't be an ally of Flamel, and he wouldn't harbour the Stone in Hogwarts. But it may require some exceptionally rare components, circumstances (like some conjunction of planets that happens only every few centuries) or skills making mass production of it impossible (at least until someone understands the deep laws of magic).

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-24T00:39:16.449Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly making the stone requires A POWER THAT THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT.

The Stone could be somehow Patronus-based?

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T04:28:50.921Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think making the Stone requires an evil act, or Dumbledore wouldn't be an ally of Flamel, and he wouldn't harbour the Stone in Hogwarts.

Or he may not know how it's made. He says that Flamel assures him that Voldemort couldn't possibly make the stone on his own, so clearly Dumbledore doesn't consider himself fit to judge that.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-24T10:41:38.967Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

if anything, this makes it more likely that the creation of the stone requires something Voldemort lacks - such as innocence, youth, or, oh heck, virginity.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-29T13:38:46.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Tentative: Maybe it takes liking living things-- Voldemort doesn't seem to have any sort of generalized liking for anything but himself and his snake.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T17:47:15.663Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have to say, I personally have not gotten the impression that Flamel was being set up as an opponent to Harry - and this "open secret" notion only makes this seem more likely (it's not that he wants to be the only immortal, but that he's the only one capable of achieving immortality, was my thinking.)

That's a good point about the Fundamental Law of Potion-Making, although since Hermione was talking about how all Alchemy needs precise magic circles I would guess it's a distinct branch of magic to Potions.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T19:38:33.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it's not that he wants to be the only immortal, but that he's the only one capable of achieving immortality, was my thinking.

That would be more believable if he wasn't hiding himself and his Stone, and had spent a few centuries trying and failing to teach others to make Stones. Or if he had used the Stone to make as many more others immortal as possible, unless himself and his wife are the limit of its power. Or if he himself had made more Stones to give away.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T21:42:19.897Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That would be more believable if he wasn't hiding himself and his Stone

You mean the stone that can be used to bring back Voldemort?

and had spent a few centuries trying and failing to teach others to make Stones.

Well, he did make the recipe freely available.

Or if he had used the Stone to make as many more others immortal as possible, unless himself and his wife are the limit of its power.

Well, it seems like a smart design choice to include one companion in the allowance of Elixer - after all, the most common source of angst over immortality is watching those you love wither away, right?

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-24T00:40:30.388Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps he wants a cabal of limited size, or doesn't trust people to be among the Immortal Few outside of his wife.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-25T22:09:44.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He could be the hero. I mean, if the stone was just handed to me, and I wanted to make everybody immortal I would need a distribution network, need a way to deal with the inevitable hordes of deathists, need a way to deal with natural resource consumption (which I don't think the stone reduces) such as developing interstellar colonization, need a way to get people to slow down reproducing....

Deal with economic issues, and the people who fail to update on their beliefs until the Grim Reaper updates for them....

So if the stone was just handed to me, I would form a cabal of about a hundred immortals and start rapidly solving problems (using unlimited budget) until I have it ready for mass distribution.

OHHH NEW IDEA!

Flamel will end up taking in Harry and they will bring about the end of death.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T05:20:00.247Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible, I suppose. I don't think Flamel is intended as the villain, though. If he's just evilly suppressing immortality for the masses, then Harry will kill him and take his stuff. Seems like the Stone being an interesting aside and maybe minor McGuffin, along the level of it's importance in Canon, rather than rendering the main plot completely irrelevant.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T23:48:19.767Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You mean the stone that can be used to bring back Voldemort?

So before there was a Voldemort he was tutoring others in making more Stones, then?

Well, he did make the recipe freely available.

We don't know that. Maybe the recipe became known despite his wishes. Maybe someone else invented it and he just used it. Maybe it's a misleading or incomplete recipe he published, and that's why everyone has failed to execute it.

Well, it seems like a smart design choice to include one companion in the allowance of Elixer - after all, the most common source of angst over immortality is watching those you love wither away, right?

Including two companions would be twice as smart. Including a hundred companions would be a hundred times as smart. Restrictions on the number of companions must come from some external limit on the Stone's power, not from the limit of his desire. I don't believe anyone would say to themselves, I'm designing an elixir of immortality, let's make it include one companion, but not two, I only have one wife.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T05:03:09.349Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So before there was a Voldemort he was tutoring others in making more Stones, then?

  • If Flamel isn't trying to keep the stone to himself, why would he be in hiding?
  • Because Voldemort wants the stone?
  • So you're saying that he tried to teach other's how to make it?

Well, that's not what I said in the part you quoted, but as a matter of fact my suggestion was that he tried and failed to teach others the secret. Because the conditions for immortality are narrow and rooted in virtue ethics and the like. That's my theory, anyway.

Well, he did make the recipe freely available.

We don't know that. Maybe the recipe became known despite his wishes. Maybe someone else invented it and he just used it. Maybe it's a misleading or incomplete recipe he published, and that's why everyone has failed to execute it.

All plausible suggestions. However, I have't gotten the impression that Flamel was being set up as a villain. This is all speculation, and the fact that there are other possibilities does not mean my suggestion is somehow flawed.

Including two companions would be twice as smart. Including a hundred companions would be a hundred times as smart. Restrictions on the number of companions must come from some external limit on the Stone's power, not from the limit of his desire. I don't believe anyone would say to themselves, I'm designing an elixir of immortality, let's make it include one companion, but not two, I only have one wife.

I was thinking of Atlantian wizards or whoever designing this thing so it's worth having, but doesn't actually have a massive impact on the world. Obviously Flamel would have to be either evil or crazy or, most likely, both to impose such a limit himself.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-24T12:10:40.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's not what I said in the part you quoted, but as a matter of fact my suggestion was that he tried and failed to teach others the secret. Because the conditions for immortality are narrow and rooted in virtue ethics and the like. That's my theory, anyway.

It was a rhetorical question. My point was that I believe Flamel has not dedicated his life to either teaching people to make Stones, or creating more Stones himself for others to use, or even using his one Stone on others. And that is because he doesn't value the immortality of others, which is probably because he is a hypocrite deathist. And that will bring him into conflict with Harry when Harry learns of it.

It's also possible that Flamel will have a background story of trying and failing to teach others to make Stones. But if he had Harry's values, he would have dedicated all his life over several centuries, all his (putative) unlimited wealth and all the friends he could make with the promise of more Stones, to overcoming this failure. I predict that if there was such a failure, he has not Tried Really Hard to overcome it - he did not behave as though literally the lives of everyone in the world depended on it.

However, I have't gotten the impression that Flamel was being set up as a villain.

Not a deliberate villain, but almost inevitably someone who can be blamed for not making lots of people immortal.

it's worth having, but doesn't actually have a massive impact on the world

Incidentally, if it really grants unlimited wealth, that is also sufficient to have a massive impact on the world. Think what someone could achieve, just by influencing others, if he had the power to produce and withhold arbitrary amounts of money, and lived for several centuries and so could enact very long term plans.

comment by anotherblackhat · 2012-12-24T16:14:59.851Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The P.S. doesn't grant unlimited wealth, it grants unlimited gold and/or silver. A large part of the value of Gold is related to it's scarcity, so teaching others how to make stones would affect Flamel's personal wealth - oh, and probably destroy society too. And making everyone immortal includes the Voldemorts, the Grinwalds, and Baba Yagas of the world. and it's not like he personally is killing those people...

See how easy it is to rationalize letting everyone die? And I came up with those in just a few minutes - imagine having six centuries to make excuses.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-24T17:24:38.014Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

People already have well-known, cached thoughts excusing why rich people who don't share their wealth are not evil, and why death is really good and shouldn't be avoided. One doesn't need to think about it for centuries, just ask Dumbledore.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T16:11:11.700Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It was a rhetorical question. My point was that I believe Flamel has not dedicated his life to either teaching people to make Stones, or creating more Stones himself for others to use, or even using his one Stone on others. And that is because he doesn't value the immortality of others, which is probably because he is a hypocrite deathist. And that will bring him into conflict with Harry when Harry learns of it.

I am well aware that's what you believe, and it's certainly not trivially false. I was offering an alternative hypothesis.

It's also possible that Flamel will have a background story of trying and failing to teach others to make Stones. But if he had Harry's values, he would have dedicated all his life over several centuries, all his (putative) unlimited wealth and all the friends he could make with the promise of more Stones, to overcoming this failure. I predict that if there was such a failure, he has not Tried Really Hard to overcome it - he did not behave as though literally the lives of everyone in the world depended on it.

But it's entirely possible that he really did try to save everyone, but his personal source of immortality was insufficient for the job. Hell, in canon at least he was still making original discoveries with Dumbledore, so he could well be devoting effort towards reverse-engineering the stone or developing a more useful version. But it's not all that terrible to give up on solving a particular problem, that may in fact be unsolvable, after you've spent centuries trying and may well have determined from theory that it cannot be done.

Not a deliberate villain, but almost inevitably someone who can be blamed for not making lots of people immortal.

That's been the general assumption, but my point is that he may, in fact, have tried to save as many as possible (it's consistent with the recipe being freely available and with certain aspects of historical alchemy.)

Incidentally, if it really grants unlimited wealth, that is also sufficient to have a massive impact on the world. Think what someone could achieve, just by influencing others, if he had the power to produce and withhold arbitrary amounts of money, and lived for several centuries and so could enact very long term plans.

That's unlimited amounts of gold. And he may, for all we know, be engaged in using his funds to improve the world (while trying to avoid detection by Dark wizards.) Or the lead-to-gold aspect could actually be a rumor, I suppose.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-24T17:26:11.212Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly what you propose is possible. But I don't feel that it's probable. The goal of making many or all people immortal is of immense value. The effort devoted before giving up should be commensurate. The theoretical proof that it is impossible should be extraordinarily strong before people ought to stop trying to refute it.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T21:41:01.230Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How many centuries does the world's greatest alchemist have to spend on one problem before it becomes more useful to do research and use his vast wealth to benefit humanity?

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-24T23:18:30.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, at least fifty or sixty.

More seriously, one can do both. Sure it's hard to perfectly and completely solve the problem of best using unlimited gold, taking into account appreciation etc. But on the margin, it's pretty clear the world could stand a few more billions given to charity without hurting the economy too much.

And, there's no evidence Flamel has used his vast wealth to benefit humanity - certainly not in proportion to that vastness. In a counterfactual world where Flamel spent a year out of every ten using gold to benefit humanity, we wouldn't see nearly as many good causes that could really use another million dollars.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-25T13:17:12.036Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it is odd that we haven't seen evidence of the world being improved by large anonymous donations of gold. Maybe I was wrong to assume Harry was talking nonsense when he decided the stone creating gold was just a rumor.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-25T19:17:54.734Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

it is odd that we haven't seen evidence of the world being improved by large anonymous donations of gold.

In fact we haven't seen evidence involving large amounts of gold at all. Not just anonymous donations, but purchasing assets, hiring powerful people, bribing governments, setting up influential media, research institutes, factories...

Maybe Flamel is so old that he just doesn't comprehend the Industrial Revolution ideas of how one can translate money into power... but some ideas are as old as money and large governments. Or maybe he just thinks using a lot of money is somehow sinful or evil. Or maybe he's amazingly unambitious.

If Flamel had been an ally of Dumbledore when Voldemort kidnapped his brother, and could create infinite gold, then Moody wouldn't have told Dumbledore that ransoming him would empty their warchest, because their warchest would have been infinite. And if Flamel could and would do it now, then perhaps Dumbledore wouldn't insist as much on not ransoming Hermione.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-25T22:19:54.536Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You know, it's sounding more and more like Harry was right about the stone not actually making gold. Huh.

comment by lavalamp · 2012-12-22T16:28:59.276Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is true of a certain other famous way of making the Philosopher's Stone...

Which is... what?

comment by Kindly · 2012-12-22T16:50:01.264Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which is... what?

Is a spoiler for a certain other work of fiction, but basically involves killing lots of people. It's even less efficient than a Horcrux, which in principle can make one immortal person out of two mortals, because it requires killing ever-increasing amounts of people to maintain an immortal life. I think.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T04:30:52.826Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For those who want to know, the work in question is Shyyzrgny Nypurzvfg.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T07:58:07.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was wondering about Illuminatus! but it didn't seem to be an exact match.

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-22T18:04:43.151Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Or making the stone has some mental prerequisite, like casting Avada Kedavra or the True Patronus. One, in this case, which Voldemort cannot meet.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T10:03:09.998Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly like the Mirror of Erised in the original the prerequisite is not wanting immortality? That would explain why Voldemort can't make it, and why Flamel was so casual about death in Canon.

Epileptic trees (Given the reference to 'hoarded lore' maybe flamel's desire is for knowledge preservation not self peservation?)

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-22T15:35:10.834Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I just took this at face value, that no one alive but Flamel is powerful enough to make the Philosopher's Stone.

This could be because the magic is going away, so no wizard of any generation much later than Flamel's can possibly make the Philosopher's Stone.

I like the Interdict of Merlin theory too, though.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T05:27:40.999Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So why did nobody before Flamel make one?

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-23T05:31:27.524Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do we know that nobody before Flamel made one, as opposed to him being the last surviving wizard able to make one?

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T05:48:07.556Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Explicitly, no. But it's a source of immortality - why wouldn't they still be around?

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T10:04:02.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone killed them? The stone doesn't protect against unnatural death, and I imagine they'd be targets for powerful wizards.

comment by regncyning · 2012-12-23T16:18:52.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That was my thought exactly. Any Dark (or Light) Lord rising to power would want to knock off any ancient immortal wizards who still happened to be around first, as they'd be an obvious threat to their plans. Historically immortals probably got wiped at the start of each big Wizarding War.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:24:03.548Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But the immortal and powerful wizards are exactly those who ought to be hardest to bump off, as well as those who are least likely to care about you rising to power(as long as you're not dumb enough to piss them off personally).

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-23T14:39:14.205Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah - also, when you multiply out the yearly chance of a random mishap over centuries, it adds up. Or to be more precise, when you multiply out the yearly chance of not dying in a random mishap over centuries, the product may be pretty small. Especially in a world where possible "random mishaps" include "roasted by dragon," "spell gone horribly wrong," etc.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-23T07:58:58.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe they've gotten bored with the wizarding world.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T08:21:28.218Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly. But it's not the default assumption.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T22:42:04.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure he's referenced as the sole maker in the original canon.

comment by Exetera · 2012-12-23T01:27:04.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that Quirrell's ongoing issues with fine motor control have been with him for long enough to become known. He's not going to be able to make the Philosopher's Stone that way.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T04:31:52.595Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If that were all, he could just Imperius someone though.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-23T17:29:19.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If it is possible to Imperius someone into making magic items/performing rituals... Well, it makes the Imperius Curse just that much more brokenly overpowered. (Not that it isn't brokenly overpowered already.) Imagine Imperioing a random person into being the binder for the Unbreakable Vow you want to make with someone. It completely removes the nerf EY gave the Unbreakable Vow. (At least for people willing to throw around the Imperius curse like that.)

comment by Tenek · 2012-12-24T15:04:15.852Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So you're replacing 'lose a portion of magic' with 'risk being sent to Azkaban'? It changes the cost of binding but it certainly doesn't remove it.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T17:35:56.399Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as Quirrell pointed out, the restrictions of the Unbreakable Vow are easy to get around if you're creative. They're simply the reason that it's so little used as a function of regular society.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-24T08:48:33.883Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

it's so little used as a function of regular society.

Exactly! But if you could Imperius someone into being your binder, that would remove that cost, and so the Unbreakable Vow would be used a lot more. Therefore, it must not be possible to do that. (Or maybe everyone is just too stupid to think of the possibility, which actually is consistent with the wizarding world we've seen...)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-24T14:54:49.034Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Imperius curse is one of the Unforgivables. Using it to coerce a binder for the Unbreakable Vow is Not Allowed. The fact that being convicted of using it carries an Azkaban sentence probably prevents people from using it casually.

At best, the Imperius curse could make the Unbreakable Vow common in irregular society, the segment that casually breaks laws that could get them put away for life if they're caught.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-25T06:59:33.516Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was more thinking of the Lucius Malfoy type. It is well enough established that the way the Wizarding legal system works, with a little bit of effort he can get away with almost anything. In addition, he seems to be the type of person to most benefit from Unbreakable Vows: That is to say he deals with many contacts, and most of them are not the most trustworthy people in the world (and that is putting it mildly).

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-25T15:39:21.853Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Lucius's social capital is limited. Some of the Wizengamot are his fast allies, some are simply biased in favor of the nobility, but if he was regularly being accused of imperiusing people, and showed signs of more and more people holding to agreements with him that were clearly not in their interests, he'd probably get the aurors on his trail. Except for the people who're Death Eaters themselves, or most of the way there, he'd go from "One of Us, even if he's involved in some sketchy stuff" to "A pressing threat."

comment by ygert · 2012-12-26T12:01:16.139Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Your points are good, and I understand what you are saying, and that probably is enough reason to accept why Lucius is not imperioing people in the story, without positing that you cannot bind an Unbreakable Vow while under an Imperius.

However, with that said, I don't think you understand just how powerful the Unbreakable Vow is. There is a reason why EY nefed it so much in HPMOR, and if you can simply get around that with a simple Imperius curse... Maybe in this alternate world the Imperius curse would still be illegal, but I doubt it. Because the people who use the Imperius curse have the full power of the Unbreakable Vow at their backs, and they would quickly have the laws changed to their whims.

("But how is the Unbreakable Vow that powerful?" some may ask. Well, it is a complete and utter solution to any game theoretic problem, at all. For example in the one-shot prisoner's dilemma, the Nash equilibrium is Defect-Defect. But if you use the Unbreakable Vow, you can get both sides to Cooperate. (And both sides will agree to the Unbreakable Vow because Cooperate-Cooperate gives them a better result than Defect-Defect.) And so much of your normal human interaction is that kind of game, which is trivially solvable if you have such a powerful commitment mechanism.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-01-07T19:39:58.078Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A (non-nerfed) Unbreakable Vow is even more powerful than that. A person under an Unbreakable Vow is an AGI programmed in human wetware by a human using nothing more precise than ordinary words. Leaving aside FOOMs based on hardware speed and recursive self-improvement, the entire content of the sequences about AGIs and Friendliness applies.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-26T14:37:19.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

However, with that said, I don't think you understand just how powerful the Unbreakable Vow is. There is a reason why EY nefed it so much in HPMOR, and if you can simply get around that with a simple Imperios curse... Maybe in this alternate world the Imperius curse would still be illegal, but I doubt it. Because the people who use the Imperius curse have the full power of the Unbreakable Vow at their backs, and they would quickly have the laws changed to their whims.

I think you're overestimating how powerful the Unbreakable Vow is, on a social level. People who use the Imperius Curse do not automatically cooperate with each other as fellow imperiusers. They don't form a unified pro-Imperius voting bloc. Any individual who tries to bind people in this way is a social threat to anyone who doesn't trust them absolutely. Each person who behaves in such a way is a potential candidate trying to take over society, so anyone who tries it is practically inviting absolute war against themselves.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-27T07:38:28.084Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They don't form a unified pro-Imperius voting bloc. Any individual who tries to bind people in this way is a social threat to anyone who doesn't trust them absolutely.

Aha! I think I spot the misunderstanding: In this scenario, no one is trying to "bind people in this way". I am not positing that you do use the Imperius curse to make other people make an Unbreakable Vow to you, but rather I am positing that pairs of people both agree to make an Unbreakable Vow between the pair of them (with the Imperius curse used on the binder), so that they can reap the benefits of mutual cooperation.

As such, it is absurd to say they wouldn't form a unified voting block. Their power comes from the fact that they are magically unified, so that they can trust one another absolutely.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-27T16:04:39.608Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, they might be able to form a unified voting bloc, but even so they're going to appear as an active threat to everyone else. Things like this are among the reasons why the Imperius curse is as forbidden as it is. If the people attempting this were caught, it wouldn't matter if they were all voting in favor of its legality, any more than we would let convicted murdering congressmen try to pass a bill legalizing murder. It's not something that the rest of society is likely to be amenable to if a bunch of lawmakers stand up for it, the fact that they would vote for it at all would be highly suspicious and threatening to their social standings.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-28T00:38:17.540Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They allowed lawmakers to legalize the Unforgivables during Voldemort's uprising; I have a hard time believing a great many people would object to a bill allowing a service where Aurors Imperius Azkaban inmates to bind vows.

The larger point being, any society could find or make an outgroup sufficiently unsympathetic to allow regulated use of the Imperius for the public good.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-28T03:01:32.315Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The use of the unforgivable curses was only legalized for a fairly brief period, I doubt they explored the space of possible uses very thoroughly And for all we know, they did imperius people to use as binders, but stopped after the war ended and the use of unforgivable curses became illegal again.

Also, just because a society could do that, doesn't mean they would. You might say that any society could find or make an outgroup sufficiently unsympathetic that they would be willing to impose slavery on them, and slavery is likely to be a public good if you discount the values of the enslaved, but that doesn't mean that all societies will gravitate to slavery.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-27T17:49:21.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This might be, and they might in fact succeed or they might fail. It seems the kind of thing someone could write a very interesting story about, and if that story is ever written, I would like to read it. But I find it unlikely in a world like this that there even would be a government with laws against this sort of thing in the first place. The propose of government is to provide a framework in which people can be sure of their fellows Cooperating in prisoner's dilemma type scenarios, and while it works most of the time, a network of Unbreakable Vows would work a lot better then any form of government. As such, it is probable that in this world, rather then there being a system of laws in the first place, it would be a system of Unbreakable Vows.

A world like that would be very different then the one described in canon Harry Potter or in HPMOR, and that is why EY nerfed it. In the end, I think it boils down to this: You have to think not in the form of some group trying to take over with their new but ethically dubious system, but rather think in the form of their existing form the beginning a much better system then the one we know, and so everyone uses that one instead, despite the ethical problems. (Human nature being what it is, people can accept even large amount of ethical wrongness if they benefit enough from it. Just look at the example of slavery in the real world.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-27T18:22:15.634Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "this sort of thing?" There's no implication that Unbreakable Vows are illegal, although coercing a third party into being a binder for them is, for understandable reasons.

How do you envision a network of Unbreakable Vows coming into existence and being implemented in practice? Given a sufficiently sophisticated and insightful Vow drafting system, I can imagine that society would be better off under such a system than under traditional government, but society doesn't simply jump to optimums by default.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-27T19:36:13.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant using the Imperius for the purpose of forcing people be the binder to your Unbreakable Vows. More precisely, I would envision a society with some form of slavery, in which the slaves were made to serve as binder to the Unbreakable Vows of their masters.

As to how I envision this system coming into existence, I imagine that when the first hunter-gatherers were settling down and moving over to farming, rather then falling into the system which they fell into in our world (that is to say governments, which do work, although inefficiently), they used the much better alternative of networks of Unbreakable Vows.

(In fact, in any universe were there is such a powerful and easy to implement commitment mechanism I would expect it to be used instead of government, as it performs all the tasks governments to do, but better. Again, there is a reason why EY nerfed it so hard. Using a system of Unbreakable Vows is not just an optimum, it is miles and miles better then any possible other system at solving coordination problems, as it is quite literally perfect at solving those problems.)

Even if it is not obvious to everyone that this system is better then normal governance, at least one group/nation/city state of these farmers would use it, and they would out compete everyone else, seeing as they have this amazing magical power to avoid coordination problems, which is a very, very big deal. (As we discussed earlier.)

(Note that this is assuming wizards are around at this point in history, and that they settle down as farmers with everyone else. I think this is a pretty reasonable assumption, but even if it is not true, these same events will happen sooner or later when wizards do eventually come along and settle down.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-27T21:49:06.880Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's worth keeping in mind that the Unbreakable Vow was probably not discovered until well after government had been invented; it wasn't around when people were hunter-gatherers. But I think that saying that people "fell into it" skips the interesting question of how it happened. Suffice to say I'm not convinced that it's as strong an attractor as you're making it out to be. You could as easily say we "fell into" a system where everybody in the world is bound by unbreakable vows to serve a single dictator; why do you think the former system is more likely than the latter?

Also, how specifically do you think that a system running by unbreakable vows would outcompete ones that don't? "Avoid coordination problems" is a black box here. In the starting scenario, we have a society bound by sets of Unbreakable Vows between masters, where slaves (who necessarily have some degree of magical powers, otherwise they couldn't act as binders by giving a fraction of them up) are imperiused into binding the vows, among other societies with different forms of government (probably monarchistic, oligarchic, etc.) The proposed endpoint is that eventually, all societies use this system of governments, because it outcompetes them by being better at solving coordination problems. By what process do you expect this to happen? What coordination problems do you expect them to solve, this way, and how (if you posit that they outcompete other countries in war, for example, what specifically do the people in this society do that makes them more effective in war than what other societies are doing, and why do they do it?)

It sounds to me like the devil of such a system is in the details. "Perfect cooperation, solve all coordination problems" sounds good, but if I think in terms of actual people behaving in characteristic ways, I don't see them taking steps to a particularly effective system by default.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-28T08:29:20.339Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you make good points. You are probably correct in saying that the scenario could go any number of ways. But my most essential point is this: The Unbreakable Vow is literally a perfect coordination system. That is to say, there is no way of Defecting when you made an Unbreakable Vow to Cooperate. Looking at governments around us, compared to a system like that, they look like nothing more then a hodgepodge of inefficient hacks. People hacked up that (comparative) kludge of a system, because there is nothing better. If there was, I think it's unlikely that they would ignore it and set up a kludgy government like ours instead. In fact, someone from that world would probably find our notions of "government" insane and laughable. (And that person would be right. Compared to a network of Unbreakable Vows, it is.)

My point is, this system is not only better then ours, but so much better that ours pales in comparison. Yes, the devil is in the details, but still,what you are proposing is that that everyone ignores the much better option and settles for the kludgey system that we have. May I suggest that perhaps that is nothing more than status quo bias?

And yes, if the Unbreakable Vow was invented after governments were, the government would try to crack down on this system, to preserve its own power if nothing else. But throughout history, many governments have cracked down on many good ideas, and often the good ideas eventually are accepted. I think that it would be especially true for this system, which is, as I said earlier, simply better then any other possible way of solving coordination problems.

(Although, please note that the system we are discussing (with imperiused binders) is actually a bit more complex, and so a bit worse than a form of the Unbreakable Vow which had no cost to the binder or did not require a binder. But my points still stand, as even though this system is not quite perfect, it still is heads and tails better than the systems of governments.)

One last thing: You asked for details of how society with this network would be better than society with a normal government. It is better in a lot of ways, and here I can not give a full listing of them, but think back for a moment in HPMOR to the chapters entitled "Coordination Problems". I think those chapters give a good feel of just how hard coordination problems are to deal with. For some examples of cooperating problems that would affect a nation, here is a short and incomplete list. (By the way, please note that we have for the most part solved these problems pretty decently with laws and governments. But look at the huge room for improvement. Remember that under a system like this one, these all would be absolutely and completely solved problems. There would be nothing left to discus about them.)

  • Crime (Is someone going to jump out at me and steal my stuff or try to kill me?)
  • Trustworthy Business Dealings (When I pay him, will he deliver the goods, or will he try to cheat me?)
  • Public Works (We need this bridge built. If I throw in my share, how can I be sure everyone else will to?)
  • Coups (If we assign this guy to be in charge of this important thing (maybe an army battalion), will he use it for the common good, or will he try to take over?)
  • Treason (How can we know that our citizens are not secretly working for the enemy?)

And I am sure that given this list to start with you can think of many more.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-28T15:44:15.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But my most essential point is this: The Unbreakable Vow is literally a perfect coordination system. That is to say, there is no way of Defecting when you made an Unbreakable Vow to Cooperate.

But on the other hand, you also can't break a vow that turns out after the fact to be a bad idea. Without it, you can adapt to circumstances and then justify your actions as having been appropriate at the time. With it, if you've made a Vow that doesn't adapt well, you're in trouble. A system of Unbreakable Vows is only a perfect coordination system if the vows themselves are perfectly thought out, which people do not achieve by default.

My point is, this system is not only better then ours, but so much better that ours pales in comparison. Yes, the devil is in the details, but still,what you are proposing is that that everyone ignores the much better option and settles for the kludgey system that we have. May I suggest that perhaps that is nothing more than status quo bias?

My issue is that you seem to be assuming that people can just "fall into" a perfect system without giving any details for how they reach that optimum rather than getting stalled at some messy hacks where they are likely to remain due to status quo bias.

What I asked for is not simply a list of ways that such a society, if perfected, would have advantages over our own. I can think of those perfectly well myself. What I asked for was an explanation of the specific steps by which you expect a society would achieve those implementations. For instance, you start out with a regular society, with crime. The Unbreakable Vow is discovered. What steps, specifically, do you believe will occur which result in the endpoint of a society where everyone is bound by a network of Unbreakable Vows to commit no crime?

Just because it seems obvious to you that the end result would be better doesn't mean that people would implement it. In a Tragedy of the Commons, there are often ways that the agents involved could arrange to cooperate among each other (each one could provide collateral which will be returned after a given period if they cooperate, but confiscated if they defect, for instance,) so that everyone will have a greater expected utility if they cooperate than if they do not cooperate, and a higher expected utility than if they did not implement a cooperation scheme. But in practice, people don't usually implement such schemes when left to their own devices. To show that people would be likely to adopt such a system, it's not sufficient to demonstrate its advantages.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-28T17:07:39.951Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Unbreakable Vow is discovered. What steps, specifically, do you believe will occur which result in the endpoint of a society where everyone is bound by a network of Unbreakable Vows to commit no crime?

Words of honor for parole (think prisoners of war etc.) have historically often served as punishments or forms of security, with the major advantage of being light-weight and minimizing costs and suffering. A huge chunk of all crime is committed by repeat offenders. Hence, crime could be cut by something like an order of magnitude just by making UVs a prerequisite for parole.

This requires no special societal shifts, and is in line with existing jurisprudence using things like ankle monitors to deter breaking terms of parole or committing additional crimes.

From this visible success which will save billions of dollars and millions of lives in the long run, can come acceptance and a slippery slope down to more widespread use - perhaps beginning with application upon simple arrest, much like criminal records can begin compilation these days without anyone whining about state security agencies tracking them (as our ancestors surely would have been angry about, but these days no one can even think of why anyone would object to such state tracking).

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-28T18:48:04.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can buy the initiative progressing as far as application of vows upon arrest (although at this point I'm not sure if Ygert is still talking about a system of MoR vows which require the sacrifice of some of a bonder's power, in which case I suspect it wouldn't get that far.) But I find it doubtful that it would progress to the point of everyone being bonded to commit no crimes.

The existence of real life government initiatives which have saved large amounts of money and lives have not led the public to conclude that government initiatives in general are trustworthy and should be expanded, so I'm not convinced that the success of such an initiative would be viewed as a mandate for its expansion.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-28T21:32:18.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I find it doubtful that it would progress to the point of everyone being bonded to commit no crimes.

The costs is an issue of friction; in a vacuum with a spherical Unbreakable Vow, would everyone be bound? Eventually. Why not?

Given the high reported cost, there will be lots of people it's not worth binding, but the exact trade-off will vary. Given the high cost of security and opportunity costs, the cost will have to be large to justify not binding quite a few people (consider how many scores of thousands of dollars it costs to keep an ordinary criminal in prison one year).

The existence of real life government initiatives which have saved large amounts of money and lives have not led the public to conclude that government initiatives in general are trustworthy and should be expanded

Look at what the public does, not what (some of) it says. Governments keep expanding.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-28T21:59:35.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Government keeps expanding in some respects, but countries often do not rush to implement programs even when they've proven effective in other countries.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-30T08:16:47.252Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I come back here and I find that gwern has made some of the points I wanted to make, and some point even beyond that. As gwern point out, programs similar in goal and expense although lesser in scope exist in the world today. They have been implemented, so saying that in some (or even most) circumstances countries don't implement this kind of program, is, if not a flawed argument, at least an incomplete one.

But on the other hand, you also can't break a vow that turns out after the fact to be a bad idea. Without it, you can adapt to circumstances and then justify your actions as having been appropriate at the time. With it, if you've made a Vow that doesn't adapt well, you're in trouble. A system of Unbreakable Vows is only a perfect coordination system if the vows themselves are perfectly thought out, which people do not achieve by default.

Remember how earlier in HPMOR (chapter 47) Harry swore to take as an enemy whoever it was that killed Narcissa Malfoy? It was no an unbreakable vow, but the same principle applies. Not only was he very careful, with many conditions laid upon the pledge, but the first condition said that Draco could release him from the pledge at any time. There is no danger of a vow like that being not perfectly thought out, because if something goes wrong, you can just have whoever you swore it too annul it. I understand that getting a perfect wording is not trivial, but if you just keep a human in the loop like that, you can avoid most errors.

And a clarification:

(although at this point I'm not sure if Ygert is still talking about a system of MoR vows which require the sacrifice of some of a bonder's power, in which case I suspect it wouldn't get that far.)

In a certain sense I am talking about them, as the whole thing started from a discussion of what would happen if we used a specific method to get around the disadvantage, but in practice I am not really talking about them, as with the downside basically gone, there is no real difference between them and an Unbreakable Vow like in canon, with no downside. In other words, I am talking about Unbreakable Vows with no downside, but that could either be the ones we were talking about (with the downside, but with it overcome) or the simpler version which does not have a downside to start out with, and it does not really matter which.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-30T15:35:38.846Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Remember how earlier in HPMOR (chapter 47) Harry swore to take as an enemy whoever it was that killed Narcissa Malfoy? It was no an unbreakable vow, but the same principle applies. Not only was he very careful, with many conditions laid upon the pledge, but the first condition said that Draco could release him from the pledge at any time. There is no danger of a vow like that being not perfectly thought out, because if something goes wrong, you can just have whoever you swore it too annul it. I understand that getting a perfect wording is not trivial, but if you just keep a human in the loop like that, you can avoid most errors.

Harry is one of the most intelligent and rational people in the world, and took great care in designing that oath, (which, as you point out, is not unbreakable,) and he's still in a position for it to screw him over, since if Draco's father has been doing his best to change his son's sympathies, then Draco may not be inclined to release Harry from the Vow even if it turns out Dumbledore burned his mother for good reasons.

If Harry had taken an Unbreakable Vow, then even with the escape clause, he would probably be obligated to treat Dumbledore as his enemy right now, with no way to get Draco to release him from it.

There's plenty of danger in an imperfectly thought out vow, even if you add a clause that someone can release you from it. Having someone who could release you from your vow isn't much help if you're already dead due to having been unable to act in self defense, for instance. Supposing you have to go down to the equivalent of a local police station to get released from a Vow, I would suggest that this probably retains most of the problems of being unable to break the vows at all.

In a certain sense I am talking about them, as the whole thing started from a discussion of what would happen if we used a specific method to get around the disadvantage, but in practice I am not really talking about them, as with the downside basically gone, there is no real difference between them and an Unbreakable Vow like in canon, with no downside. In other words, I am talking about Unbreakable Vows with no downside, but that could either be the ones we were talking about (with the downside, but with it overcome) or the simpler version which does not have a downside to start out with, and it does not really matter which.

If you think it doesn't matter which, I have to suspect that you're not thinking very hard of the implications of the MoR method.

Not everyone can be easily imperiused, nor is everyone capable of casting the spell, and it is probably impossible for a single person to keep a large number of people imperiused at once (canon doesn't say whether it's possible to imperius more than one person at a time, but provides no evidence that it is, and if it were, we could expect people like Voldemort to make extensive use of this.)

If the people being used as binders are not controlled perpetually, then we have a segment of the population which is being victimized in what many humans would regard as one of the most abhorrent ways possible, being routinely mind controlled into performing acts to which they would not consent of their own volition. These people, to put it lightly, do not like the segment of the population which is doing this to them. The people exploiting them need to make arrangements to keep them safely under control, as with chattel slavery. If such arrangements aren't strong enough, they're likely to engage in violent uprisings (although unlikely to succeed if and when they do, they're less powerful and less well coordinated.)

Not only does the society have to invest labor and resources in keeping this segment of the population under wraps, any enemies who want to destabilize this society would do well to target this system. Kind of like the helot system, which was convenient for the Spartans in terms of productivity and military strength, except for the fact that any time they stayed away from home for too long, they were in danger of a revolt, and they had to make all the other city states they dealt with swear to support the system, since it would be so dangerous for them if anyone tried to destabilize it.

You can increase the security by keeping the people shut away somewhere, but then you lose the productivity of the people being used as binders.

Probably the most efficient method would be to force all the binders into unbreakable oaths not to rebel. You are, of course, still losing a significant portion of the total magical powers of the population by using unbreakable vows en-masse like this, and far from other countries seeing and wanting to copy this system, they're liable to see it as either an exploitable weakness or a human rights violation, in which case this society could be facing trade sanctions, embargoes, or even war.

And of course, you still have the issue of how society undergoes the steps to reach this point.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-12-31T22:16:40.634Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Probably the most efficient method would be to force all the binders into unbreakable oaths not to rebel. You are, of course, still losing a significant portion of the total magical powers of the population by using unbreakable vows en-masse like this, and far from other countries seeing and wanting to copy this system, they're liable to see it as either an exploitable weakness or a human rights violation, in which case this society could be facing trade sanctions, embargoes, or even war.

Look at how effective those are in the real world. You have countries ignoring sanctions and embargoes because there's a lot of money to be made that way. As for wars with large coalitions, you have the inevitable issues of members suspecting other members of not holding up their end of the war, or using the war to unfairly increase their power vis-a-vis the other members of the coalition.

Of course, it's not hard to solve all these problems using unbreakable vows, but well. ;)

comment by gwern · 2012-12-31T22:30:11.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You have countries ignoring sanctions and embargoes because there's a lot of money to be made that way.

But you also have success stories of sanctions and embargos inflicting serious pain: just to name the ones I know of off the top of my head, Japan apparently felt itself forced into WWII by a US embargo of necessary supplies, North Korea remains a hellhole and has trouble selling stuff like it used to which forced it to come to the negotiating table over the bank embargos, and Iran is currently grappling with uncontrollable inflation (which may result in hyperinflation) which is attributed to the existing relatively mild sanctions.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-31T09:04:17.807Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's plenty of danger in an imperfectly thought out vow, even if you add a clause that someone can release you from it. Having someone who could release you from your vow isn't much help if you're already dead due to having been unable to act in self defense, for instance. Supposing you have to go down to the equivalent of a local police station to get released from a Vow, I would suggest that this probably retains most of the problems of being unable to break the vows at all.

You are right, Harry did not add enough layers of precautions. As such, he is in a position for it to screw him over. A truly well thought out Vow would have several escape clauses like this, to different people, and also a clause temporarily suspending the Vow while you go to have it removed if you truly believe that the situation warrants its removal.

Even that might not be enough, but remember: Harry thought his oath out in less than a minute. I thought out my additions in not much more. I imagine that if someone smart brainstormed this for a couple of hours, they would figure out even more elaborate and foolproof mechanisms. And once it gets going, there will be people who spend their whole careers on the question, refining the answer even further.

If you think it doesn't matter which, I have to suspect that you're not thinking very hard of the implications of the MoR method.

I think we have a very large difference of opinions here. Remember that in the real world, most societies with slaves lasted quite a long while. Add onto that several additional factors that are greatly to the advantage of the masters and not to the advantage of the slaves, and you see why I think there is not much of a difference.

  • Numbers. In the example you gave, of the Helot system, please not that there were seven times as many helots as non-helots. That's right, seven times as many. In this system, you would not need even nearly a one-to one relationship. I would guess that there would be probably no more then one slave needed for every five or six people. This reduces their ability to revolt by so much that it is nearly impossible to compare it.

  • Magic. I would envision the slaves not having access to wands except when binding a Vow, giving access to wands to only a small fraction of the slave population at a time. Add on to that the fact the the slaves would not get much magical training, and that they have their magic reserves permanently depleted, and you will see that the masters have another insurmountable advantage.

  • The Imperius Curse. During the time when the slaves do have a wand, they would be under the Imperius Curse. This would not need more than one slave to be controlled by someone's Imperius Curse at any one point. And remember, when you say that not everyone can be controlled by this curse: In canon, it was a huge surprise that Harry managed to throw it off so easily, the kind of thing you can only get if you are the hero of the story. Most people resistant to it are only that way due to a large amount of willpower built up over the years. And you can just execute people like that.

  • Unbreakable Vows. I don't think these are needed, as the other factors cover the possibility of a revolt very well, but if needed, some slaves could be forced into an unbreakable vow not to rebel.

far from other countries seeing and wanting to copy this system, they're liable to see it as either an exploitable weakness or a human rights violation, in which case this society could be facing trade sanctions, embargoes, or even war.

Remember that the concept of "human rights violations" are something very new, and they did not stop basically every nation that ever existed from keeping some sort sort of slaves. Remember that for thousands of years, there where, sadly, a lot of slaveholding and other human rights violations. And in no case did this result in the moral outrage from the surrounding countries, and certainly not to the point where they declared war or started trade embargos. (By the way, just thinking about it makes me very much appreciate the moral progress humanity has made in the last few hundred years. It truly is incredible if you think about it.)

And of course, you still have the issue of how society undergoes the steps to reach this point.

We have discussed this a lot, and have provided a lot of explanation about how I do not really consider this an issue, and others have chimed in, adding their views on the subject. After all that, I believe we have provided many different angles of the explanation of why this is. If there is a specific part of it that you object to or want clarified, I am happy to discuss it further, but other than that I am not sure that there is more to discuss.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-31T16:30:16.998Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Remember that the concept of "human rights violations" are something very new, and they did not stop basically every nation that ever existed from keeping some sort sort of slaves. Remember that for thousands of years, there where, sadly, a lot of slaveholding and other human rights violations. And in no case did this result in the moral outrage from the surrounding countries, and certainly not to the point where they declared war or started trade embargos. (By the way, just thinking about it makes me very much appreciate the moral progress humanity has made in the last few hundred years. It truly is incredible if you think about it.)

Most civilizations though, did have rules about how you were allowed to treat slaves. The treatment of slaves in antebellum America was worse than in Babylon circa 1700 BC. To get people whose rights are that disregarded by society, you generally need people who're already regarded as an outgroup unworthy of basic respect.

If we're positing that the legal system started in a society with a caste system containing something comparable to the Paraiahs, I could buy this as a natural progression. But what you're suggesting entails rather worse treatment than most civilizations have allowed with respect to their slaves. I find it very strange that you think this is something that would happen so naturally as to need no explanation.

We have discussed this a lot, and have provided a lot of explanation about how I do not really consider this an issue, and others have chimed in, adding their views on the subject. After all that, I believe we have provided many different angles of the explanation of why this is. If there is a specific part of it that you object to or want clarified, I am happy to discuss it further, but other than that I am not sure that there is more to discuss.

Do you think that nobody in this community could think up ways to restructure society that would be more practical than what we have now, without positing elements that don't exist in real life? That nobody could come up with a better education system, or public works system, or so forth? If you think that the fact that a system would be advantageous is sufficient to explain its adoption, that's a natural conclusion, but it's one that I find awfully doubtful.

We have some very suboptimal systems in our world, not just for lack of some fantasy element that would make our job easier, but because humans are not naturally that good at optimizing.

Keep in mind also that these people who have their magic drained and their wands kept away, who're not trusted to be willing contributors to society, are lost productivity from society's perspective. If we say that the binders, plus the people who're employed in overseeing them, add up to a fifth of the population, that's a significant reduction in productivity. Probably not quite 20%, since there's still some work they could do without magic, but considering how magic dependent wizarding society is, it would be pretty minimal compared to what ordinary citizens do.

In what ways, specifically, do you think this system would manage to more-than-account-for this loss of productivity?

comment by ygert · 2013-01-01T17:21:46.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most civilizations though, did have rules about how you were allowed to treat slaves. The treatment of slaves in antebellum America was worse than in Babylon circa 1700 BC. To get people whose rights are that disregarded by society, you generally need people who're already regarded as an outgroup unworthy of basic respect. If we're positing that the legal system started in a society with a caste system containing something comparable to the Paraiahs, I could buy this as a natural progression. But what you're suggesting entails rather worse treatment than most civilizations have allowed with respect to their slaves. I find it very strange that you think this is something that would happen so naturally as to need no explanation.

You yourself provided an answer to this. It could be a natural progression from a caste system like that. I disagree that these slaves are treated worse than most civilizations through history have kept their slaves. While in the real world slaves had all sorts of horrible things happen to them, here the only bad thing that happens to them is that they don't get to use magic. Throughout human history, most people lived perfectly fine and happily without magic. While yes, there would be the aspect of having to live in a society where everyone else gets to use magic and you don't, I don't think that just that means that this system gives the slaves "rather worse treatment than most civilizations have allowed with respect to their slaves".

Do you think that nobody in this community could think up ways to restructure society that would be more practical than what we have now, without positing elements that don't exist in real life? That nobody could come up with a better education system, or public works system, or so forth? If you think that the fact that a system would be advantageous is sufficient to explain its adoption, that's a natural conclusion, but it's one that I find awfully doubtful.

I think that you are comparing this to the wrong things. This is not just a better education system or a public works system, this is the absolute removal of a set problems that has plagued humanity since there was such a thing as humanity.

I would prefer to offer the analogy as something like this: This (Unbreakable Vow based) system is to the current system as democracy is to a dictatorship (or some other form of pre-democratic government). In the world, many societies found that democratic forms of government where just better than what they had, and so they changed. I am not saying that it was easy or instantaneous, and in many countries the change has not happened (yet). But democracy overwhelmed the entrenched systems (in some nations at least) simply because the people of these countries decided it was better at fulfilling their needs.

And I would say that the difference between a democracy and any other form of government is tiny in comparison to the difference between any form of government and this system. After all, this system is perfect at solving coordination problems, and democracy is not really a very good form of government, it just is better then all other forms of government that have been tried...

In what ways, specifically, do you think this system would manage to more-than-account-for this loss of productivity?

I think we already settled this. I gave a laundry list of problems that could easily be solved by this system of Unbreakable Vows, and of course that is just a small subset of the worlds coordination problems. On the other hand, with magic, everyone already basically has whatever they need. Remember how Harry described it as a "zeroth world country"? The wizarding world is already basically a post-scarcity economy. As such, thier is a lot less meaning to a drop in productivity.

But even without that, what proportion of wizardry jobs actually need magic to do? Most wizarding workers we have seen are shopkeepers, bureaucrats and the like, which don't really need magic in their activities. And yes, there has to be someone to make the magic items, but even if we assume that there are indeed out of sight magical sweatshops filled with workers making magic items, it would be silly to assume they make up more than 80% of the population, would it not?

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-01T19:37:55.481Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You yourself provided an answer to this. It could be a natural progression from a caste system like that. I disagree that these slaves are treated worse than most civilizations through history have kept their slaves. While in the real world slaves had all sorts of horrible things happen to them, here the only bad thing that happens to them is that they don't get to use magic. Throughout human history, most people lived perfectly fine and happily without magic. While yes, there would be the aspect of having to live in a society where everyone else gets to use magic and you don't, I don't think that just that means that this system gives the slaves "rather worse treatment than most civilizations have allowed with respect to their slaves".

I doubt that "the only bad thing that happens to them is that they don't get to use magic." After all, these are people who're regularly mind-controlled into sacrificing their power against their will. They're kept from using magic because they're not trusted not to be enemies of the system. Do you seriously expect that they'll be well treated aside from the fact that they have no legal right to their own mental autonomy?

This sort of system could arise from a preexisting caste system with a sufficiently low caste already available, but if you're positing something as a historical inevitability, then you can't just handwave something like that away; it's not as if this is something you could get in just any civilization. The Paraiah class itself isn't nearly large enough to account for the proportion of the population we're already discussing.

If you try to expand the sector of the population that's sufficiently low on the totem pole as to receive no right to mental autonomy, then you could be looking at large scale class revolts before you have a chance to implement the vows on more than a small sector of the population.

I think that you are comparing this to the wrong things. This is not just a better education system or a public works system, this is the absolute removal of a set problems that has plagued humanity since there was such a thing as humanity.

I would prefer to offer the analogy as something like this: This (Unbreakable Vow based) system is to the current system as democracy is to a dictatorship (or some other form of pre-democratic government). In the world, many societies found that democratic forms of government where just better than what they had, and so they changed.

Democracy was invented about 2500 years ago. It gave the ancient Greeks such a profound sociological advantage over other countries that they outcompeted all their local neighbors until, in short order, other countries were either adopting the system or being subsumed by them. Except, no, that didn't happen, they were dominated by various autocracies, and democracy vanished from the region for more than a millennium. The Roman Empire expanded far beyond the reaches of the Roman Republic.

Democracy has become so successful in the last few centuries not because provides countries with an innate competitive advantage, but because a) in recent history, some of the most powerful countries in the world have made a deliberate effort to export or impose democracy, and b) it's an appealing memeplex.

You can call this system "The absolute removal of a set of problems that has plagued humanity since there was a such thing as humanity," but that doesn't really say much about how useful it is. The eradication of sneezing would be the absolute removal of a problem that has plagued humanity since there was a such thing as humanity, but that doesn't mean it would be tremendously helpful. The specific examples you gave for how such a system would be useful were

Crime (Is someone going to jump out at me and steal my stuff or try to kill me?) Trustworthy Business Dealings (When I pay him, will he deliver the goods, or will he try to cheat me?) Public Works (We need this bridge built. If I throw in my share, how can I be sure everyone else will to?) Coups (If we assign this guy to be in charge of this important thing (maybe an army battalion), will he use it for the common good, or will he try to take over?) Treason (How can we know that our citizens are not secretly working for the enemy?)

In a country like, say, Finland, these aren't especially pressing problems. Yes, there's crime, but the rates are pretty low. It's not as if it subtracts even 10% of the country's productivity. When a Finnish person pays their taxes for public works, they don't have to worry that not enough people will pitch in and the work won't be paid for. A Finnish person can safely assume that when they deal with a business, they'll get the good or service they paid for. The chances of a coup in Finland are practically nil, and treason is not a significant danger.

These are problems that existing societies on earth have already managed to mostly solve. A better education system, where, for instance, every child of at least average intelligence comes out really understanding empiricism, rationality, and their own comparative advantage, is likely to be considerably more useful to such a society, without raising any tricky ethical issues.

But even without that, what proportion of wizardry jobs actually need magic to do? Most wizarding workers we have seen are shopkeepers, bureaucrats and the like, which don't really need magic in their activities. And yes, there has to be someone to make the magic items, but even if we assume that there are indeed out of sight magical sweatshops filled with workers making magic items, it would be silly to assume they make up more than 80% of the population, would it not?

Every character we've seen in the series uses magic in their daily lives. Even assuming that abilities such as being able to clean objects that would take several minutes of manual labor in a second with a spell, or organize a stockroom in seconds by waving a wand around, do not account for a large proportion of the productivity of the labor force, keep in mind that the magical abilities of the populace are largely responsible for the wizarding world being a "zeroth world country," as Harry puts it. The longevity of the populace, and much of their medical technology, relies on the innate healing and magical reservoirs of the magically gifted population. You're costing a significant proportion of the population about half their lifespans, in addition to a large portion of their quality of life (by losing their magical powers and having no right to mental autonomy, they're forced way, way down the totem pole status-wise, as well as being unable to access many of the conveniences of the magical population,) and a significant part of their productivity, in exchange for solving problems that other societies on earth have already managed to mostly solve.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-02T16:40:08.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK. I think our main disagreement is simply that we have different notions of how advantageous such a system actually is, and if it is advantageous enough to overcome the disadvantages of having a slave system. You seem skeptical that this system really is that broken. I think it is.

The list I gave was a list of the small scale social problems that would be directly resolved, as that was what you asked for. Yes, those are ones which modern government has mostly solved, but there are many more. The Unbreakable Vow solves one of the key parts of human interaction. It's the cure to many human problems.

As a concrete larger scale example, see for instance the financial crash that happened in 2008. Now I don't claim to know all the myriad reasons that caused it, but from what I hear of how people have been describing how it happened, it was exactly the sort of problem that could have been solved with Unbreakable Vows. (And it obviously was not solvable even by the most modern form of government, as it did happen, despite modern governments existing.)

Or if you would prefer a fictional example: What if Peter Pettigrew had made an Unbreakable Vow not to betray the Potters? That would utterly have changed the story of the Harry Potter books, and in a way that could not be replicated by any form of government.

You can see cases like these all the time on various scales if you look, and government does not seem to be solving them. (That is not to say that government is useless, government solves some of them, but not all of them.)

But here I will ask you this question: Lets assume that we are in canon Harry Potter where the Unbreakable Vow is not nerfed. There is no cost to making a Vow, and no need for slaves. In this scenario, do you think that civilization would form in a system using the Unbreakable Vow in the ways I described? If not, why did EY nerf the Unbreakable Vow in HPMOR so much? If yes, look at the advantages such a system brings, and ask if those advantages are really outweighed by the disadvantages of having a slave system. (Remembering that most civilization through history have had some sort of slave system or another, and they did quite well in spite of that, so it cannot be that much of a disadvantage.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-02T22:08:57.630Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As a concrete larger scale example, see for instance the financial crash that happened in 2008. Now I don't claim to know all the myriad reasons that caused it, but from what I hear of how people have been describing how it happened, it was exactly the sort of problem that could have been solved with Unbreakable Vows. (And it obviously was not solvable even by the most modern form of government, as it did happen, despite modern governments existing.)

It could, in theory, have been prevented with unbreakable vows. It could also have been prevented with laws. The trouble was not that if we designed laws to prevent it, they wouldn't have been followed, or that nobody had any idea what sort of laws would have been necessary, but that the people who saw the problem in advance and called for those sorts of laws were in the minority, and even after the fact a lot of people still aren't on board with the sorts of laws that would have prevented it, because they believe it would stifle business interests, because of an ideological Regulation Bad mindset, or a combination of those.

Just because Unbreakable Vows could solve a problem, doesn't mean they would. We can solve all sorts of problems with government, but don't, because we're not that good at using government. You seem to assume that we would default to using Unbreakable Vows perfectly, and I see that as a highly burdensome component of your assertions that requires a lot of evidence.

But here I will ask you this question: Lets assume that we are in canon Harry Potter where the Unbreakable Vow is not nerfed. There is no cost to making a Vow, and no need for slaves. In this scenario, do you think that civilization would form in a system using the Unbreakable Vow in the ways I described? If not, why did EY nerf the Unbreakable Vow in HPMOR so much? If yes, look at the advantages such a system brings, and ask if those advantages are really outweighed by the disadvantages of having a slave system. (Remembering that most civilization through history have had some sort of slave system or another, and they did quite well in spite of that, so it cannot be that much of a disadvantage.)

I think civilization would make extensive use of Unbreakable Vows, and it would have a significant effect. It could, as you point out, prevent events such as Pettigrew betraying the Potters (unless he'd already made a Vow to Voldemort before then, in which case he'd probably have been caught as soon as they tried to put a conflicting Vow on him,) and that sort of thing could completely mangle the story.

But I don't think it would result in perfect coordination. I think the laws would in many cases continue to be poorly thought out and impractical, and the system would continue to be bad at quickly changing laws that proved to be ineffective for the purposes for which they were supposedly designed. Politics would continue to be influenced by people more driven by tribal ideology than by evidence of what makes their countries better off.

I think the core of these problems is not a lack of a sufficiently powerful enforcement mechanism on agreements, but that the sanity waterline simply isn't very high.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-03T12:10:16.896Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the core of these problems is not a lack of a sufficiently powerful enforcement mechanism on agreements, but that the sanity waterline simply isn't very high.

Perhaps. I see the way which you are looking at it, and while I don't agree, I want to say that I think I understand why you look at it this way.

It could, in theory, have been prevented with unbreakable vows. It could also have been prevented with laws. The trouble was not that if we designed laws to prevent it, they wouldn't have been followed, or that nobody had any idea what sort of laws would have been necessary, but that the people who saw the problem in advance and called for those sorts of laws were in the minority, and even after the fact a lot of people still aren't on board with the sorts of laws that would have prevented it, because they believe it would stifle business interests, because of an ideological Regulation Bad mindset, or a combination of those.

I want to make the point that Unbreakable Vows are way better than laws in this form of situation. A law is something that is hard to get perfect, is costly to implement, and in general would cause the bad effects that you listed. On the other hand, Unbreakable Vows are not regulations, they would be the companies and people themselves agreeing to self-regulate, and while this might not be enforceable through normal contract law, it is with Unbreakable Vows. (They would arrange and agree to the Unbreakable Vows because they themselves do not want a crash. The companies and people involved did not want the crash after all...)

One might say though that no one predicted the crash upfront, so why would they have made the Unbreakable Vows? This is a valid point, and is perhaps the great weakness of the system. But all in all it is not insurmountable, as I think that in principle these things are predictable, (That is to say they are not truly random) and with the right incentives, people will choose to prepare for everything,

I think civilization would make extensive use of Unbreakable Vows, and it would have a significant effect. It could, as you point out, prevent events such as Pettigrew betraying the Potters (unless he'd already made a Vow to Voldemort before then, in which case he'd probably have been caught as soon as they tried to put a conflicting Vow on him,) and that sort of thing could completely mangle the story.

So the big question is how prevalent and powerful the effects would be. I think this boils down in essence to the most fundamental political divide. A libertarian would say that an all-powerful contract enforcement mechanism would obliviate the need for a government at all, as after all that is what a government really boils down to in a libertarian view, and Unbreakable Vows just do that better. On the other hand, someone who is more conservative/statist would say that while it would have a significant effect on the contract system, the government does do things that don't boil down to just enforcing contracts (from that viewpoint), and so there would still be a need for a government, which would continue in much the way governments do nowadays.

So I think that seems to be our main difference. You are said :

I think the laws would in many cases continue to be poorly thought out and impractical, and the system would continue to be bad at quickly changing laws that proved to be ineffective for the purposes for which they were supposedly designed. Politics would continue to be influenced by people more driven by tribal ideology than by evidence of what makes their countries better off.

While on the other hand I am saying that there would be no such thing as politics or government as we know it in this situation, as with a perfect contract enforcement mechanism, they are completely unnecessary, and would be abandoned.

comment by TimS · 2013-01-03T15:15:33.335Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A law is something that is hard to get perfect

This isn't a fact that distinguishes a law from a contract. Problems of interpretation are just as big an issue in contract litigation as in legal compliance.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-04T13:59:49.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True, but the main difference is one of choice: You get to choose what contracts you sign, but not what laws you follow. If you get screwed by a misinterpreted contract, well that's sad, but you are partially responsible for it, as you can view what happened as a slip in your foresight, you made a mistake, didn't plan for this eventuality, and you paid the price for that slip-up.

On the other hand, if it's a law, some dolt in wherever the capital of your country is made the mistake, but you have to suffer the consequences. You see the difference? If someone makes a bad choice and hurts themselves, it is sad, and they learn for next time, but it is an accepted basic moral fact that ultimately people should be able to make their own choices, for good or ill.

Maybe it's just me being too free market/libertarian, but it feels a lot sadder when someone screws something up for others then if that person makes a mistake that only hurts themselves.

comment by TimS · 2013-01-04T14:19:01.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not trying to criticize your libertarian argument - I'm actually fairly sympathetic to those types of policy arguments. It's just that interpretive difficulty isn't a difference between statute and contract.

Writing text with a clear and unambiguous meaning is hard, even if one desires to write clearly. And the causes of interpretive difficulties are strongly parallel:

  • differing policy preferences of individual legislators vs. different economic incentives of contract counter-parties.
  • issues can be unanticipated by all parties, which means the outcome of a dispute is essentially random (from an ex ante perspective).

In short, it's just a fact about language that your choices don't really affect the clarity of your legal obligations (either statutory or contractual). The deadweight loss of regulation isn't a result of unclear regulation - even the clearest distortion of the market outcome costs some surplus value from the transaction.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-05T19:49:37.713Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for pointing out this aspect. It is a valid argument, and so the question is, how do you phrase it to avoid that. (A similar point was also made by Eugine_Nier) In a certain sense, this is the exact same problem as the one of FAI. (Which we all know is very hard.) Upon reflection, I don't think the Unbreakable Vow is so strict in its interpretation of Vows, because if it were, safe Unbreakable Vows at all would be next to impossible. We do see Unbreakable Vows happening in the story though, so that is evidence for magic being slightly flexible in its interpretation of Vows.

Of course, magic does not exist in real life, and so we cannot do experiments on it to see how "strict" and literal the Unbreakable Vow is, so we cannot fully tell if such a system would actually work or not. It just depends on the author, really.

But if Unbreakable Vows are loose enough to be used the way they are both in canon and in HPMOR without screwing the participants over, I think it probably is good enough to work in our scenario, at least if we make sure to use very user-dependent wording. In other words, I think that a Vow something like " I vow that I under a reasonable human interpretation of it" would probably be OK. (Remember in canon and HPMOR we see people making such Vows without the last clause, and the Vows don't seem to screw them over, so if we are extra careful and add on extra clauses like that, it seems likely that it could work.)

But, of course, what we really want to do before putting these Vows into mass production is to do some experiments, see how they actually work in practice, see if they are safe. Sadly, they do not exist in real life, so this question might never be solved.

comment by TimS · 2013-01-06T00:24:35.582Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Um . . . I think you are still misunderstanding my objection. From the same sentence as the point I'm criticizing:

[A law] is costly to implement, and in general would cause . . . bad effects

Those are good points in favor of a libertarian perspective on public policy. Interpretive difficulties don't belong on that list. To quote Sesame Street, one thing on your list just isn't like the others.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-07T18:03:33.529Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK. I might be misunderstanding you. I thought you were saying that a problem with Unbreakable Vows is that they would go by a strict, literal, genie-like interpretation of whatever you say, which would cause bad results. But I might just have been thinking of that because Desrtopa raised an argument of that type a couple of posts ago. If that is not your objection, feel free to restate it in a clearer way. But ultimately, I do suspect we are mostly in agreement, and that there is no particularly major difference between our opinions.

comment by TimS · 2013-01-07T18:14:33.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. I'm saying that it is extremely difficult to reduce intended outcome to words.

Both statutes and contracts are attempts to reduce intention to words, and they have a roughly equivalent failure rate. Thus, problems arising from mismatch of word and intent (i.e. interpretive problems) are not a reason to prefer contracts over statutes.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-01-05T06:05:35.137Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I suppose the question is how the unbreakable-vow magic interprets it.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2013-01-04T18:09:27.923Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A society based on contracts based entirely on unbreakable wows would kill far too many people, or alternatively, would require fairly insane levels of OCD checking that no contract conflicts with any other. And, as a practical matter, asking people to submit to lethal enforcement of employment contracts, and other minor business is just not going to fly. A multi-million-galleon deal? Sure. Having someone fix your plumbing... eh. No.

On the other hand, the government would be warped completely out of recognition. Because oaths of office would be unbreakable, and based on a long tradition of very careful wording. So you get government by the utterly incorruptible oath bound. Which would look nothing like any government that has ever existed. Because it would have perfect trust from the citizenry, virtually no agency problems, and no need for any checks or balances other than the oaths whatsoever.

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-01-07T17:08:46.784Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, is the Unbreakable Vow really unbreakable, or does it just kill you when you break it? I thought it was the first.

comment by shminux · 2013-01-07T18:01:52.025Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The latter

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-01-07T21:01:58.625Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's true in canon, yes, but this

"The Unbreakable Vow is too useful to certain wealthy Houses to be outlawed entirely - even though to bind a man's will through all his days is indeed a dread and terrible act, more fearsome than many lesser rituals that wizards shun. [...] The one who makes the Vow must be someone who could have chosen to do what the Vow demands of them, and they sacrifice that capacity for choice. And the third wizard, the binder, permanently sacrifices a small portion of their own magic, to sustain the Vow forever.

reads to me more like a sort of permanent, irresistible Imperius. I can see it could be meant the other way, though.

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-01-07T17:13:55.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

obliviate

Your HPMoR-trained spellchecker has led you wrong, friend.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-07T18:25:11.028Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Oxford English Dictionary on 'obliviate' (v.):

To forget, to commit to oblivion.

3 cited examples similar to ygert's usage. Go get yourself a real dictionary before you presume to correct other people.

comment by gjm · 2013-01-07T19:01:02.362Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

'This indeed a word, and it's not impossible that it might be what ygert intended. But I think it's much more likely that it was meant to be "obviate".

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-01-07T19:19:16.641Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. My copy of the OED agrees with Merriam-Webster (and everything I can find online) that there's no real word between "obliterative" and "oblivion". What edition are you referencing?

Anyway, "obviate the need for" is such a common phrasing that I don't feel terribly unjustified in my presumption. I suppose that's for ygert to decide, though.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-07T19:35:56.296Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am using the Windows Second Edition release from 2009. Screenshot of the 'obliviate' entry I was quoting, which certainly does not say anything about it not existing prior to Rowling: http://i.imgur.com/PFADb.png

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-01-07T20:00:44.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Now I'm not sure if you're serious. The last quote is from the mid-1800s, and the usage is synonymous with "forget" so it wouldn't make sense in ygert's context anyway.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-07T21:32:21.615Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The last quote is from the mid-1800s

So? I use words as rare as that all the time, and it could be an independent invention.

the usage is synonymous with "forget" so it wouldn't make sense in ygert's context anyway.

Committing government to oblivion as useless and a waste fits in nicely with quotes 2 and 3.

So to sum up: the word 'obliviate' exists before Rowling and you were wrong about it not being a real world; then, you were wrong about it not being in the OED; now, you are wrong that it does not fit the usage; and you are still trying to correct me!

You well deserve your username - the first half anyway.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-03T15:47:01.238Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I want to make the point that Unbreakable Vows are way better than laws in this form of situation. A law is something that is hard to get perfect, is costly to implement, and in general would cause the bad effects that you listed. On the other hand, Unbreakable Vows are not regulations, they would be the companies and people themselves agreeing to self-regulate, and while this might not be enforceable through normal contract law, it is with Unbreakable Vows. (They would arrange and agree to the Unbreakable Vows because they themselves do not want a crash. The companies and people involved did not want the crash after all...)

How does this distinguish an Unbreakable Vow from a law? If the companies had foreseen the effects of their business practices, they would have wanted a law against them, and adhered to the law so that they could avoid the crash. How do Unbreakable Vows solve the problem of the companies not acknowledging the danger of their practices and thus not wanting them to be regulated?

One might say though that no one predicted the crash upfront, so why would they have made the Unbreakable Vows? This is a valid point, and is perhaps the great weakness of the system. But all in all it is not insurmountable, as I think that in principle these things are predictable, (That is to say they are not truly random) and with the right incentives, people will choose to prepare for everything,

People did predict the crash up front in real life. It wasn't enough for people to pass laws to prevent it. In fact, a system of Unbreakable Vows as you describe could quite easily be harder to put in place than a law. A law can be passed if only the legislators are convinced it's a good idea, but the system of vows requires the businesspeople to be convinced it's a good idea.

I thought you had in mind a system where a body passes laws, and the whole population takes vows to obey all those laws. This would solve issues of noncompliance, but not issues of stupid laws. I suspect that the system you're recommending would be less well coordinated than what we already have, because the abundance of historical evidence suggests that people tend to be very bad at choosing when and how to self regulate, and it's not as if we don't have mechanisms in real life that people could use to prevent most defection.

It seems like your position is "If we had a mechanism to prevent all defection, people would become smart about self regulating." I think that's really, really unlikely.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-04T14:22:22.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the companies had foreseen the effects of their business practices, they would have wanted a law against them, and adhered to the law so that they could avoid the crash.

No. False. Let's model it in game theory terms. There are a number of players (companies) and each one chooses to act responsibly or not. If all or most players act responsibly, they all reap the benefits of no crash. If some act irresponsibly, they reap a greater benefit. But if a high enough proportion of companies act irresponsibly, there is a crash and everybody loses. (This kind of problem is a very common type of game theory problem, which has been analysed a lot. (It's actually a close relative of the Prisoner's Dilemma.)) The Nash equilibrium of this game is everyone defecting and acting irresponsibly, which leads to a bad result that no one wants, and everyone is unhappy.

So how do we solve it, we can make laws which give a negative incentive to acting irresponsibly, and thus move the equilibrium of the game. (And of course the players do want that, as it simply gives them a better outcome from the game.) And that's fine, it sometimes works, but some other times the law's negative incentives don't work out, and the equilibrium is everyone acting irresponsibly again. This is because the law cannot perfectly control what people do, as one can always break the law, and often get away with it.

An Unbreakable Vow is unbreakable though, and so rather then have government regulations, which are clumsy and sometimes don't work, if the companies have that much contractual power, that is they can make contracts that are actually and completely unbreakable... One of the simplest solutions in game theory to problems of this type is that you just allow the agents to precommit to their strategies.

I thought you had in mind a system where a body passes laws, and the whole population takes vows to obey all those laws. This would solve issues of noncompliance, but not issues of stupid laws. I suspect that the system you're recommending would be less well coordinated than what we already have, because the abundance of historical evidence suggests that people tend to be very bad at choosing when and how to self regulate, and it's not as if we don't have mechanisms in real life that people could use to prevent most defection.

As you can see now, this is not the system I had in mind at all. Remember, what is the point of governments? To enforce the kind of thing that the Unbreakable Vows enforce much better. That is why in this scenario I very much doubt there would be any sort of government as we know it at all.

Remember, actually people are quite good at self regulating. In a roundabout way, of course, by establishing governments and empowering them to regulate. That whole roundabout method of having social contracts enforced by a government seems rather roundabout and convoluted if it could be bypassed and the contracts enforced directly by magic.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T15:19:36.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So how do we solve it, we can make laws which give a negative incentive to acting irresponsibly, and thus move the equilibrium of the game. (And of course the players do want that, as it simply gives them a better outcome from the game.) And that's fine, it sometimes works, but some other times the law's negative incentives don't work out, and the equilibrium is everyone acting irresponsibly again. This is because the law cannot perfectly control what people do, as one can always break the law, and often get away with it.

But if breaking the law and getting away with it is unlikely, then the rational actors won't try. What the companies would have wanted, had they been rational good predictors, was a well enforced law which heavily punished defection. This way they would all have had higher expected utility than the scenario in which there was no law.

But they did not push for this. In fact, all the lobbying action was in the other direction. The business practices that resulted in the crash were previously illegal. If you want to make a convincing case that they would have done better in a system with an unbreakable enforcement mechanism, you've got to demonstrate that in spite of appearances, an adequate enforcement mechanism, rather than adequate predictive power and rationality, was what was missing.

As you can see now, this is not the system I had in mind at all. Remember, what is the point of governments? To enforce the kind of thing that the Unbreakable Vows enforce much better. That is why in this scenario I very much doubt there would be any sort of government as we know it at all.

Remember, actually people are quite good at self regulating. In a roundabout way, of course, by establishing governments and empowering them to regulate. That whole roundabout method of having social contracts enforced by a government seems rather roundabout and convoluted if it could be bypassed and the contracts enforced directly by magic.

Government doesn't just provide people with an enforcement mechanism for coordination problems, it also provides a workaround for lack of information, and ideally for irrationality, in coordination problems.

Suppose that chemical A which is used in a manufacturing process is highly toxic, and that chemical gets into the environment in the course of the process, and causes a lot of harm to people and wildlife. 0.2% of the population (those who understand the chemistry and have read the relevant studies) know this, and of those, all who are not employed by the manufacturing company agree that the chemical should not be used in that manufacturing process. The other 99.8% has no opinion. If the population has perfect enforcement for agreements, but no oversight body, and all agreements are worked out on an individual basis, then the manufacturing company will continue using the chemical, affecting everyone, not just the people who know enough to care. If there is an oversight body charged with creating rules for the population whose job it is to pass rules that are in the public's interests, whether or not the public knows enough to care about them, the people who know about the effects of the chemical can go to the oversight body and say "as you can see, the evidence favors this chemical being harmful, and we all agree you should make a rule against using it," and the oversight body can look at the evidence and pass the rule. By having a body whose full time job it is to look at issues that potentially warrant the creation of rules, judge evidence, and determine which rules would be good to pass, the population as a whole can review more issues which potentially impact the whole society, at less opportunity cost to the whole population. If everyone took the time to research every issue that might be worth making a rule about, they wouldn't have time to do anything else.

The "irrational choices" and "lack of information" sections of Yvain's Non-Libertarian FAQ are good reading on this topic.

comment by ygert · 2013-01-05T20:24:02.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But if breaking the law and getting away with it is unlikely, then the rational actors won't try. What the companies would have wanted, had they been rational good predictors, was a well enforced law which heavily punished defection. This way they would all have had higher expected utility than the scenario in which there was no law.

Of course a well enforced law that heavily punished defection would be just as good as an Unbreakable Vow, but in a certain sense that's my point. The best case scenario in the case of a law (that is, of the law being well enforced and with harsh penalties) is the default scenario if you are using Unbreakable Vows.

Government doesn't just provide people with an enforcement mechanism for coordination problems, it also provides a workaround for lack of information, and ideally for irrationality, in coordination problems.

...

The "irrational choices" and "lack of information" sections of Yvain's Non-Libertarian FAQ are good reading on this topic.

This is what I was saying earlier, the main difference between our points of views is one of the most basic political questions, of what viewpoint on the libertarian-statist axis you accept. In other words, how much of government should be workarounds for that sort of thing.

You know what, I honestly don't know the real answer to that question. It is one of the biggest questions of that type, and so it is fitting not to know the exact answer to it. That said, I do slightly tend toward taking a more libertarian point of view. I do understand that what you said is in fact one of the main points against libertarianism and toward more government intervention. All in all, the answer is far from obvious, and here is not the best place to get into a big discussion about it.

So, all in all, I think that this discussion is a result of a much lower level and more subtle disagreement. Maybe I am being too idealistic and putting too much faith in human beings, and maybe you are being too cynical and putting too much faith in governments. In practice, the only way to see if this system works is to try it out, which is (sadly?) impossible seeing as the unbreakable Vow does not exist in the real world.

comment by Xachariah · 2012-12-22T13:12:23.943Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The referenced work by Andrew Critch on hedonic awareness is not yet published science. It’s his private work that he developed at the University of Berkeley for a course on psychology for mathematicians; brought to the Center for Applied Rationality; and then developed into a CFAR workshop unit.

Dang it. I was trying looking him up until I saw the Author's Note.

For anyone who has taken the workshop or is otherwise familiar with his work (or similar work), could you provide a summary? I'm sure it's more complicated than portrayed here, but is keeping a bag of chocolates with you and rewarding yourself like you were training a pidgeon a decent start? I'd love to try it out.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-12-23T02:55:19.805Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The other obvious question is if/when this work is going to get published in journals? This is exactly the sort of work that if can if presented well can give CFAR a reputation for real science (which among other things helps nicely with grants and the like). Moreover, this is precisely the sort of thing that should be well known if it is accurate, and if it isn't is the sort of thing that careful peer review will likely find holes in.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T02:49:57.625Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The website for the course in question (as well as Critch's contact information) can be found here.

comment by Bobertron · 2012-12-22T15:33:35.470Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"Psychology for mathematicians" sound to me like the coolest thing ever to be thought at an university.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T04:10:02.069Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The most immediately useful thing I learned from Critch is that the human mind is sophisticated enough that it can give itself chocolates without chocolate. If you get good at noticing your thoughts you can give yourself reinforcement entirely in the confines of your brains, eg by thinking "smiley face!" or something whenever you notice yourself thinking about getting some exercise.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T09:57:18.101Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. If that works thats genuinely an incredibly powerful technique.

Has there been any empirical testing comparing that to controls or to external rewards?

comment by Alethea · 2012-12-23T14:46:20.063Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Unless I missed something, the little I had to read about Critch's unpublished work on hedonic awareness seemed to be a rephrasing of Skinner's Operant Conditioning/Reinforcement theory?

As for the use of imagined positive reinforcer, that seems very similar to covert positive reinforcement (part of covert conditioning) which should be easy to find scientific tests on if you have access to libraries.

The only difference here is that the behavior itself is not imagined. I'm inclined to believe that the situations are similar enough that the tests on covert positive reinforcement could be applied. The perception of the behavior itself being real may have some effect on our perception of the imagined reinforcer, but there's not enough reason to believe it would majorly change the effect of the imagined reinforcer on average.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T17:49:13.405Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The only difference between actual rewards and imaginary rewards is that the former isn't imaginary?

comment by Alethea · 2012-12-23T22:16:16.364Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The reply was about how drethelin's situation where a real situation/behaviour is repeatedly associated with imagined reward, is very similar to covert positive reinforcement where one imagines even the situation/behaviour itself. I'm confused on the relevance of mentioning the original comparison between actual/imagined reward in the context?

We have a situation where there are scientific/empirical tests performed on 'a real behaviour with real positive reinforcement' and 'an imagined behaviour with imagined positive reinforcement' that seems to support each other.

In fact covert conditioning does have the requirement that the patient imagine the situation sufficiently vividly. There's no reason to believe that if the patient imagine (or perceive) the situation too vividly (or too real) it would somehow affect them less.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T04:47:47.598Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As for the use of imagined positive reinforcer, that seems very similar to covert positive reinforcement (part of covert conditioning) which should be easy to find scientific tests on if you have access to libraries.

The only difference here is that the behavior itself is not imagined.

Whoops, I misread that last line as "The only difference here is that the reward itself is not imagined." Thanks for catching that.

comment by Alethea · 2012-12-24T10:22:35.083Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yw and thanks for the clarification. No more confusion then. :)

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T18:20:25.746Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I only have anecdata, though Critch might know. It's the kind of thing that I imagine is hard to run tests on due to problems with compliance

comment by tgb · 2012-12-23T03:45:10.667Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've wondered before whether Eliezer would use science from after 1992 that Harry couldn't have read. Now I need wonder no longer.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T05:26:17.210Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "timeless physics".

(Yes, I'm aware that this joke would have been funnier if it was a physics paper)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-12-23T07:03:26.259Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Actually timeless physics is being treated as Timeless Science in HPMOR - nobody in 1991 should've heard of Julian Barbour yet.

comment by Karl · 2012-12-23T21:44:09.798Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Timeless physics predate Barbour.

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T07:19:20.763Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah! I knew there was a funny joke in there somewhere.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T16:47:08.964Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

While the actual physics has Time-Turners.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T09:58:39.479Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Twist, Harry's Dark side is actually an embedded copy of a modern day wikipedia?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-12-23T13:26:28.476Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Twist, Harry's Dark side is actually an embedded copy of a modern day wikipedia?

Test: Watch Harry closely to see if he starts randomly deleting parts of himself!

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T16:53:13.288Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Inner Slytherin: Quirrel can't be David Monroe, because I asked him about the class of 1943 and he didn't know the teachers' names!

Inner Ravenclaw: [No original research]

Inner Hufflepuff: [Request for Speedy Deletion]

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-23T18:30:38.992Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Oh please, like a Ravenclaw would be offended by original research.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-22T11:46:04.502Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The author's note is frustrating. Does anyone know what either the vrooping thingy or Chloe's theory are supposed to be about? I value knowing the answer more than I value struggling through the process of finding it, especially if either is a reference instead of something plot-relevant.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-22T21:20:25.513Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, since Chloe's theory was a TVTropes reference (see pedanterrific's comment) could the vrooping thing be too?

Oh my Bayes, it's completely obvious:

Clearly visible from where Harry had perched himself on his chair's arm was a truncated-conical object, like a cone with its top snipped off, slowly spinning around a pulsating central light which it shaded but did not obscure.

It's a lampshade. But what was Eliezer lampshading?

ETA: Obvious in retrospect, I should say. Which doesn't actually mean obvious at all.

comment by Dre · 2012-12-22T22:51:55.387Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This feels like reading too much into it, but is

and each time the inner light pulsated, the assembly made a vroop-vroop-vroop sound that sounded oddly distant, muffled like it was coming from behind four solid walls, even though the spinning-conical-section thingy was only a meter or two away.

supposed to be something about the fourth wall?

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-22T22:57:05.659Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is your edit saying that (in retrospect) what is being lampshaded is obvious or that it's obvious that it is a lampshade? If the former, what is behing lampshaded?

Edit: You're obviously talking about latter. Oops.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T21:51:06.834Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The vrooping thing is the light on top of the Tardis.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-22T15:42:56.347Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Chloe's theory: she thinks the ritual that sacrificed Yog Sothoth summoned a different Harry than the Harry they had known previously? She thinks some Eldritch Abomination piggy-backed on the summoning of Harry to sneak in to this world? Is there a Cthulhu Mythos story somewhere where even the trees shake like they're afraid?

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T16:42:58.935Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Epileptic Trees.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2012-12-22T19:17:43.407Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

D'oh! And I'm a troper, I should have gotten that one...

comment by BenLowell · 2012-12-23T11:45:41.520Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is also the unspeakable visions of the seer in 85. Was there any previous mention of Trelawney and her vision-clock or am I just remembering before the update?

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-24T00:49:39.248Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. Trelawney has had two seer-nightmares so far, and the most recent one seems to be triggered by Harry's (now deleted in revision) decision to apply brutal utilitarian tactics if anybody dies. The second nightmare was echoed by a Hogwarts forest centuar, a Chinese witch, and an infant in an unknown, uncivilized country.

comment by Cakoluchiam · 2012-12-23T21:23:39.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The vrooping thing sounds like a centrifuge to me, though the pulsing light isn't something I'm familiar with in such apparatus.

If it is indeed a centrifuge, it would make sense that it was only mentioned -after- Dumbledore left the room. If they had somehow obtained a sample of Quirrell's blood, they might be separating it to do a DNA comparison against any candidates for his identity, which if I were HJPEV would have been one of my first (dozen) solutions to the problem of identification.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-23T21:47:20.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The vrooping thing is very obviously (as has been previously pointed out) a lampshade.

comment by Cakoluchiam · 2012-12-25T21:22:29.404Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On second thought, I have an alternative solution to what it is lampshading, that is the broken suspension of disbelief that after stating that the terms of Quirrell's contract prevented him and others from investigating Quirrell's identity, Albus would leave the room, allowing his conspirators to investigate Quirrell's identity.

This theory sounds incredibly plausible from the perspective of the author wanting to use the lampshade trope, but from the perspective of the reader, that action was completely in-character for Dumbledore and doesn't actually break suspension of disbelief.

comment by Cakoluchiam · 2012-12-25T21:19:29.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can't say it's obvious unless you can point to something it is specifically lampshading. The best answers I've seen so far in this thread are that it's lampshading itself, in which case there's no reason for it to have been in the story. Traditionally when you hang a lampshade on something, it's something that the author needs as a plot device but actually wouldn't make very much sense if the story were playing out realistically, that is, it threatens suspension of disbelief. I don't think any of us would disbelieve that Dumbledore would have a strange vroopy thingy in his office, so lampshading itself doesn't make any sense (which I suppose would make it a meta-lampshade, which breaks the suspension of disbelief I have that the author is trying to use a trope in its proper context, and such abstractions could recurse infinitely).

comment by ygert · 2012-12-26T12:06:12.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am sorry for being confusing about what the "obviously" was supposed to imply. I meant from the physical description, if you visualize the object in your head, the object is pretty obviously a lampshade. From there is is a pretty reasonable guess to say that this lampshade represents an attempt by EY to hang a lampshade on something. Of course, it is not so obvious what is being lampshaded.

comment by Cakoluchiam · 2012-12-28T14:24:20.892Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I dunno about yours, but my lampshades don't usually spin, particularly not with a "vroop".

comment by Kindly · 2012-12-28T15:07:56.594Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right, EY just threw that in to make it harder to guess.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-22T18:12:21.120Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One of these days.

comment by Pluvialis · 2012-12-22T19:18:45.394Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did not mean that to be a Tardis, that is not what a Tardis looks like.

Eliezer, in the author's note.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2013-01-27T22:49:24.597Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It occurs to me that Harry is overlooking a pretty blatant piece of evidence that the minds of wizards are either not running on wetware at all, or that there is a trivial way to transcribe them. Animagi can turn into small animals - and back again. That would simply not work, unless their minds could be trivially separated from their substrate.

Eh.. Which brings up another point. Do wizards suffer brain damage? At all? I don't think Harry has actually checked..

comment by gwern · 2013-01-27T23:23:54.115Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do wizards suffer brain damage? At all? I don't think Harry has actually checked..

Bella, Voldemort, Obliviation backlash, half of St. Mungo's parents, Cruciatus... if they don't suffer brain damage, Eliezer has gone against quite a bit in canon.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2013-01-27T23:40:31.667Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think Izeinwinter was asking whether physical damage to the brain causes mental damage in wizards, not whether there's any way to cause mental damage (where "mental damage" is distinct from "brain damage" if wizard's minds aren't actually running in their brains).

comment by gwern · 2013-01-27T23:46:36.319Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. Hm... is anyone physically knocked unconscious at any point? That would seem to satisfy the criteria: a non-magical thing that affects only the physical brain but which causes negative effects on the mind.

comment by Tripitaka · 2013-01-28T01:20:53.637Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We can find in "Quidditch Through the Ages", which can be assumed to be canon, this lovely poem:

Oh, the thrill of the chase as I soar through the air
With the Snitch up ahead and the wind in my hair
As I draw ever closer, the crowd gives a shout
But then comes a Bludger and I am knocked out.

comment by marchdown · 2013-01-28T22:30:18.934Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What if Bludgers, being modelled after naive physics, have inherent knocking-people-out property? Wouldn't that be in line with how canon is being dealt with in HPMOR?

comment by Tripitaka · 2013-01-29T20:49:03.812Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Very improbable; in Canon, they break bones in extremities all the time.

comment by tondwalkar · 2013-05-23T16:59:04.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Bludgers are still magical and therefore could still "get at" the 'mind' regardless of the physical brain.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T04:25:11.023Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wondering whether Harry was simply completely off base about the Philosopher's Stone, or if he's actually right about the whole "turned up to eleven artifact" thing.

I mean, we have considerable evidence of the Philospher's Stone existing from the original canon, numerous references to it by characters in a position to know in MoR, and plot points that appear to hinge on it....

But what evidence do we have of it actually being able to turn things into gold?

That was an attributed ability in the original canon, but as far as I remember it got exactly no references to it ever having actually been used that way. Only Ron even seemed to care, the Elixir of Life was just so obviously more important. Similarly, none of the characters who've actually had contact with the Stone in MoR mention an ability to create gold. This doesn't mean it can't; compared to its ability to grant immortality, creating gold pretty much fades into irrelevance. But, supposing several hundred years ago Flamel created a stone with the ability to create an Elixir of Life, but it didn't transmute base metals into gold, would he say "well, looks like I've almost made the Philosopher's Stone, better keep trying?" I doubt it.

Given the evidence at hand it wouldn't be that weird if the attributed ability to turn base metals into gold was simply made up.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-23T07:28:12.449Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Or... the Stone can actually do a ton of other things and Flamel successfully hushed up what they were because some of them cause extinction events? "Make me immortal and wealthy" is the minimum Flamel needed public to explain his own continued existence and wealth. Everything else... there are gates you do not open, there are seals you do not breach.

comment by drethelin · 2012-12-23T07:46:40.737Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe the stone is a terminal with root access.

Plenty of people have been able to copy his process to make the stone (the terminal) but no one else so far has guessed the password (PASSWORD)

comment by Alsadius · 2012-12-24T00:59:17.197Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the password was originally "12345". Flamel was just the first wizard to use Arabic numerals, and he changed it. Merlin kept typing in "MMMMMMMMMMMMCCCXLV", and never understood why it didn't work.

comment by victordrake · 2013-03-19T20:36:55.062Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's the kind of code an ID10T puts on his luggage!

comment by victordrake · 2013-03-19T20:35:59.692Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The password is always SWORDFISH.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T17:02:55.136Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Flamel didn't need to make anything public. He could have switched identities or countries every few decades - he pretty much did this anyway by going into hiding. If he could have kept the Stone's existence a secret, and given that as far as we know he never used it for anyone but himself and his wife, then he was a colossal fool to allow its existence to be known and linked with his name.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-23T20:19:50.731Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that a stone exists can be ascertained via magic. The location of it, likewise. That is why it is currently at Hogwarts. - Flamel is worried about the divination efforts of Voldemort. Given that the world knows anyway.. Not so foolish as all that.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-12-23T23:49:59.566Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not talking about him hiding for the last few years. I'm talking about the hundreds of years he lived before that.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-12-23T10:05:18.770Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The stone is some sort of ultimate permanent transfiguration spell? Similar to a universal assembler in scifi.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T07:40:36.673Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I figure anyone who's a great enough alchemist that they're the only person ever to successfully create the Philosopher's Stone, with other people having hundreds of years to try to duplicate the feat, probably doesn't need the Stone to make them wealthy. So really, only the "make me immortal" part is needed to explain his continued existence and wealth.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2013-02-23T05:06:00.842Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

From the harry potter wiki:

An adequately Imperiused being is placed under the caster's total control and may be directed to do anything the caster wishes, including crimes such as murder, political corruption, embezzlement, and so on. Also, whilst under the caster's control, the curse may also endow the victim with whatever skills that are required in order to complete the task at hand, such as increased strength or allowing them to cast spells far above their level. For example, an Imperiused Neville Longbottom was able to perform a series of "quite astonishing gymnastics" under the curse that he would not normally be capable of.[1]

I haven't read all of the original books, but is that bit about casting spells far above their level true? If so, it suggests a fairly easy way to gain control of an entire population: imperius a few wizards with the order to imperius as many other wizards as possible with this same command, and to await further instruction. If imperius curses have some sort of time limit after which they expire, include an additional order to seek out another imperius'd wizard to re-imperius you every x days.

This should spread exponentially like a particularly nasty virus.

comment by Larks · 2013-08-19T19:03:02.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Previous discussion.

comment by J_Taylor · 2013-05-25T02:05:15.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how the Imperius curse resolves loops.

comment by Manfred · 2013-02-10T23:32:45.878Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Just wanted to note that Quidditch is in fact a perfectly workable game - if you just change up the player strategy a bit.

It's like a game of attack/defense where different plays can be worth different amounts - you go for the highest-payoff thing (the snitch) most of the time, but sometimes you also go for the less valuable things to get free wins or distraction.

If the snitch is the most valuable resource, then just have everyone on your team work towards catching the snitch. It's certainly not what Rowling intended, but it makes sense - catch snitch first, win game. If a seeker can find the snitch quickly, then 5 practiced teammates should be able to keep track of it almost all the time. Then it becomes something more like a race, or dogfighting - particularly if the snitch moves according to predictable patterns so that there's reasonable strategy to it. As the snitch takes longer to catch, it makes more and more sense to split someone off to take points with the quaffles. At this point quidditch actually becomes a high-skill game again, capable of containing brilliant plays that advance your team's position both in terms of catching the snitch and in the slow game.

comment by 75th · 2013-02-11T03:58:14.240Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've often thought about how Quidditch could be made into a better game, without simply getting rid of Seekers and Snitches. My idea:

  • Each team has three Chasers; at any time, one of them is acting as Seeker.
  • There are five Snitches, each of which is worth 50 points when caught.
  • When a Seeker catches a Snitch, (s)he becomes a Chaser, and the next Chaser in line becomes the new Seeker.
  • A caught Snitch flies to the goals of the team who caught it; it places itself in the exact center of the leftmost or rightmost goal hoop (at the option of the team's Keeper) and renders itself immovable, so it can block the Quaffle when it's thrown too close to the center of the goal.
  • The game ends when one team has caught three Snitches.

By these rules, all the players must make active contributions to the goal-scoring game, and catching more Snitches earlier confers a significant advantage, but not an unovercomeable one.

BELATED EDIT: I must also add, so long as we're talking about Quidditch rules:

  • Goals are worth one point and Snitches are worth five points everywhere except for official Hogwarts games. It really bugs me when the possible point increments in a game aren't coprime.
comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-30T13:46:30.944Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression that only the seeker could legally catch the snitch and take the points, but having the rest of the team act as spotters seems like an obvious good idea.

Its entirely possible (at least in HPMOR canon) that the tactics at a professional level are wildly different to at the school level, as is the case in a lot of sports.

comment by ygert · 2013-06-30T14:35:01.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In "Quidditch Through The Ages", it states that non-seekers touching the snich is not allowed, and if you do so that is a penalty, that is it gives the opposing team a penalty shot at your hoops. However, yes, hving the rest of the team act as spotters could be a good idea. The question is how far do you take it. If literaly your whole team did nothing more than look for the snich, your opponents could easily score imediatly at least 15 goals, rendering the strategy moot.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-30T15:32:18.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Then you'd end up with each team attempting to distract the other teams spotters by scoring goals.... and you're back to the start.

comment by Manfred · 2012-12-22T09:19:18.684Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

He should win her back with a serenade.

comment by Yuu · 2013-03-09T09:06:54.817Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 62:

Wasn't test to check Harry's Time turner too simple? Harry cheated very easy, he just used another person with Time turner. But this is grave matter, escape from Azkaban, and professors had chosen this kind of test...

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-03-10T03:29:44.935Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I don't know why the test didn't involve Time-Turning such that he would appear right in front of Dumbledore or whoever at three o'clock. It shouldn't be too difficult to prevent cheating with the Cloak.

It doesn't even require having thought of the test before three, just knowing where someone (Flitwick, etc) was at three, without actually seeing it yourself.

comment by bogdanb · 2013-07-18T22:05:52.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You don’t even need that. It’s enough to have someone with another Time-Turner accompany Harry back.

comment by 75th · 2013-03-11T21:50:38.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It couldn't have been Dumbledore or McGonagall or Snape, could it? Because at the time they thought of testing Harry they had already not-experienced Harry appearing in front of them at 3:00. Which itself, though, I suppose, could be a clue pointing to Harry's guilt. But maybe that's too much like "messing with time"?

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-03-12T13:28:52.496Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't sure what time they were meeting- it seemed like it was a short time after retrieving Harry from lunch, but I couldn't find any specifics. Even if it was after three, though, they could (for example) send a Patronus to Flitwick asking where he was at three o'clock, but not to tell them anything else but that; and have Harry come there at nine, tell him to tell Flitwick not to report his arrival to anyone before nine, then Time-Turn in front of them.

comment by SpatulasRcool · 2013-01-09T04:15:17.763Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When I was reading the latest update to HPMOR, I was upset to feel that the Hermione character was veering into disappointing territory. From the beginning of the story, I thought that Hermione was an awesome character, and I've been waiting for her to have a more active role. For one, I think this would make the story more interesting (I dislike that Harry and Quirrell do nearly everything of importance). Additionally, however, society as a whole has an idea of men as active and women as passive that is very problematic and doesn't need to be reinforced.

Of course, EY has not finished his story yet, so I hesitant to pass judgment on an incomplete work. Nevertheless, he has indicated that this story is swiftly drawing to a close, yet we have not seen a single female character burst from her cocoon into the butterfly of rationality.

The male characters in this story have more leeway for flaws because, for one thing, there is an automatic real-world assumption that men are more capable (of nearly everything!) than women. If you disagree with this, merely turn to much of the discussion surrounding Hilary Clinton's presidential bid. Within this story itself, the best examples of rationality are Harry and Quirrell (and now Moody, it seems). Neither Hermione nor McGonagall operates anywhere near the same level as them on the spectrum of rationality. EY drives home this fact by having McGonagall constantly remarking on her confusion.

In a cultural vacuum, this situation wouldn't be a problem - if there are only two "successfully" rational characters, then it doesn't seem unlikely that they both be male. I am not accusing EY of any malice or purpose. In fact, that is just the problem. Male is the default I'm our society - I go to an Ivy League college, and even there (a bastion of liberalism!) the school store has a "clothing" section and a "women's" section. Not a "men" and a "women's" section. This kind of default to the male experience and the male gaze is persistent, insidious, and harmful. If EY and Less Wrong are truly interested in making the world a better place, optimizing, increasing awesomeness, etc., then it seems like this is a relevant area of concern. Just as seeing positive portrayals of gay people in mass media make individuals more accepting of homosexuality, seeing active intelligent portrayals of women decreases sexism.

That's why, for as much as I love HPMOR, reading it makes me sadder and sadder as the story progresses. Some of the comments in response to Alicorn's criticism make me sad, too. I think what my Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department calls "male privilege" is really just an example of irrational thinking.

I have no idea what EY's plans are or what his intent is, but I know how this story seems right now. It seems like HPMOR is defaulting to male, when it would have taken only a little bit mor effort to include more positive female representations and make the world a little bit better place.

Edit: Please excuse any grammatical errors #Damn You Autocorrect

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-22T18:14:29.780Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

nobody's ever going to see me for myself anymore, ever.

Please confine yourself to the possible, Ms. Granger.

As for Harry, he is in dire need of the Virtue of Silence.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-06-09T09:14:44.243Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding the Rita Skeeter prank. The leading hypothesis now seems to be that she was memory charmed, though this didn't seem obvious to me when reading.

Something else that didn't seem obvious to me until recently is that there is a character who is both skilled enough to pull off such a convincing memory modification, and secretive enough to require that the twins be obliviated. It isn't entirely clear that he remains so skilled and in character in HPMoR, but Madeye's description points toward those remaining similar enough to canon that I'm seriously considering the possibility that Fred/George/Floom hired Gilderoy Lockheart to modify Rita's memory.

Of course, I was so unobservant that I only caught Dumbledore's slight of hand in his first meeting with Harry on my latest rereading (whish is, like, the fourth or fifth). I'm also considering an insane conspiracy theory in which Dumbledore gave Harry his father's rock and his mother's potions book specifically so he could set fire to a chicken, probably for some rituals/soul magic/horcrux/really evil chicken-related reasons. But I'm less confident in that one. :)

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-03T15:42:47.957Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I'm thinking clearly at the moment, but it occurred to me that splitting the soul is based around the act of murder from the murderer's perspective. This makes me wonder if it would actually require a death to split the soul, rather than the would-be murderer believing that they're deliberately killing someone.

If it's the mental process, rather than the actual killing, that strikes me as a potential avenue for slightly more ethical horcrux creation. The details of the horcrux creation ritual might contradict this, or it really does have to be an actual murder. Even if it's an option, I imagine it'd still be a pretty serious turnoff, though maybe there are enough useful mental magics to pull it off and still end with someone who values human life.

comment by bogdanb · 2013-07-18T22:01:52.355Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All that assumes that souls exist and can be split, which may be canon but not necessarily true in MoR.

comment by jpaulson · 2013-01-17T05:41:54.107Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Long-time lurker; first post)

Some points from earlier chapters that remain unclear to me: any insights would be appreciated?

1) Why did Neville's remembrall go off so vividly in Harry's hands? Also, how are there now two remembralls?

2) Do we have any more information/guesses about Trelawney's prophecy that Dumbledore cut off? What starts with 'S'?

3) Who told Harry to look for Hermione on the train? The writing is ambiguous, and it's not really clear why McGonagall would've wanted them to meet. I guess other theories are worse, though.

4) What's up with Harry's father's rock? Just a way for Dumbledore to encourage Harry to practice transfiguration?

5) Why are we so sure Dumbledore burned a chicken (or transfigured something)? His explanation makes total sense, and Harry's confusion at the time is well-explained by his lack of familiarity with phoenixes. It seems more reasonable to assume almost-burned-out phoenixes look like chickens than...whatever the alternative is.

6) Who is saying "I'm not serious" in Azkaban?

7) Is the "terrible secret" of Lily's potion book really that Snape and Lily fought about it? That just seems like a bizarre reason for a friendship to end. Were Dumbledore's suggestions incorporated into the potion Petunia took?

8) Why did Quirrell leave a polyjuice potion in Bellatrix's cell? (especially since the crime was meant to go unnoticed)

comment by 75th · 2013-01-24T22:25:15.176Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(8) is because he knew that the moment Dumbledore learned of the potion, he would conclude that Harry Potter was not the mastermind of the escape. "to fathom a strange plot, one technique was to look at what ended up happening, assume it was the intended result, and ask who benefited."

comment by anotherblackhat · 2013-01-20T16:19:53.417Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

on 3; From chapter 6

As his hand touched the back door's handle, he heard a last whisper from behind him.

"Hermione Granger."

"What?" Harry said, his hand still on the door.

"Look for a first-year girl named Hermione Granger on the train to Hogwarts."

"Who is she?"

There was no answer, and when Harry turned around, Professor McGonagall was gone.

Seems clear to me that the whisper came from McGonagall - Harry was talking to her, Harry turned his back and heard a whisper from "her" that sounded like her. Harry thinks so to - in chapter 8 we have;

The boy's mouth was hanging open. "Were you told to wait for Harry Potter on the train to Hogwarts, or something like that?"

"No," Hermione said. "Who told you about me? "

"Professor McGonagall and I believe I see why.

comment by moridinamael · 2013-01-17T17:58:53.867Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

1) Harry is a horcrux who forgot his entire previous life.

2) Not sure.

3) I like the theory that it was Quirrell but I would only put it at about 20% likely.

6) Peter Pettigrew.

7) The terrible secret is that Dumbledore intentionally sabotaged Snape and Lily's relationship by writing bad advice into her textbooks in Snape's handwriting. It would indeed be bad if Snape discovered this.

8) I'm pretty curious about this one. I think that if it were discovered, say, a year later that Bellatrix was gone, and the potion was found, the authorities would assume that Bellatrix had used the potion to become an animagus and escape.

comment by AnthonyC · 2013-05-03T14:07:07.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the terrible secret was that Dumbledore was sneaking into the girls' dorms turned invisible.

comment by moridinamael · 2013-05-03T19:14:31.549Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If memory serves, Dumbledore was pretty specific that really grave things would happen if the secret got out. If people found out that Dumbledore was sneaking into the girls' dorm ... it probably wouldn't matter; everybody thinks he's insane anyway, and some scribblings in a notebook are not evidence of anything in particular anyway.

However, if Snape in particular found out that Dumbledore had turned Lily against him on purpose because Dumbledore, based on his bizarre worldview, did not think the prim Gryffindor should be with the greasy Slytherin, then it could undermine Snape's secret allegiance to Dumbledore and his secret desire to protect Harry Potter on behalf of his beloved. This would be relatively disastrous.

This is probably already happening, now that Snape has started to see Lily as a human being.

comment by jpaulson · 2013-01-17T19:13:03.659Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

1) Evidence/Reasoning?

6) Evidence/Reasoning?

8) I thought the idea was that if it were discovered a year later, people were going to assume Bellatrix had died in her cell. This requires the death doll to decay, which might be implausible.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-02-15T01:00:25.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

1) Evidence/Reasoning?

Harry being a Horcrux explains the origin of his mysterious dark side. He's also a Horcrux in canon; the murder that created him was the murder of Harry's parents, which still happened.

6) Evidence/Reasoning?

Chapter 29, Chapter 42. Harry learns that Scabbers was an ordinary rat in this continuity and Bill Weasley went crazy after believing otherwise. That means Pettigrew is not hiding out with the Weasleys. Lupin reveals that Sirius and Pettigrew were former lovers who had some kind of quarrel. That gives Sirius a motive to do something terrible to Pettigrew. And if "I'm not serious" is supposed to be read as "I'm not Sirius," then it starts to seem more plausible that Sirius somehow got everybody to convict and incarcerate Pettigrew in his place (Imperius + repeated doses of Polyjuice?).

7) The terrible secret is that Dumbledore intentionally sabotaged Snape and Lily's relationship by writing bad advice into her textbooks in Snape's handwriting. It would indeed be bad if Snape discovered this.

Doesn't Dumbledore also simultaneously provide Lily with the recipe of the potion she eventually gives to Petunia, which leads to Harry being raised by a scientist? It's unclear to me whether this was intentional though.

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-02-18T17:52:10.167Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He's also a Horcrux in canon; the murder that created him was the murder of Harry's parents, which still happened.

It wasn't the murder of Harry's parents, it was

when Lily cast her own life between them as a shield, the Killing Curse rebounded upon Lord Voldemort, and a fragment of Voldemort’s soul was blasted apart from the whole, and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsed building.

(Deathly Hallows, Ch 33)

The Killing-Curse-reflecting Love Shield doesn't exist in HPMoR, so if Harry is a Horcrux it's not because things happened the same as in canon.

Sirius somehow got everybody to convict and incarcerate Pettigrew in his place (Imperius + repeated doses of Polyjuice?).

He wasn't even convicted, just tossed straight into Azkaban. And another piece of evidence is the Quibbler article claiming Pettigrew and Sirius are the same person.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T18:59:05.129Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, in MoR, we see that not only do Pensieves work well, it's apparently easy to transport the memories to boot, since Voldemort sends Dumbledore a torturous memory. This means Pensieves are even more broken than canon, and you'd think Harry, who said he was specifically looking for intelligence-related magics, would've noticed this...

New theory: Pensieves are rare and expensive as part of a conspiracy of elite schools and their elite graduate-alumni to keep education rare and expensive - their business & prestige respectively would be destroyed if anyone could go into an assembly line school, dunk their heads in pensieves for a few months, and walk out the equivalent of the best Hogwarts graduates.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-01-04T19:27:40.515Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For education purposes, Pensieves seem entirely analogous to video recording. Is there a relevant distinction?

comment by Izeinwinter · 2013-01-05T13:39:37.407Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Pensieves appear to function equivalently to a video lifelog - they give you an accurate view of things that have happened to you, and allow you to share it with others. As a teaching tool, it is a VCR. It would be very useful for DADA, if you can talk some aurors into sharing memories of real fights, but I'd not expect exposure to that prior to NEWT level classes, and having that record be restricted to auror trainees would be easily justifiable.

As an investigative and intellectual tool, it is highly valuable, of course. But for basic education? Nah.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T19:30:10.675Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know that when they're never used for education, and are only ever shown for personal experience? Perhaps they burn in memories effectively, in which case they're a clear win: take the smartest and most skilled student, have them learn something, extract the memory, and mass produce that. Amortize it over thousands of students for indefinite decades... Sounds much better than video.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T20:19:35.689Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We have no evidence that it's possible to reproduce memories extracted from a pensieve. It may be that the only way to do so is manually, i.e. casting memory charms that exactly replicate the content of the memory from the pensieve. That would mean a whole lot of man-hours to mass produce a memory.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T20:21:58.835Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That would mean a whole lot of man-hours to mass produce a memory.

It's a whole lot of man-hours to produce education the old-fashioned way too - think of how much of the economy education makes up.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T20:27:14.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's true, but when you put in all that time to produce a memory, you're making something that can only be used by one person at a time, albeit an indefinite number of times. A video takes less time and money to reproduce, and can be watched by many people simultaneously.

I don't think viewing a pensieve memory guarantees understanding of the contents. In canon, when Harry first viewed one, his reaction was essentially "what the hell is this?" A star pupil who puts their memories of their classes into a pensieve may not produce something that confers any more comprehension than a video of the lecture. You can't ask a pensieve memory or a video questions when you're confused.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T20:56:25.867Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's true, but when you put in all that time to produce a memory, you're making something that can only be used by one person at a time, albeit an indefinite number of times. A video takes less time and money to reproduce, and can be watched by many people simultaneously....You can't ask a pensieve memory or a video questions when you're confused.

So you have multiple Pensieves and each student does a different memory at a time, and when they get confused they ask another student No different than books or 'flipped' classrooms.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T21:08:54.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the pensieve memories don't confer greater understanding though, why not just use books instead? They're cheaper.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T21:17:26.507Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Faster (at least in the movies, wasn't a time-speedup implied?), 3D sound & audio, literally immersive, forced attention...

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T23:16:00.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Faster (at least in the movies, wasn't a time-speedup implied?)

I don't know, I've only watched a couple of them, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't in the books.

I think wizards can probably produce 3d sound and audio via illusions without needing pensieves anyway.

A pensieve puts you in the memory, so you can't focus on something outside it, but I don't think there's anything that prevents you from zoning out or dozing off in someone else's memory. Of course, in the books, everyone perusing a pensieve memory had enough reason to pay rapt attention that it wasn't an issue.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T00:14:09.407Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think wizards can probably produce 3d sound and audio via illusions without needing pensieves anyway.

To reuse the argument from silence which everyone is using on the pensieves: we don't see the wizards produce 3D sound and audio via illusions for educational purposes despite the obvious utility in such classes as History of Magic, therefore they cannot.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-06T00:49:42.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We can produce 3D images now, and we don't use them for education even in well funded private schools. Why would we? I disagree that there's obvious utility in using such methods, I don't think it's very likely to improve students' educations.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T01:02:21.268Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Our 3D images cost a fortune to program, for starters, but I can weaken the argument: they don't produce any 2D images with sound either, and we certainly do that a ton.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-06T01:12:50.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They produce moving, talking paintings capable of carrying a conversation. The whole castle is full of them. A wizard painting probably could teach a class.

Also, at least some textbooks in canon contain moving illustrations, and unlike the paintings, we know those are mass produced, and at least one book in the forbidden section of the library in the first book could scream.

I believe newspapers also contain talking images, although I may be remembering movie canon for that.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T01:21:46.625Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The whole castle is full of them. A wizard painting probably could teach a class....and at least one book in the forbidden section of the library in the first book could scream.

I'm glad you're coming around to my conspiracy theory! And let's not forget that Voldemort's diary could teach quite well, it seems.

I believe newspapers also contain talking images, although I may be remembering movie canon for that.

I don't remember them talking; in any case, the photos are even more brainless than portraits.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-06T01:55:23.887Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the schools are conspiring to keep elite education expensive, they're not doing a very good job, seeing as the Weasleys managed to send all their numerous children to the most prestigious (and maybe only, it seemed like Rowling never really made up her mind) school in Britain, despite being poor.

Even if there are theoretically more effective ways to teach students, the students don't want to lose the prestige of studying at an ancient university founded by some of the greatest wizards ever, where some of the best wizards in history have taught, and the professors don't want to lose the prestige of being able to teach at said university.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T02:25:47.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the schools are conspiring to keep elite education expensive, they're not doing a very good job, seeing as the Weasleys managed to send all their numerous children to the most prestigious (and maybe only, it seemed like Rowling never really made up her mind) school in Britain, despite being poor.

The Weasleys aren't a good example if that's what you're trying to show: they're shown rendered poor and unable to replace Ron's wand despite this being a known near-lethal danger and badly injurious to his studies; it'd be like breaking your glasses and your family being too poor to buy you replacements because school tuition has to be paid - anyone who told you that obviously your education can't be expensive because you're actually there...

the students don't want to lose the prestige of studying at an ancient university founded by some of the greatest wizards ever, where some of the best wizards in history have taught, and the professors don't want to lose the prestige of being able to teach at said university.

Yes, hence my original conspiracy theory comment: the incentives are there to preserve the status quo.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-06T02:57:33.910Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Weasleys aren't a good example if that's what you're trying to show: they're shown rendered poor and unable to replace Ron's wand despite this being a known near-lethal danger and badly injurious to his studies; it'd be like breaking your glasses and your family being too poor to buy you replacements because school tuition has to be paid - anyone who told you that obviously your education can't be expensive because you're actually there...

I don't recall any mention in canon of Hogwarts even having tuition.

A family with only a single low pay government job for income generally can't afford to put seven children through seven years of boarding school each. If Hogwarts had the tuition and board costs of top boarding schools in Britain, the Weasleys would be spending more than a hundred thousand pounds a year on the four children they're putting through school simultaneously.

Considering they have a pretty captive market, if Hogwarts wanted to maximize revenues, they would probably have to be well outside the means of a low pay government employee to put seven kids through before they reached a point where they started losing more money due to lost students than they were making in increased revenue per student.

And following incentives to preserve a status quo doesn't require a conspiracy. If the students and the faculty both don't want something, nobody has to conspire to keep it from them.

comment by LauralH · 2013-02-12T02:52:16.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In Canon, Dumbledore gives Tom Riddle a few galleons to pay for his books and school supplies first year, saying there's a fund for that sort of thing. Basically implying the fund is only for books and school supplies, so tuition+room/board is free.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-01-04T19:40:14.112Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps they burn in memories effectively, in which case they're a clear win

As far as I recall, we are given no indication that such an advantage over video is present.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T19:52:40.303Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The argument from silence works both ways.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-01-05T05:54:13.671Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Except, we know that they aren't in fact used for education.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-01-04T20:05:17.232Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In fiction, if something is not foreshadowed, it can be true, but it shouldn't play any role in what follows, and in this sense it could be said to not belong to the fictional setting.

comment by shminux · 2013-01-04T22:13:39.269Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A memory is not a skill... Watching someone cast a spell or make a potion, while helpful, no more makes you a better caster or a potion maker than watching a food network show makes you a better cook. In other words, it would be good for learning history (or apparently arithmancy), marginal to useless for learning charms or transfiguration.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T22:26:22.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A memory is not a skill...

Skills are memories as much as anything else is. Consider the research into experts where much of it is just a large chunk of long-term memory. The question is whether experiencing Pensieve memories is as good as a natural memory.

comment by shminux · 2013-01-04T22:42:59.090Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Skills are partly memories, but memories are not skills. You don't learn to ride a bike just by watching someone else do it and simply remembering it later (EDIT: though it helps, thanks to mirror neurons). I'd guess that procedural and other implicit memory is not pensievable.

EDIT: while looking stuff up, I came across this fascinating study on off-line memory consolidation.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T02:10:04.885Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Skills are partly memories, but memories are not skills. You don't learn to ride a bike just by watching someone else do it and simply remembering it later

Watching a bike merely forms a particular subset of memories, and does not show that 'memories are not skills'.

I'd guess that procedural and other implicit memory is not pensievable.

Yes, that rather is the question: how far does the Pensieve go? Is it merely a game-breaker for the kind of declarative knowledge schools spend so much time on, or a game-breaker for pretty much everything they might teach?

comment by shminux · 2013-01-06T03:47:12.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure what your point is. If there were a way to use a potion, a spell, a charm or a human sacrifice to master the school curriculum without spending years in Hogwarts, surely there would be some students who did just that.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-06T04:10:00.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which could be said of the Felix potion as well.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-01-04T23:12:43.482Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A memory is not a skill...

Procedural memory is "a type of long-term memory and, more specifically, a type of implicit memory." The term "memory" is too large in scope when you're basically only meaning episodic memory, if that.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-04T19:41:21.815Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read MoR in a while, but do we see anyone use Pensieves on a large scale like that? If not, another possibility is that there are unpleasant side-effects to using them on a large scale. For example, perhaps they overwrite elements of the recipient's own cognitive function, which isn't too big a deal in small doses because the recipient's brain/mind reroutes, but in larger doses resembles the effects of a brain aneurysm.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T19:53:19.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read MoR in a while, but do we see anyone use Pensieves on a large scale like that?

Of course not. I'm pointing that out.

If not, another possibility is that there are unpleasant side-effects to using them on a large scale.

A rather post hoc assertion to make...

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-01-04T19:57:31.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I'm being unclear. I understand you're pointing out that it isn't being done on a large scale in terms of populations, I wasn't sure if it was also never being done on a large scale in terms of individuals (e.g., if we never see Quirrell using Pensieves as a private training tool, or something).

And, sure, it's totally a post hoc assertion. Though so is the assertion that they are rare and expensive as the result of a deliberate program of deprivation. All we know from the text is that they don't seem to be used as an educational tool, apparently not even by the rich and powerful.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-04T20:08:20.804Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't sure if it was also never being done on a large scale in terms of individuals (e.g., if we never see Quirrell using Pensieves as a private training tool, or something).

As far as I know, the only suggested or shown uses of Pensieve in canon or MoR are (extrapolating a bit from Draco in MoR, and Dumbledore in both):

  1. showing memories to another person
  2. committing fraud or crimes
  3. unburdening one's mind of many or strong memories
  4. creating ideas & connections by going from memory to memory

The second suggests that the memories upon reviewing are just as good as a 'real' memory; the first suggests that they are convincing (otherwise why bother); and the fourth suggests that they are intellectually useful even if they were useless from a learning or skill perspective.

comment by Blackened · 2012-12-31T18:11:35.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There was something that has always been bugging me. It's actually several things I don't understand.

When Snape says "You almost died today, Potter", what does he mean? Maybe it's because I'm not a native speaker, but I can't understand that part. My best guess is that Snape got so upset with what Harry said that he almost killed him in his rage. But that seems very counterintuitive to me.

Second, Snape had possibly changed after his conversation with Harry? Does this mean that Snape took Harry's words and thought that Lily is actually not worth his love, after all these years? That's my best hypothesis, but I find it very weird.

Third, did I actually properly understood that he still loves her, after more than 11 years have passed? This is very unrealistic, people get over things, and I suspect that either EY is being unrealistic here, or Snape is simply lying.

Edit: I retract the last part. Still, this does not mean that now I believe this to be realistic, but rather that it might possibly be realistic. Also that EY could indeed have decided to just go with the canon, and I see good reasons for that.

comment by 75th · 2013-01-24T22:21:53.598Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is very unrealistic, people get over things

Yes, but sometimes very slowly. I can tell you from first-hand experience that fixations on people with whom the fixator has zero contact for eight years do exist, and from second-hand knowledge that upwards of 13-year-long ones almost certainly exist as well. It's quite unhealthy and quite irrational, but it happens.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-31T18:19:12.103Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When Snape says "You almost died today, Potter", what does he mean? Maybe it's because I'm not a native speaker, but I can't understand that part. My best guess is that Snape got so upset with what Harry said that he almost killed him in his rage. But that seems very counterintuitive to me.

That was always my interpretation, unless I'm thinking of some other chapter. What's counterintuitive about it?

comment by Blackened · 2012-12-31T18:29:17.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't fit my model of human behavior. But that's possibly just me.

I'd imagine that if Snape got really angry, but it's only because Harry offended him without knowing, well, he wouldn't be close to harming him. I guess it would be appropriate to say "you almost died" if it's not true, but then Harry acted as if Snape might reconsider his decision to not kill him, rather than being just apologetic, or something like that. Or maybe he was indeed, and I am likely to be underestimating the strength of the impact that Harry's words had on Snape.

But if others interpreted it like me, then I got it right. Hmm.

comment by anotherblackhat · 2012-12-31T22:57:50.434Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cannon!Snape has loved Lily since the two of them were children - considerably longer than 11 years. I don't think it's unrealistic at all. While I wouldn't call such a love typical human behavior, it's also not particularly rare. There are thousands of people who still profess love for Princess Di for example.

I doubt that it was telling Snape what an idiot he is that angered him, but rather saying Lily was shallow and unworthy.

I agree that it's weird that someone who could carry a torch for that long would stop just because an 11 year old boy gave them random advice. I think it's likely that when Snape kills Dumbledore, it's going to be because of his love for Lily and Dumbledore's interference in that. His love hasn't diminished at all.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T07:20:22.459Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Cannon!Snape has loved Lily since the two of them were children - considerably longer than 11 years. I don't think it's unrealistic at all.

I don't think it's particularly unrealistic coming from some unspecified hypothetical character who's just heard the love they've been harboring for more than half their life insulted, but I would find it pretty weird if Snape said that to Harry in that situation, and he wasn't exaggerating. Anyone who'd commit murder in that situation would either have to be profoundly lacking in restraint, or possessed by a really maniacal level of infatuation.

I suspect Snape was engaging in hyperbole, because if he wasn't my judgment of his character is completely out of whack.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-31T18:12:53.478Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Third, did I actually properly understood that he still loves her, after more than 11 years have passed? This is very unrealistic, people get over things, and I suspect that either EY is being unrealistic here, or Snape is simply lying.

Second thing is possible, but if it's not a lie, it's not Eliezer's absurdity but J.K. Rowling's.

comment by LauralH · 2013-02-12T02:47:58.810Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Point one: Snape originally stayed in love with Lily because of the lost chance. He actually did think he had a shot with her till he called her a mudblood, but Harry pointed out that in fact he never did. I mean some people fall in love and if their loved one dies, never date again, so I was assuming Snape's feelings were of that variety. He knew they weren't actually "dating" but he thought he'd had a chance before That Day. Now, Harry tells him "Sounds like this Guy never had a chance with that Girl ever, because she's shallow." So, yeah, hearing that he's held on to these feelings for no reason instead of "if only I'd not called her a mudblood we'd have married" - I can see how hearing that you've really wasted your past 11 years of life can piss you off. His rage was due to changing his mind, but clearly Snape finds it hard to Not Shoot The Messenger.

Point two: It's more that Dumbles probably had been insisting for years (in a more subtle way than I'm about to do) that Loving Lily made him a better person so he should continue to do so. But the axiom for Loving Lily - that he could possibly have been with her if he'd been a better person in the first place - has indeed shattered. I don't think he's mad b/c Lily was shallow specifically, but just that she never, ever, ever, would have been with him. So yeah, he's trying to update on that new axiom.

Point three: as others have said, Snape Loves Lily is canon, but if you take that axiom above, it's not quite that unrealistic. I knew a girl in college who didn't date for 4 years after her boyfriend was killed in a car accident. And remember Snape thinks it's his fault she died, too.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-02-15T01:15:48.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is very unrealistic, people get over things

Yes, but in canon, Snape doesn't get over Lily. Everything heroic Snape does in canon, up to and including becoming a double agent and dying for the cause, is because of Lily. He dies more than twenty years after he and Lily were friends at Hogwarts.

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T19:15:36.732Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this chapter just proved that someone, most likely Quirrell, has modified Harry's memory. Remember how Harry easily figured out how to quickly make large sums of money by trading gold and silver between the wizard and muggle markets? And now, he doesn't seem to recall that brilliant insight when Hermione mentions that they need a way to make lots of money fast. Moreover, the occlumency teacher with whom Quirrell set up a lesson (possibly Quirrell himself in disguise) mentioned that he would like to be able to remember that same trick after he read it in Harry's thoughts. Clearly, whatever the villian is planning, it requires Harry not having large sums of money.

The creation of a philosopher's stone would, therefore, pose a direct threat to this plan. Hermione is in even more danger than before.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T19:44:13.387Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

First: Harry and Quirrell can't interact magically. Quirrell didn't Obliviate or Legilimize Harry, and he is not Mr Bester in disguise. (Theoretically he could have Imperiused Sprout to do it, though.)

Second: why would Harry mention that idea here? What purpose would that serve other than to make Hermione feel even more useless and stupid?

comment by gwern · 2012-12-22T20:07:08.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What purpose would that serve other than to make Hermione feel even more useless and stupid?

Not damaging her emotionally even more severely if circumstances force him to use the arbitrage?

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:11:37.232Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think Hermione expects Harry to have not thought about the problem, or to have no ideas about how to solve it?

Edit:

"Fair warning, though," Harry went on, "I might solve the debt to Lucius Malfoy myself if I see a way before you do, it's more important to get that sorted immediately than which one of us gets it sorted. Anything interesting so far?"

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:25:46.118Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hermione ought to think that if Harry knew how to pay off the debt, he would already be working on it. We have every reason to think that as well. But he isn't. And that's what's very, very odd.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:28:54.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He has bigger and more urgent problems, is the short version. So?

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:32:07.367Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In your own quote, you said:

'it's more important to get that sorted immediately than which one of us gets it sorted."

Regardless of whether it is urgent, Harry obviously believes it to be so.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:34:11.835Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That says nothing about priorities. It's more important to find the person who framed Hermione than it is to solve the debt, and it's more important to solve the debt than it is which of them solves it. There's no contradiction.

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:37:06.525Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's no reason he can't work on both problems simultaneously.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-12-23T03:52:25.401Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, he can't work on them to-the-moment simultaneously, so investing time in solving the debt means less time invested in solving the frame up. The debt is on hold for years, whereas the trail for the frame up may be getting colder by the day.

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T19:57:46.170Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, yes, that would prevent Quirrell from being the occlumency teacher. But Mr. Bester could have been allied with or imperiused by Quirrell, and so Quirrell could use Bester or another person to do the memory modifications for him.

And Harry should have mentioned that gold-and-silver scheme here because if Hermione fails to make a philosopher's stone--which for all Harry knows, she very well may--then if Harry does indeed remember his original gold-and-silver scheme, he will use it anyway. And then Hermione would know that Harry deceived her into thinking that he was actually relying on her, and their relationship would be tarnished.

Moreover, we often hear Harry's thoughts. And he wasn't thinking about his gold-and-silver scheme during his conversation with Hermione.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:06:49.884Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This scene was narrated from Hermione's point of view.

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:12:54.075Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, yeah. slaps forehead. Still, my other points stand.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:19:37.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Fair warning, though," Harry went on, "I might solve the debt to Lucius Malfoy myself if I see a way before you do, it's more important to get that sorted immediately than which one of us gets it sorted. Anything interesting so far?"

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:21:57.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That could just as easily imply that Harry hasn't thought of a way to pay off the debt as it could imply that he has.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:26:30.474Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He's explicitly saying he's not relying on her to do it. How could that be any clearer?

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:28:28.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But if he does remember the gold-and-silver scheme, then he's telling Hermione to go work on a problem that isn't necessary to solve--and there's every likelihood that she'd find out.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T20:31:00.940Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"I s'pose you're going to tell me that I don't need to worry about anything and you'll take care of it all?" It came out sounding harsher than she would've wanted, and she felt another stab of guilt for being such a terrible person.

"Nah," Harry said, sounding oddly cheerful. "I can put myself in your shoes well enough to know that if you paid a bunch of money to save me, I'd be trying to pay it back. I'd know it was silly on some level, and I'd still be trying to pay it back all by myself. There's no way I wouldn't understand that, Hermione."

Hermione's face screwed up and she felt moisture in the corners of her eyes.

"Fair warning, though," Harry went on, "I might solve the debt to Lucius Malfoy myself if I see a way before you do, it's more important to get that sorted immediately than which one of us gets it sorted. Anything interesting so far?"

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T16:52:59.206Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(Theoretically he could have Imperiused Sprout to do it, though.)

Do we know if Imperiusing someone into casting a spell counts as him casting the spell for Doom purposes?

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-23T18:30:20.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well no, we don't, not specifically. I'd find it a little odd if it did, but I suppose blackmail or threats or FMCs would also work.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T21:59:06.579Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, in canon it's described as similar to having them as an extension of your body, albeit one with it's own skills and knowledge. So it might count less as "coercing someone into casting" than "casting with someone else's wand".

But yeah, it's hardly impossible to force people into helping you.

comment by sketerpot · 2012-12-22T20:02:20.190Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It can be useful to have more than one brilliant-but-speculative idea for making huge amounts of money, in case one of them fails. Harry sounds like the kind of person who would hold off on proposing uncertain but alluring solutions when the problem is difficult, important, and not urgent.

Hell, they might even come across something a lot better than currency arbitrage -- mass-producing immortality, for instance.

comment by Axel · 2012-12-22T20:42:54.790Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

When Harry wants to withdraw money for Christmas presents Dumbledore outright says he doesn't want Harry to have "access to large amounts of gold with which to upset the game board" I'd say he's as likely to memory charm Harry's gold/silver scheme as Quirrell.

In fact (on a more tangential note) who says that isn't exactly what Flamel is doing? Exchanging silver for gold in such quantities as to make himself rich but not terribly upset Muggle economics. Maybe Flamel is the occlumency teacher, memory charming anyone who comes up with the same plan.

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T20:50:00.535Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, Flamel could just use the philosopher's stone to transmute base metals to gold. So I doubt he would bother with commodity-trading. But, yeah, Dumbledore should be a suspect at this point, though I assign a low probability to him being behind this. Dumbledore does not want Harry to be indebted to Malfoy (unless MoR Dumbledore is secretly completely different from canon Dumbledore), and so he would not hinder Harry in his quest to pay off the debt quickly.

comment by ygert · 2012-12-22T20:56:51.227Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, no, no. What Axel is saying is that there is no such thing as the philosopher's stone, Flamel is only using that as an excuse to explain where all his gold came from. (And to explain where his immortality came from, which he also is getting another way in this scenario, perhaps from a horcrux.)

comment by JTHM · 2012-12-22T21:28:37.350Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's strongly implied that in MoR, just as in canon, Dumbledore is hiding a philosopher's stone in Hogwarts at Flamel's request. Dumbledore even tries to tempt Harry to use Alohomora on the door leading to the stone.

And if Dumbledore has had a chance to examine it, we can be assured that it is real.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-22T23:15:36.142Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Implied, yeah.

"And finally," she said, "Mr. Potter says - this is a direct quote, Albus - whatever kind of Dark Wizard attractant the Headmaster is keeping here, he needs to get it out of this school, now." She couldn't stop the edge in her own voice, that time.

"I asked as much of Flamel," Albus said, the pain clear in his voice. "But Master Flamel has said - that even he can no longer keep safe the Stone - that he believes Voldemort has means of finding it wherever it is hidden - and that he does not consent for it to be guarded anywhere but Hogwarts. Minerva, I am sorry, but it must be done - must!"

comment by DanielLC · 2012-12-22T23:41:44.986Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't he already talk about it? He has several plans, but they're all risky. For example, if he tries to make money on gold arbitrage, he runs the risk of the goblins noticing and realizing what he's doing before he can get far.

comment by timujin · 2013-11-18T15:23:50.551Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I failed both to understand that after second rereading of the fic and to find the explaination in the discussion thread, so... Could someone please expand in the most expansive way possible the Harry/Lucius dialogue in Ch. 38? It makes no sense to me, like I was reading random sentences. And it seem like a major part of the plot, so I don't want to miss it.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-06-12T07:50:13.561Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Which spells/potions/etc have Eliezer declared too overpowered to appear in HPMoR, or at least nerfed considerably?

Context: Ten years ago, when I and my writing allies were considerably more stupid, we started on an RPG that wound up fitting the insane crossover tropes a bit too closely (Sauron and Jedi have yet to show up, at least...). It's still ongoing, if considerably slower due to everyone else getting lives, but as some tenth aniversory shenanigans, we've started rewriting the first couple years to not suck, and I've realized that I really need to pay more attention to Harry Potter magic for it to make any sense, even though I kept the HP references as few as possible. So far, I've already made use of Voldemort's horcrux cave from Halfblood Prince, and am going to look up exactly how the fidelius works next.

comment by Zaine · 2013-05-20T00:02:23.267Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Bogdan Butnaru is quite the busy man - if someone with the ability, willpower, and time would like to take the management of the HP:MoR book-style PDF off his hands, or merely lend a helping hand updating previous chapters &c., please pm him at bogdanb to inform him your willingness so he may be motivated to make the LaTeX sources available.

comment by bogdanb · 2013-07-18T19:06:48.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry for that. It’s not only that I was busy, it’s also that I got a bit sad and unmotivated after the phoenix chapter, and started procrastinating.

But I just received some happy news recently, so I’ll get right back on that.

Sorry everyone for the delay, and thank Zaine for reminding me where to place my newly-acquired motivation points :)

comment by Zaine · 2013-07-19T17:30:44.571Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Glad to hear your emotional state is now positive! Thank you!

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-03-09T23:30:56.340Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any particular reason that nearly every chapter just got refreshed in RSS at 6:15 AM? A mass update? Computer error on my end?

comment by 75th · 2013-03-11T21:42:10.711Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not a computer error on your end; the HPMoR Facebook page spammed its followers with a post for every single chapter, too.

comment by EndlessStrategy · 2013-02-28T16:17:46.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Forgive me if someone's mentioned this before, but...

The ritual to resurrect Voldemort requires three things. Willingly given flesh of his servant (the closer and stronger the better in this story). A bone from his father's grave, taken without his father's knowledge. And lastly, and I quote from "Goblet of Fire;" "B-blood of the enemy... forcibly taken... you will... resurrect your foe."

So, one would think that Quirrell has two of these three things, correct? Wrong. Recall chapter 26, when Professor Quirrell and Harry are discussing the ridiculous article Rita wrote. "Give me that,' said Professor Quirrell, and the newspaper leaped out of Harry's hand so fast that he got a paper cut.

Harry automatically put the finger in his mouth to suck on, feeling rather shocked, and turned to remonstrate with Professor Quirrell -

Professor Quirrell had stopped short in the middle of the street, and his eyes were flickering rapidly back and forth as an invisible force held the newspaper suspended before him."

Now, Quirrell hands Harry the paper back, but is it not also possible that, noticing that he had obtained a precious resource, took the blood on the paper without Harry's notice?

comment by 75th · 2013-03-08T22:44:49.661Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Bone of the Father must be removed during the ritual, not before; it stands to reason that the flesh and blood must be sacrificed during the ritual as well.

comment by Sheaman3773 · 2013-08-19T05:19:16.226Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do feel required to point out that that very chapter also contained this tidbit:

"I simply can't imagine hearing that you'd hurt someone you had not made a deliberate decision to hurt."

comment by gwern · 2013-02-28T16:33:32.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's been pointed out before. I don't recall anyone raising any good evidence for or against it.

comment by TsviBT · 2013-01-28T07:41:39.885Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is Quirrell's Starry Night horcrux communication? Is this how Harry will catch him out?

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T17:09:38.599Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, that is... that is the gaudiest checkered top hat I've ever seen.

Does anyone else think this might be a hint? It's not the same as H&C's "broad-brimmed black hat", but I find it interesting that it's mentioned at all. If we rule out all the suspects who have already been considered in 87, who are probably all red herrings, Flamel stands out as one of the few wizards clever enough to play such a game, along with Sirius Black.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-12-22T22:49:01.506Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cameos for Ch. 87: [...] Crozier (Mad Hatter LCarol)

?

comment by Locke · 2012-12-22T23:55:00.064Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah damn it.

comment by CrimsonWool · 2013-06-20T12:55:12.994Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

From chapter 85:

"And the last was cousin to your young friend Lavender Brown, and he -" The old wizard's voice cracked. "He did not return, did poor John, and he saved none of those he meant to save."

Did anyone else get this ref? I haven't seen anyone else post about it.

comment by arundelo · 2013-06-20T14:09:37.595Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer says on r/hpmor that it is a reference to the John Brown of Harpers Ferry. Responding to someone pointing out time-and-place difficulties, he says:

It's not to be taken that our John Brown was Dumbledore's student. Instead there was some other John Brown who, moved by the terrible suffering of a hellhole under the control of some Dark Wizard, went and attacked the Harp of Faery in an attempt to free them all at once - and died in the attempt.

comment by mwheatley · 2013-04-07T22:35:55.473Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

re: "you can see what the male characters will be when they grow up..."

I stopped to think about what Harry would grow up to be.

I think Harry Jules Vern Potter grows up to be... The Doctor.

"A magic wand is indistinguishable from a sonic screwdriver of sufficiently high technology".

comment by Smaug · 2013-03-22T21:25:38.360Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry if this is the wrong place to put this, and also sorry if it's been asked before (three different search engines gave me nothing on this) - but in chapter 7, we see interesting behaviour from Ron's owl: "The owl gave Harry an oddly measured and courteous hoot (actually more of an eehhhhh sound, which surprised Harry)." How likely do we think it is that Ron's owl is an Animagus? We know that the pet rat which Bill killed in chapter 29 was just a rat; we also know Pettigrew's Animagus form was really a rat; is it possible that Pettigrew had two forms (owl and rat) and abandoned one of them in order to stay undercover? Or, more likely, the owl is a different witch/wizard who is undercover in the Weasley family. (This feels to me like a "grasping at straws" kind of thought, but EY is indeed ingenious and wily, and something definitely rings not quite true about the pet rat story…)

comment by fractalman · 2013-06-09T07:39:57.986Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the owl IS an animagus, it's probably Serius Black--"i'm not serious, i'm not serious!".

minor non-cannon penalty: cannon serious black is a dog animagus.

comment by victordrake · 2013-03-19T21:15:56.390Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hi. Just found HPMoR and read it all, and please forgive me if anyone had raised this before in the thousands upon thousands of comments that I haven't taken the time to read...

I think I've figured out some Important Things that are going on here.

1) How harry survived the Killing Curse.

Right after the Incident With the Fake Summoning Ritual, we learned about a reference class of magic in which the practitioner first specifies a thing they are willing to sacrifice, and then a thing they expect to receive in exchange. Reviewing Harry's memory of his mother's death in light of this, I realized that Lily stated that she was willing to offer her life in exchange for Harry's safety, and VOLDEMORT AGREED!

2)WTF is Quirrelmort doing? It seems like he is befriending Harry and not trying to kill him.

Rational!Voldemort is very interested in space travel and wants to visit other worlds. He placed his horcrux aboard the Pioneer probe not to insure it could never be found and destroyed, but as part of a plan to move his consciousness to other worlds. When he heard of Trelawney's prophesy, R!V went to mark Harry as his equal so that Harry could eventually destroy all but a remnant of him, using a power that R!V knows not, resulting in their two souls not being in the same world.

I don't understand why he needs Bellatrix for this, but I think he is being honest about having given up on being Dark Lord and wanting Harry to take that role. I think he really likes Harry, and genuinely sees them as having a lot in common, almost like Harry is his surrogate son.

Also, he supported Harry's decision not to reveal the secrets of the True Patronus because he NEEDS Harry to have/use a power that he himself knows not, and also doesn't want Dumbledore to have it.

comment by drethelin · 2013-03-19T21:21:37.601Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Re: Bellatrix. In canon Quirrel is a temporary stopping place for Voldemort's spirit until he can incarnate in a new body. One of the ways to do this is a ritual that requires the parts mentioned in HPMOR, eg a servant, an enemy, an ancestor etc. Bellatrix is his best servant.

comment by victordrake · 2013-03-19T23:04:27.667Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But, if his plan is that his soul be sent to another world, he does not need his body back, does he?

comment by Nornagest · 2013-03-19T23:49:34.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe. He'd have to be content to spend an indefinite but probably very long span of time as whatever goes into a Horcrux in this continuity, without any well-defined hope of resurrection.

It's a cool idea, but Quirrell's not the type to send his soul (for lack of a better word) to another planet just because it's a cool idea. Unfortunately we don't know much about how well a Horcrux can perceive or influence its surroundings, which is somewhat important in this context. He might be trying to cast a light into the future, cryonics-style, but that seems like a long shot by my measure of Quirrell; he knows something of Muggle science but he's probably not hip to obscure, relatively recent ideas.

He's using the Pioneer probe as the ultimate safe deposit box. I don't think we have enough evidence to say he's looking for anything more dramatic than that.

comment by victordrake · 2013-03-25T00:25:29.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, it has occurred to me that maybe he doesn't need his body back, because he never lost it. He's not wearing a turban to cover two-facedness, and Harry's "recovered" memory from his infancy may have been the result of a false memory charm. In this continuity, can we really be sure that Quirrel is a separate person that Voldie is using, or maybe he is just Voldie in disguise?

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-19T21:23:57.086Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also in canon, the servant chosen was Pettigrew. HPMoR is at least feinting towards Bellatrix as a much more obvious choice at least partially as a commentary on how Pettigrew's a dumb choice.

comment by drethelin · 2013-03-19T21:27:39.465Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

to be fair, in canon breaking out of Azkaban involved secret animagus status (Until Voldie was back in life and able to control dementors). In HPMOR it involved Harry's special abilities, cloak of true invisibility, etc. etc. Pettigrew still seems like a dumb choice but

comment by Manfred · 2013-02-18T09:08:06.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just finished Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Sword of Bheleu. It was quite good. I'm guessing with P=70% that Eliezer has actually cracked open a Watt-Evans book while preparing to write hp:mor. Really, take away the old-timey sexism and replace half of the scene description with dialogue and I would have guessed Eliezer as an author.

Edit: okay, I was over-pattern-matching.

comment by pedanterrific · 2013-02-18T17:46:13.958Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Quirrell's "ritual to summon Death" is a reference to the Seething Death from LWE's Ethshar novels, so it's a pretty safe bet.

comment by Manfred · 2013-02-18T23:29:22.752Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. Well, I'll clarify a bit to deprive myself of a win on reference: I guess that the style of hp:mor was similar enough to Watt-Evans that I was guessing that it was intentional, and as part of making it happen Eliezer had actually opened a book.

Or at least, that hypothesis is way above the base rate.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T17:58:33.751Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a theory regarding the open secret of the Philosopher's Stone: in RL, alchemists often saw the stone as a metaphor, and talked about purifying one's soul in order to "purify" metal into gold (which, as we all know, is the purest metal.) Thus the reason Flamel assured Dumbledore that Voldemort couldn't create his own stone was that he's evil. Anyone reasonably skilled in alchemy can pull off the stone-creation ritual; but only someone worthy enough will actually get a stone out of it. This might also ease Flamel's conscience about not mass-producing immortality, I guess.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2012-12-23T20:25:06.931Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He might simply not qualify anymore - Maintaining the prerequisite spiritual purity over the course of six centuries, and however many attempts on his life is likely to have proven impossible. If this is the case, the rite will work for Hermione.. and a fair few of the other characters.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-23T21:45:44.914Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, it could easily be a one-off thing. Kind of like he phoenix, only with goodness or purity instead of courage. And you need to be performing some alchemical process at the time, I guess.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-24T01:03:31.697Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok. Big analysis of Patronus magic coming up.

Central Assumption: The Stone and whatever saved infant Harry from Voldemort are both based on Patronus magic.

We have already seen the True Patronus, which is powered by an absolute rejection of death and serves as an antithesis for the killing curse.

Perhaps whatever saved Harry is caused by a terminal value in a specific person surviving (the mundane Patronus does not reach that level)

Perhaps the Stone is powered by a rejection of personal death in a non-universal, non-utilitarian way?

I suspect that Harry will use the True Patronus to provide immortality.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T05:12:40.554Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Central Assumption: The Stone and whatever saved infant Harry from Voldemort are both based on Patronus magic.

I reckon Voldemort accidentally performed a ritual, sacrificing Lily Potter and granting Harry Boy-Who-Lived status. But ... it's certainly not worth rejecting out of hand.

We have already seen the True Patronus, which is powered by an absolute rejection of death and serves as an antithesis for the killing curse.

I'm not sure I would call the True Patronus "an antithesis for the killing curse." It seems more of an antithesis for death!dementors.

Perhaps whatever saved Harry is caused by a terminal value in a specific person surviving (the mundane Patronus does not reach that level)

I'm not sure what you mean by "terminal value" here.

Perhaps the Stone is powered by a rejection of personal death in a non-universal, non-utilitarian way?

Wouldn't that make Quirrelmort an ideal candidate for stonemaking?

I suspect that Harry will use the True Patronus to provide immortality.

Woah there. That thing is overpowered enough as it is. If it starts raising the dead then, well ... let's just say that sounds a little too easy. I thing EY is too good a writer to simply hand his protagonist a get-out-of-plot-free card like that. Harry is already powerful via rationality - he doesn't need the author to hand him the solution to all his problems, and if he did, it would IMHO suck horribly.

Um ... no offence, or anything.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-12-29T14:44:56.717Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Immortality isn't a solution to all problems-- there's still dealing with people to consider.

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-24T18:01:51.603Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Killing Curse is

"A magically embodied preference for death over life, striking within the plane of pure life force... that does sound like a difficult spell to block."

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-25T22:12:50.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not only that but Harry says that wanting them dead needs to be a terminal value in your utility function. Thats what I meant.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-24T21:39:36.099Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I assumed that he blocked Quirrelmort's curse due to their magical interference, not because the True Patronus is actually intended as a way of blocking Avada Kedavera

comment by pedanterrific · 2012-12-24T22:16:55.238Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whether or not the True Patronus can block anyone else's Killing Curse, the way it's described above sounds pretty antithetical to me.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-25T13:26:48.537Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I see. Because the True Patronus is a magically embodied preference for life over death ... interesting.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-26T07:28:42.533Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, the Patronus automatically moved to block the killing curse based on Harry's preference, without his will or knowledge of the magical interference.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-29T12:19:09.298Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I reckon Voldemort accidentally performed a ritual, sacrificing Lily Potter and granting Harry Boy-Who-Lived status. But ... it's certainly not worth rejecting out of hand.

I reckon that was Dumbledore's and Lily's (and maybe James') plan.

What's the evidence that Voldemort actually cast a killing curse at Harry? That he tried to kill him in any way?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-12-29T22:07:54.319Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What's the evidence that Voldemort actually cast a killing curse at Harry?

It's possible to determine the last spell cast by a wand.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-29T22:10:53.969Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In MoR, aren't we told that Bellatrix took the wand from the scene of the crime?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-01-02T03:27:40.650Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, not true that I can see.

If what she said was true, we only know that she had the wand and hid it in a graveyard. We don't know when or how she got it. If Dumbledore did find Harry, he should have found the wand as well, if it was there. Similarly, if Bellatrix had found the wand at Godric's Hollow, she should have found Harry too, and killed him.

If they're not lying, I conclude that Voldemort gave her his wand before he went to Godric's Hollow. If he ever did go to Godric's Hollow.

An aside on Bella - she is described in much the same terms as Hermione.

“My... Lord... I went where you said to await you, but you did not come... I looked for you but I could not find you... you are alive...”

“Your wand,” murmured Bellatrix, “I hid it in the graveyard, my lord, before I left... under the tombstone to the right of your father’s grave... will you kill me, now, if that was all you wished of me... I think I must have always wanted you to be the one to kill me... but I can’t remember now, it must have been a happy thought...”

“It is not,” said Dumbledore, shaking his head and looking very serious. “I took this from the ruins of James and Lily’s home in Godric’s Hollow, where also I found you; and I have kept it from then until now, against the day when I could give it to you.”

“The Dark Lord came to Godric’s Hollow,” said McGonagall in a whisper. “You should have been hidden, but you were betrayed. The Dark Lord killed James, and he killed Lily, and he came in the end to you, to your crib. He cast the Killing Curse at you. And that was where it ended. The Killing Curse is formed of pure hate, and strikes directly at the soul, severing it from the body. It cannot be blocked. The only defense is not to be there. But you survived. You are the only person ever to survive. The Killing Curse reflected and rebounded and struck the Dark Lord, leaving only the burnt hulk of his body and a scar on your forehead. That was the end of the terror, and we were free.”

As long as you're working inconsistencies, the Pettigrew/Black encounter is obviously wacky too.

EDIT: Add another quote to the collection

“I had the strangest feeling that I knew him...” Harry rubbed his forehead. “And that I shouldn’t ought to shake his hand.” Like someone he’d known a long time ago, and then been separated from... an unhappy feeling, a sense of loss.

Didn't remember this one at all, but it looks significant. The "him" referred to is Quirrell. Harry had seen him at the bar on his first visit to the Leaky Cauldron, and had asked McGonagall about him. "Sense of loss" is from James and Lily getting killed, or some positive connection to Quirrell?

comment by gwern · 2013-01-02T03:50:03.742Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Similarly, if Bellatrix had found the wand at Godric's Hollow, she should have found Harry too, and killed him.

I think this is unwarranted. We have no reason to doubt Bellatrix's version, so on the fatal night she: arrived at location A, following direct orders from Voldemort, and waited for him to arrive; Voldemort failed to arrive within the expected period; she went looking for him, but could not find him; at some later period, she hid his wand in a graveyard.

This is consistent with Voldemort ordering her somewhere to wait for him to do something to the the Potters; Voldemort failing and dying; Bellatrix going to the Potters' house; not finding him, finding his wand; and then hiding the wand.

Not finding Voldemort is far more important than killing a random baby who had no possible connection to anything that night - as everyone knows, the Killing Curse cannot be blocked, and certainly not cast by a baby, so something else must have happened to Voldemort.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-01-02T12:35:06.827Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By your theory, she knows enough to look for him at the Potter's house. She sees known enemies, Lily and James, dead. She can't find Voldemort. Instead, she finds his wand abandoned near to the crib of the Potter child. She possibly saw what looked like a burn out husk of a body near the wand.

Upon meeting a completely defenseless child of prominent known enemies, I think her impulse would be to kill him, particularly since the missed return and abandoned wand would seem to indicate that something went wrong for Voldemort in this attack. It's not like it would take a long time to break a baby's neck, or slit it's throat, which would be her natural inclination anyway.

She expected to meet her at location A, not at the Potter's residence. Where did she need to rush off to that she wouldn't have taken a moment to kill Harry?

The Potter child is not some "random baby" - he is the son of the couple who effectively started the opposition against Voldemort, and that's even if she knew nothing about the prophecy and potential schemes by Dumbledore and Voldemort based on the prophecy.

Also, I wonder where Dumbledore is during all this. By whatever theory, I'd expect him to monitor or check on the situation in some way.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-02T19:24:36.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Instead, she finds his wand abandoned near to the crib of the Potter child. She possibly saw what looked like a burn out husk of a body near the wand.

No, she finds what might be her lord's body - unthinkable thought, how could he possibly die? - near the dead body of their enemy Lily Potter. There does happen to be a live baby somewhere, but that's not important.

She expected to meet her at location A, not at the Potter's residence. Where did she need to rush off to that she wouldn't have taken a moment to kill Harry?

Anywhere she might find her lord. She is insane and brain-damaged into unyielding loyalty and fanatical devotion to her lord. Anything to do with him takes priority over casual mayhem and slaughter.

Also, I wonder where Dumbledore is during all this. By whatever theory, I'd expect him to monitor or check on the situation in some way.

Yeah, that's always been a question in canon too. Perhaps the alarms went off but it just took him long enough to get there. From the description of the actions, it could all go down in under a minute: bust down the door, curse James Potter, fly upstairs, chat with Lily for 15 seconds, and curse her and then the baby.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-01-03T00:00:17.374Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, she finds what might be her lord's body - unthinkable thought, how could he possibly die? - near the dead body of their enemy Lily Potter. There does happen to be a live baby somewhere, but that's not important.

Again, what she would find at the house is entirely conjecture. The only thing we know is what the house looked like after Albus showed it to others. So I don't think she necessarily saw the burnt out husk.

But let's assume that at least Harry is there. The child of two of the greatest enemies of her Lord, who now look like they might have participated in his death, lies in her grasp. For some reason, you think this would be an "unimportant", "random baby" to Bellatrix. Would Lucius or Draco in similar circumstances find such a baby unimportant to them? I think you're completely disregarding the human impulse to revenge, which seems to much much more pronounced in Death Eaters.

Anything to do with him takes priority over casual mayhem and slaughter.

Again, I don't think Bellatrix's attitude toward Harry would be casual at that point. Her Lord may be dead. Her desire to strike out at anything would be enormous at this point. But she doesn't just have anything, she has a very particular and special something to strike at.

Taking vengeance against his enemies has everything to do with him. Imagine her regret if she had had The Boy Who Lived in her grasp, and did nothing.

On Dumbledore and a potential alarm - I'm fine with the idea that the encounter was too short for Dumbledore to make it there in time.

The window for Bellatrix to show up is after Voldemort is late enough for her to leave where she was told to wait, and before Dumbledore arrives. That appears to me to be an empty set if he has any kind of monitoring going on. EY gives little specifics about the setup of Godric's Hollow. In canon, it's a village with a decent population. I don't remember all the secret keeper mumbo jumbo, but wouldn't you expect a village of wizards to quickly notice a battle that leaves a home in "ruins"? That Dumbledore arrives first indicates that he must have had some kind of monitoring going on.

One amazing factoid from a Harry Potter Wiki:

James and Lily's bodies were laid to rest in the Godric's Hollow graveyard. Their tombstone reads, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

That is too funny. Much like how Death Eater seems more appropriate for Mr. Glowy Person than Malfoy.

comment by gwern · 2013-01-03T01:10:26.612Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Again, what she would find at the house is entirely conjecture. The only thing we know is what the house looked like after Albus showed it to others. So I don't think she necessarily saw the burnt out husk.

Where did the husk go?

But let's assume that at least Harry is there. The child of two of the greatest enemies of her Lord, who now look like they might have participated in his death, lies in her grasp. For some reason, you think this would be an "unimportant", "random baby" to Bellatrix. Would Lucius or Draco in similar circumstances find such a baby unimportant to them? I think you're completely disregarding the human impulse to revenge, which seems to much much more pronounced in Death Eaters.

The enemies are already dead, and revenge can be taken later now that the Fidelus charm is broken. Lucius and Draco are not insane and broken creatures like Bellatrix; Voldemort's well-being and orders are not a lexicographic preference to them.

Taking vengeance against his enemies has everything to do with him. Imagine her regret if she had had The Boy Who Lived in her grasp, and did nothing.

He's not The Boy Who Lived. He's just an NPC laying around.

The window for Bellatrix to show up is after Voldemort is late enough for her to leave where she was told to wait, and before Dumbledore arrives. That appears to me to be an empty set if he has any kind of monitoring going on.

That's a good point, but consider the alternative: Dumbledore shows up, he sees the mess and dead bodies, he disposes of the charred corpse of Voldemort but leaves the wand laying around, and then he... leaves? Fails to set up any sort of defenses or wards around the crime scene? So Bellatrix can, unknown minutes/hours later when her patience runs out, just waltz in, not find her lord, find his wand, and flee? (Although your specific scenario has him foreseeing everything and deliberately leaving his wand behind, I suppose.)

Hm, don't we need to account for Sirius Black somehow? What with Hagrid and the motorcyle, I mean.

One amazing factoid from a Harry Potter Wiki:

Oh yes, I assure that that was pointed out to Eliezer many moons ago. I look forward to seeing it pop up somehow.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-01-03T09:06:39.846Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Where did the husk go?

I question the official story line that the husk is the remains of Voldemort after his supposed attack on Harry. Was it a husk planted by Voldemort? Planted by Dumbledore? Planted when?

As I think I mentioned, I have a hard time squaring Dumbledore planting the husk; he'd have to have been pretty confident that Voldemort wouldn't be returning soon to screw up his story. But I'm not ruling it out.

The enemies are already dead, and revenge can be taken later

The enemy is not dead - son of an enemy, is an enemy. And why put off revenge now? Why assume that with Voldemort possibly dead, that revenge would even be possible later?

That's a good point, but consider the alternative

I think I'm losing track of our alternatives.

You give an alternative under the branch of possibilities where Bellatrix retrieved the wand from Godric's Hollow. You're alternative doesn't look likely to me either.

I've been making the case that the whole branch of possibilities entailed by Bellatrix retrieving the wand at Godric's Hollow is unlikely. I think he left the wand with her, and she was told to wait for him with it, so that he could eventually retrieve it from her. But then, why not just hide it? Why involve her at all? Just because he'd rather have someone protect it? Seems weak, but seems better than the alternatives I can come up with.

One of the problems we're having is a lack of specification in the plot. If Dumbledore didn't find his wand there, wouldn't Dumbledore or others have pointed that out? If he did find a wand, but someone else's wand, wouldn't that have been noted?

It seems unlikely that he wouldn't suspect a trap at Godric's Hollow. It seems unlikely that he wouldn't recognize ritual magic when he saw it. It seems unlikely that Bellatrix could have gotten the wand if it had been left at Godric's Hollow.

Yet she had it.

My take: I guess Voldemort left his wand with Bellatrix and told her to wait for him.

If he fell for "the trap", then he did it on purpose, to set Harry up as a savior in magical Britain, and to make some alterations to Harry to make him more powerful.

Possibly, he's doing this to eventually "upload" into Harry after Harry appears to defeat Voldemort yet again. Both Malfoy and Bellatrix now think Harry is Voldemort already. All of Britain will be united under Harrymort. Harrymort rules!

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-30T00:27:35.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought so too.

Further, the assumption is that he just cast Avada Kedavra against Lily and James. So that would have been the last spell if he cast no spells at Harry and just left. Or tried to throttle him with a pillow.

How do we know he cast any more spells? How do we know he cast any spells at Harry?

The Dumbeldore plan, to trick him into accepting a bargain by ritual magic and then violating that magic seems like something that would have been obvious to Voldemort.

I never thought it made sense for Voldemort to try to kill Harry, or at least try to kill him himself. But if he did try, maybe Dumbledore (with the Potters' consent) booby trapped Harry in some other way? Maybe that's where the magical resonance between them comes from.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-30T03:50:17.376Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Further, the assumption is that he just cast Avada Kedavra against Lily and James. So that would have been the last spell if he cast no spells at Harry and just left.

If we're assuming a clever Voldemort, there's any number of ways that 'check his wand's last recorded spell' could fail to be conclusive evidence. He could've used someone else's wand (a backup wand is a good idea for a ton of reasons). He could've brought someone else to do the actual deed (how else did Bellatrix get to the wand before anyone else showed up like Dumbledore or Aurors?). He could've used any of a billion Muggle methods, as you point out (plausible since we know about Pioneer and Dumbledore regards clever use of Muggle tech as pointing to Voldemort). He could've used an innocuous spell in a fatal way (a dark lord in hiding could be expected to use Apparating all the time, and Apparating seems like it could be quite fatal given 'splinching'). He could simply have broken the detection spell and set up a false audit trail, as it were. And so on and so forth.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-01-02T03:33:40.392Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The official story seems completely inferred.

Lily and James are dead. Harry has a scar. There is a burnt husk of something nearby.

In fact, not even so much. What the world sees are Dumbledore producing the dead bodies of Lily and James, a scarred Harry, and a burnt husk of something.

One point against a Dumbledore conspiracy theory - how would he know that Voldemort wouldn't show up a week later and blow his story?

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-29T15:39:05.075Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I reckon that was Dumbledore's and Lily's (and maybe James') plan.

Are you saying that they tried and failed to do this? Or just that it was no accident?

What's the evidence that Voldemort actually cast a killing curse at Harry? That he tried to kill him in any way?

Well ... he does have the scar. And something happened. I mean, its conceivable that he just took the opportunity to fake his death, but it seems simpler to suppose that he was actually killed, survived via horcrux, and possessed Quirrel. And it happened roughly the same in canon, where he defenitely cast the curse.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-12-30T00:42:24.340Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, meeting the clear terms of ritual magic seems like quite a freakish coincidence unless that had been their plan. So I think they tried this, or at least tried to give the appearance to Voldemort of doing this, so that he would feel himself safe from other traps.

As for the scar, anyone involved could have given Harry the scar, in a myriad of ways.

Ha! Maybe Dumbledore gave it to Harry after finding him alive in his crib.

Evidence - unidentifiable burnt out husk of a body. Scar on Harry. Voldemort at the scene of the crime. Voldemort presumed to want Harry dead. That's pretty weak tea.

The best bit of evidence I can see is the one no one talks about - the feeling of Doom and magic resonance between Harry and Quirrell. It seems credible to me that Voldemort might not have anticipated that, and it was Dumbledore so booby trapped Harry with that resonance.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-26T07:27:10.024Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First, is the True Patronus really that overpowered? We know that it can be used to destroy Dementors, but that is a very specific limited purpose and will have no value after The Great Dementor Hunt.

Do we know where Dementors come from? Could it be possible that the Killing Curse creates them?

I don't think that the True Patronus is going to be an easy way to bring the end of death. It would not do it on its own and would probably be much harder than figuring out how to kill dementors.

It can be used to block the Killing Curse, but Quirrelmort probably is smart enough (and has been around Harry long enough) to make use of some transfigured depleted uranium slugs and a Mass Acceleration Charm. Or fire. Or lightning. Or anything, really. It merely neutralizes another seeming game-breaker. (While Mad-Eye Moody's description makes it sound very powerful, but I don't know if anybody has ever actually used it through all barriers or over intercontinental ranges, and the ability to dodge it indicates that it cannot be THAT good of a homing spell.

Here is an alternative interpretation of the prophecy:

THe one: Harry With the power: The True Patronus To vanquish the dark lord: The Dark Lord is not Voldemort, but rather a personification of death (maybe even a literal personification of death such as the grim reaper as a King Of Dementors. approaches, born to those who have thrice defied him. :Heroism is often called 'death defying'. Alternatively, it could be a wierd interpretation with Harry being born from his biological parents to his adoptive parents. His adoptive father is a biochemist (IIRC) who works in a field that is probably connected to medicine. Perhaps he has made three significant medical discoveries? Although I am not sure about the whole thing with being marked as his equal or whatever.

Wouldn't that make Quirrelmort an ideal candidate for stonemaking?

No, I was really, really unclear. The way I see it: Mudane Patronus: A powerful but non-general preference for life rather than death embodied in a desire to protect. True Patronus: A fully general preference for life over death Avada Kedavra: A non-general preference that a specific person die Hypothetical Apocalypse Spell: A fully general preference for death over life. It's unlikely that anybody would ever cast this. Possibly connected to the ritual that will summon death itself? Ritual to summon death itself: True Patronus may be the counterspell to dismiss death. Horcrux: Requires a selfish preference for your life to exceed your acceptance of the sacrificial victim's preference. Philosopher's Stone: Possibly requires very difficult magic and an explicit,non-general but non-selfish preference for life over death.

I think that using the True Patronus charm to end death might (some or all): A) not end death by itself, but open the door to a magical, Muggle, or combination immortality method B) lead to the discovery of a higher-level method of operating the Atlantis system, letting one use magic to directly fulfill any preference C) Re-activate a latent immortality function in the Atlantis system. It won't be easy, or a plot-breaker.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-04T07:40:45.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Edit, this comment was redundant.

comment by ikrase · 2013-01-04T05:43:13.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I thought I heard somebody say they are spontaneously generated in places of extreme rank immorality, death, or negative utility (in which case WWII probably generated many of them due both to city bombings and the Holocaust, for example).

Does anybody know what happens to Dementors re: Muggles? They cannot use the Patronus. Do wizards collect them all at Azkaban, or what?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-01-05T05:50:06.014Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does anybody know what happens to Dementors re: Muggles?

In cannon, according to word of God, muggles cannot see dementors, but dementors can induce depression in muggles, and in extreme cases put them in a coma.

comment by smk · 2013-01-03T03:05:12.348Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that you need to do more than just prefer immortality for all. Harry's happy thought is not just that he wants people to stop dying, but that he has a great deal of hope--confidence, even--that it will happen, one day.

comment by Alsadius · 2013-01-02T10:35:38.108Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Re where Dementors come from, I assumed the "ritual to summon death"(rope that has hanged/sword that has slain) is where they come from.

comment by ikrase · 2012-12-27T10:45:41.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First, the question remains: Why would anybody cast the apocalypse spell (Dumbledore mentioned omnicidal maniac Dark Lords, though).

Second, I still don't think the True Patronus is all that powerful. It cannot be used offensively against anything other than dementors and it does not defend against any magical, technological, natural, or creative-use-of-magical (such as the Mass Accelerating Charm) other than the killing curse, including ones that are just as fatal and which are probably almost as hard to shield against. Moreover, in noncombat uses the True Patronus gives almost nothing that cannot be given by the mundane Patronus or other mundane magical or mundane technological means. (the only thing I have thought of is an unforgable signal of anti-deathism to people able to understand the philosophy of the Patronus or the True Patronus.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-12-26T15:59:07.730Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

First, is the True Patronus really that overpowered?

Considering the protagonist got it simply for being the protagonist, it turns dementors from unstoppable soul-eating monsters to a trivial threat (they can't even see you), and it may be able to stop the (unstoppable) killing curse ... it's pretty damn powerful. Not "winning-every-conflict" powerful, tipping-over-the board powerful.

Here is an alternative interpretation of the prophecy:

THe one: Harry With the power: The True Patronus To vanquish the dark lord: The Dark Lord is not Voldemort, but rather a personification of death (maybe even a literal personification of death such as the grim reaper as a King Of Dementors. approaches, born to those who have thrice defied him. :Heroism is often called 'death defying'. Alternatively, it could be a wierd interpretation with Harry being born from his biological parents to his adoptive parents. His adoptive father is a biochemist (IIRC) who works in a field that is probably connected to medicine. Perhaps he has made three significant medical discoveries? Although I am not sure about the whole thing with being marked as his equal or whatever.

I have to admit, I find these alternaive interpretations ... unlikely.

Hypothetical Apocalypse Spell: A fully general preference for death over life. It's unlikely that anybody would ever cast this. Possibly connected to the ritual that will summon death itself? Ritual to summon death itself: True Patronus may be the counterspell to dismiss death.

I'm guessing that "Apocalypse Spell" is where dementors come from.

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T01:37:31.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is this no longer showing up on the discussion page for other people? I'm not complaining, and I can imagine the reasoning behind that choice, but I was a bit confused when I tried to find it and couldn't see it.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-12-23T10:56:29.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Showed up for me.

comment by ahartell · 2012-12-23T14:50:23.959Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, different issue all together. Thanks though.