Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread

post by Unnamed · 2010-05-27T00:10:57.279Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 882 comments

Contents

  Update: Please post new comments in the latest HPMOR discussion thread, now in the discussion section, since this thread and its first few successors have grown unwieldy (direct links: two, three, four, five, six, seven).
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882 comments

Update: Please post new comments in the latest HPMOR discussion thread, now in the discussion section, since this thread and its first few successors have grown unwieldy (direct links: two, three, four, five, six, seven).

As many of you already know, Eliezer Yudkowsky is writing a Harry Potter fanfic, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, starring a rationalist Harry Potter with ambitions to transform the world by bringing the rationalist/scientific method to magic.  But of course a more powerful Potter requires a more challenging wizarding world, and ... well, you can see for yourself how that plays out.

This thread is for discussion of anything related to the story, including insights, confusions, questions, speculation, jokes, discussion of rationality issues raised in the story, attempts at fanfic spinoffs, comments about related fanfictions, and meta-discussion about the fact that Eliezer Yudkowsky is writing Harry Potter fan-fiction (presumably as a means of raising the sanity waterline).

I'm making this a top-level post to create a centralized location for that discussion, since I'm guessing people have things to say (I know I do) and there isn't a great place to put them.  fanfiction.net has a different set of users (plus no threading or karma), the main discussion here has been in an old open thread which has petered out and is already near the unwieldy size that would call for a top-level post, and we've had discussions come up in a few other places.  So let's have that discussion here. 

Comments here will obviously be full of spoilers, and I don't think it makes sense to rot13 the whole thread, so consider this a spoiler warning:  this thread contains unrot13'd spoilers for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality up to the current chapter and for the original Harry Potter series.  Please continue to use rot13 for spoilers to other works of fiction, or if you have insider knowledge of future chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

A suggestion: mention at the top of your comment which chapter you're commenting on, or what chapter you're up to, so that people can understand the context of your comment even after more chapters have been posted.  This can also help people avoid reading spoilers for a new chapter before they realize that there is a new chapter.

882 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-05-27T02:31:28.951Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Slightly edited the original post to avoid giving away what my readers have finally convinced me is, in fact, an undesirable spoiler. I also hope you didn't mind my removing the mention of FAI, because I feel fairly strongly about not mixing that into the fic. "A fanatic is someone who can't change their mind and won't change the subject"; if we can't shut up about FAI while talking about Harry Potter, we may have a problem.

Replies from: TobyBartels, NihilCredo, Unnamed
comment by TobyBartels · 2015-02-24T22:39:16.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, you kept it out for a long time.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2015-02-26T23:43:09.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A ShoutOut is not the same as contaminating the plot.

Replies from: TobyBartels
comment by TobyBartels · 2015-03-01T09:38:01.547Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ETA: Spoilers for chapters in the early 100s.

Very true, and I don't agree with some comments that I've seen lately (and probably they've been around all along) complaining about all of the shout outs.

But we may have more of a shout-out here: there's a strong implication that the Mirror of Noitilov was created by Atlanteans attempting to create an honest-to-goodness FAI to avert an existential threat. Since Atlantis may have created magic entirely, and since there is already a lot of speculation among the fans that the existence of magic implies that MOR is a simulation run by an AI, this would put FAI and the existential threat of UFAI into the background of the world at a deep level.

Of course, only you know if this implication and speculation are correct. And either way, I'm not complaining!

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T01:32:30.549Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As someone who's often creeped out by LW, I approve.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-05-27T05:54:35.191Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's fine. I'm actually not that into AI, so I wasn't thinking about that problem, but you're probably right. I also made a slight edit to your slight edit so that it still sounds like me.

comment by FAWS · 2010-06-07T21:06:46.062Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The fic now has a hate blog dedicated to it.

Replies from: Kevin, Jonii, Jack, JoshuaZ
comment by Kevin · 2010-06-08T01:53:22.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Congrats Eliezer! Now you've really made it.

comment by Jonii · 2010-06-08T01:42:17.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The writing style seems to go for similar overkill as in XKCDSucks-blog, that is, every tiny detail is taken out of context and twisted until it is made look bad. Plain honest deconstruction and critique would be fun, as there are many things I think are quite awful with MoR, mostly I dislike the unnatural feeling every single human relationship has and how many speeches about science seem to be a bit unrelated and be there just for lecturing the reader without justification from story, and how Harry seems to be Mary Sue so very much it's actually annoying. MoRSucks however seems to go drowning real bad points into a sea of motivated cognition. It seems bad. Weird and untruthful, strawman-like, as far as I can tell, portrayal of MoR fans doesn't help.

Replies from: Democritus
comment by Democritus · 2010-06-16T16:03:44.086Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a really good analysis of the problems with MORSucks. Unfortunately, people who only slightly dislike a work, or acknowledge that has some flaws but enjoy it anyway, seldom form blogs devoted to deconstructing it. In general, you have to choose between overwhelming praise and overwhelming hate.

comment by Jack · 2010-06-08T00:29:12.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So maybe it's just me but my reaction to the fanfic was something like "Eliezer is writing rationalist Harry Potter fanfiction. That's pretty awesome. And educational!" I check it every so often to see if there is a new chapter and I've shared it with a couple people. That's pretty far from:

Basically, Mr. Yudkowsky's ubiquitous yes-men like to claim (quietly encouraged by the man himself) that this fic somehow transcends its medium to become some sort of higher work

It seemed like most people had similar reactions to mine, but maybe Less Wrongers have been making a bigger deal out of it elsewhere? We didn't even have this thread until a couple of chapters ago.

Similarly:

apparently Mr. Yudkowsy had a sizable online following prior to writing this tour de force, and I guess some of it must have overlapped with the Potter fandom, because this fic quickly skyrocketed in popularity and number of reviews

My sense was that we had almost nothing to do with the popularity. It didn't get linked to from LW until like chapter 12 or so, if I remember correctly. I know a couple people here made image macros but Eliezer's following isn't nearly large enough to generate this kind of popularity by itself, right?

As for the rest of it: it reads like my mother critiquing MTV, the author doesn't understand where the author is coming from or who he is writing for and as a result totally misses his target. For example, the fact that Harry has three last names clearly isn't Eliezer making sloppy feminist statement. If anything, he's laughing at himself and the subculture he's a part of. I laughed out loud when I read it because obviously rationalist-Harry would have a compounded name. It's exactly the right amount of PC-vanity for the family of an Oxford professor with a kid too smart for his own good.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-08T00:34:11.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My sense was that we had almost nothing to do with the popularity. It didn't get linked to from LW until like chapter 12 or so, if I remember correctly. I know a couple people here made image macros but Eliezer's following isn't nearly large enough to generate this kind of popularity by itself, right?

I was referred to initially to it by two people who are not LW readers.

The individual writing the blog may be suffering from a bit belief overkill (one of my favorite cognitive biases. Someone should do a top-level post about it at some point. Many different cognitive biases can be thought of in a belief overkill framework).

Replies from: Jack
comment by Jack · 2010-06-08T00:37:44.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is belief overkill different from confirmation bias (which is what comes up when I google)?

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-08T00:47:47.431Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They're related. Some argue that confirmation bias is an example of belief overkill. Belief overkill is basically the tendency for people to accept all arguments that support their opinion even if it is only in a peripheral fashion. Thus, for example, people who think that using fetal stem cells for medical purposes are moral are much more likely to think that stem cells will be really medically helpful than people who think that such use is bad. Essentially, people compile arguments for why X is Good/Bad rather than dividing questions properly. There are some posts that touch on this issue (such as those discussing why politics is a mind-killer) but I'm not aware of any post discussing this issue in detail (although given how extensive the archives are I estimate a high probability that I've simply missed the relevant ones).

Replies from: Unnamed, RobinZ, NancyLebovitz
comment by Unnamed · 2010-06-08T03:44:46.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds a lot like the halo effect.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-06-08T03:39:05.458Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided is related to belief overkill, I'd say.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-08T01:00:58.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Motivated cognition would also be a special case of belief overkill-- it's being too ready to develop and accept arguments what you want to believe. Belief overkill is the same process applied to arguments from both yourself and other people.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-07T21:41:24.433Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, so far I'm not impressed by the criticism of chapter 1. I've been meaning at some point to write something about where I think Eliezer's gone wrong, but now I think it might be more interesting to wait and see if this individual produces anything interesting. Given that the individual is a fan of the xkcdsucks blog, I'm a bit skeptical that I'm going to see much of interest. Judging from the chapter 1 review it looks like the writer is having some of the same problems as those people (One major one is assuming that setups or characters are necessarily ideals just because they are sympathetic or protagonists)

Replies from: dclayh, NancyLebovitz
comment by dclayh · 2010-06-11T04:22:19.015Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Chris Christie joke was excellent, however.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-07T22:23:39.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That site does seem like a bad case of motivated cognition, but I'm going to read a little more of it to see whether the author comes up with something interesting.

One thing that's mildly interesting is a criticism of MoR as being humanities-deficient. It would be interesting to see someone (possibly not Harry Potter-- he's too young) coming into the wizarding world with a strong humanities background.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-07T22:29:27.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read a fanfic a while ago involving a journey to afterlife (set after 5 and written before book 6 had come out) involving a journey to the underworld to try to get Sirius back. Hermione had apparently read enough mythology and other works to become genre savvy about what to expect. The end involved dealing with a creature that had been promised a pound of flesh from Harry and she then used the standard trick from The Merchant of Venice to deal with it. When the others are impressed she explicitly stated where it was from and gave a brief rant about how wizards should read more Muggle writing.

Replies from: dclayh
comment by dclayh · 2010-06-11T04:07:10.245Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would think using magic you actually could extract a pound of just flesh...

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-11T04:29:46.253Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, in the story it went slightly differently than it occurs in Merchant of Venice. Hermione waited until after the flesh had been torn from Harry to tell the underworld spirit that it had violated the deal and then negotiated back the restoration of everything as an appropriate penalty for it violating the deal.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-05-27T06:02:38.423Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's my take on what actually happened in the dojo incident described in chp 19.

Voldemort went there in disguise to learn the valuable martial art. He reacted badly to losing so they put him through the ordeal he described. He went along with it because he wanted to learn the martial art. The ordeal did teach him valuable lessons about losing, and he vowed to learn to control his temper and master tactics of ingratiation and supplication to better manipulate others. But he felt angry and humiliated by it (as he expected Harry to be), and also vowed to return and fulfill his revenge fantasies. So after he mastered the martial art and left the dojo, he came back openly as the Dark Lord and killed them to live out his revenge fantasies and to prevent others from learning the skills (keep science secret). He spared one student who had befriended him (and who probably stood up for him during the ordeal, like Draco to Harry), and he had that student spread the version of the tale that he wanted told (to maximize fear while hiding some of his true powers, and to deflect attention away from the value of that martial art).

Replies from: cousin_it, dclayh
comment by cousin_it · 2010-05-27T10:21:53.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For me the most natural explanation of the dojo incident is that Quirrell/Voldemort pulled a Verbal Kint. The setup is just too similar to be accidental. If you haven't seen The Usual Suspects (you should), that means ur vzcebivfrq gur fgbel ba gur fcbg gb znxr rirelbar srne uvz naq gb uhzvyvngr Uneel. I'll be quite disappointed if Eliezer's eventual explanation isn't as good as this one.

Replies from: dclayh, Strange7
comment by dclayh · 2010-05-27T19:07:48.011Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's certainly possible, but we know Q/V does have elite martial arts skills, which he had to have learned somewhere, and studying at the world's best dojo, followed by destroying it to make sure no one else ever got training as good, seems like an entirely plausible thing for a Dark Lord to do.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-05-27T19:56:46.597Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My understanding was that the story was true as stated: Voldemort showed up, destroyed the place, then calmed down and realized Quirrell now had the only remaining copy of the information he was looking for, so he set up some contingency to eventually put himself in Quirrell's body with the martial-arts skills intact.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T01:20:25.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there any hint in MoR that Quirrel was already a total badass before Voldemort's body-snatching job, as this interpretation would require ("I was a prodigy of Battle Magic even then [at the times of the dojo]")?

Replies from: Strange7
comment by Strange7 · 2010-07-25T00:21:34.220Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think 'last surviving student of the greatest martial-arts teacher' counts as a hint, yeah.

Why would Quirrel's battle-magic skill, or lack thereof, be relevant in Voldemort's choice of host? Magic is at least partly a function of the mind, and judging by the descriptions of zombie-like behavior when off-duty, the body-snatching didn't do Quirrel's mind any favors. Rather, the point would be to combine Voldemort's lifetime of rationality and Battle Magic practice with Quirrel's sixth-dan hand-to-hand combat skill, resulting in a single individual with two lifetimes' worth of powers, without the expense and possible side-effects traditionally associated with magical life extension.

Speaking of which, isn't there a prefabricated, ready-to-use Alchemist's Stone somewhere on campus?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-25T00:31:23.666Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alchemist's Stone

Philosopher's Stone, or in the American version, Sorcerer's Stone. Although it does belong to an alchemist.

comment by dclayh · 2010-05-27T06:55:17.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed, except there's no particular reason for a Dark Lord to actually leave a survivor when he can just have his minions disseminate it. (Or do so himself as Quirrell; we have no knowledge of how long this story has been around.)

ETA: Actually I should say my first thought was that Voldemort destroyed the dojo not out of anger, but simply to make sure that no rival wizard ever got the awesome martial arts training that he did. This seems strongly implied when he says: "You are wondering where this marvelous dojo is, and whether you can study there. You cannot."

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2010-05-27T20:59:38.749Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As pointed out in the recent Dr. Who series, you occasionally let one go so you can live with yourself.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-27T13:52:59.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That was a hard swat at "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas".

As for why Harry has such an exaggerated sense of responsibility, it might be that growing up on science fiction thing. A lot of science fiction is set up so that the hero can have a huge effect in a satisfying way. Perhaps Harry should have balanced it with reading history. On the other hand, he's living in fiction, so maybe he's right for his situation.

Lois McMaster Bujold has described sf as fantasy of political agency [1], and I think she's on to something.

I assume that shutting down Azkaban has a political solution rather than a magical or violent solution. This will be interesting to watch.

Why would Snape ask Harry for his take on Snape's past? One of the underlying premises of the story is that the smarter characters (possibly with the exception of Hermione) always have a deeper plan. Did Snape actually expect to get good advice? To be told that all his choices were correct? To have a reason to be angry at Harry? None of these make huge amounts of sense (to me, at least-- I have trouble keeping track of all the scheming), even though the scene was very emotionally effective.

This is basically my review posted to fanfiction.net-- let me know if there's a problem with reposting such here.

[1] The link goes to quite an interesting speech

Replies from: cousin_it, RobinZ, thomblake, Blueberry
comment by cousin_it · 2010-06-28T13:21:12.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lois McMaster Bujold has described sf as fantasy of political agency [1], and I think she's on to something.

Thanks for that link. To rephrase: unlike romance or detective stories, many SF/fantasy stories are carefully rigged to give the "underdog" protagonists huge power over the world. It's scary how much this pattern fits.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-06-28T04:57:59.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would Snape ask Harry for his take on Snape's past?

I think he was testing the differences between Harry and his dad, and was surprised enough at the contrast to keep asking questions.

comment by thomblake · 2010-06-28T19:03:25.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is basically my review posted to fanfiction.net-- let me know if there's a problem with reposting such here.

Quite the opposite. I was tempted to respond to the review but had been left without an appropriate forum.

I had to go back and figure out where you thought the Omelas reference was. Harry's observation just seemed obvious to me.

As for why Harry has such an exaggerated sense of responsibility

Personally, I don't even see anything to explain. Billions of people are suffering, and at least billions are going to die, and most people are observably doing nothing about it. Harry seems to have good reason to think he's the only one that can do anything, if only because he's the only one (or one of just a few) who noticed and/or cares.

Harry is right to take responsibility for the universe's troubles, as we all should.

I assume that shutting down Azkaban has a political solution rather than a magical or violent solution.

I think Harry was just using Azkaban as an example, and there will turn out to be more of a general solution to the world's problems unless Harry finds himself dealing directly with Azkaban.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T16:59:35.744Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Personally, I don't even see anything to explain. Billions of people are suffering, and at least billions are going to die, and most people are observably doing nothing about it. Harry seems to have good reason to think he's the only one that can do anything, if only because he's the only one (or one of just a few) who noticed and/or cares.

Harry's problem seems to be not that he has decided to do something about it but that he takes pride in feeling guilt over the suffering of everyone (even obscenely evil people). It is on thing to prefer to take over the universe and allow the evil people to live freely in a way that can't hurt others, but it is quite another to be all emo about it. That achieves nothing except allow harry to feel self righteous.

Replies from: EStokes
comment by EStokes · 2010-07-05T17:22:10.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

IMO he's not all emo about it. He is also aware of his feeling guilty about it and agrees with Neville when he says he's silly. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall him feeling proud of it.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-28T07:43:08.011Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would Snape ask Harry for his take on Snape's past? One of the underlying premises of the story is that the smarter characters (possibly with the exception of Hermione) always have a deeper plan. Did Snape actually expect to get good advice? To be told that all his choices were correct? To have a reason to be angry at Harry?

I also wonder why Snape got offended. Harry's answers were extremely supportive of Snape's situation back then: which makes me think Snape wasn't really offended, just pretending to be. Maybe the whole point was just for Snape to tell Harry the unpleasant truth about his parents in an emotionally powerful way, as a way of getting back at Harry because of his parents.

Replies from: Alicorn, wedrifid
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-28T07:48:43.982Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Snape still loves Lily and was upset about hearing her insulted, was my interpretation.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-28T08:49:39.458Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Awww... but that puts Harry in an impossible position. There's nothing he could have said that would have worked. If he had said Lily made a good choice, that would have directly insulted Snape. And Snape must have known that Harry would be in an impossible position, so he must have wanted to trap Harry into thinking he had done something wrong.

Replies from: Alicorn, wedrifid, NancyLebovitz
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-28T17:55:32.111Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not quite impossible. He could have roundly blamed everything on James, casting Lily as a pure, victimized, agency-less casualty of his manipulations. That seems to be what Snape does.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-28T18:05:36.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Awww... but that puts Harry in an impossible position. There's nothing he could have said that would have worked. If he had said Lily made a good choice, that would have directly insulted Snape. And Snape must have known that Harry would be in an impossible position, so he must have wanted to trap Harry into thinking he had done something wrong.

It is possible to respond in a less direct way. Competent social skills would suggest putting very little actual content into his answer. I am less cunning than Harry and not known to be particularly conservative in my expression of potentially provocative positions but even so I do not think I would have all that much trouble responding with tact. Snape would still make a hostile reply but he does that to answers to potions problems anyway. He probably wouldn't be tempted to kill me.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-28T13:02:38.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know about you, but having someone tell me I should give up something I've been overfocused on for a long time can be quite painful.

Replies from: Thausler
comment by Thausler · 2010-06-28T17:46:22.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming Snape was genuinely hurt by Harry's interpretation of Lily, I would expect to see a fraying between Snape and the Dumbledore faction as Snape questions why he is so faithful to Lily.

Replies from: ShardPhoenix, cousin_it
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-07-01T09:54:29.910Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I suspect that was the point of that scene - to make things harder for Harry by taking away a (secret) ally. That would align with Eliezer's stated philosophy of fanfiction.

Replies from: Thausler
comment by Thausler · 2010-07-05T16:35:20.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Furthermore, the major event in Aftermath 2 is that Snape reads students' minds again-something he agreed not to do under his agreement with Dumbledore. Which is further evidence that he has "gone rogue."

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-06T02:39:38.997Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ch. 18

He will promise to only read minds when the safety of a student requires it.

In Aftermath 2 it seems reasonable that safety of Alissa requires reading her mind.

Edit: Thus, the change is that he directly addressed cause of her distraction.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-07-05T17:18:30.495Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded. That's what I wrote right after Ch. 27 came out: "Nice job turning Snape dark, Harry."

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T17:07:54.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is most interesting to me is how Snape handles being offended. Snape has been portrayed in this FanFic as being extremely shrewd and self controlled. Harry even made observations along those lines himself, upgrading his respect for Snape considerably.

Snape (quite rightly) downgraded his trust in Harry's cunning. I wonder if Harry downgrades his respect similarly. If Severus had the cunning of even the 11 year old Malfoy he would not 'never talk to Harry again". Any benefit that he could hope to extract from Harry is still there and Severus is enough of a political agent to work past some offence when given a few months to cool down.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-27T20:15:21.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like the spells in the HP universe are complicated and abstract enough that they must have been designed (programmed?) by wizards long ago, who added them to the laws of the universe and left them there.

Now, if I were designing a spell like the Killing Curse, I would include a little easter egg/safety mechanism: after a thousand castings, it backfires. Choose a number large enough that only a major dark wizard like Voldemort will encounter it, so it doesn't hit some minor villain and spoil the surprise. (Alternatively, rather than counting kills, count evilness, with killing a baby counting for more evilness points than an adult. That would explain why it backfired on Harry Potter, rather than some other victim.)

This is the most sensible explanation I can come up with. Or it could be that it backfired because the third through fifteenth places of the decimal expansion of the local humidity were a prime number, or something similarly arbitrary. But I would be disappointed if it was something like that. (I would also be disappointed if his parents came up with a spell that reflected it, because everyone seems convinced that no such spell is possible.)

Replies from: CronoDAS, blogospheroid, rastilin
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-05-28T02:09:36.567Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like the spells in the HP universe are complicated and abstract enough that they must have been designed (programmed?) by wizards long ago, who added them to the laws of the universe and left them there.

You'd think that, but in the series there are references to people inventing spells of their own. The series implies that the "science" behind spells does exist, but Rowling never explains any of it.

Replies from: Larks, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Larks · 2010-05-28T11:34:12.067Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

'Inventing' might mean 'discovering'.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-05-28T03:38:50.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not to mention, the ancient wizards made the levitation spell be called "Wingardium Leviosa"?

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T01:14:01.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the word 'wing' does date back to the 12th century, a little earlier than halfway between us and Merlin, and a time in which learned people did know Latin but were also starting to mangle it up pretty badly (not quite that badly IRL, but if we assume wizards were always a bit more eccentric than Muggles...).

Unfortunately, that particular fan-wank completely breaks down when you consider that the pronunciation (let alone spelling) of 'wing' was nowhere near the same back then. Although you could save it by suggesting that, just as spoken language evolves really, really slowly, so did the spell-marks imprinted on reality as the spell got cast a million times over a thousand years, a wee little bit differently every time.

comment by blogospheroid · 2010-05-28T18:01:24.860Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't thought about this idea completely, but a karma system can actually be maintained in a magical society. I mean actual karma, the way Hindus and Buddhists think about. What goes around, comes around. Violate it badly enough and the universe will make an exception just to get you out of the way. As another commentor put it, somebody would have tried to protect another while they were being avara-kedavra'ed, earlier than lily protecting Harry. But voldemort's karma credit really ran out. So, whoopsie, there goes the body. But of course, he had his horcruxes.

But if making people realize that we have to wake up in this hostile universe is one of the goals of this fic, the above wouldn't be true in HP&MOR.

Another speculation, maybe true prophecies only come when there are serious thresholds crossed.

comment by rastilin · 2011-04-20T06:25:50.361Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or maybe it just doesn't work on children? No one knows because no one's ever tried it.

If you could program a slaying weapon, what is the one group of people that no-one in their right mind could possibly ever want to kill? I'd say that group would be children too young to speak. Anyone going after them is certainly an absolute psycho.

comment by topynate · 2010-06-27T01:22:40.247Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just read Chapter 27. My thoughts:

"Mr. Bester" - great reference.

Harry is firmly on the 'get absolute power' path. Probably he still thinks he's being cute or knowing when he talks about becoming God. His resolution not to become the next Dark Lord doesn't look too healthy now, though.

Harry seems incapable of seeing the flaws in a moral system he apparently acquired by reading science fiction and fantasy, barring almost being Sectumsemprad by a very angry wizard. Why does he think that having read books with monomyth plots is sufficient reason to try to act like the heroes of such books - what is he, eleven years old? At the same time, he understands and can nervelessly put to use Quirrell's very subtle lesson in levels of deception. Very odd, that.

Is one of the reasons Quirrell set up those Occlumency lessons that Harry would discover for himself "how reproducible human thoughts were when you reset people back to the same initial conditions and exposed them to the same stimuli" - and thereby come to treat humans as simple machines that one can use like puppets? As a strategy to bring someone over to the Dark Side, that's brilliant.

Then we get to Harry being placed in the same conditions as Lily Potter, and reacting differently - more humanely. Because he reads science fiction! That's outrageous. Surely this kind of narrative based morality, where you imagine what the good protagonist would do and then do that, is going to be a piece of cake for Quirrell to subvert.

Replies from: gwern, cousin_it
comment by gwern · 2010-06-29T09:50:50.143Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is one of the reasons Quirrell set up those Occlumency lessons that Harry would discover for himself "how reproducible human thoughts were when you reset people back to the same initial conditions and exposed them to the same stimuli" - and thereby come to treat humans as simple machines that one can use like puppets? As a strategy to bring someone over to the Dark Side, that's brilliant.

Indeterminate at this point. (By which I mean, even if Eliezer didn't intend Quirrel to have those reasons, he could easily make Quirrel have had those reasons.)

The reasons given earlier are quite enough to justify the lessons: Quirrel doesn't want Harry to be easily scanned by either Snape or Dumbledore for obvious reasons, and once he threw his hat in the ring, a neutral third party was the only viable option - and such a neutral third party can only remain neutral by being Obliviated since anyone in the know about Voldemort is, eo ipso, a member of one faction or another.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-06-28T11:24:40.828Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just read Chapter 27. Haven't read the original books, but Wikipedia says Snape was a secret agent of good because of his past love for Lily. Nice job turning Snape dark, Harry. Considering your friendships with Draco and Quirrell, I don't see what you're doing out of Slytherin.

Also, the chapter reads a lot like Sword of Good. It's not a bad thing per se because a good story needs to be retold several times before it comes out right, but in this iteration the hero's epiphany that "woah, the world contains a lot of pain, gotta do something about it" came out quite a bit weaker. The protagonist in Sword of Good had a device that relayed the world's pain to him, but Harry has to settle with imagining other people in unfamiliar situations. Eliezer could make this plot point hit harder next time by making his protagonists actually see pain and suffering up close.

Replies from: wedrifid, wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-28T11:39:11.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just read Chapter 27. Haven't read the original books, but Wikipedia says Snape was a secret agent of good because of his past love for Lily. Nice job turning Snape dark, Harry. Considering your friendships with Draco and Quirrell, I don't see what you're doing out of Slytherin.

No, no, this mistake suggests the opposite. No Slytherin with Harry's preferences, intellect and level of development would ever make such an idiotic mistake. A Ravenclaw might. Harry gave the wise, or at least what he considered to be the correct answer, given very little regard to what he was trying to achieve. Self absorbed know it all.

Don't even let me start on the pretensions crap about knowing what is good, and more importantly what is wise, by reading it in a fantasy book. Even Hermione isn't that much of a git.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-28T11:34:49.143Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, the chapter reads a lot like Sword of Good. It's not a bad thing per se because a good story needs to be retold several times before it comes out right. But in this iteration, the hero's epihany that "woah, the world contains a lot of pain, gotta do something about it" sounds quite a bit weaker than in the last one. The protagonist in Sword of Good had a device that relayed the world's pain to him, but Harry has to settle with imagining other people in unfamiliar situations. Eliezer could make this plot point hit harder next time by making his protagonists actually see pain and suffering up close.

My take: That part reads like a fairy tale that we tell children. It doesn't really convey the difference between Harry being naive, having terrible boundaries and generally being emotionally weak and Harry recognizing 'simple on the other side of compexity' that could apply to constructing value systems. Some of cousin_it's suggestions would help in this regard.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-28T13:57:05.416Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, I've been trying to come up with science fiction that has forgiveness as a primary value, and I can't think of anything.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-28T15:28:39.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That too. For stories instilling forgiveness I must look to those generated for the purpose of religious indoctrination.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-01T13:40:41.538Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm reading MOR with considerable interest and enjoyment-- and recommending it-- but.....

There's a big emotional difference between HP and MOR. In the original, Harry has no friends or allies at the Dursley's. In MOR, his family life isn't great and he doesn't seem to have any friends or anyone he's expecting to miss, but he isn't under constant attack.

Part of the emotional hook in HP is that Harry is almost immediately in a circle of friends and acquires a family in the Weasleys.

In MOR, his best emotional connection is to McGonagle, but it's complicated by his intellectual dominance. None of his close friends from HP are worth being close to (or did I miss someone?). His nearest approach to a friend his own age is Draco, and that's very much complicated by Draco having been raised to be a sociopath, and by Harry's need to manage Draco.


Part of the charm of HP was that Hermione's memory, intelligence, and conscientiousness are presented as more valuable than annoying, though the annoyance for the other characters is still there. This is a rationalist feature of HP which seems to be lost in MOR-- Hermione is interested in getting things right for the sake of status.

Her delight at being in a Romance completely eclipsing the question of whether she likes Harry is depressing, but within the human range, I think.


QuirrelMort setting up the Harry's structured humiliation no doubt has plot reasons, but I can also model it as organizational hysteresis-- after Harry made such a strong power grab in re Snape, it's plausible that great efforts will be made to remind him that he's just a student.


I have a notion that it wasn't just his mother's sacrifice that saved Harry, it was also something he did, and his reflexive rage and need to win is hooked to what he did to survive when he was a baby.


is the training that Draco is getting from Lucius based in anything from the novels? The Dracos never impressed me. They just seemed to be rich and mean, and the Pure Blood campaign is weirdly abstract and idealistic compared to their temperaments. (Is there a reverse halo effect where all bad qualities accrete something which is considered to be bad? The Dracos are bullies, so of course it's reasonable to turn them into Nazis.) To my mind Slughorn is part of the real range of Slytherin possibilities.

Replies from: ialdabaoth, NihilCredo, wedrifid, LucasSloan, GeorgieChaos
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-07-03T02:51:44.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

that's very much complicated by Draco having been raised to be a sociopath

I need to object pretty strongly to this particular phrase. Draco is not being raised to be a sociopath; he's being raised to be a high-status member of a hierarchical society. Draco and his father very much love each other, and are perfectly capable of making real emotional bonds with people that they have identified unequivocally as 'pack'. EY has actually done very well at showing Draco as what a perfectly normal child becomes in that environment.

This is an important distinction, because we need to remember that 'sociopathy' is a comparatively rare (and usually inborn) condition, while high-status machiavellian narcissism is a natural consequence of human evolutionary psychology.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T00:55:43.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Her delight at being in a Romance completely eclipsing the question of whether she likes Harry is depressing, but within the human range, I think.

I think it's more a matter of approaching romance with the maturity and self-reflection abilities of an eleven-year-old.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-28T11:47:19.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In MOR, his best emotional connection is to McGonagle, but it's complicated by his intellectual dominance. None of his close friends from HP are worth being close to (or did I miss someone?).

In fact Harry himself doesn't seem particularly worth being particularly close to. He'd be a pain in the ass to be around and he's probably going to become a demi-god and care about what you want no matter what you do.

Replies from: rastilin
comment by rastilin · 2011-04-20T06:22:40.457Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree to an extent. He does remind me of people I've known in the rationalist movement. It's worth pointing out that him blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong time isn't just an annoying character trait, it's probably symptomatic; I'd speculate he doesn't really consider other people as fellow actors in his decision making. If there was someone who did not make efforts to bond with people around him, would you be willing to trust him with power over their happiness?

That's a non hypothetical question, I'd love to hear a rebuttal.

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-06-02T00:42:23.753Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

None of his close friends from HP are worth being close to (or did I miss someone?).

Hermione?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-02T00:56:18.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I should reread, but the most recent chapter with Hermione presents her as a person who's at least much less worth spending time with than the HP Hermione.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-02T01:00:50.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really? It seemed that she's just a bit genre savvy. She's an 11 year old who's main understanding of how the world works is from distilling tropes.

comment by GeorgieChaos · 2013-07-03T00:39:13.578Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The reverse halo effect you describe is called the horns effect.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-07-12T02:31:27.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hate that the Dark Lord Potter forum has on MoR is getting more than a bit amusing.

Also, perhaps it's me, but I see the story as a thinly veiled commercial for the author's blog/institute, which breaks the "doing this for pleasure and not profit" fanfiction model (as well as being a subtext that breaks the fourth wall for several readers). The author is almost certainly deriving commercial benefit from J. K. Rowling's intellectual property and his exploitation of the popularity of her fandom by routing eyeballs to his site and building his own personal fame as a voice in the field of AI. I wouldn't be surprised if his story has bumped traffic to his blog/website by an order of magnitude or two. In many regards, this practice is worse than a Cassandra Clare or Jim Bernheimer pitching their original fiction novels on their fanfiction sites, since neither author makes a living off their writing.

This story isn't parody in the traditional sense, so it's possible that a court would consider it as not falling within this protected class of derivative works. Indeed, if the legal hammer were to fall on this story, it could have fallout: consider that a single CAD letter, if sufficiently broad in scope, to the owners of fanfiction.net could effectively shut down the fandom.

As Louie commented upon hearing this: "I just love the fountains of money that have been bursting through [SIAI]'s doors ever since the beginning of this fic". Not.

Replies from: lsparrish
comment by lsparrish · 2010-07-12T16:01:00.937Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That thread is an interesting read. Fun to see people taking this so seriously.

Personally I just like that it is educational material presented in a fun to read fashion that pokes fun at a rather silly story / fictional universe that has been forced upon us all by the engines of cultural osmosis. I have no problem with HP used as a cheap mnemonic device to memorize and illustrate a set of concepts that everyone should know but most people don't. I also don't have a problem with using it as a cheap advertising gimmick to get people to pay attention to matters that they should be paying attention to but don't. The annoyance of DLP folks at this is understandable, but somewhat hilarious from a perspective that thinks of there as being more important nerdy things to obsess over in life.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2010-07-12T17:07:30.083Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

cheap mnemonic device

Yes, it seems to work great for that. I find myself saying things like, "As Lucius Malfoy would say, that sounds like the sort of plot that would work in a story but not in reality." or "That's like the time Harry Potter..."

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-29T09:14:16.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What happened to the Harry from Chapter 6?

"Um," Harry said, "can we go get the healer's kit now?"

McGonagall paused, and looked back at him steadily. "And if I say no, it's too expensive and you won't need it, what happens?"

Harry's face twisted in bitterness. "Exactly what you're thinking, Professor McGonagall. Exactly what you're thinking. I conclude you're another crazy adult I can't talk to, and I start planning how to get my hands on a healer's kit anyway."

A time turner is a superior to a healer's kit in very nearly every way and by a huge margin. Yet all Harry does when he loses free access to his time turner he sulks a little and that's all. He doesn't plan at all! I don't even recall one line of introspection on the subject! It takes very little ingenuity to to react:

"Harry, give me your time t..."

shit. shit. shit. Activate time turner. Escape. Then, he can spend five minutes and think up a dozen ways to retain time travel capability. Let me see...

  • Create a fake...
    • Lie to Hermione to get assistance?
    • Transfiguration not likely to work, given the teacher responsible.
  • assume that wizarding security is crap and guess (correctly) that he can probably steal one if needed...
  • actually leave Hogwarts because the time turner is more important and money can buy a better education anyway.
  • Ask Fred and George to discover a way for him to hide, to give him more time to plan.
  • Leave Hogwarts for a week.
    • Fill Gringots with silver.
    • Use money to buy a time turner on the black market
    • Also buy that hand-light that Malfoy bought.
    • And in general a stockpile of the most powerful and useful artifacts available.
    • And the best trunk that can be found anywhere or created for cash.
    • Return to Hogwarts if they will accept him after the week is up. (Or, for that matter, do it in the holidays. There isn't that much of a rush.)
    • If circumstances demand, buy an education from one (or all) of the other schools.
    • Hire all the best tutors available for all subjects and use them to supplement school education with or without the cooperation of any teacher at the school, further insulating him from the ability of the teachers to f@#% with him or take his stuff.

Really... the best Harry can come up with is to say "that's not fair"? WTF?

Replies from: Unnamed, Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Alicorn
comment by Unnamed · 2010-06-30T18:57:13.643Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

First, Harry discovered a gag beverage that he thought could be a key to power, although he quickly realized the Comed-Tea wasn't as powerful as it seemed. A few days later he fell in love with a device that is sometimes given to students who want to take extra classes, although he has since discovered some limits to its powers. If he goes rogue over his Time-Turner's crippleware, then who knows how much other cool and useful magical stuff he will miss out on, and how much trouble he'll be in.

Plus, McGonagall had him cornered when she confronted him about returning the Time-Turner - whatever he tried to do, she'd see it. Also, McGonagall had earned some degree of trust & respect from Harry, she's correct about Harry repeatedly misusing the Time-Turner, and she'd already warned him that they'd take it away. So it's not unreasonable to go along with the punishment, and try to earn her trust back so that his Time-Turner can be restored later on.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T01:32:57.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Harry, give me your time t..."

shit. shit. shit. Activate time turner. Escape.

...don't take this the wrong way, but even Harry knows better than that.

If you genuinely think this is a smart thing to do in real life, it makes me seriously worry about your safety and the safety of people around you.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T09:14:26.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...don't take this the wrong way, but even Harry knows better than that.

There is NO DOWN SIDE!

It may be best to hand over the time turner but you do so after having a chance to think it through. Time turner. Plan. Decide that it is better to hand over the device for now. Write your analysis down. Give it to yourself at the appropriate time. (And give it to yourself again to make the loop stable.)

If you genuinely think this is a smart thing to do in real life, it makes me seriously worry about your safety and the safety of people around you.

I have offended you by questioning the rationality of your fictional persona. My own safety is not in any danger. Every other exceptional use that Harry put the device to is risky and I would not do any of them. But giving himself a chance to think through his options in a way that would not be detected by anyone else is the trivially correct strategic option.

My own safety is secure in the short term, and medium term (human life span) but for the long term the threats to my life are human mortality and existential risk. And that's kind of what I've been counting on you to take care of (with any contribution that I could hope to make purely financial). That being the case, this conversation is quite literally scaring me. I'm not quite there yet, but the key quote from Snape is at least springing to my mind: "And I no longer trust your cunning."

Examples of stupid things to do with a Time Turner:

  • Throw pies at people through misguided altruism. It would be better to let them break your finger. You're at Hogwarts... a 5th year Luna could fix it.
  • Have a dramatic stand off over a rememberall. If it is so important... use the time turner to find and or steal the thing beforehand and leave it somewhere Neville will find. I mean seriously... using a time turner in a way that is detectable is for emergencies!
  • Disappearing acts from a class room. Of all the things to do with a Time Turner in that situation making a bigger scene is not one of them. At the very least, if you must refuse to be bullied, write yourself a note telling yourself to not attend potions and make another arrangement. It would be much easier to convince Dumbledore to allow Harry to hire potion tutors than have a full on confrontation.
  • Not using the time turner to go back and prevent the entire situation, after writing a great big essay to your past self on what happens if you mess with those in power.

Now, all the above mistakes are credible for Harry to make. At least, they fit the needs of the story. But using the turner to give yourself time to think at a critical moment... not on the list. And make no mistake, giving up one of the most powerful super-powers (even in the weakened 6h form) is an extremely critical moment.

But now another lesson from Harry Potter: MOR occurs to me: Always be sure you know exactly what you are both talking about. I may well be missing Eliezer's real message.

If you genuinely think this is a smart thing to do in real life, it makes me seriously worry about your safety and the safety of people around you.

What are we really talking about here? Being as EY may be several levels ahead of me the intended 'this' could be "implying that a respected authority is obviously wrong without a clear benefit to yourself". That would make for extremely good advice, and a valid concern. Fortunately I for most part avoid that in real life. It does cost me and I do limit my options such that my environment doesn't put me in that situation too often. One way to ensure my safety is to not put myself in situations that prompt risk taking. It isn't optimal, except in the bounded sense, but it does work.

Replies from: Sniffnoy, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-06-30T09:45:13.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may be best to hand over the time turner but you do so after having a chance to think it through. Time turner. Plan. Decide that it is better to hand over the device for now. Write your analysis down. Give it to yourself at the appropriate time. (And give it to yourself again to make the loop stable.)

You seem to misunderstand how the time-turner works (or at least, how it's been suggested it works). You don't get to overwrite anything; the universe doesn't "end up in" a stable state that results from using it; there isn't any meta-time (or at least, we've seen nothing to suggest such). If he were going to use the time turner to give himself advice, he would have already gotten the advice. And having used the time-turner right there and visibly, he couldn't use it "later not use it there" and have his going back in time undetectable.

A possible way he could use the time turner to help himself in this case would be to ask to go to the bathroom or somesuch, use the time turner, use the extra time to think, and then return to the room shortly after he left having thought about things.

(Edit: But this would be pretty obvious, and McGonagall probably wouldn't let him leave the room with the time turner in any case.)

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-06-30T10:36:47.533Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You seem to misunderstand how the time-turner works (or at least, how it's been suggested it works). You don't get to overwrite anything; the universe doesn't "end up in" a stable state that results from using it

My interpretation of the "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" incident was that you can try setting things up so that temporal consistency implies the result you want, but actually ruling out every other possibility whatever, including vast classes of outcomes you never even imagined, is next to impossible, at least for an 11-year-old boy, however smart. It hadn't even occurred to him that there was a problem in his reasoning when he tried the experiment that gave him "the scariest result ever in the history of science". Temporal consistency in the presence of time loops is another blind idiot god, far more swift and powerful than evolution.

Anyway, he still has the Time-Turner. All that stands between him and it is a magical lock. How difficult can that be for him to get around? No, actually what stands between him and it is the author's necessity not to unbalance the plot by giving him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov, wedrifid
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T14:23:48.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry's error in the experiment was responding to "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" with the same. If he didn't have the property of responding to that message with the same, that message wouldn't appear.

Actually, this whole consistency-based time travel seems to be an extremely expressive thought experiment infrastructure for thinking about Newcomb-like problems and decision theories able to deal with them. Maybe I should do a top-level post on that (I don't have a sufficiently clear picture of the setting, so I might be wrong about its potential)... Though I consider that happening unlikely, so other people who understand UDT are welcome to try.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T16:53:44.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was thinking exactly the same thing. After getting my head around the implications it seems to be an extremely intuitive way of handling such problems. I didn't write a post myself since I have yet to look close enough at UDT to be able to explain the difference between UDT and TDT.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T12:55:10.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My interpretation of the "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" incident was that you can try setting things up so that temporal consistency implies the result you want, but actually ruling out every other possibility whatever, including vast classes of outcomes you never even imagined, is next to impossible, at least for an 11-year-old boy, however smart. It hadn't even occurred to him that there was a problem in his reasoning when he tried the experiment that gave him "the scariest result ever in the history of science". Temporal consistency in the presence of time loops is another blind idiot god, far more swift and powerful than evolution.

I think you summed that up perfectly. I would have liked to see a little more of that explanation in the Fan Fic. It would make the story feel more natural and also be a perfect excuse to include the 'blind idiot god' kind of message.

Anyway, he still has the Time-Turner. All that stands between him and it is a magical lock. How difficult can that be for him to get around?

Without Hermione backing him up? I think he'd struggle. Harry just isn't that smart! He really should be spending more time sweet talking her. Well intentioned genius with ambition that doesn't involve gaining power... just the kind of ally Harry needs.

No, actually what stands between him and it is the author's necessity not to unbalance the plot by giving him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Uh huh. It's even worse than if Harry had actually gone and made himself rich on day 1!

Replies from: LucasSloan
comment by LucasSloan · 2010-07-01T07:41:51.200Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

made himself rich on day 1!

He has been rich since day 1, it just that all his money is tied up in a variety of non-liquid "investments."

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T08:16:27.715Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I should say "insanely rich", not merely 'well off heir'.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T19:33:39.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Time travel in this universe has a consistent single line; once McGonagall sees Harry disappear, he can't undo it.

Replies from: Wei_Dai, Vladimir_Nesov, NancyLebovitz
comment by Wei_Dai · 2010-06-30T20:18:27.336Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

once McGonagall sees Harry disappear, he can't undo it.

Sounds like UDT might be applicable here. Here's a time-traveling version of Counterfactual Mugging:

Harry appears to McGonagall and tells her, "If you give me 1 Galleon now, I'll go back in time and hand you 100 Galleons an hour ago." Suppose McGonagall does not recall being handed 100 Galleons an hour ago. What should she do?

Here's my analysis. Suppose McGonagall decides not to give Harry 1 Galleon, then there are two possible consistent timelines for this universe. One where McGonagall gets 100 Galleons, and one where she doesn't. How does the universe "choose" which one becomes reality? I don't know but let's say that the two possibilities have equal chance of being true, or get equal amount of "reality juice".

Given the above it seems clear that McGonagall would prefer to have pre-committed to "give 1 Galleon even if not handed 100 Galleons an hour ago" since that would make the "not get 100 Galleons" timeline inconsistent. I think that's also UDT's output (although I haven't written down the math to make sure).

ETA: I didn't follow the previous discussion closely, so this might not apply at all to it. Hopefully, in that case the above is of interest in its own right. :)

Replies from: topynate, wedrifid, Blueberry, red75
comment by topynate · 2010-07-01T00:20:02.142Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems straightforward to me. McGonagall knows that she does not recall being handed 100 Galleons an hour ago, so the three states of the world with high probability are: 1) She is not in a universe where she will hand Harry 1 Galleon, 2) She is in a universe where she hands Harry 1 Galleon and Harry breaks the agreement, or 3) She is in a universe where she hands Harry 1 Galleon and Harry keeps the agreement in a way that leaves her unable to recall this happening. By not handing Harry a Galleon, she will ensure that she is in universe 1. By handing Harry a Galleon, she will find herself in universe 2 or 3. She should therefore give Harry a Galleon if she judges it less than 99 times more likely that Harry will break the agreement than fulfil it in a way consistent with her experience.

As Harry has access to a time machine, he doesn't need to decide to give her 100 Galleons before he gets the 1 Galleon, so the situation is quite different to one based on predicting her actions, as Omega does in the Counterfactual Mugging. Rather it has most of the properties of the forward-time version of the gambit: "If you give me 1 Galleon now, I'll hand you 100 Galleons in one hour", except that McGonagall has a big piece of evidence that the promise will be broken, namely that she doesn't remember it being kept.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T08:20:20.309Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ETA: I didn't follow the previous discussion closely, so this might not apply at all to it. Hopefully, in that case the above is of interest in its own right. :)

Vladmir and I agree with the applicability of UDT and have suggested time-travel-with-consistency is a good way to consider Newcomblike problems and the the decision theories that can handle them.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-30T20:30:13.675Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suppose McGonagall does not recall being handed 100 Galleons an hour ago. What should she do?

Precommit, give him the Galleon, then reach in her bag to get the 100 Galleons. (She must have been Obliviated; otherwise, she would remember.)

You can actually get around a lot of the problems with time travel by taking advantage of the difference between observation and reality. For instance, if you see one of your friends die, you can go back in time, save him, then plant a fake double so you still have the same observations.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T23:34:07.909Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Precommit, give him the Galleon, then reach in her bag to get the 100 Galleons. (She must have been Obliviated; otherwise, she would remember.)

You can never know consistency, can never rely on it, otherwise you are inconsistent (2nd incompleteness theorem).

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-01T06:11:07.570Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though Godel was interested in time travel loops, that's not the type of consistency that his Second Incompleteness Theorem discussed (it's limited to formal axiomatized systems that can describe arithmetic).

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T06:25:52.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect Vladmir is considering the system in question here in a way that meets that description.

comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T07:28:59.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems we can't rely on setups, which include decision making inside time loop, because it is not clear who or what makes decisions (agent? consistency law? agent's preferences?).

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T08:17:09.894Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All of the above. Decision making is just physics.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T08:24:11.887Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I wrote earlier I am not yet convinced, that this is a kind of physics we can effectively reason of.

Replies from: wedrifid, wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T08:45:33.660Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider correcting your claim to:

It seems I can't rely on setups, which include decision making inside time loop

If you say 'we' you invite contradiction as your stance implies magical thinking about decision making which not many people would want to admit to. Decisions are not a special case. If gravity works you can build a gravity powered mechanical device that makes a decision.

Either you treat decisions exactly as you usually would or nothing works at all.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T08:48:51.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. It's not a decision making that is special. It is closed time loops. They possibly can "magically" create information from nothing.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T13:27:45.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can I be in the one where the 'created information' is a a freak quantum conversion of graphite into diamond and not the one where the created information is freak quantum effects making my neurons fire in a way that they normally wouldn't?

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T14:29:36.762Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can be there, no problem. The problem is to setup everyting to get there. I've just considered the question of setting up, and found that I can't say even what causes existence of time loop. Can you say what should I do to be sure that no matter what after 1.01 hour I will timeturn 1 hour back? Being the person that will do that is important, but it will not help if in 20 minutes someone will steal my timeturner.

Returning back to 6(grand)parent, I can say, that imposing any condition on a stable state of time loop (but initial conditions before time loop) seems unphysical. All in all, thought experiments with time loops are interesting, but their validity is highly questionable.

Eliezer can do that, because he is consistency law of Harry's universe.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T14:37:43.435Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can be there, no problem. The problem is to setup everyting to get there. I've just considered the question of setting up, and found that I can't say even what causes existence of time loop. Can you say what should I do to be sure that no matter what after 1.01 hour I will timeturn 1 hour back? Being the person that will do that is important, but it will not help if in 20 minutes someone will steal my timeturner.

Go think about it some more from the perspective of an integrated physics that happens to include time travel of this kind and not as a special case. That seems to be confusing you.

Eliezer can do that, because he is consistency law of Harry's universe.

Eliezer can have Harry become a Hari Krishna if he really wants. Or he could artificially select for extremely improbable quantum events either inside or outside of time loops. Neither of those would make for an especially good story in this instance.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T21:12:35.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok. Almost pure physics.

A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad physicist. Fortunately, if trolley ran down different track, it would activate timeturner that would send it 10 seconds back in time and then trolly would flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to timeturner. And also a bystander runs to flip a switch.

Possible stable states.

  1. Bystander stops and wait for trolley to appear from nowhere. Trolley kills 5.

  2. Bystander stops and wait for trolley to appear from nowhere. Trolley appears from nowhere and flips the switch, then original trolley runs to timeturner and disappears.

  3. Trolley appears from nowhere kills bystander, which almost managed to reach the switch, and flips the switch, then original trolley runs to timeturner and disappears.

  4. Bystander appears from nowhere and flips the switch, then original bystander runs to timeturner and disappears. Trolley run past deactivated timeturner.

  5. Bystander appears from nowhere shouts "watch your step!" and fails to flip switch in time, original bystander looks on timetraveller, missteps and falls, then manages to activate timeturner and disappears. Trolley kills 5.

  6. Bystander appears from nowhere shouts "careful!" and flips switch, original bystander looks on timetraveller, missteps, but manages to not fall, then activates timeturner and disappears. Trolley run past deactivated timeturner.

  7. Bystander appears from nowhere looks on trolley, shouts "damn! too late" and fails to flip switch in time, original bystander hearing that tries to run faster, missteps and falls, then activates timeturner and disappears. Trolley kills 5.

  8. Bystander appears from nowhere, shouts "Shout, what I shouting now, it is very important!" and flips switch, original bystander activates timeturner and disappears. Trolley runs past deactivated timeturner.


Even in those rigid conditions stable states can be numerous without any improbable events. But yes, maybe you are right, because amount of information-from-nowhere must be limited by communication channel bandwidth (spoken or written speach, nonverbal actions of future-agent, agent's memory throughput), thus rendering stable states in principle analyzable.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T08:37:09.274Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In a time loop do things still fall down? Is there gravity? And if I implement a decision making mechanism using a gravity powered system of gears and pulleys where is the magic thing that makes reason no longer apply?

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T08:43:57.678Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Information from future will affect any kind of decision making. This information is a consequence of consistency law, it even doesn't need to have cause.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T23:37:57.598Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only because you termed that event "real", but the characters can't know that it is.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-30T21:27:45.057Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is information in other minds what gets stabilized?

comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-29T18:10:06.877Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

McGonagall went a fair way towards earning Harry's respect, with her behavior about the med kit among other things; he is inclined to tolerate (with however much whining) her authority, particularly on school grounds.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-29T19:44:00.811Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Respect is all well and good... sure, maybe he will do some detention some time. But this is a matter of survival and something that can help him in a broad manner to achieve just about all his goals.

This is compared to Snape who.... said some things that might hurt Harry's feelings.

Harry isn't acting like a rationalist. He's acting like a nerdy ape.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-29T20:09:56.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He's eleven years old.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-29T20:37:23.150Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He is a week older than he was a week ago. So again I wonder what happened to the Harry from chapter 6?

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-29T21:09:06.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think he doesn't want to become a criminal by stealing the Time Turner.

Replies from: wedrifid, AdeleneDawner
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-29T21:13:44.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't warrant one sentence worth of inner dialog? Seriously not buying it. It's a different Harry hacked together for a different parable and as a plot hack to get rid of the Get Out Of Jail Free Card of Awesomeness +4.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, red75, CronoDAS
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T01:31:42.171Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He can't have inner dialogue during that section, it's in Minerva's point of view!

Replies from: wedrifid, CronoDAS
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T12:41:24.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good reason. So are you saying that Harry actually did do a thorough analysis of his optimal strategy for securing the benefits of time travel for "actually 5 minutes" at some stage but we just don't hear about it? This would make the situation credible.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T22:44:01.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, Harry's experimental result scared the hell out of him and he decided not to do any more clever experiments until he was fifteen.

This is actually more rational than what you are advocating.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T00:59:32.229Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is actually more rational than what you are advocating.

Are you sure you understand what I'm advocating? Your claim here suggests to me that you do not.

The most probable outcome of the thought process I outlined, and I say most probable because this is what my reasoning concluded but Harry is smarter than me, is that he will go and earn enough enough money to buy a time turner just in case. I aren't advocating the use of the time turner to make reckless experiments or any of the non-authorized uses that Harry had previously used the device for. I actually made it quite clear what I thought of clever experimentation when explaining the note I would send myself. "Arrogant git" was the key phrase if I recall.

What kind of usage is sane? Emergency usage. For example, I would advocate the use of a time turner when locked in a room being tortured and at a high risk of suicide if I do not prevent it. (I liked the touch with the destroying all sharp objects too.) I would also advocate the use for saving lives (including his own depending on circumstances) with minimalist interventions, many of which would be not at all experimental given what he has already safely gotten away with. It would also be extremely valuable in the reduction of risk to have an extra 36 hours available for emergency use. Many threats to Harry's world optimisation plans will come with some warning. Impending attack of some sort, etc. Having a turner on hand means that he would be able to take more time to make preparations or give th device to McGonnagal in the emergency situation and allow her to prepare. As far as either myself or Harry know she isn't wise enough to have one on hand herself.

A time turner is a device that is massively useful and it is massively useful even if you use it conservatively and take no risks with it. Having one on hand does not make bad things happen unless you know you will be unable to control your foolish impulses. This is not Harry's reasoning.

If Harry does not spend at least five minutes thinking through his priorities (let me emphasise that again, spend five minutes) and considering how to acquire (ie. buy) a time turner then both he and the author are making a big mistake. That is not* more rational. It is a rationalization of a decision that was originally made for the purposes of plot balance.

The reasonable solution is clearly for Harry to do is to put "buy time turner" down on his to do list right next to "become ridiculously rich in a week". It is an obvious smart thing to do but the reader understands why Harry can't really follow through with these plans for story purposes. Having them judged "not a pressing priority" is a credible explanation.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-30T04:29:28.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good answer.

comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T03:28:04.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Timeturner awesomeness for jail escape is pretty much discounted, when jailers know that one has it. And Harry risks being put under constant supervision because of his apparent disability of infancy.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T09:21:28.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Timeturner awesomeness for jail escape is pretty much discounted, when jailers know that one has it.

It never occurred to me to consider it a literal way to escape from jails. That's nearly useless. Instead, I consider it, among other things, as a nearly universally more effective med. kit. If someone just fell off the roof would you rather be able to bandage them up a bit or go back and tell them to watch their step?

And Harry risks being put under constant supervision because of his apparent disability of infancy.

... a good reason to not do things that are infantile... and when you do slip up you go back and give yourself a scolding so that you never do the infantile thing in the first place (but still give your past self the scolding note).

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, red75
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T09:48:24.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good heavens, Mr. Wedrifid, you can't change time! Do you think students would be allowed Time-Turners if that was possible? What if someone tried to change their test scores?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T12:12:07.941Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good heavens Mr. Yudkowsky, I thought the inventor of Timeless Decision Theory would have a better grasp on how being the kind of person who would make a certain decision can determine what happens, even when that decision never needs to get made, whether that be with Omega and his boxes or in the stable resolution of time loops.

In all the previous time related events, things worked out how they did because the situation in which Harry did not use the time turner was not stable. If Harry was different (for example, by being Hermione or by not having a Time Turner) then the stable, 'final version' given by the universe-time-loop-processor would be the simple one where he doesn't go mess with stuff. But it wasn't.

But lets say that for some bizarre reason Harry never found a note warning him about a stumbling risk and he didn't think to send one back later. At the very least we should find out a few seconds later that the friend fell off the building and landed on a great big padded mat.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Vladimir_Nesov, CronoDAS
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-30T19:38:09.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good heavens Mr. Yudkowsky, I thought the inventor of Timeless Decision Theory would have a better grasp on how being the kind of person who would make a certain decision can determine what happens

I do indeed.

I've written unpublished fiction about it.

From before TDT was invented, actually.

Harry has not worked all that stuff out yet.

He did work out one important principle so far.

It is called DO NOT MESS WITH TIME.

And considering that he got that result, you seem to have missed some of the implications for how time travel works in that universe which would make it potentially dangerous to try and blackmail reality.

Time travel was the first optimization process I considered which was truly alien enough to deanthropomorphize my thinking; evolutionary biology didn't do the job, but the unpublished story I was writing about time travel did.

What you're suggesting is a bit more potentially incredibly dangerous than you seem to think.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T01:10:42.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What you're suggesting is a bit more potentially incredibly dangerous than you seem to think.

I think you are mistaking me for straw-wedrifid here. I saw the problem with trying to blackmail reality before he went ahead and actually tried it. But then I'm not eleven and while I am arrogant I am not nearly as arrogant as Harry seems to be.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T14:14:30.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Exactly. To make certain situations impossible, you have to be the sort of person that makes the correct actions in the impossible situations, the actions making those situations impossible. (This is also at the core of bargaining.) You are not to take the money from two boxes in the Open Box Newcomb's problem, even if you clearly see that money is there in both of them (and if you have that property, then the situation will never arise).

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-30T15:02:54.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry tried "being the kind of person who would make a certain decision" when using the Time Turner. The result was DO NOT MESS WITH TIME.

Replies from: thomblake, wedrifid
comment by thomblake · 2010-06-30T15:24:11.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He was trying to create a stable time loop, which had consequences along the same lines as the Outcome Pump - there's no way to know which stable time loop you'll get.

However, if he was using a "being the kind of person" strategy, we might expect he'd avoid being the sort of person who would pass along "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME".

Replies from: Sniffnoy
comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-06-30T15:38:24.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, to repeat what I said earlier, this seems easy to avoid by replacing his "blank paper" condition with a more general "anything other than a pair of numbers in the given range" condition. I have to suppose Eliezer had him get that specific message because it wouldn't be good for the story if Harry noticed this fact. Though even if he does take that approach, as with the outcome pump, there's still other possibilities, because they can screw with Harry's ability to execute his intended algorithm.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T22:41:10.433Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though even if he does take that approach, as with the outcome pump, there's still other possibilities, because they can screw with Harry's ability to execute his intended algorithm.

Yes, like it turning out that he was predetermined to die at the time of the experiment, and never complete it.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T15:38:58.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He did the same thing every time he used the time turner. I mean every time, even the times when he was being a good boy and using it to manage sleep. the universe doesn't care whether it is a conversation with McGonnagal, juggling bullies and pies, someone falling off the roof or just bed time.

What does matter to the universe is whether the agent in the time loop is interacting with the time loop in a way that is complex and improbable. That is, factoring large primes should give unpredictable outcomes, long detailed tricks like throwing pies and playing with bullies should be slightly safer, giving yourself a time out simpler again and pre-sheduled study and sleep breaks right down at the bottom of the scale.

I argue that all the instance of time turner differ use differ only in degree. There are many things to do with a time turner that are far, far less disruptive, complex or unstable than what Hermione did when attending multiple classes. Given her interaction with other people who would be encountering her other self there are butterfly effects that would need to be resolved by the system. If Harry set up a smart system to communicate with himself unobtrusively things may be simpler to predict. He could send himself SMS messages (when outside Hogwarts) or use one of those coins to send messages.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T21:58:18.704Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does matter to the universe is whether the agent in the time loop is interacting with the time loop in a way that is complex and improbable. That is, factoring large primes should give unpredictable outcomes, long detailed tricks like throwing pies and playing with bullies should be slightly safer, giving yourself a time out simpler again and pre-scheduled study and sleep breaks right down at the bottom of the scale.

This "scale" sounds extremely anthropomorphic.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-01T01:01:26.467Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An artifact of human language. The easiest way to describe most things (right down to basic forces) tends to be anthropomorphic.

comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T13:09:01.273Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As Eliezer said already, timeturner can't change the past. One generally can't even calculate probability of desired outcome of timeturning... Ouch. This is discussed already.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Vladimir_Nesov, wedrifid
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-30T20:10:34.747Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If anyone wants some sf on the subject, I recommend Leiber's The Big Time and "Try and Change the Past".

They're both based on the same premise. The timeline is changeable but highly resistant. Humans can't change it (that's the short story) but there are two superhuman sides (called Snakes and Spiders, but never seen onstage) which recruit humans who are willing to be cut out of their timelines just before they die.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T14:39:28.118Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One generally can't even calculate probability of desired outcome of timeturning...

Probability is in the mind. It is the thing that is being calculated.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T16:17:16.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And the thing is "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME".

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T16:44:23.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is a significant quote from the FanFic but I am having difficulty seeing it as relevant to Vladmir's statement.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T17:50:09.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found Vladimir's utterance (I'm not sure of word's connotations, I use it in pragmatics sense) incomprehensible on my current level of understanding his intentions and his ways of expressing toughts. So I've took literal meaning of his words into current context. However, beside joke part my message points on difficulties in dealing with stable states of closed time loops (the thing).

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T18:04:23.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found Vladimir's utterance (I'm not sure of word's connotations, I use it in pragmatics sense) incomprehensible

This is not an unusual occurrence. V thinks clearly, and thoroughly but presents his conclusions in a way that assumes a similar thinking style and a lot of shared prior knowledge. Petty things like 'intermediate steps' are not necessarily included.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T13:19:23.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One generally can't even calculate probability of desired outcome of timeturning...

I disagree with this statement. See earlier discussion of 'idiot god' by Richard.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T13:53:07.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those closed time loops are weird. I considered timeturing before outcome, but, yes, even in that case one can be told by one's timeturned twin, that all is set up for good outcome. And timeturing after desired outcome... should be done unconditionally, as you can't know it is not you who caused this outcome. Weird.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T15:22:11.568Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Definitely weird. A related consideration is that I would always give reasons for any advice I give my former self. That cuts off a large swath of potential stable loops that consist of me giving myself advice for absolutely no reason at all except that it happens to be stable. The better the reasons I have been given myself the less likely it is that the self perpetuating cycle is a completely arbitrary cycle.

For example, I wouldn't have sent back "Don't mess with time". I would have sent "the universe doesn't particularly care about your rules and plans you arrogant little git! What's more likely, guessing your way through 128 bit encryption or something seriously nasty that distracts you from your games, such as ? That's right. Think." (Yes, I'd include the 'arrogant git' part. That is information I would clearly need to be reminded of!)

Now, not all scary situations give me the chance to write an explanation but a large swath of the probability mass does. While I would still follow the hastily written directive I would also know that to write that particularly message something really bad must be happening. Without having a predetermined policy for giving details I would have no idea whether the message meant something bad almost happened or not. (It also means that I am far less likely to get such a message - I'll probably get one of the many possible detailed messages.)

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T17:26:07.298Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem is that you aren't source of advice, you are one of constraints to be satisfied. Any message, that you will reproduce with picometer precision and that will create stable state, will do. Precision isn't a problem in deterministic world, and maybe in quantum one too (if our neurons are sufficiently classical), but I'm hesitant to estimate influence of one's preferences on stable state.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T17:45:12.987Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem is that you aren't source of advice, you are one of constraints to be satisfied.

I am both. The advice that I will choose to give is determined by the same physics that allows me to breath.

Regarding quantum effects - the uncertainty effects can be amplified based on the elimination of unstable loops. Most obviously when my behavior is determined by a quantum coin. The way that plays out looks seriously when pictured in 4 dimensions.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T18:04:39.139Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am both.

Not necessarily.

In casual loops, information simply exists as a consequence of the peculiar topology of the space-time manifold.

Self-existing objects and auto-generated information in chronology-violating space-times: A philosophical discussion

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-06-30T18:19:29.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read the link and make the same claim I made previously: I am both. The advice that I will choose to give is determined by the same physics that allows me to breath.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-30T18:43:11.489Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait a second, you will not choose an advice. You will reproduce the advice (consistency constraint!).

And for the advice to be advice you choose, it must be physically impossible to you to reproduce anything you think is not of your origin. I envy your self-esteem.

Edit: Given condition is sufficient, but not necessary.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-06-30T22:52:12.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait a second, you will not choose an advice. You will reproduce the advice (consistency constraint!).

You don't have to reproduce the advice. And if you don't, you won't have to.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-01T02:45:08.701Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is important special case: the advice = no advice. But that is easy to overlook, thanks.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-29T21:35:53.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, you've convinced me.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-06-29T21:47:41.136Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess you could argue that it wasn't criminal to do so, but he had no qualms about stealing gold from his bank vault.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-29T22:16:16.654Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean that he doesn't want to deal with the consequences of being known to have stolen a valuable artifact; in other words, he doesn't to be a fugitive from the wizard police.

comment by gwern · 2010-06-21T17:22:37.090Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

David Brin is apparently now a fan of MoR.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-06-01T21:41:19.862Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just finished reading the Russian novel "Lena Squatter and the Paragon of Vengeance" by SF author Leonid Kaganov. It's not exactly a Harry Potter fanfic, but it's very similar to MOR in that it tries to present an explicitly rationalist hero, and IMO Kaganov has handled the task better than Eliezer.

The protagonist is an unattractive and immoral woman whose only strength is extra rationality, which she applies to the sordid and corrupt world of Moscow corporate politics. Using the familiar LW intellectual ammunition - from Pascal's Wager to evolutionary psychology - she gets people fired for talking back to her, gives and takes bribes, blatantly manipulates men (driving one to attempted suicide), and then in the end when she's found the perfect boyfriend her plans neatly backfire, forcing her to kill him and then herself. Lena's exploits are shown with a lot of detail and believability, and overall the book has punched me harder than anything Eliezer wrote. Unfortunately it's unlikely that it will ever be translated into English.

Replies from: radical_negative_one, xamdam, Blueberry
comment by radical_negative_one · 2010-06-02T01:03:47.653Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that one of the catchphrases around here is "rationalists should win", i'm curious why the main character of this story loses in the end. Why would her plans "neatly backfire" in the end, or is it enough for us to admire her rationality that she almost achieved her goals, despite her lack of obvious assets?

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2010-06-02T09:25:57.763Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

She makes a poorly considered wish to an unfriendly genie AI. As a result, she has to kill herself and her boyfriend to save the world. No kidding.

Replies from: Blueberry, CronoDAS
comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-05T19:45:59.923Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What was the wish? And can you at least write a short summary of the story?

Replies from: xamdam
comment by xamdam · 2010-07-27T19:31:41.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What was the wish?

"Can you make some paperclips for me?"

Replies from: rastilin
comment by rastilin · 2011-04-20T06:32:20.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is that where that's from?

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-05T19:33:42.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

O_O

comment by xamdam · 2010-07-27T19:07:51.321Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder where I can procure an ebook version. I still read russian.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-02T15:15:16.216Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you be willing to translate it?

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2010-06-02T16:57:50.454Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, it's too big. Would take me weeks of full-time work.

Replies from: JenniferRM
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-07-05T05:32:00.206Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just out of curiosity, how much does a week of your time cost?

Your recommendation of the book, plus the very fact that it wasn't originally written in english and has a genie AI, makes it fascinating on a number of levels. If there was a translation, I would probably want to buy and read it.

Replies from: randallsquared
comment by randallsquared · 2010-07-26T03:43:05.254Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He has an English website: http://lleo.aha.ru/e/index.htm , which suggests that asking about buying the English-language rights might not go amiss.

Replies from: JenniferRM
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-07-27T18:45:29.957Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the link! I sent Leonid Kaganov an email expressing interest in a translation and directing him to this URL. Hopefully something comes of it :-)

Replies from: listic, cousin_it, dares
comment by listic · 2010-07-31T22:57:50.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for trying. Please keep us updated.

I was thinking to introduce some English-speaking audience (represented by i.e. Less Wrong and Hacker News) to Leonid Kaganov for quite some time. I absolutely don't feel able to translate a whole novel (and I haven't read Lena Squatter yet, as it's quite recent) but I think I can pull off translating a short story or a blog post.

The best story of him that I've liked so far is Predator's Epos (2001) which depicts a dramatic incident in space and tries to analyze human ethics through the eyes of an alien studying human epos and comparing it to other species'. The short story, as author noted in his blog, was written on a crunch for a short story competition, which had a theme "a knight quests for saving a princess from a dragon" and, would I say, the author had his fun with the theme. To my mind, the story remains one of his best to date. Definitely best of short stories; I haven't read the more recent of his novels; he might have improved in the recent years, but as of several years ago, I had an opinion that Kaganov is the kind of author for whom the short story format and good crunchtime is an optimum format; the longer stories I read feel watered down. I appreciate that it takes more work and skill to forge a novel while maintaining reader immersion and the pace of the story, and everyone has to start somewhere, but still - I liked his short stories and some of the blog posts best.

Which brings me to the topic that Kaganov raised that I wanted to translate and link to on Hacker News. At the time when he finished Lena Squatter he wrote a very detailed blog post where he said he is at the turning point in his career where the sales of his new book (Lena Squatter) will determine whether he will be able to support his family by starting to write novels full-time or will have to earn money the other way (programming) and have little time for writing. So he asked everyone who would consider reading his books to go buy Lena Squatter in paper form, and not steal it from the internet. The post was very clearly written, addressed nearly every possible concern and the author answered many of the comments (which he always does btw.) Despite of that, the post was met with less than full understanding. So I was going to ask the respective English-speaking audience: do we really have the situation so horribly bad here in Russia that the author, who has written some enjoyable stories, contributed every possible story in the past to the public domain, and now came to depend a little bit on the sales of his book for the well-being of the family, has to beg his fans to not steal his books and yet not meet with total understanding?! Or is this more or less what goes on in the rest of the world as well? The book Lena Squatter seem to have sold well, by the way, exceeding the publisher's very modest expectations, and there should be second printing underway. The rights for publishing should belong to the publisher for several years, I think, but maybe they can be interested in the international edition. At any rate, Kaganov can be expected to be geeking out with author's contracts, not giving an unnecessary extra bit of his rights to the publishers and giving every bit to the public domain ASAP.

Also, I might add that he's an interesting guy, quite a rationalist and sceptic. He've got two or three higher educations; one in Computer Science and the other in Medicine (psychopharmacology)

Replies from: Alicorn, CronoDAS, CronoDAS
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-31T23:49:17.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It looks from my casual observations like the difference between pirated and not pirated (as opposed to plagiarized and not plagiarized, which is a different matter) isn't whether something is in the public domain, but whether it is freely available. As long as it is easy to get a work for free from the author's preferred distribution method, there's little to no incentive to get it with more hassle from a different distribution method. So putting his prior works in the public domain probably isn't getting this author many bonus points, compared to an author who retains copyright or Creative Commons licensing but still makes the work freely readable.

There is no way that he addressed every possible concern to the satisfaction of his audience while charging money for his book. Money is a concern, and while his book might be inexpensive, adopting a general policy of buying inexpensive books when someone asks nicely isn't, and making many individual decisions about when to buy them and when not to isn't either. To an audience accustomed to getting reading material for free, a demand that they shell out money for a new book feels like extortion, and that provokes negative affect indeed. So it does not surprise me that - with the sort of audience he would have cultivated by making his prior works freely available - he'd encounter backlash when attempting to extract cash from them.

His approach might work as a business model in the sense that he's selling books. But of course he is not meeting with "total understanding".

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-08-01T00:48:32.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Incidentally, some online content creators have been able to support themselves through means other than selling their work directly.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-07-31T23:05:27.689Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I was going to ask the respective English-speaking audience: do we really have the situation so horribly bad here in Russia that the author, who has written some enjoyable stories, contributed every possible story in the past to the public domain, and now came to depend a little bit on the sales of his book for the well-being of the family, has to beg his fans to not steal his books and yet not meet with total understanding?! Or is this more or less what goes on in the rest of the world as well?

Yeah, things like that happen in the rest of the world, too. Creators of software are hit pretty hard, as do people who make things that are easily converted to digital format. (Printed books are kind of hard to pirate, because you have to put every single page into a scanner, one at a time, instead of just sticking a CD or DVD into a drive, but it still happens.)

comment by cousin_it · 2010-07-27T18:50:45.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given the generally awful quality of translations into English done by Russians, I hope the eventual translation will be by a native English speaker who knows Russian, not the other way round. That was actually one of the reasons I refused.

comment by dares · 2011-04-08T15:26:43.297Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any update?

Replies from: JenniferRM
comment by JenniferRM · 2011-04-09T07:35:22.988Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The email still hasn't been answered. I'm not planning on sending a second if he wasn't into the first.

comment by ata · 2010-05-31T09:50:29.619Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reply to this comment if you found LW through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality!

A survey for anyone who cares to respond (edit: specifically for people who did find LW through HPMoR):

  1. Had you already registered an account before seeing this? (Edit: That is, had you already registered an account for a reason other than to reply to this comment?) If not, had you been planning or expecting to?
  2. Have you been reading through the sequences, or just generally looking around and lurking?
  3. What new rationality skills that you learned from HPMoR or LW have you found most useful? Most interesting? Most change-the-way-you-look-at-everything-ly?
  4. Have you referred anyone else to HPMoR? Have you referred anyone else to LW?
Replies from: Elizabeth, alethiophile, fraa, JoshuaZ, MadBoat, BohemianCoast, TheOtherDave, FrancesH, NancyLebovitz
comment by Elizabeth · 2010-11-07T05:21:44.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Yes, I had registered an account, and had managed ten whole karma points as of this post, of which I am rather proud.
  2. I have been reading through the sequences.
  3. I've found a lot of the biases fascinating, particularly when it comes to testing a hypothesis, and I just finished a sequence on words and definitions, which I quite enjoyed.
  4. I've attempted to refer a couple people, but found that my brother had already found Less Wrong independently (and hadn't told me about it!).
comment by alethiophile · 2010-07-29T20:54:07.573Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I knew of LW's existence before HPMoR, through the same source that referred me to HPMoR (ESR).

  1. I registered mostly to comment on this post.
  2. I've been reading the Sequences.
  3. More stuff about Bayes' Theorem (my extent of knowledge before I read the Intuitive Explanation was the idea that there will be many false positives on searching for rare events).
  4. No.
comment by fraa · 2010-07-04T14:05:08.744Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Yes, I made an account shortly after I read HPatMoR.
  2. I've been taking peeks here and there. I mean I was aware of Less Wrong existing before. I've read stuff by Eliezer before, specifically the first contact story, and I found it fun if extremely formulaic and didactic. It was a pleasant surprise for me, that I could find something so stilted so fun.
  3. I haven't noticed anything I haven't heard of before.
  4. I've referred people to HPatMoR but not LW.
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-02T01:27:05.523Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't exactly fit your set since I had seen LW before, but there's some good reason that I should be included in your sample. Explanation follows: I had read most of the sequences before (and frankly didn't learn that much from them. A handful of cogsci and psych classes along with a fair bit of phil sci gives one a lot of the same material) and had previously read some of Eliezer's fiction. I hadn't really taken that detailed a look at LW as a whole, until HPMR. That was partially due to a conversation with a friend that went something like

Friend: So who is the author of this stuff? JZ: He's Eliezer Yudkowsky who is an all around very bright guy. He has some a bit off ideas about the Singularity. Friend: What evidence do you have of that he's bright and not just a good fiction writer? The one thing you've mentioned is something you disagree with. JZ: Um, let me get back to you.

Then when reading I felt a need to register an account to make a comment, and then it has been downhill from there (I just linked an LW post to a friend who said that she refused to read it because "I'm not sure I'm willing to let myself -oh god oh god- be sucked into Less Wrong. I have heard it wastes time like tvtropes on crack." I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing).

I've linked HPMR to a fair number of people, and it seems to be having some impact on some of them. Indeed, it seems that it is quite effective at getting through defense mechanisms that some people have against being more rational, because the arguments aren't being coached in an obvious way of trying to just present what is wrong with their thinking processes. I'm running into concerns about whether linking HPMR to people without telling them about that is ethical or not.

Replies from: MBlume
comment by MBlume · 2010-06-07T06:27:59.367Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

(On the other hand, Michael Vassar often claims that this quote is as disingenuous as a strong man saying "That which can be destroyed by lions should be.")

Replies from: Blueberry, JoshuaZ
comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-07T06:56:03.225Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(On the other hand, Michael Vassar often claims that this quote is as disingenuous as a strong man saying "That which can be destroyed by lions should be.")

I'm not sure I understand. Lions can destroy any human, no matter how strong, right? Is the implication that truth is a weapon? Or that the only people who support truth are the ones who think they're right? But people frequently think they're right when they're not.

Replies from: RomanDavis
comment by RomanDavis · 2010-06-07T08:28:59.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are rational, you both are already more likely believe things that are true (or less wrong than your competitors) and more able to defend your false beliefs using knowledge of argument and cognitive biases.

Substitute well armed for strong if you like.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-09T19:30:52.115Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Well-armed" makes a little more sense, but I still don't think it's a good analogy. Lions destroy people who aren't well-armed, so it's disingenous for a well-armed person to say that a fair procedure for who lives is to let the lions attack and see who survives. Truth destroys false ideas, not people, and people frequently don't know in advance which ideas will be destroyed by the truth. People, even rational ones, are often wrong in their predictions, unlike the well-armed man.

A precommitment to letting experiments and truth decide what ideas will survive doesn't stack the deck in your favor, unlike in the lions example. The whole point is that you are willing to take the chance of having your ideas die, as long as the true ideas survive.

Replies from: RomanDavis
comment by RomanDavis · 2010-06-09T23:17:44.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you could say that the truth does destroy people. You can't be the same person once you've really accepted an entirely new, important idea, and rejected an old belief.

When someone says "that which should be destroyed by the truth should be" and he's talking to a Christian or a white supremacist or thousand other people defined by the silly idea they take very seriously, you are often asking them to do something a lot more scary than go up against a lion.

If you've already seen the truth and accepted it, the deck is as stacked as it could be. And if you haven't but are otherwise making your bet rationally, while the other is not, then you've still got a lot better chance.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-07T13:09:46.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

And if that destruction itself requires withholding information? In most contexts I'm pretty sure most people here would think that something of the form "I know I'm right, but they'll more likely to not believe the truth if I don't tell them X" is not good rational behavior.

comment by MadBoat · 2010-11-12T19:41:29.345Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1: No. Most of my time I was lurking. Lot of stuff on LW.

2: Following links, like I was on TVtropes

3: Nothing yet. Eliezer has a distinct way of expressing himself, which is why I enjoy HPMoR, but most of the ideas he is expressing I have heard before.

4: Yes to HPMoR, no to LW.

comment by BohemianCoast · 2010-06-05T08:49:10.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're not very rational for a bunch of extreme rationalists, are you? It's only possible to answer this survey if you register for the site, so excluding nearly all possible commenters (there is science on this) and presumably an even greater proportion of those who are uninterested in the ideas in LW. So that's a Big Old Fail.

So, here goes:

  1. No, I have registered purely for the purpose of replying to this comment.
  2. I started to read through the Sequences, but they rapidly set off my nutcase detectors. So you might want to do something about that. But I was interested in who had written the fan fiction; and quickly found this thread.
  3. I have learnt that there is a community of extreme rationalists who believe that humanity will soon use science to cheat death. Actually, I already knew that. But I have found one of their websites. I was already familiar with most of the philosophical tropes explored in HPMoR; I don't think it would be anything like such a good story otherwise, and I think most of the readership will be people who are already relatively rational. So in terms of 'raising the sanity waterline', an endeavour which seems to be entirely worthwhile, I am not sure it will do that.
  4. I have and will referred people to HPMoR. I have not referred anyone to LW.
Replies from: Jack, CronoDAS
comment by Jack · 2010-06-05T10:23:43.158Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're not very rational for a bunch of extreme rationalists, are you? It's only possible to answer this survey if you register for the site, so excluding nearly all possible commenters (there is science on this) and presumably an even greater proportion of those who are uninterested in the ideas in LW. So that's a Big Old Fail.

You really think we've never talked about selection bias here? It is constantly a concern every time we do a survey. This is why ata's questions were directed at those who had registered and not at the entire group that read the fanfiction. If you know of some way we could poll everyone who read the fanfiction without response bias by all means tell us.

Something about us rubbed you the wrong way. Which is fine, things about us rub me the wrong way. But I'd much rather you articulate what that was than go searching for random things to criticize us about just because you want us to be irrational.

I started to read through the Sequences, but they rapidly set off my nutcase detectors.

What specifically?

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-07T06:38:34.943Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I started to read through the Sequences, but they rapidly set off my nutcase detectors

Please Elaborate.

Replies from: GuySrinivasan
comment by GuySrinivasan · 2010-06-07T07:47:42.834Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you asking because you don't know, or because you want to know which ones BohemianCoast noticed?

Most of the world is wrong. Formal education is overrated. The world as we know it is may cease within a century. Lots Of Math. Simultaneously mentioning the word quantum and talking about psychology. For that matter, mentioning the word quantum.

Those are just the ones off the top of my head, and I'm not BohemianCoast. But a lot of stuff written here (and in the "Sequences") is true despite setting off nutcase detectors, not without setting them off.

Replies from: Risto_Saarelma, rhollerith_dot_com
comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2010-06-07T09:26:22.867Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most of the world is wrong. Formal education is overrated. The world as we know it is may cease within a century. Lots Of Math. Simultaneously mentioning the word quantum and talking about psychology. For that matter, mentioning the word quantum.

There Isn't That Much Math, Really. And none of the cargo-cultish use of mathy writing as impressive-looking gibberish that tends to mark nutcase stuff. Agree with the rest though. Oh, and also: The scientific method is poor and needs to be improved. A central notion on physics held by most practicing physicists is fundamentally misguided.

Replies from: Perplexed
comment by Perplexed · 2010-11-07T05:46:13.935Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And none of the cargo-cultish use of mathy writing as impressive-looking gibberish that tends to mark nutcase stuff.

I've seen plenty of nutcase-stuff in which the math wasn't gibberish - it was correct as math but was simply window-dressing for the nutcase argument. Sometimes, it seems that EY is just using it as garnish for his arguments as well. So, I think that there is a kernel of truth in what GuySrinivasan said about the mathiness of the site. It fits the pattern.

Which is not to say that EY is a nutcase. Those nutcase detectors may be returning false positives. But that doesn't mean that the nutcase detectors are defective.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-06-07T08:08:53.650Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

CronoDAS definitely knows that Eliezer is not a nutcase. He's very rational and well-informed.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-11-12T20:41:24.760Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Yes. I went from LW to the OB archives, I created an account to comment on an old post there.

  2. I've been ignoring the Sequences as such, but have been working my way through the OB archives chronologically, which I gather covers the same material.

  3. Hard to answer that question. The cognitive bias stuff is fairly old hat. The timeless-physics stuff is new to me, but isn't really a skill. I'm currently working my way through the metaethics stuff, which I'm not finding particularly convincing but haven't finished thinking about.

  4. One friend, to both HPMoR and the OB archives. Not so much LW per se, which (sorry) seems to have a higher noise:signal ratio than the old stuff.

I've been paying a little bit of attention to recent posts, but not a lot; mostly I've been "time-travelling" through the archives.

I've been responding to posts here and there when I have something to say I don't see in the comments. I do this even though I don't expect anyone is reading old comments (though sometimes they get upvoted or responded to, so it's not a complete vacuum), mostly because I often don't really know what I think about something until I've tried to formulate a response to it.

Replies from: cata
comment by cata · 2010-11-12T20:57:13.199Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my observation, replies to old comments and comments on old posts frequently get a fair amount of activity. I think that many users (including myself) operate largely from the "recent comments" list, so we stand a good chance of noticing new material wherever it is.

comment by FrancesH · 2010-12-06T13:45:07.558Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Yes
  2. Reading through the Sequences. Well, I say reading through...you read through and then there's a link, and then there's another link, and another and another...So yes, reading through, but not in exact order.
  3. I suppose...not necessarily have yet found useful, but am anticipating finding most useful in the future: the planning fallacy, the bit about believing the way Spinoza thought you did and not Descartes, and the conjunction falllacy.
  4. Yes. And yes.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-01T13:18:31.789Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. Yes.
  2. More towards looking around and lurking, but I've been reading LW long enough that I've read a fair number of important articles.
  3. I'm not sure-- to some extent, I've been working on this sort of thing anyway. I'll post later if anything comes to mind.
  4. Yes to both, mostly in conversation and on my livejournal.
comment by ata · 2010-05-29T05:35:37.830Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that, in the first few chapters, Harry did not give enough credence to the hypothesis that he was simply insane and hallucinating. I think, given the observations he had at the time (his mom claimed her sister was a witch; he got a letter implying the same; a woman levitated his dad and turned into a cat), he should have at least seriously considered it. Certainly those pieces of information are some evidence for magic, but considering what that hypothesis entails — existing scientific knowledge about physics (even at the level of abstraction that we experience directly) is so completely wrong that it's actually possible to make the universe understand human words or intentions, or there's this incredibly advanced technology that looks like it's violating the laws of physics, and it's existed for thousands of years and apparently everyone has forgotten how it works — I think an honest rationalist would have to look into the "I'm cuckoo" hypothesis.

Replies from: Alicorn, simplicio, gwern, ata, Qiaochu_Yuan, Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-29T06:20:12.926Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure what one is supposed to do upon concluding that one is quite that cuckoo. Upon getting that far gone, what can you do? Can you even assume that your actions and words will leave your brain and impact reality in roughly the way you intend? If you are that crazy, and you try to walk across the room, will you get there? Are you in a room? Do you have legs? It might be that being as insane as all that is so game over that, whatever one's epistemic position is, one has to operate as though the observations were correct.

Replies from: Nisan, ata
comment by Nisan · 2010-05-30T06:02:22.483Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be a good idea to consider the hypothesis that one is crazy in a conventional way, such as schizophrenia. One can try to test that hypothesis. But the "anything goes"-crazy hypothesis isn't really useful.

Replies from: RobinZ
comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-30T14:51:29.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, you're right - and what's more, it doesn't take much to make the "anything goes"-crazy hypothesis more ridiculous than magic. We know that human brains have limited processing power and storage capacity, so if you can produce sensations which the brain should be unable to fake, you can reduce the probability mass of the hypothesis significantly.

Replies from: DSimon
comment by DSimon · 2010-07-02T03:33:43.946Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How can you use your brain to test if a sensation your brain is experiencing cannot be faked by your brain?

Replies from: RobinZ
comment by RobinZ · 2010-07-02T03:51:02.228Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How long would it take you to factor the number 495 967 020 337 by hand?

And how long would it take you to multiply two numbers, both less than 1 300 000, together?

Some operations are much easier to verify than to execute.

Replies from: DSimon
comment by DSimon · 2010-07-02T04:42:43.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wrote out a long response involving an analogy to a CPU self-test program, but at the end I realised that I had arrived at the same conclusion you stated. :-) So I'm voting you up and wish to extend you an Internet high-five.

However, on this topic, it seems like there's no good approach for handling the scenario where your brain messes with your internal tests in such a way as to point them invariably at a false positive, i.e. anosognosia.

I agree that a good self-test of the sort you describe would reduce the probability for most kinds of anything-goes insanity, but what sort of test could be used to check against the not-insignificant subset of insanity that specifically acts against self-tests and forces them to return false positive at the highest level?

Replies from: RobinZ
comment by RobinZ · 2010-07-02T11:53:34.463Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's always possible to produce insane minds that cannot fix themselves - the interesting question is how big a diff can be bridged at what price. And that's a bit more difficult to answer.

I wonder, however, whether a sufficiently educated anosognosiac could determine that the sources informing them of their paralysis were more reliable than their firsthand observations. It seems unlikely, of course.

Replies from: rastilin
comment by rastilin · 2011-04-20T06:37:52.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The answer appears to be no. There were a few articles in Scientific American: Mind about it a while back. Experiments show that the flaw causing stuff like people denying they can't move their arms is part of their logic processing; they proved this by figuring out they could reset their thinking for a short time, at which point people were able to clearly state that they were paralyzed and they were surprised at their earlier thinking.

After a minute, the effect wore off and the patient returned to an earlier state. So the effect appears to short circuit the decision making process on a hardware level.

comment by ata · 2010-05-29T07:18:36.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. Even if upon witnessing such absurdities he had immediately assumed he was seeing things and demanded to be checked into a mental hospital, he couldn't even be sure that there was really anyone around him to hear, or that he was really saying what he thought he was saying, etc.

But then, if he's that far removed from reality, whatever he's really doing must appear crazy enough to draw the attention of those around him. Maybe he's already in a mental institution... which he imagines to be a school of wizardry! From the inside, he already sort of feels (and acts) as though he's the only sane person in a madhouse... while in reality, he's just another patient.

comment by simplicio · 2010-05-30T20:08:02.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think David Hume said something more or less like this when discussing the likelihood of miracles; that if you witnessed a miracle, you ought to conclude you were insane.

I am not sure I buy into this. For one thing, I see a problem with falsifiability. If there is nothing that I could see to convince me that magic might work, I am not objecting to the reality of magic on rational grounds, but as a sort of knee-jerk. It's like the doubleplus loony creationist types who think the devil planted archaeopteryx.

There are reasons I think magic in the Harry Potter sense is not true, reasons that could be argued against (e.g., show me a plausible medium for magic to be carried in). I don't think it would be very rational to make it sort of... axiomatic that magic is false. That seems to in fact be the attitude Eliezer is criticizing in the character of Harry's father.

So yeah, some probability mass goes to the "hallucination/insane" hypothesis, but not very much. Most goes to the "I don't know what's going on here at all, but she did just apparently turn into a cat" hypothesis.

Replies from: dclayh
comment by dclayh · 2010-05-31T21:19:38.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Miracles are one-time events, whereas magic spells are repeatable (in every fictional universe I've seen, anyway).

Replies from: simplicio
comment by simplicio · 2010-05-31T21:27:32.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True; but where does that factor come in? I mean, hallucinations can presumably be repeatable too. "I tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - and I am still Napoleon!"

comment by gwern · 2012-12-03T23:46:43.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If he was having completely full-blown auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations (note that this is fairly unusual, for example schizophrenia apparently usually only manifests hallucinations in one modality), then what exactly could he do about it or even how would he test it?

Replies from: ata
comment by ata · 2012-12-04T08:30:58.330Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, me[2010-05] did not think of that :) I agree now

comment by ata · 2010-05-29T05:58:42.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Addenda:

  1. From the reader's perspective, it doesn't appear that that's what we are supposed to believe (though I'm still wondering...), so I'm tentatively guessing that the mechanism of magic is some kind of technology, and that the in-story universe has the same laws as this one. It does seem implausible that an ancient civilization could have invented technology advanced enough to be indistinguishable from this kind of magic, but that could be different in an alternate history, and it still seems less implausible than any set of physical laws that would actually make this kind of magic a normal, natural thing that a non-industrial civilization could invent/discover.

  2. We are supposed to be wondering why magic works at all, right? It doesn't seem like Eliezer to expect us to be satisfied with an Inherently Mysterious phenomenon at the center of the story, even if it's a story based on someone else's fictional world that already had that feature... but I don't know, maybe it's a demonstration that, no matter how ridiculous the rules are, rationality will still allow you to win.

    But I'm still hoping that magic will be explained at some point, and I'm still looking for clues about it.

Replies from: simplicio
comment by simplicio · 2010-05-31T23:42:31.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think magic will be explained as an addition onto physics: a new "force" is involved, but still behaves in an intelligible way. I can't imagine how the MoR series would explain the magic exhibited thus far as coming from current physical understanding.

Unless the magicians control quantum wavefunctions directly, or something like that. Or Harry is a brain in a vat.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, gjm
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-02T06:17:00.357Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or if Harry figures out that he's in a story.

Replies from: Oscar_Cunningham
comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2010-06-02T06:22:51.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What kind of evidence would convince you that you were in a story?

Replies from: Will_Newsome, Nisan, kodos96, Perplexed, NancyLebovitz
comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-07-10T07:35:46.245Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If something totally crazy seemed like it was about to happen and the world was at stake, like a technological singularity was about to occur or something, and I was called to work for the team of great minds that were trying their hardest to stop the destruction of the entire universe, dropping out of high school in the process, and meeting a beautiful girl who had been living literally a few houses down from me for the last 4 years without my knowing about it, who just so happened to be doing an essay on transhumanism for her English class and would just love to interview someone who was doing work for the Singularity Institute.

Oh wait...

comment by Nisan · 2010-06-02T06:56:37.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The events in a story fit into a narrative. If I were in a story, I might be able to make especially accurate predictions by privileging hypotheses that make narrative sense. Dumbledore did this on an intuitive level, and it is the reason for his success.

Replies from: marchdown, jast
comment by marchdown · 2010-11-27T03:02:45.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is basically an attempt to formalize genre savviness.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2010-11-27T03:25:54.169Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And of course, if you really were in a story and tried it, story logic dictates that you would almost certainly end up being wrong genre savvy

comment by jast · 2010-07-12T18:20:47.907Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then again, if your predictions are part of the narrative, the narrative might go on to explicitly falsify your predictions. And if you except it to falsify your predictions... well, two can play that game.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-11-27T03:16:00.379Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Talking animals
  • Beanstalks of unusual size
  • A pair of boxes, one containing $1000 ...
  • Black comedy
  • Poetic justice
  • People living happily ever after.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-02T07:21:21.097Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure, considering the number of different kinds of story there are even in our world, and especially considering that entities which could create our world will probably have sorts of fiction we haven't thought of, and may have sorts of fiction we can't think of.

However, Eliezer may come up with something which would plausibly convince Harry.

comment by gjm · 2010-06-02T01:45:52.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think something like "brain in a vat" is the best inference from observing magic. [EDITED to add: of course I mean after getting very good evidence against deception, insanity, etc.]

More precisely: if you find evidence that something deeply embedded in the universe is best understood at something like the level of human concepts -- it matters what words you say, whether you really hate someone else as you say them, etc. -- then you should assign more probability to the hypothesis that the-universe-as-it-now-is was made, or at least heavily influenced, by someone or something with a mind (or minds) somewhat like ours. That could be a god, a graduate student in another universe with a big computer, superintelligent aliens or AIs who've messed with the fabric of reality in our part of the world, or any number of other things.

In a manner of speaking this is obviously correct for the Potterverse (either Rowling's or Yudkowsky's): in that universe, magic works; and indeed that universe was designed by an intelligent being or beings, namely Rowling or Rowling+Yudkowsky. It probably doesn't work "internally" for the original Potterverse -- I've no idea whether Rowling has any particular position on whether within the stories the world should be thought of as created by intelligent beings -- but I'm guessing that it does for Eliezer's.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-02T01:58:15.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not convinced that concluding one is in a simulation is really the best bet here. A simulation would have a terrible amount of trouble specifying these effects. If for example, I have a simulation for say just our local system, how the heck are the people running the simulation easily going to be able to specify emotional states or the like? The only possible explanation I can have for this is that the simulation was originally started with humans having certain (simulated) brain structure and that structure is the type of structure that wizards have. Other humans can't do it because their structure isn't of the type the simulation recognizes to trigger magic.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2012-12-03T23:42:49.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. This is why I think the Hogwarts letter is charmed to make itself sound more plausible than it should be (which would be a sensible way to ease the transition for muggleborns). Harry explicitly wonders where his own certainty that magic is real comes from and doesn't get an answer via introspection. That sounds like the effect of a weak charm to me.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-29T07:04:52.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, and you're forgetting the bit where Mrs. Figg just randomly knows magic exists. That would be pretty jarring.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-05-27T02:26:44.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Several speculations/thoughts/questions:

First, did baby!Harry actually in fact survive the killing curse? ie, perhaps the curse successfully detached baby-Harry's-soul (presuming that something like "souls" exist in MoR... given the presence of Horcruxes, I'll tentatively assume yes), but the body was immediately made into a Horcrux... so Voldemort-soul-shard effectively inhabited that body. Essentially Rationalist!Harry is actually more like what Voldemort would have been like if raised in a loving and sci-fi and science loving family.

The Hat did say that if there was bits of the Dark Lord's mind there in addition to Harry, it would have noticed the extra "passenger"... But in this case there really is only one mind/soul/whatever. The catch is that mini-mort is all that's there.

This brings up the possibility of if this was an accident or deliberate. Perhaps Voldemort actually deliberately planned/faked his apparent "death"?

(Possible related, well, possibility: How do "we"/they actually know Voldemort even used the Killing Curse that night, as opposed to doing some other thing? ie, how is it known that he is the Boy Who Survived the Killing Curse in the first place?)

Further speculation: When Quirrellmort was lecturing in class about how he used to want to be a Dark Lord, but now finds that he really just wants to teach how to fight and such... perhaps that's a literal statement of fact? ie, does he even desire to "rise again as the Dark Lord Voldemort", or is this what he actually wants now?

Further further thoughts: Does Dumbledore know that Quirrell is really Voldemort under-the-hood? Not just knowing "there's something odd here", but actually really knowing that as fact?

Replies from: Unnamed, PeterS
comment by Unnamed · 2010-05-27T19:30:40.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

perhaps the curse successfully detached baby-Harry's-soul [...], but the body was immediately made into a Horcrux... so Voldemort-soul-shard effectively inhabited that body. [...]

Further speculation: When Quirrellmort was lecturing in class about how he used to want to be a Dark Lord, but now finds that he really just wants to teach how to fight and such... perhaps that's a literal statement of fact?

This is awesome. Probably not where the story's actually headed, but it would create a cool Vader-Skywalker kind of relationship and explain what Voldemort is trying to accomplish with Harry. If he wants his Harry-shard to finish the job of becoming Dark Lord, then it makes sense to come to Hogwarts to be Harry's mentor (and to be disgusted by Harry's ambition to be a scientist).

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-06-02T02:15:45.371Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In canon, before he became Lord Voldemort, Tom Riddle demanded that Dumbledore give him the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, and the "jinx" on the position came about when Dumbledore refused. So teaching at Hogwarts is, indeed, something Voldemort has always wanted to do.

comment by PeterS · 2010-05-27T04:09:13.912Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do "we"/they actually know Voldemort even used the Killing Curse that night, as opposed to doing some other thing? ie, how is it known that he is the Boy Who Survived the Killing Curse in the first place?

That's a good point... though if I recall, he is just known as The-Boy-Who-Lived. In canon, it's not revealed until book 4 that he is the only one to have ever survived the killing curse, in particular, and it's Znq-Rlr Zbbql who says this (though, in truth, it was Onegl Pebhpu We.). Onegl Pebhpu is a highly loyal Death Eater who had been in contact with Lord Voldemort, so maybe the dark lord just told him? Though it's probably more likely that everyone just assumed Voldemort had used his favorite curse.

What bugs me is how they know that Harry is the first and only person to have ever survived that curse. I mean surely, sometime in the entire history of wizards and witches, somebody has sacrificed themself for a loved one who was then Abracadabra'd (i.e. did just what Lily did). /shrug

edit: Redacted a name.

Replies from: taw, Psy-Kosh
comment by taw · 2010-05-27T18:42:54.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wizards are far less numerous than Muggles - in world like that it's easy to be the first at something.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-05-27T15:21:23.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh yeah, forgot that it's not revealed until then. But given that he has the title of "The Boy Who Lived", that suggests that it's known or widely believed in the wizarding world. ie, It's not "They Boy Who Lived Through a Mild Flu", right?

comment by lmnop · 2010-07-25T23:12:36.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm guessing that Blaise will shoot himself in the name of Sunshine, tying all the scores. That seems like the kind of thing Dumbledore would plot. It makes the most sense from Eliezer's point of view too, in terms of leading the story in a more interesting direction.

Replies from: JenniferRM
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-07-29T06:53:10.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And I think that would make Blaise the quadruple agent, with Dumbledore as the fourth faction, and Quirrell aware of the entire thing, masterminding his own little stanford prison experiment in order to achieve whatever ends he's ultimately aiming for.

It was interesting to see how deeply Harry got into his "General Chaos" role in this light. (Also, I think Ch. 32 was the first time I've laughed out loud over the story in a while. It was getting pretty serious and this was way more fun. The "vader/emperor voices"... I was busting up! I think this kind of hilarity at the beginning is part of why the story took off the way it did.)

Plotwise, I've been wondering lately if Eliezer might be laying the groundwork for Voldemort to turn out to actually be the good guy and maybe Harry's true challenge as a protagonist will be to recognize that rationalist!Voldemort will actually turn out to be good for the world, and deserves to be supported. I could image the army lessons turning out to have a positive global outcome if they ended in the right way, which would add a bit of support to this theory.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-29T07:10:36.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Plotwise, I've been wondering lately if Eliezer might be laying the groundwork for Voldemort to turn out to actually be the good guy and maybe Harry's true challenge as a protagonist will be to recognize that rationalist!Voldemort will actually turn out to be good for the world, and deserves to be supported.

This is how one of Eliezer's early stories turned out: "The Sword of Good".

(There are some traces of that story in MoR - Harry early on not engaging in moral relativism is similar to the hero's final understanding of the evil of the status quo of the fantasy world. But ultimately I think Quirrelmort will be evil. Voldemort killing the entire dojo and sparing only his friend is a mortal sin and Quirrel does not exhibit the kind of heroic remorse necessary to make up for mass & serial murder. Which reminds me, we don't know who Voldemort killed to get the Horcrux on Pioneer. A security guard, probably.)

comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-12T00:28:32.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter 30-31: Was there a more sophisticated basic idea than appearing to be incompetent, then playing possum? I'd have expected one of the other two armies to expend a second (double tap) sleep spell on the downed, given that Neville came up with the same tactic later on.

Also, nice touch writing Neville as Bean without using a sledgehammer on the parallel.

ETA: It took me a bit to understand Draco's particular revelation: that Quirrell made sure to place all the other smartest students (and the other candidate generals mentioned in Ch. 29) on Sunshine.

Replies from: Mass_Driver, gwern, Unnamed, ciphergoth, dclayh
comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-07-12T01:20:27.853Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, Hermione wasn't just appearing to be incompetent in the sense of "too stupid to calculate the correct solution;" she was appearing to be irrational in the sense of "too self-righteous to want to calculate the correct solution."

Also, note that Hermione actually did stay true to her goals: her possum tactic allowed her to avoid "unfairly" choosing who to attack first. By waiting until most other players had been sleepified, she was able to attack only the strongest or luckiest survivors, rather than the soldiers controlled by someone that she personally disliked. She was able to both win the game and stay true to her values because she (somehow) was much better at working in groups than Draco or Harry. One wonders how a girl who had no social skills in Chapter 3 suddenly became so socially adept -- has she been reading books on how to get along with people?

Replies from: sketerpot
comment by sketerpot · 2010-07-13T19:26:19.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One wonders how a girl who had no social skills in Chapter 3 suddenly became so socially adept -- has she been reading books on how to get along with people?

It's more that both Harry and Draco were mentally handicapped here. Draco has the glamorous dream of being the dark overlord who controls everything from the top, his orders unquestioned and his name spoken in hushed tones. Harry has the habit of trying to think up an ingenious plan by himself, and it just didn't occur to him to get other people in his army to do strategy planning. Tactics, sure, but not strategy.

Hermione, in contrast, is perfectly used to learning from others, and doesn't have particularly grandiose ambitions. And maybe Quirrell casually hinted that some of the people in her army were good at planning things. It seems the sort of thing he'd do, to make his plan less brittle.

comment by gwern · 2010-07-12T02:34:43.941Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Was there a more sophisticated basic idea than appearing to be incompetent, then playing possum?

As I argue in the reviews for chapter 31, Hermione herself was surely not playing possum, and likely neither were her 6 soldiers. That was not their idea. (Whether Nevile is smart enough to tell Harry, or whether one of the other armies will think of it in time for battle 2, is a question for the future.)

Replies from: Unnamed
comment by Unnamed · 2010-07-12T03:01:32.448Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There were 24 people per army, and 11 of Sunshine came at Harry and 12 at Draco. And Harry & Draco had their realization of what happened when they remembered that Sunshine's soldiers went down immediately at the first shot. They were playing possum (all but Hermione, who didn't want to risk it).

The 6 soldiers left is after the battle of Sunshine's return, after they've already taken Potter hostage.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-14T16:36:36.964Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I increased the number of soldiers Hermione had left to help make this clearer.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-07-12T03:14:32.294Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry has been learning an Evil Overlord List (warning: tv tropes), but apparently he had to figure out #13 the hard way.

Coincidentally enough, today's Overcoming Bias post is about the same thing.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, wedrifid
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-12T13:59:50.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cremating people isn't enough to make sure they're dead if you have backup records and nanotech. I don't know if that approach has been used on a naive villain in fiction.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-07-12T14:57:52.849Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Elementary"

"The suspect disintegrated himself," wept the overseer. "Complete nanodissolution. Now we'll never know who he was. Could have a backup anywhere."

Collapsa-T clucked. "He wept a single tear while climbing the ladder. I have retrieved sufficient DNA to extend a partial quantum snowflake." The device retrograded briefly, folding all eleven dimensions like protein. "Success!" it finally decided. "In the 312th tier of the 99th fold of a relatively low-probability third-order curve, I have found a faint residual memory that yielded to electrical torture." A few calculations later, it had a sufficiently distributed bell curve: "The suspect is Hamma bin Tio. He is a combat algaeist, which explains the theft at the fungal refectory. His preferred backup venue is the Starbucks in Cairo."

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-12T05:08:08.942Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if he is going to learn #92 as well!

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-07-14T07:12:57.190Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"You got played, Sam. And you forgot that all warfare is based on deception"

comment by dclayh · 2010-07-14T06:44:43.287Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, not double-killing everyone seems just grossly incompetent (and therefore out of character) on Harry's part.

comment by arundelo · 2010-07-09T04:12:26.289Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eric Raymond (this guy) recommends Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-13T06:07:04.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the way, everyone, an anon on Wikipedia is disputing mention of MoR in the Eliezer Yudkowsky article, so if you see any further reviews/discussions/mentions/links of MoR by prominent people* besides ESR & Brin, please be sure to mention them here (and maybe message me about it). You may not like Wikipedia, but people go to it for information - EY's article gets a solid 1000 hits per month.

* where I define prominent as 'has a Wikipedia article'

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2010-05-27T17:23:10.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Read up to Chapter 21, commenting on chapter 2. Prediction about the physics of HP:MR.

Harry is mistaken about McGonagall's transformation into a cat breaking conservation of energy; indeed, it seems to me that he is not really putting a lot of effort into finding an alternative explanation, but jumping straight to "Everything I thought I knew was wrong". (Perhaps Lord Kelvin's not the only one who gets a charge out of not knowing something; after all Harry has been wanting to do Something Big, and the more laws of physics are broken, the better!) A simple hypothesis which does not break conservation of energy: Rather than McGonagall's human body literally turning into a cat, it is replaced by a cat-body from elsewhere in the universe. McGonagall's human brain continues to operate in its usual fashion (while being physically elsewhere), and this is turned into cat-brain commands by an AI somewhere in the interface. No mass (hence no energy) appears or disappears, there's just an exchange of objects.

Replies from: cwillu, RolfAndreassen, Blueberry, RobinZ
comment by cwillu · 2010-05-28T09:02:16.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the "it's bigger on the inside" phenomenon is a better foundation to build such a spell on.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2010-05-28T19:32:57.042Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah yes! You can store the whole human body in a cavity of the cat's body, and vice-versa; lightspeed is no issue - indeed you could run the whole thing at ordinary neural speed. This might even solve the problem of how to order a cat's body around; the Animagus in effect has a cat as an ordinary part of her body, and has learned to operate it the same way she learned to operate her human body.

One problem is the carrying-over of wounds from the animal to the human body, and vice-versa; this does not seem implied by the model, and requires additional explanation. Psycho-somatic damage? Since there a requirement for conscious control of which shape one is in, the opportunities for unconscious failure seem strong.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2010-05-27T23:18:58.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In fact, come to think of it, wasn't there an experiment recently with remote-controlled rats, using plain Muggle science and electrodes in their brains? Extrapolate that forward fifty years and add those direct-to-brain conputer interfaces, and we could do something rather similar, given lots of training to get the feedback right. "When I think like this the rat goes that way..." An Animagus might learn this almost as a child learns to control its body.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-28T07:11:03.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Switching the material still violates conservation of energy. You could make a perpetual motion machine by creating a heat engine and switching hot water with cold water located elsewhere on the planet, for instance.

Replies from: Baughn
comment by Baughn · 2010-05-28T12:35:27.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Without external input such a machine would eventually make the entire planet lukewarm, and run out of steam. No violation there.

You're also assuming that the switching doesn't require energy.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-28T14:19:27.614Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, you're right, that that would just increase entropy faster. But what about using gravity to get the hot air or water to rise?

Hmm. If the switching requires no energy, it still seems like something is violated, but I'm not sure I know enough physics to determine what. What about conservation of momentum? Do the switched objects keep their current acceleration and speed?

Replies from: Baughn
comment by Baughn · 2010-05-28T16:42:56.594Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The concept of switching in itself violates all kinds of fundamental assumptions in physics, so trying to think about it mostly results in nonsense. That's if the switch doesn't actually involve moving A to B and B to A by some path, though; if it does, you naturally pay the relevant costs to maintain conservation laws while switching.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T17:31:25.574Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Still FTL, but that's a violation that's turned up explicitly many times already.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2010-05-27T17:50:01.557Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It doesn't have to be FTL. You could store the cat body in Magical Britain and run the communications link at lightspeed. It would look instant to a human - the speed of neuron processing would still be the bottleneck.

Replies from: Psy-Kosh, RobinZ
comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-05-27T21:38:20.755Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Although, given that there's already stuff like time turners, it's kinda a bit late in the game to be worried about FTL.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T18:10:39.050Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're right - and the speed-of-light delay in a straight line even through the diameter of the earth is only 42.55 milliseconds. That might be small enough not to be noticed.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2010-05-28T03:18:05.213Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though through the diameter of the earth is not an easy way to transmit messages.

Replies from: ShardPhoenix, RobinZ
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-05-28T09:12:06.397Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Neutrinos! However by the time you're postulating teleportation and time travel and so forth, I don't think it's necessary to insist on (obvious) conservation of energy in the first place.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-28T03:33:43.487Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Taking a great circle route increases lightspeed time to approximately 66.8 milliseconds. That might still be small enough to miss if you're teleoperating from Britain a body in New Zealand, but it's pushing the boundary. Wikipedia suggests 50 milliseconds#Latency_in_simulators_and_simulation).

Replies from: dclayh
comment by dclayh · 2010-05-28T21:12:22.486Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Getting light to follow the curvature of the Earth without a fiber-optic cable or some other specialized medium seems difficult. Probably better to go straight through and just use a wavelength to which the Earth is transparent.

Of course the Muggle solution is a network of satellites...

comment by blogospheroid · 2010-05-27T09:06:21.347Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really enjoyed the series and hope it continues. I have a few comments.

Eliezer had already stated that one intention of his was to make writing fun again, while writing his rationality book. Hence, I guess once that boost is achieved, this litlle jewel will probably lie around unattended for a while.

If the other, more important, purpose was to raise the sanity waterline, then regular updates might be expected as this would be a serious attempt at reaching people through other means.

Doing a quick drake equation analysis of this strategy

P(Positive outcome of singularity) = P(someone reading fanfiction) P(ve reading harry potter fanfiction|person reads fanfiction) P(ve liking it|all of above) P(ve grokking the concepts behind it|all of the above) P(increasing knowledge of rationality| all of the above) P(ve becoming awesome|all of above) P(ve remaining good|all of above) * P(person actually contributing in new ways to a positive singularity)

The first probabilities are high. Harry Potter is the best selling series. Also, it leaves many readers hungering for more. So, more than usual number of readers would seek to read fanfiction stories. So, we're good there.

Twilight has a lot of fanfiction. Googling it puts it slightly lower than harry potter. But the other factors following possibly dominate.

Harry Potter is a bildungsroman, a growing up tale. In HP&MOR, the rationality of Harry is at a high level, while his emotional maturity is, hopefully, slowly increased. On the other hand, Hermione and Drako will be having their rationality updated. Harry is also probably much easier for Eliezer to write compared to a twlight fic. Harry potter is a school story and it is easier to bring in lectures in that format.

I guess somebody could take on the twilight torch also. Once, that is done, The Bayesian conspiracy shall have total domination ! Boys and Girls !

Among those who read the fiction, the probability of people liking it is quite high. I've recommended it to a couple of friends and they have liked it. But the inherent concept of teaching a lesson is quite visible.

Among those liking it, how many grok the concepts? That is the biggie and here again, the link to the sequences helps. I scanned the reviews and every 30 or so reviews, I read one that mentions the sequences. 3% is not a bad number to have here. I just hope it would be more.

After they grok the concepts and read the sequences, and later the rationality book that comes out, then ofcourse, they are in the real league an it is upto the lesswrong community to make sure they stay interested and contribute to better outcomes in the future.

One concern is strongly rational people going bad, which might be dealt with in the story itself. I hope that Draco is turned to the light and many people who began their rationality journey with this story, remember that when they become CEO, Prime Minister or King.

Replies from: Unnamed
comment by Unnamed · 2010-05-27T19:21:31.226Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think any big contributions are likely to come from HPMoR readers who are attracted to LW, become a part of this community, and then go on to do good stuff. HPMoR is just the gateway drug.

Then there's the more diffuse sanity waterline effect of lots of HPMoR readers becoming somewhat more rational, and more receptive to big important ideas wherever they encounter them. Sci-fi has had that kind of effect on the development of a lot of people here, and this story can extend that kind of influence to a new audience via Harry Potter. Plus, in this case Eliezer got to fill the story with the ideas and themes that he considers most important.

comment by Vive-ut-Vivas · 2010-05-27T01:42:55.363Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The idea of promoting Less Wrong (and rationality in general) via Harry Potter fanfiction is so outside the box that I really shouldn't be surprised that it exists! What a great way to tap into a particular group of people that may not have necessarily found their way here otherwise. I wonder if we'll get any users to come out of the woodwork and say they've found LW through the fanfic?

I hope we see more projects like this (from anybody here) in the future!

Replies from: ArielS, RobinZ
comment by ArielS · 2010-05-28T16:19:56.275Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

wave Hello! Brand new, just discovered the site through the fanfic, and still in the looking-around stage... but yes, it does work.

It definitely helps that it is totally frelling awesome fanfic. Admittedly, I'm biased; I'm writing a Potter live-action role-playing game one of whose goals is to figure out how the heck that tacked-together universe could possibly make sense, and what would explain the observed evidence... ;)

Replies from: Vive-ut-Vivas
comment by Vive-ut-Vivas · 2010-05-28T18:53:36.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Welcome! Please feel free to join in the discussion. There's been a concerted effort here to make this place much less intimidating. Of course, once you spend some time reading Less Wrong, you're going to find your other hangouts woefully inadequate. ;-)

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T04:01:32.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's already happened - I don't have a link, but I've seen at least one comment to that effect.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-27T04:05:56.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can also report that I have at least two friends who started reading the sequences after encountering HPMR.

comment by KevinC · 2010-07-31T03:05:18.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's what I think will happen:

Zabini stuns himself in the name of Sunshine to create a tie. And here's why:

1) The rest of the school is very partisan about their favorite army, so it's not likely that many are betting on a tie. Zabini (through a proxy or otherwise) put all of his chips on "tie." So he will return to Hell a much richer Prince of Darkness.

1a) "Aftermath" scene: Hogsmeade. Zabini meets his broker. Hogwarts is basically a closed economy, and Zabini has now walked off with the lion's share of the student body's disposable income. He plunks his Bag of Holding on the table. "Take this and convert it to Muggle money. Then go buy unmarked silver bullion..."

2) The three Generals are tied for Quirrell points. Given what we've seen of him in this chapter, Zabini is probably in fourth place, and not too far behind. How many Quirrell points will he get for getting all three generals to play according to his plan? We see Harry and Hermione accepting, and per the Prisoner's Dilemma thing, Harry and Draco had to synchronize their moves ("cooperate") to have a chance against Hermione. This would mean that Draco is also more or less following Zabini's plan. Zabini was able to steer the battle to his personal chosen outcome, so he (as an individual) wins the battle. The betrayal rules+scoring are set up to favor individual objectives rather than army loyalty/collective goals/unity. Zabini has realized this, and acted accordingly.

3) After collecting Quirrell's wish from his come-from-behind victory (which provides a "practical" demonstration of the 2-4-6 Test, since no one, Generals included, expected Zabini to have his own victory conditions), Zabini goes to Dumbledore's office. "Well done, Blaise!" Dumbledore says. "I suppose you're here for your wish..." That is, Dumbledore has offered Zabini a wish if he could steer the battle to a tie, since that would stop a Hogwarts equivalent of a football (soccer) riot, which would be likely if one of the armies won.

4) At the Christmas feast, Dumbledore rises to announce that the three armies are being merged into a Hogwarts Army, and starting at the end of January, the HA will compete in three-way battles with Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Per the experiment mentioned earlier with the "Eagles" and "Rattlers," the Hogwarts students are united against external foes. He and Quirrell allowed the Headmasters of the other schools to watch the battles using Quirrell screens, and their staffs liked the idea. The mock battles use more magical skills and incorporate more students than Quidditch, and are thus a better encouragement to learning. New rules could be applied to future battles. "You may use any magic item you can make (under teacher or senior-student supervision) in your battles, providing it's not dangerous." "You can use any Potion you can make," etc.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2010-08-01T01:50:12.466Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Predictions?

Regarding the note of confusion Harry feels in Chapter 3: the Killing Curse "strikes directly at the soul", but in Voldemort's case it burned his body. More likely he never cast it at Harry Potter, and the burnt hulk they found wasn't him. He learned about the prophecy and, being smart, changed his plans rather than risk fulfilling it.

And the Source of Magic is a UFAI that optimizes the world into stories.

I hope all my predictions turn out wrong. What I want most from this story is to go on being surprised.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-25T18:15:35.177Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another point in chapter 32 that could use some explaining: Why are Harry, Draco, Hermione the only ones in the running for the Christmas wish? Do Quirrell points from battles tend heavily towards the generals? (Though I guess they were all doing especially well in the class anyway...) That, and there's only one Christmas wish, for all seven years; obviously the other years are a bit outside the scope of the story, but with no explanation it still seems a bit strange that noone from those years would even come close.

Replies from: dclayh
comment by dclayh · 2010-07-25T21:52:00.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do Quirrell points from battles tend heavily towards the generals?

Yes, that was stated in a previous chapter.

comment by EStokes · 2010-07-20T12:51:32.035Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter one, when Petunia is talking about how she wanted Lily to use magic to make her prettier:

"And Lily would tell me no, and make up the most ridiculous excuses, like the world would end if she were nice to her sister, or a centaur told her not to - the most ridiculous things, and I hated her for it. And when I had just graduated, I was going out with this boy, Vernon Dursley, he was also fat and he was the only boy who would talk to me in college. And he said he wanted children, and that his first son would be named Dudley. And I thought to myself, what kind of parent names their child Dudley Dursley? It was like I saw my whole future life stretching out in front of me, and I couldn't stand it. And I wrote to my sister and told her that if she didn't help me I'd rather just -"

Just excuses? Or...? Dun dun dun...

Replies from: EStokes
comment by EStokes · 2010-07-20T13:07:39.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"McGonagall?" Harry said, once they were in the courtyard. He had meant to ask what was going on, but oddly found himself asking an entirely different question instead. "Who was the pale man? The man in the bar with the twitching eye?"

"Hm?" McGonagall said, sounding a bit surprised; perhaps she hadn't expected that question either. "That was Professor Quirrell. He'll be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts this year at Hogwarts."

"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.

Maybe I was just really unobservant reading the first time around, but rereading is really fun.

Ch 29

"Did you know there's a fourth-year girl in Hufflepuff who's a Metamorphmagus?" said Hermione as they headed toward the Great Hall. "She makes her hair really red, like stopsign red not Weasley red, and when she spilled hot tea on herself she turned into a black-haired boy until she got it under control again."

Pffhahahaha!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T00:02:30.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter 28: I wonder what happens if Harry realizes he's living in fiction, and everything he's dealing with is made of concepts rather than atoms.

Which leads me to think about the people who say that if they found they were living in a simulation, they'd try to get out. Unless the simulation is very similar to the substrate, would it be possible to get out while remaining yourself in any sense?

Back to the story: This might be an argument for checklists: Harry and Hermione should review precautions before they try anything new, should they be doing it without adult supervision. It's possible that the adults should be doing it, too.

However, the story is a good reminder that it can be hard to remember the relevant thing, even if you're very smart.

I don't think Hermione is over-reacting-- remember that they're doing stuff which is not just more potentially dangerous than children that age are permitted to do in our culture, it's more dangerous than what most adults do.

Replies from: red75, gwern, wedrifid, wedrifid
comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T07:13:03.862Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder what happens if Harry realizes he's living in fiction, and everything he's dealing with is made of concepts rather than atoms.

It will be weak move on Eliezer's part. As it will effectively make him the god of Harry's universe, which mean that Harry's universe cannot exist without him, that it is not self-sufficient and self-contained.

comment by gwern · 2010-07-04T01:01:37.391Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which leads me to think about the people who say that if they found they were living in a simulation, they'd try to get out. Unless the simulation is very similar to the substrate, would it be possible to get out while remaining yourself in any sense?

Sure. Escape into another simulation.

More seriously, obviously it's not guaranteed that an organism in a simulation can just create a copy in the outside world. How would a Game of Life organism, made out of glider guns and flashers and whatnot, made an atom-based form of itself?

What it could do is create something isomorphic. Whether this is possible is pretty much the same question as whether humans can make uploads. (Which is the inverse, actually - going from 'reality' to 'simulation'.)

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, wedrifid
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T02:50:35.791Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternatively, you keep living in your simulation, but you get enough of a handle on the substrate that you can make changes in your simulation, protect it, or duplicate it.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T02:51:10.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

More seriously, obviously it's not guaranteed that an organism in a simulation can just create a copy in the outside world. How would a Game of Life organism, made out of glider guns and flashers and whatnot, made an atom-based form of itself?

Absolutely. It'll just take a superintelligence and some nano-tech.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-14T22:19:07.078Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"A wizard will do it", even-more-nerdy version.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T02:56:36.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Back to the story: This might be an argument for checklists: Harry and Hermione should review precautions before they try anything new, should they be doing it without adult supervision. It's possible that the adults should be doing it, too.

And this seems to be exactly what Dumbledore himself does. That is a lesson I hope we see Harry take on board for future experiments.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T03:04:21.766Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter 28: I wonder what happens if Harry realizes he's living in fiction, and everything he's dealing with is made of concepts rather than atoms.

An interesting thought... I think Harry should actually be pleased with that discovery. Given everything he knows about fictional realities and his observations thus far about the HP universe he should be more confident in his ability to achieve godhood. DND is a system that has gone through versions, with a strong motivation for making it ungamable, but there are still loopholes.

Replies from: JenniferRM, NancyLebovitz, Kevin
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-07-04T04:15:34.936Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since around Chapter 20 this is actually my guess for the entire basis of magic that Eliezer is working from. That is... there's a jumble of ideas and tropes that are invented and sequentially stolen by one author after another. Someone tells stories of Vlad Tepis, Bram Stoker comes along... and N iterations later you've got Twilight with vampires having extra chromosomes and clairvoyance.

To understand a magical universe at the deepest level is to see the hands of previous authors influencing your physics and history (and possibly your future if you are in a prequel) plus a "current author" who has a measure of finer grained control over things like plotting and characterization - limited by the audience's willingness to play along.

If this theory of magic is right, rationality in a magical universe should lead you to to become genre-aware, and then the next obvious(?) thing is to go meta genre-aware and start trying to "genre hack" your universe and see if you can "tunnel" into the derivative works (or maybe just get the author to fall in love with you or something).

My current working theory is that Dumbledore as figured out a rough outline of these "magical physics" and has been actively manipulating his reality for decades, with the goal of setting up pre-conditions that could create "authorial change" and/or to make a certain story easy to tell given the facts. The more pointed goal is to cause his universe would branch at a "point of interest" in a direction that, according to fictional tropes, is more likely to be to his own liking.

Based on his revelation about pranking Harry's mother, I've got a (totally unnecessarily detailed) hypothesis about what he may have done to create initial conditions for Harry Potter something like 20 or 30 years before the present story (including setting up an abusive adoptive environment) that got Rowling to pick up the canon universe and give him a victory there.

In the meantime, if the theory is true, the deeper question is whether Voldemort has the same insight, and if he (in keeping with the "bad guys are better leaders" trope) he actually told some of his henchmen about his plan for the world. I think Snape might be genre aware? And the Malfoy's are even better candidates because they could be trying to hack the universe such that Draco is the main character in a fairly standard "magical prince from fallen but ancient family, rising to up to a historically and morally appropriate place in the world". Setting Harry up as Draco's evil arch-nemesis would be a good move in this vein... Harry falls into the Lex Luthor trope and eventually loses because "that's how those stories work".

The only trick is that they are actually in a fanfic about rationality!! I'm not sure if anyone realizes that yet. Maybe Dumbledore does now? Eliezer was more obvious about the story with this bit:

"Indeed," said Dumbledore. "But Harry is the hero, so he may be able to do things that are logically impossible."

Which confirmed my hypothesis some. But my plotting hypothesis will not be supported if Dumbledore doesn't start seriously updating on the "science is starting to apply to magic" facts. I'm kind of curious why he didn't notice that Transfiguration was retconned in the first place. In the face of so much else magical chaos that Eliezer left in place that adjustment is sort of glaring. Noticing possible retcons is one of the nearly necessary skills you'd want to cultivate if you were going to genre hack.

I really hope my hypothesis bears out. I'm aware of no previous work of fiction that jootzed all the way to being genre-aware of its genre-awareness and I think it would be it would be hilarious to read one :-)

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Blueberry, Kevin, dstorrs, JoshuaZ, Strange7
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-04T09:57:43.861Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm aware of no previous work of fiction that jootzed all the way to being genre-aware of its genre-awareness and I think it would be it would be hilarious to read one :-)

Yes, well, you may have to write yourself the work you always wanted to read.

Replies from: JenniferRM
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-07-04T21:08:48.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cryptic, with a dash of sass :-)

Is that a denial plus an exhortation to write it myself? Or is it a smug admission that you're writing what you wanted to read which is something in the ballpark of my guess?

I'm also curious if you have plans to bootstrap out of our present situation? I've run some minor "metaphysical experiments" in the past to see if the world is as strictly "object level" as it seems to be, and I've recently tried a couple micro tests inspired by your HP story to see if "this world's story has started yet" with me as a character who can break the fourth wall and get feedback, and so far they've all come back with boring results.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-04T06:35:03.266Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm aware of no previous work of fiction that jootzed all the way to being genre-aware of its genre-awareness and I think it would be it would be hilarious to read one :-)

You'd probably enjoy "Sophie's World" and "Godel, Escher, Bach" if you haven't already read them. (One of the dialogues in GEB features pushing-potion and popping-tonic; pushing-potion moves you down a level into a work of fiction or art, and popping-tonic takes you back up a level.)

comment by Kevin · 2010-07-04T05:16:42.318Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like your explanation, because it seems that the logical endpoint of your hypothesis would be my prediction that rationalist!Harry becomes Harry in the universe of the The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover .

If you have not read The Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover, you probably should, because it is genre-aware of its genre awareness, maybe a few more levels of meta-ness, or that kind of infinitely recursive meta-ness of this kind of selfawareness taken to the insane logical conclusions.

The spoilers for Permutation City are total -- Meta Mega Crossover contains an explanation of the ending of Permutation City. The Fire Upon the Deep spoilers aren't nearly as complete.

A link to a link to download Permutation City: http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=13&t=15223&s=.

Replies from: Baughn
comment by Baughn · 2010-07-05T00:36:53.157Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes.. I'm still looking for a nonfiction explanation of the concepts in the Crossover. Given the size of the archive here, it wouldn't surprise me if Eliezer already wrote one, but I'd never be able to find it.

comment by dstorrs · 2010-11-25T09:00:52.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Number_of_the_Beast_%28novel%29

Heinlein's concept of "fictons" does exactly this.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-05T00:55:16.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was strongly implied that Snape is familiar with Lord of the Rings to the point where he recognizes what the word "Nazgul" means. And it also is implied that Snape finds Harry comparing him to a Nazgul to be amusing. If Snape knew he was in a fictional work I doubt he'd find this as funny.

Replies from: EStokes
comment by EStokes · 2010-07-05T16:25:32.872Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wouldn't he just be amused that Harry's got it wrong?

comment by Strange7 · 2010-07-04T05:07:23.095Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Snape might be genre aware?

Chapter 28 aftermath 2 could be considered evidence in support of that hypothesis.

Replies from: Blueberry, wedrifid
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-04T06:27:53.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait, how? I didn't fully understand the implications of the end of chapter 28 and aftermath 2, but it seems that Harry's discussion with Snape has changed Snape in some strange way (hence his comment to Dumbledore), and the aftermath was evidence of this change, the new Snape now turning down students going after him.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-04T09:52:54.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, if no one on LW got Aftermath 2, even after working out that the aftermath was supposed to display a change in Snape, then it was too subtle.

Replies from: Alicorn, wedrifid, CronoDAS, pjeby, jimrandomh, Nisan, orthonormal, Blueberry, Psy-Kosh, red75, DanielVarga, gwern, topynate, NancyLebovitz, major, None
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-04T18:27:45.120Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My hypothesis is that thus far he's considered poor Alissa to be the most inconsequential thing ever to intrude on his thoughts; and having thought more deeply about what happened with him, Lily, and James when he was a kid, he now decides he ought to her to nip her affections in the bud for clearly stated reasons, rather than letting them fester without suitable closure for, perhaps, an unduly long time as his have. His only closure was that he insulted Lily and felt guilty about it forever (as apparently, from his perspective, this was the only thing standing between him and getting to be with Lily); Alissa's could be the end of school, without the issue ever being directly addressed.

The problem with this hypothesis is that it has Snape thinking that student crushes on teachers are persistent sorts of things, and this isn't typically the case.

Replies from: Sniffnoy, red75, erratio
comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-04T23:23:24.931Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem with this hypothesis is that it has Snape thinking that student crushes on teachers are persistent sorts of things, and this isn't typically the case.

Well, he could well be generalizing from one example...

comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T20:08:29.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Part of her wanted to stand there meekly with her face abashed and her hands clasped penitently behind her back, just in case, but some quiet instinct told her this might be a bad idea.

How do you interpret emphasis on "bad idea" here? It doesn't seem to fit in "more care from prof. Snape" hypothesis.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-04T20:12:29.564Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The part of her that wants to do that is the part that's fantasizing about special detentions; the instinct that says "bad idea" is the part that doesn't think this is one of those.

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T21:11:02.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok. I should think about it.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-04T21:12:26.257Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, I had it mixed up before. It is fixed now.

comment by erratio · 2010-07-06T23:21:43.350Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That seems a little too compassionate for any version of Snape

My own take is that he's finally realised what an idiot he was for crushing so hard on Lily despite her lack of reciprocation. He's now being extra harsh on Alissa as a kind of substitute for going back in time and telling his younger self to get over it.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T09:56:33.957Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Will we get a hint?

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-07-04T23:20:11.966Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well... we don't have much of a baseline to compare this version of Snape to.

comment by pjeby · 2010-07-04T14:41:03.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, if no one on LW got Aftermath 2, even after working out that the aftermath was supposed to display a change in Snape, then it was too subtle.

Yes, but what part was the change? That he dislikes student affections? That he tells them about it? That they have affections? That he's previously been taking advantage of students in slashy ways?

If anything, I would've expected it to be him actually taking advantage, if he were taking Harry's advice to... oh. Wait. Maybe he is taking Harry's advice and has started looking for deep instead of pretty?

If so, it was definitely too subtle. ;-)

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-04T17:28:22.455Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm getting a pretty sharp lesson in unintended ambiguity here. Although some of your suggestions are not compatible with a straight reading of the text.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-07-07T16:11:02.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given the number of theories so far, I'm surprised no one has suggested this one: Aftermath 2 is in fact meant to demonstrate that Snape's behavior has not changed, by displaying behavior that is entirely typical and expected of him; but now that Harry, Minerva, Dumbledore and the readers are all primed to look for changes, they will find them even where they shouldn't.

comment by Nisan · 2010-07-04T21:30:57.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whatever it is, it must have something to do with this:

I begin to find your stares disturbing

comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-04T22:35:49.330Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He may have had his mental discipline upset by the events of the previous chapter, causing him to be less in control of his Legilimency in some fashion. I did note the significance of the command to "restrain your eyes henceforth".

But yeah, even if I'm on the right track I don't feel confident of it. Too subtle for this reader.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-04T11:19:56.492Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry told Snape that Lily only liked James because of his money and looks. So is it that Snape now thinks his students only like him because of his position and power, whereas before he thought they liked him for who he was? Has he become even more cynical? More inclined to reject people?

ETA: Some reviewers thought it was a reference to Snape performing Legilimency, but of course it doesn't take a mind reader to notice a dreamy-eyed girl.

Replies from: Tyrrell_McAllister, None
comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-07-09T19:15:40.538Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry told Snape that Lily only liked James because of his money and looks. So is it that Snape now thinks his students only like him because of his position and power, whereas before he thought they liked him for who he was? Has he become even more cynical? More inclined to reject people?

This is what I figured. And there was the comment by Dumbledore (or Minerva?) that Snape wouldn't hurt Harry because Snape loves Harry's mother. So I'm now assuming that Harry managed to convince Snape that Harry's mother is not love-worthy, which means that Harry is now stripped of that protection.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-07-04T17:51:35.499Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ETA: Some reviewers thought it was a reference to Snape performing Legilimency, but of course it doesn't take a mind reader to notice a dreamy-eyed girl.

He tells her to stop staring at him, and doesn't look at her when she comes to see him after class. Perhaps this was because he no longer needs to read her mind, because he's decided to stop reading students' minds, because he was doing so at the headmaster's bidding and he's broken with Dumbledore.

Wildly conjunctive and supported by a hair's breadth of evidence, but I don't have a better guess. Nothing else seems likely to have a dramatic effect on Harry's story.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-07-05T18:30:06.100Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hrm... So far best I can come up with are two possibilities, one more charitable and one less charitable toward Snape:

First: From his conversation with Harry, he perhaps concludes that making one's feelings (or lack theirof) to someone that may have feelings for you absolutely clear rather than leaving it ambiguous may be a good idea. (ie, in his own way, he wanted to protect his student from ending up in a situation similar to himself)

Second: He was sufficiently POed at Harry that he's no longer keeping his agreement to not legilimens the students.

I'm not really assigning all that high credence to either of those hypotheses, but they're more or less all I could come up with so far. So... give us a hint? :)

comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T14:28:13.305Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Analysis of Harry's conversation with Snape in ch. 27.

"If he were a friend," Harry said, "all the more reason to forgive him."

Possible Snape thoughts: "He implies that I wasn't even a friend of She. How dare he!?" ... consideration of different ways of mutilation ... then "Oh! He can't possibly be like his mother. She had a very high standards for Her friends. Maybe his stepparents taught him this indiscrimination of friends."

"She was shallow"

"SHE was shallow!? ... But She married that brat Potter. Was Her standards high after all? Maybe not. And I gave all the power I could have for her..."

So I think Snape became misogynous. Thus Alissa's affection became irritating for him. I don't know what implications it will have for storyline however.

Edit: Analysis is done by Type 1 processing with Type 2 postselection, so no justification is given. :)

Edit: This hypothesis seems to be insufficient for explanation of emphasis on "wrong" in Aftermath 2, maybe there's something more.

Edit:

  1. "Wrong" can mean, that she was aware, that Snape isn't kind of person young woman is supposed to crush on. I'm not sure that this is true for Slytherin. Anyway Snape isn't handsome guy, it's not deserve emphasis to hint that.

  2. "Wrong" can mean, that she feels it's bad for her to show affection now. Fits my hypothesis, but not wording "There was probably something really wrong with her...", which imply that she knew it all the way.

Some part of puzzle seems to be missing.

Replies from: pjeby
comment by pjeby · 2010-07-04T21:13:08.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This hypothesis seems to be insufficient for explanation of emphasis on "wrong" in Aftermath 2, maybe there's something more.

The "wrong" is presumably that the wizarding world isn't much familiar with, or accepting of, urges tending towards BDSM. A student of her age would be unlikely to be familiar with the idea of such a thing not being "wrong", given their lack of internet access. ;-)

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T21:25:21.712Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Um, yes, I find out what special detentions mean after I wrote last part.

comment by DanielVarga · 2010-07-04T18:37:52.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My interpretation was that he gets a kick out of giving students love potions, reading their minds for kinky thoughts, and then refusing them in a humiliating way. It's a sort of safe sex. Obviously, this is not what you had in mind, as this has nothing to do with changing.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-04T20:16:47.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like both you and Gabriel (below) have constructed hypotheses which make sense in isolation from certain relevant facts. In particular, there's a large fraction of the HP fanfic world consisting of females who write things with BDSM aspects and a dominant professor Snape. For example a dominant Snape with submissive Hermione pairing is not uncommon. Presumably whatever is going on here is in part making fun of that segment of fandom.

(I dated a girl at one point who's very much involved in the HP fanfic community and might not have picked up on this point otherwise. )

If not for Eliezer's remarks that there was something serious in this section I'd think that that was all that was going on this section- just a Take-That! to the fanbase. Given Eliezer's remarks I think he intended it to be both a Take That and also something else possibly along the lines of Alicorn's hypothesis.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-07-04T23:16:31.990Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I too thought it was just a cheap joke at the expense of Snape/student fanfiction...

comment by gwern · 2010-07-04T17:44:58.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually took it for Snape venting and doing a little dogkicking; so yes, I guess it was too subtle. (It seemed too abrupt and cruel to reflect any good change in Snape.)

Replies from: sketerpot
comment by sketerpot · 2010-07-13T19:38:24.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In absolute terms, it was abrupt and cruel. But by Snape's standards, it was remarkably civilized. He didn't humiliate her in front of the whole class, and he ended it quickly.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-23T09:49:47.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That makes sense, I suppose (although I must have too high standards - it would never have occurred to me that this was a step up). I wish we had more background on how Snape treated student crushes.

comment by topynate · 2010-07-04T15:07:27.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that it was called 'Aftermath', I knew it signified some change, but in what direction I don't know. My best guess is that he's not romanticising crushes anymore. So in other words, this is actually a positive change for him.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T12:41:56.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My actual interpretation was that he'd let his shields down enough that someone could find him attractive.

Replies from: red75, wedrifid
comment by red75 · 2010-07-04T13:33:05.942Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ever since the start of this year she'd been having trouble listening in Potions.

This don't mix very well with your hypothesis.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T13:35:14.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T13:29:19.185Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or, disillusionment with the one girl he found attractive has finally pushed him out of the closet.

comment by major · 2010-07-04T23:50:28.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know about subtle. I noticed it on my second read.

Why call it Aftermath 2? Why not just a nameless block? How is it the result of anything?

I guess I didn't fail to notice my confusion.

Dumbledore messed with the girl's mind to test if Snape was still in love with Lilly.

What I'm a bit uncertain about is the 'Ever since the start of this year' part. Has he been setting something like this up every year to have something ready when needed? More like, was that an intended implication?

Mind, the second part only occured to me after I read the reviews re Ch29 Notes.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-07-04T20:09:47.320Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hm, he did take sexual advantage of the student and then, being far above the 11-year-old-Draco-Malfoy lower bound on villain cunning, altered her memory?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T05:11:14.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or just that astute, moderately evil but just not a pervert.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T08:51:34.232Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or likes hurting students' feelings more than he likes sex.

Replies from: wedrifid, Blueberry
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T09:27:17.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

!!!

Wow. That's a whole order of evil beyond what I could conceive. Brilliant.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-04T09:37:10.324Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Now I get it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T12:48:56.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you underestimate Harry's will to power. He was working on a cure for Alzheimer's, but are there really people with Alzheimer's in his home universe? As many as there are here?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T13:19:55.386Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as we know, exactly the same number. But I took the "Alhimer's cure" to just be a test for an obvious exploit in the form of something that would appeal to Hermione and with approximately the desired complexity.

Hang on, what which comment are you replying to here? I had assumed you were talking about questioning Harry's judgement (ie. overconfidence) regarding using Draco. But are you thinking that a concept based world has less potential for godlike power gain than a reductionist one?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T13:34:09.766Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Harry would want to have power where it could make the most difference.

His ideal outcome would probably include using his magical powers to get results which can be applied in both worlds, even if his effects are less godlike out here.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-04T18:11:58.992Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we must be talking about something different. I thought Harry was only in one world.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-04T19:02:27.907Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm heading off into wild hypothesis land.

If Harry figured out that he was living in fiction, what would he want to do?

Replies from: wedrifid, Baughn
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-05T04:19:13.183Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ahh, gotcha. And from what I can tell Harry would want to get results in both worlds. In fact, he would quickly begin to consider this world to be 'his'. It is similar to the kind of thinking he did when tranfiguring. From cognitive maps through molecules and atoms down to quantum configuration space. Just another step further. I would expect him to consider you and I with exactly the same priority as similar individuals that share his fictional emulation.

Now, as for what he can do to influence our world... that's an interesting thought. Create a superintelligence and solve the AI Box problem with the added difficulty of having to explain to the outside world how to build the AI structure. It is not inconceivable (but still unlikely) that the 'author' or emulator does not, in fact, know how to build a superintelligence himself. It is possible to be able to create a fictional world with someone like Harry in it while naturally being an inferior (but faster) thinker.

Say Harry found out that he was living in fiction and in the process of updating raises the probability that he can achieve godhood in his fictional universe but assigns a far lower chance to significantly influencing the base world. Would Harry be pleased or displeased by this discovery? My guess: He'd be all distraught and angsty about it. But I think that is due to him having immature emotional responses. He is, I suggest, strictly better off in the newly discovered situation than in his original scheme.

Replies from: bogdanb
comment by bogdanb · 2010-10-08T10:13:20.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’m not quite sure that passing through cognitive maps, then molecules, then quantum configuration space, then timeless quantum mechanics, and then concepts in the mind of his pseudo-world ’s author quite makes sense as progression.

“Seeing-through” the successive “layers of the world” helping transfiguration might make some sense in a fictional world. (Though I have a bit of trouble with why exactly only the extremes, i.e. conceptual and then timeless physics, do something interesting, rather than the intermediate steps also doing new things.) I doesn’t quite make sense when considering all those layers knowingly imaginary layers above the conceptual level of the author’s mind.

comment by Baughn · 2010-07-05T00:33:43.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whatever his writer wants him to?

I'm uncertain in which sense someone could be said to figure that out and still have a will of their own. It's a bit beyond merely living in a simulation.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-05T04:11:47.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If 'free will' is compatible with physical determinism (including the quantum variety) then why can it not be similarly compatible with living in a world based on some guy's thoughts? The same principles seem to apply.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-05T04:52:25.950Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the problem is a lack of detail. Harry isn't being simulated down to the neuronal level, or even down to the brain region. 'He' is a loose set of rules and free-floating ideas that please Eliezer or survived his theories, a very small entity indeed. And the rest of his world is even more impoverished - the rest of the world may just be a few words like 'the rest of the world'. Harry can't even execute bounded loops unless Eliezer feels like formulating them and actually executing them.

If Harry discovered he were in fiction, his motivation to help the rest of the world would instantly vanish. In fact, the most moral thing he could do is to hide in his trunk forever - if a rape only happens when you go to rescue the rapee and the narration follows you, if the murders only happen because you went looking for murders, then out of sight, out of mind, out of reality. In a 'real' simulation, this would not be the case, even if the author would never permit a character to test this.

(He might still want to escape into our world if the author desires him to desire this, but help his world? His world can no more be helped than J.K Rowling can help Zanzibar in canon HP. There is no there there.)

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-05T11:32:45.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think fictional characters can be more than that. I don't know how Eliezar experiences Harry, but some authors talk about their characters talking back to them, or resisting some plot twists.

This suggests to me that some characters are similar to full human self-images, though with less memories.

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2010-07-05T11:52:57.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha, so Harry can "truly escape" by means of Eliezer going mad and imagining himself to be the escaped Harry. Or maybe they could time-share.

Replies from: Baughn
comment by Baughn · 2010-07-05T17:57:22.861Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe I'm speaking for all of us in stating that I hope he isn't aiming for that end. ;)

comment by Kevin · 2010-07-04T06:58:10.304Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that kind of thing might have to wait until Harry is 15. I'll be surprised if there isn't a many year skip ahead in the next 25 chapters of the story.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-06-16T02:35:48.487Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapters 25 & 26

Quirrell is cold. It looks like he gave Rita Skeeter a tip that something would be happening in Mary's Room so that she'd go there as a beetle and he could (literally) crush her. Is Harry going to start to figure him out (like he did with Draco after his reaction to that other newspaper headline)?

Also, does anyone know if Q/V's habit of whistling/humming a tune (appearing in both chp. 25 & 26) is based on something in canon? It sounds like a tell, when his plotting against Skeeter/Potter is going according to plan, but I'm wondering if there's anything more to it.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2010-06-18T02:08:40.159Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know about the canon, but the narrator calls it a 'small tune' or 'little tune', so I'd guess it's the Little Fugue in G Minor which Eliezer's mentioned several times here.

Replies from: Blueberry, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-18T06:58:30.395Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't think it's a canon?

Replies from: gwern, pjeby
comment by gwern · 2010-06-19T18:33:17.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In fanfiction? Not likely.

comment by pjeby · 2010-06-26T20:22:48.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't think it's a canon?

Perhaps it's Pachelbel's canon in D. ;-)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-06-26T19:36:26.006Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...I am not sure if Professor Quirrell whistles Bach. I shall have to think about it.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2010-06-30T12:33:53.747Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The idea appealed to me because it meant you were protesting that the villain was not an author mouthpiece at the same time as he was whistling your favourite piece of music while contemplating murder. As an act of contrariness, it would've been of a kind with writing "colder than zero Kelvin" when you were still arguing with the reviewers who didn't get the "divided by zero" joke.

comment by Kevin · 2010-06-07T06:09:56.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you were Harry and were trying to get from "how the hell does magic work" to "omnipotent lord of the universe" what would you do?

Replies from: Alicorn, gwern, NancyLebovitz, Furcas
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-07T06:17:38.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think my first step would be to learn how people go about inventing spells.

comment by gwern · 2010-06-07T21:20:11.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would take Rick Cook's approach - look for meta-spells and figure out how to combine them into something Turing-complete. From canon, we already know that spells can operate on spells ('priori incantatem' or something like that), and I'm almost sure that some spells do logical operations.

If that doesn't work out, start making the Philosopher's Stone. I will know that it's possible, and that's half the battle. Once I have the Stone, then the question of 'fastest method to omnipotence' loses its urgency.

(If this is simply not possible for a 1st Year, then I will set my sights lower on the felix/luck potion; Harry has enough money to finance all the ingredients he could possibly waste, and once you have a vat of luck potion, you can spend it on research in the library, random generation of possible recipes, or direct attempts at creating the Stone.)

Replies from: Yvain
comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2010-06-07T21:29:06.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really, you should use it to try to discover a more powerful luck potion, then take the more powerful luck potion to try to discover a more powerful luck potion still, until eventually you get a hard-takeoff scenario where ever-more-powerful luck potions are falling from the sky into your hands by pure chance every second.

After the luck-ularity, Harry can just throw a random rock up in the air, and it will hit Lord Voldemort right between the eyes, killing him instantly at the same time the Pioneer probe crashes into an asteroid.

Replies from: novalis, gwern, red75
comment by novalis · 2010-06-12T22:19:35.054Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are assuming that the luck from a luck potion tracks the drinker's extrapolated volition, rather than just the luck potion's inventor's idea of a Nice Thing to Happen.

After all, you would rather not win the Quiddich match, if doing so would lead to your defeated opponent dropping out of art school to go hang out in beer halls.

I guess MOR's Harry hasn't realized this yet, but readers of Less Wrong should.

comment by gwern · 2010-06-07T21:41:11.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's already taken care of; if it's luckier to discover a luckier luck potion than the Philosopher's Stone, then that's what I would discover. And of course, by induction, then subsequent consumption will result in even luckier potions (since luck presumably compounds so any subsequent improvements will still be luckier than a PS's discovery).

If there is no luckier potion or the Luckularity would hit a plateau, then I would be better off with the PS and hence the luck and preference would line up. So seeking the PS is the dominant strategy.

comment by red75 · 2010-06-16T13:19:12.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We've seen what happened when Harry tried to invoke Infinite Processing Power spell. It's plausible to assume, that each hard-takeoff setup will fail spectacularly.

For example, Harry will get enough luck to enter nirvana.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-06-16T16:17:28.881Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For example, Harry will get enough luck to enter nirvana.

You say that like becoming a bodhisattva is a bad thing.

'I vow to save all sentient beings...'

Replies from: RichardKennaway, red75
comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-06-28T08:39:54.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A bodhisattva is someone who deliberately refrains from departing into nirvana, but stays behind in order to save all sentient beings.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-06-28T13:44:43.467Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A nitpick essential to my joke - having enough luck to enter nirvana is not the same thing as actually entering nirvana.

comment by red75 · 2010-06-16T17:36:09.348Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bad thing? I can't see the implication. It's hard to imagine that peaceful mind will still be trying to hack magic even for saving all sentient beings, thus it's a failure of sorts. Does that failure imply badness? I don't think so.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-06-16T18:11:01.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's plausible to assume, that each hard-takeoff setup will fail spectacularly. For example...

Bad thing? I can't see the impication. [sic]

Indeed?

Replies from: red75
comment by red75 · 2010-06-16T18:27:17.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you want to say that "fail spectacularly" has connotations I'm not aware of? I intended it to mean "fail in unpredictable and confusing way". I'm still puzzled by your reaction.

Thanks, I've corrected typo.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-06-07T11:08:27.255Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would look into magic detection spells and see what I could find out about magic from them-- not just studying the spells themselves, but also see if there are subtle things about magic (does it come from somewhere, how fast does it happen) which offer clues about its nature.

Also, can magic be used to increase magic? Follow that with careful thought about the implications of a magical singularity.

comment by Furcas · 2010-06-07T06:19:49.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pretty much what he's trying to do: Figure out what magic is and how it fits with the rest of reality. That understanding is bound to bring up a few shortcuts to ultimate power.

The difference is that I'd be more focused and more secretive. V jbhyqa'g jnfgr gvzr nggrzcgvat gb 'ghea' Qenpb, sbe vafgnapr, naq V jbhyqa'g unir gbyq Dhveeryy nobhg zl nzovgvba.

comment by thomblake · 2010-06-03T19:20:26.729Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's been some speculation on what a +4 spoon would do, so I figured I'd weigh in as an expert of sorts on D&D.

Really, it depends upon what it's being enchanted for. I think the default assumption is that it's enchanted as a melee weapon, and so functions as a diminutive one-handed weapon that does 1d2+4 damage - given the strength of such creatures, you're probably looking at 1d2 damage after the strength penalty, which is a modest improvement over the 1d2-4 (minimum 1) an unenchanted spoon would get you, for the reasonable price of 32,300 gold pieces.

For justification of this, that effectively makes it a diminutive club (d6 stepped down 3 times); it would be capable of being wielded as a light bludgeoning weapon by a tiny creature (something about cat-sized) at a -2 penalty, and not effectively usable as a weapon by anyone small (halfling-sized) or bigger.

An alternate explanation would make it a spoon which gives you a +4 bonus of some sort to a spoon-related skill, which would then be about 4000 gp (twice normal for not taking up an equipment slot).

Replies from: jimrandomh, JoshuaZ
comment by jimrandomh · 2010-06-03T19:33:24.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's been some speculation on what a +4 spoon would do

It gives a +4 bonus to the dexterity check to avoid dropping ice cream on your clothes, or others' clothes. However, due to a quantization issue in the laws of physics, exactly one-twentieth of all scoops still result in critical failures, and many of those failures lead to food fights, which is where the +4 to hit and damage comes in.

Replies from: Alicorn, JoshuaZ
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-03T19:35:22.659Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't be silly, it's just a bonus to Craft (cooking) or Profession (chef).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-03T19:43:38.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does a dex check have a critical failure on a 1? I think that applies only to saves and attack rolls. Skill checks don't suffer that problem and I think the same rule applies to flat ability checks. (I'm going off the 3.5 rules here, I seem to remember when critical failures occur was slightly different in 3.0 which may be relevant here)

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2010-06-03T19:44:17.127Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does a dex check have a critical failure on a 1?

Of course not.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-03T19:46:56.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure most people have the rules so intimately understood that they would think the "of course" in "of course not" deserved to be there. This may be related to understanding degrees of inferential distance.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2010-06-03T19:48:53.648Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that was the joke.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-03T19:55:24.937Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, in that case, I must spend too much time on the Giants in the Playground Forum where a statement like that would seem perfectly natural.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-03T19:26:56.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would the +4 also go to the attack roll not just the damage roll?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-03T19:31:19.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but it won't stack with the enhancement bonus for masterwork, if it's a weapon. Incidentally, these bonuses do stack on at least some skill enhancement items, like musical instruments, because they give different bonuses ("circumstance" and "competence", IIRC).

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-06-03T19:32:58.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, but the masterwork enhancement is just +1.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-06-03T19:36:31.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For instruments it's +2.

comment by MartinB · 2010-06-02T20:19:03.336Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From reading it, I got a sense that Eliezer actually has something in mind on how magic works in the story. That would be mindblowing because it would have to be a consistent explanation how magic works, how magicians got to use it, why they loose power over time. And why no physicists stumbled over it by accident.

Is that a shared idea, or am I the only one?

Replies from: kybernetikos, RobinZ
comment by kybernetikos · 2010-11-28T15:32:33.942Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a fairly obvious answer to that stuff in my opinion. Ventus by Schroeder (scifi) covers it nicely. It would be a structure set up by the atlantians for control of nature, before they ascended probably and left Earth for the stars.

Edit: It occurs to me that the other possibility would be a simulation, originally invented by the atlantians for them to upload themselves into, or perhaps muggles were supposed to be NPCs.

Replies from: MartinB
comment by MartinB · 2010-11-28T16:29:02.138Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you. At first glance I thought that I would be disappointed with that solution. But after reading the Ventus Plot description it sounded pretty neat.

Replies from: kybernetikos
comment by kybernetikos · 2010-11-28T18:38:20.466Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want to read the full thing, rather than just the description, you can download the ebook here. I certainly enjoyed it.

Replies from: MartinB
comment by MartinB · 2010-11-29T00:21:40.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

done & put on the reading pile

comment by RobinZ · 2010-06-02T20:25:34.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be staggered if he pulled such a feat of SFnal genius off. The only comparable feat I can recall actually seeing is the reveal in Robert Charles Wilson's Spin.

Replies from: JenniferRM, MartinB
comment by JenniferRM · 2010-06-03T20:18:46.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See Larry Niven's "The Magic Goes Away" universe. He does not seem to have worked out "particle physics with magic" to explain how to cast spells exactly, but he does have a universe that makes more logical sense in terms of economics and sociology and so on.

Basically all atoms in his universe had an aura of mana which functioned as a non-renewable source of "magical energy" for "everything magical you've ever heard about". Some magic can also be gimmicked out of events with emotional resonance to recharge nearby atoms but not very much, and most really huge emotions happen because of personal loss, so there is still an implicit sort of "third law of magic dynamics" at work relative to any magic that's worth acquiring.

The reason physicists haven't discovered it is that there's basically none left.

Rot13 for spoilers about the physics and economics but not the plots:

Fbzr betnavfzf hfr guvf nf cneg bs gurve zrgnobyvfz (abj nyy rvgure rkgvapg be fghagrq naq abj ribyivat jvgubhg zntvp, sbe rknzcyr jvgu cbavrf orvat zntvp qrcevirq havpbeaf, fbzr zbqrea yvmneqf orvat zntvp qrcevirq qentbaf, naq tbqf orvat zbfgyl rkgvapg).

Jngre zvkrf, fb gur yriry bs zntvp gurer vf zber fzbbguyl fcernq nebhaq. Ynaq qbrf abg zvk irel zhpu, fb zntvp ba ynaq vf eryngviryl pyhzcl, jvgu pvgvrf (rfcrpvnyyl tnzoyvat unyyf naq cbyvgvpny ohvyqvatf) univat eryngviryl yvggyr orpnhfr fb znal fcryyf unir nyernql orra pnfg gurer naq hfrq vg hc. Va zbqrea gvzrf gur bayl fbheprf bs zntvp ner nfgrebvq snyyf, fyhqtr frqvzragvat fbzr jnl orgjrra gur obggbz bs gur bprna, pbfzvp qhfg, naq bgure "rkgreany fbheprf", naq n ybg bs gurfr gevpxf jrer nyernql rkcybvgrq jura guvatf tbg ernyyl yrna. Erfvqhny zntvp nppbhagf sbe ehzbef bs tubfgf naq fhpu guvatf, ohg nyfb rkcynvaf jul vg qbrfa'g znggre irel zhpu abj. Fhcre nznmvat tbqf ab ybatre rkvfg va nal sbez gung vf fhcre cbjreshy, ohg gurl unq n qbzvanag crevbq nebhaq ovt onat, naq fbzr fgvyy rkvfgrq jura uhznaf ribyirq, naq tenagrq zntvpny snibef gb crbcyr jub urycrq gurz npdhver zntvp - onfvpnyyl nf n fbeg bs flzovbfvf.

Vs V erpnyy pbeerpgyl, gur zbba unf fbzr zntvp, ohg zbfg bs vg jnf hfrq hc va n fbzr fbeg bs zntvpnyyl cbjrerq qvfnfgre gung qrcyrgrq vg gurer gbb. Fvzvyneyl, Ngynagvf jnf n pbyyncfr bs pvivyvmngvba fgbel jura zntvpny qvxrf naq nagv-grpgbavp fcryyf fgnegrq gb snvy... vzntvar Arj Beyrnaf vs nyy genpgbef sbe rnegu zbivat fgbccrq jbexvat fbzrqnl.

Rpbabzvpf naq cbyvgvpf ner frafvoyr va guvf havirefr jvgu jvmneqf orvat rabezbhfyl jrnygul naq pncnoyr bs jvcvat bhg jubyr nezvrf (ng yrnfg orsber "crnx zntvp"). Nsgre crnx zntvp, gur cbyvgvpf jrer vagrerfgvat... yvxr jrerjbyirf jvgubhg zntvp ghearq bhg gb qrsnhyg gb jbyirf vafgrnq bs uhznaf, fb gurl orpbzr n irel cbyvgvpnyyl pbafreingvir snpgvba gung snibef nagv-zntvp hfr ynjf va cynprf gurl yvir, fb gung gurl pna xrrc ubyq bs fragvrapr sbe nf znal trarengvbaf nf cbffvoyr. Qbycuvaf ner jung lbh trg jura inevbhf fcrpvrf bs zre-crbcyr ner qrcevirq bs zntvp, naq gurl hfrq gb genqr svfu sbe gbbyf va frn cbegf, juvpu rkcynvaf cneg bs jul gurl ner fgvyy genvanoyr navznyf.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2010-06-03T22:05:12.071Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

third law of magical dynamics

May I suggest "third law of thaumodynamics"?

comment by MartinB · 2010-06-03T12:53:54.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So far many chapters managed to up the ante. Meaning there is way more depth than i expected initially. The story wouldnt loose much if there is no magic explanation, but well. it would be mind blowing if there is. And of course Harry will research till he hits the solution or a dead end.

I made up a few trivial sounding solutions for all the patterns shown in the story (trivial for LW/OB readers) but do not want to invite too much speculation.

Another thing I really liked was the depth of characterization. Usually in SF thats not too well done. Here the nice old teacher lady, Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione and so on all appear as full characters with strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and motivation.

Looking forward for the next chapters!

comment by PlatypusNinja · 2010-05-27T01:44:46.669Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found this series much harder to enjoy than Eliezer's other works -- for example the Super Happy People story, the Brennan stories, or the Sword of Good story.

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

At first, before I knew who the author was, I put this down to simple bad writing. Comments in Chapter 6 suggest that maybe Harry has some severe psychological issues, and that he's deliberately being written as obnoxious and hyperactive in order to meet plot criteria later.

But it's still sort of annoying to read.

I did enjoy the exchange with Draco in Chapter 5, mind.

(I encountered the series several weeks ago, without an attribution for the author. I read through Chapter 6 and stopped. Now that I know it was by Eliezer, I may go back and read a few more chapters.)

Replies from: DanielVarga, JoshuaZ, gwern, EStokes, PlatypusNinja
comment by DanielVarga · 2010-05-30T07:01:20.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

I suspect that a main inspiration for writing the story was Eliezer's constant shock and outrage over the fact that Rowling's characters show absolutely no interest in the inner workings of their weird Universe. I vividly remember how outrageous this was for me when I read the originals. Actually, I have only read the first two books, so when I read Eliezer's time-turner scene, I first believed that he invented the artifact and the situation as an over-the-top satire of this phenomenon. Giving young children time-machines so they could attend more classes, yeah right. When I figured out that the whole scene is almost literally copied from the original books, I screamed in shock and outrage just like rationalist Harry did.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-05-30T07:26:53.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Literally laughing out loud, here.

But just to be clear, this story represents my outrage at all scientifically uncurious characters everywhere, and even more than that, my unfilled need to read a story where for just once the alleged "genius" characters are actual geniuses.

I was not picking on J. K. Rowling in particular in any way.

It is a work of Harry Potter fanfiction for the following simple reason:

I knew I needed a rapid feedback loop to motivate my brain to write. That was why I was bogging down on the rationality book.

And to the best of my knowledge of the entire world of online fiction, if you were posting an incomplete story chapter-by-chapter, it would get the most reviews if...

...it were a work of Harry Potter fanfiction posted on fanfiction.net.

QED.

Replies from: DanielVarga, Eliezer_Yudkowsky, CronoDAS
comment by DanielVarga · 2010-05-30T08:58:08.132Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I know a place on the internet where you can post books on rationality chapter-by-chapter, and get much instant feedback.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-12T16:58:29.713Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, on reviewing this remark later, it's not quite true. My brain generated an idea set in the HPverse because I'd been reading a lot of HP fanfiction, and I accepted it and stopped the search because it was also optimal for getting reviews. However, I've since read analyses showing that Twilight stories are getting more new reviews on FF.net than Harry Potter, and I don't think I'd have been the smallest bit tempted if I'd known the fact in advance.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-12T20:56:00.947Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think a version of Twilight with a rationalist Bella as the protagonist would be hilarious.

It'd also be very short, though.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-12T20:59:32.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You should totally write one!

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-12T21:04:24.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm tempted! And come to think of it, I suppose it wouldn't have to be short; I could draw it out by leaning on the right bits of canon...

But I loaned out my copy of the first book ages ago and it's still gone, so I would need to pirate a copy as reference.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-12T22:35:47.445Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And come to think of it, I suppose it wouldn't have to be short; I could draw it out by leaning on the right bits of canon...

Hopefully Bella can join up with a few other vampires and start taking over the world. It could be very long.

I would need to pirate a copy as reference.

Sent.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-13T02:12:22.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All right, all right, I'll at least give this a try. In keeping with the books' title themes, what do folks think of "Luminosity" as a title? (With luminosity as a theme over HP:MOR's emphasis on science, because I don't have the background to competently pull off the science.)

Replies from: Alicorn, lsparrish
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-13T07:55:03.157Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did it.

Also, I hate fanfiction.net's interface for publishing stories SO MUCH. I'm probably going to just put the rest of this on my own webspace. EDIT: I am still updating on ff.net to get readers from conventional Twilight fandom, but made the story its own website and have changed the link above.

Also-also, my only account on fanfiction.net is Alicorn24. I am not affiliated in any way with anyone else using the word "alicorn" in their username.

Also-also-also, I'm not quite as much of a review junkie as Eliezer is. However, I a) am unlikely to bother with the story if I'm the only one enjoying it, as I do have creative projects with audiences that could benefit from my attention, and b) plan to treat this as a somewhat experimental work. (For instance, the first chapter has no actual in-quotes dialogue, which I did because dialogue is my strongest suit as a writer and it was challenging to work without it.) Info on what works for readers and what doesn't would be good, as well as periodic reminders that someone's paying attention.

Replies from: RobinZ, Alicorn, rhollerith_dot_com, Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Jonii, CronoDAS
comment by RobinZ · 2010-07-13T12:23:58.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. You might want to revise the description a couple chapters in, once the story has its own identity, but the character seems like someone who might be entertaining to follow.

(As with Harry Potter, I'm coming in with zero knowledge of the base material - Twilight bored me no less quickly than Philosopher's Stone.)

comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-14T07:18:21.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

New chapter.

Vote this comment up if you would like a Luminosity fic discussion thread here on LW analogous to the HP:MOR one, and down if you would not.

Replies from: Alicorn, RobinZ
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-15T04:46:35.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

New chapter. I think I'm going to update daily for a while, but no promises.

I'm having trouble making Bella conspicuously luminous because fictional characters in general are more luminous than real people. (Authors have perfect access to knowledge about character minds, and since the dearth of luminosity in real humans isn't known to most authors, they don't restrict the characters' access to this information much if at all.) I've resorted to some tricks, most notably the notebooks - how do people find Bella's visible luminosity?

Replies from: sketerpot, Alicorn, LucasSloan, katydee
comment by sketerpot · 2010-07-15T23:45:38.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if real people could become more luminous by occasionally narrating their thought processes from a third-person perspective, treating themselves like characters that they're writing. If nothing else, it'll be a cute gimmick for getting someone to examine their own motivations.

I'm going to try this later today, while exercising. We'll see how this wild-ass idea fares. (I will define failure as not turning up anything surprising.)

Replies from: Alicorn, WrongBot, katydee
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-15T23:54:36.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That could be interesting. Do report back.

Replies from: sketerpot
comment by sketerpot · 2010-07-16T07:26:31.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried out my idea, and it worked. It wasn't too spectacular, but it was well worth the effort.

I decided that, in order for this to be a proper test, I would look at something that I wasn't really comfortable with: my shyness and difficulty in social situations. I figure that there had to be some obvious irrationality clunking around my skull there.

I started describing this guy (myself), and laying out the reasons for his social discomfort in a straightforward exposition dump. Several times, I had to pause and ask myself if the explanations actually made sense -- was this true, or an incorrect rationalization by an unreliable narrator? The process was surprisingly adversarial!

I came to two surprising conclusions. First, the deeper cause of a lot of my problems is that I have difficulty quickly finding topics of common interest with most people in most situations, so conversations with strangers tend to end quickly and abruptly, which sucks. A previous thread had advice for improving this skill; I'll see if I can find it, and give it a try.

Second, there's an even deeper problem that underlies my shyness: I want to not be disliked by anyone, but that's paralyzing and leads to crippling shyness. Far better to be more open with my personality, and accept that someone is probably going to be pissed off by any sufficiently cool person. I'm going to try letting my quirkiness out more, since some people seem to find it really charming, and I enjoy it.

Even though this method worked, it seemed pretty much equivalent to the introspection method where you explain something to an imaginary person, while listening to yourself carefully for anything that sounds like bullshit. I think that method is easier since it doesn't require the third-person pronoun shift, which turned out to be superfluous.

Really, the most important things seem to be:

  1. Come up with an explanation for something, and put it into words. Explain clearly, as if your listener doesn't know what you're talking about.

  2. At all times, ask "Is that really true?" Are there any alternate hypotheses? Does it sound like a rationalization? Is it fallacious? Does it sound like motivated stopping? (That's a really common one, I found.)

  3. Be honest. The truth is valuable. You can do stuff with the truth. When you come across a surprising truth, figure out if it's useful. It might be!

So, definitely a worthwhile exercise, but the third person narrative gimmick isn't necessary.

comment by WrongBot · 2010-07-16T01:11:55.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do something vaguely similar to this: a lot of my introspective thought takes the form of imagined dialogues with someone who I think would take the other side of the argument, or at the very least need convincing. For example, in a lot of my thinking about metaethics recently, (an imaginary construction of) Eliezer gets cast in the dissenting role. This seems to help me avoid arguments I can't justify, though far from perfectly.

(I may have a metaethics post in the pipeline.)

comment by katydee · 2010-07-18T09:48:56.245Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Winston Churchill was said to occasionally narrate his life in the third person from the perspective of a future historical text.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-16T08:57:18.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Moar.

Replies from: Alicorn, arundelo
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-17T06:54:05.747Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yet moar.

Replies from: Alicorn, pengvado
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-18T09:00:02.024Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chapter six on ff.net; on my webspace (navigation and prettyfulness coming soon).

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-19T06:55:50.801Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I made Luminosity its own website. Also, chapter seven exists now. If you prefer e-mail updates over RSS, fanfiction.net will continue to update with new chapters, and it is still the correct place to put reviews, but for other purposes I believe my site will be better.

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-19T09:04:19.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could we please not have white text on a black background?

Replies from: arundelo, Alicorn
comment by arundelo · 2010-07-19T09:23:25.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't mind the color scheme, but here's a tool called Readability that tries to reformat websites to be more readable. (Among other things, it uses [nearly] black text on a [nearly] white background.)

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-19T19:49:13.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This works great. Thanks for the link!

comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-19T18:58:17.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You could always disable the CSS.

comment by pengvado · 2010-07-25T02:40:18.797Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In ch7 Bella determined that Alice's skin feels like rock, but she didn't notice that in ch5. Was she just too distracted or something?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-25T03:15:11.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In chapter 5, Alice and Bella don't come into direct skin-skin contact - they both have on long sleeves, and Alice hauls on Bella's arm, not her hand.

Typo fixed - thanks :) (Note that I'm fixing typos on Luminosity's own website only, not on FF.net due to interface hate. This one was a current typo, but if you're spotting them on FF.net instead of the Luminosity site, they may already have been caught.)

comment by arundelo · 2010-07-16T21:57:32.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This link is dead right now. (I also got emailed it by the fanfiction.net subscription thingy.)

Chapter 3 typo alert: "disintersting" --> "disinteresting".

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-16T23:19:02.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The link works for me. I'm not sure what might be wrong with it. I will fix the typo, but FF.net takes for-freaking-ever to push adjustments to content. Here are the chapters extant on my own webspace, where they should behave. (I will continue to update on FF.net too in order to attract the attention of more conventional fic readers.)

Replies from: arundelo
comment by arundelo · 2010-07-16T23:30:59.873Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Works for me now too!

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-07-19T00:48:37.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think she comes off as in control of her life and very insightful about other people, but not particularly insightful about herself (at least in contrast to other fictional characters - your theory about why this is makes sense to me). On the other hand, her insightfulness about other people didn't seem at all forced, so her social modeling abilities seem to be working.

comment by katydee · 2010-07-18T09:57:18.508Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm skeptical of the claim that most authors don't know that real humans are unluminous. The authors that I have met in person haven't seemed particularly luminous to me, and I see no reason that they would think that people in general would be so. I suppose that they could all model their writing on other writing instead of on the world as it exists, and thus excess luminosity in fiction could quickly propagate, but this seems somewhat implausible.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-18T09:58:57.861Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being unluminous is actually not useful in determining that humans are unluminous.

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-18T10:00:54.476Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would authors model fictional minds with unusual high-level skills that they do not possess and, in all likelihood, have neither heard of from other sources nor conceived independently?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-18T10:16:00.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because the lack of skill is not transparent.

By way of analogy, it takes a reasonably uncommon bit of knowledge to be aware that human vision includes blind spots and to know how they work. Even though every single human has blind spots (if indeed they can see at all), and can determine the existence of these blind spots through easy tests, many authors will not think to write fictional characters with visual blind spots, because it is not obvious to people going about their ordinary lives and looking at things that they exist. The author knows what's within visual range of the character, and if the character has his or her eyes open, (s)he can see all of those things.

Luminosity is rare. Knowledge that luminosity is rare is rare. Most people trust in naive introspection. They believe the first approximations that pop into their heads when they think about themselves, in the same way that they accept what their visual cortices tell them. And they know what's in the character's mind, and if the character introspects, (s)he can see all of those things.

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-18T10:28:58.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I might not get it. How could someone be introspective but not luminous? I haven't put any real effort into reading the luminosity sequence because it seemed so fundamentally obvious to me. It is possible that I am low-level and deceived in ways that I am totally unaware of, but it's always been easy-- trivial, even-- for me to see through my brain's "fake explanations" and understand the actual reasons behind my thoughts or traits.

Replies from: Alicorn, None, NancyLebovitz, rhollerith_dot_com
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-18T10:36:36.094Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds like you're an anomaly, if what you say is true. Naive introspection is generally fallible.

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-18T17:47:20.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are the standard failure modes that you've encountered? I need to test myself more thoroughly.

Replies from: rhollerith_dot_com
comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-07-18T19:01:49.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am going to assume provisionally that you do not mind answers from people other than Alicorn.

Situations that have probably caused me to become less aware of the true reasons for my thoughts and actions:

  • needing to stand up for myself, i.e., to argue on my own behalf, in what a friend of mine referred to as a "pecking situation," i.e., one where ordinary people without a strong commitment to epistemic purity constantly try to one-up me and each other;

  • needing to sell myself, e.g., in a long series of job interviews or dates;

  • living for months with chronic pain;

  • getting older (I am 49);

  • being very afraid

(end of list).

The changes I found myself required to make to myself over the months and years to become marginally competent in the "pecking situation" almost certainly interfered with my self-awareness though I never despaired of my eventually regaining the self-awareness with enough work.

Something caused me to pay much less attention to my felt sense and my moment-to-moment emotional reactions, and my having lived for years with chronic pain is one of the most likely causes.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-07-18T16:07:25.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's some "obviousness" to it, yes.

I think that's not necessarily a fault; it's easy to grasp the idea of luminosity, but sometimes people don't do it. Can you do it under stress?
It's simple -- but not necessarily easy.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-18T14:28:38.909Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, there's the joke that authors understand themselves more than anyone else does-- not necessarily better, just more.

I do think it's possible to be fascinated by one's own internal processes while not noticing a few hot button areas.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-07-18T13:35:52.672Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

katydee:

It is possible that I am low-level and deceived in ways that I am totally unaware of, but it's always been easy-- trivial, even-- for me to see through my brain's "fake explanations" and understand the actual reasons behind my thoughts or traits.

Warning: bombastic (but sincere) sentence ahead.

[There were two paragraphs here, but Less Wrong is better without them. It is not that I concluded that on second thought, what I wrote here is wrong, but rather that if I just assert it in a shorthand way like I did, and do not provide any arguments for why I believe it to be true, well, most are going to find it ridiculous, and I do not have time to advance the arguments or even to explain with sufficient care what my assertion is. Another factor that had a slight effect on my decision is that I have not read Alicorn's luminosity sequence.]

comment by RobinZ · 2010-07-14T17:53:34.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would wait until we have a definite sign of interest - e.g. a conversation about something in the story on an open thread that attracts a fair amount of conversation.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-07-13T11:34:25.759Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Info on what works for readers and what doesn't would be good

Here goes.

Since I had not read any of the books or seen any of the movies, I lacked confidence that I possessed the prerequisites for reading your fanfic.

It turned out that I did possess the needed prerequisites (for reading Chapter 1) but I almost concluded otherwise and almost stopped reading when I got to the first reference to Charlie because I did not know who Charlie is.

But then a few sentences later it became obvious that Charlie is Bella's father, and I read to the end of the chapter.

In summary, my feedback to you is that this particular reader would have benefitted from a replacing of the first occurance of "Charlie" with "My father, Charlie."

I want to know what happens next :)

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2010-07-13T16:01:29.157Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In summary, my feedback to you is that this particular reader would have benefitted from a replacing of the first occurance of "Charlie" with "My father, Charlie."

Seconded.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-13T18:43:46.818Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fixed that, and also two typos and the italics.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-13T09:52:18.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In medias res this one. Start it in the middle of something interesting happening.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-13T18:29:53.740Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wanted to do that - the original book does it - but I haven't yet gotten very well acquainted with my Bella and by the time interesting things start happening, I wouldn't expect her to let me hug so close to canon. I might go back and add something like that in a few chapters.

comment by Jonii · 2010-07-15T05:48:27.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is this fic understandable for those that don't know a thing about twilight?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-15T06:15:03.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. Neither knowledge of nor affection for the original Twilight series is a prerequisite for reading, understanding, and (potentially) enjoying the fic.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-07-13T16:02:05.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reviewed. (My fanfiction.net account is "Ronfar".)

comment by lsparrish · 2010-07-13T02:25:46.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like. Rhymes with sparkles.

Replies from: thomblake, Alicorn
comment by thomblake · 2010-07-13T15:23:28.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm in favor of this obviously wrong use of 'rhyme'.

Replies from: ata, Blueberry
comment by ata · 2010-07-14T21:28:01.503Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a conceptual rhyme.

Here's a limerick following the same principle. (I think I read it in Metamagical Themas; not sure if Hofstadter was the original author.)

There once was a man from St. Bees
Who was stung on the arm by a wasp
When asked "Does it hurt?"
He replied "Just a bit —
I'm so glad that it wasn't a hornet."

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-14T21:48:09.136Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's usually attributed to W. S. Gilbert (as in Gilbert and Sullivan).

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-13T20:22:43.220Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's more allegorical than wrong.

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

-- Unknown (though attributed without source to Mark Twain)

comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-13T02:31:25.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh? "Luminosity" doesn't rhyme with "sparkles".

Replies from: lsparrish
comment by lsparrish · 2010-07-13T02:38:15.844Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Rhyme" was the wrong word, but I don't know what the right one is. Anyone?

Replies from: Cyan
comment by Cyan · 2010-07-13T02:51:54.657Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Allude", perhaps?

Replies from: lsparrish
comment by lsparrish · 2010-07-13T02:56:08.596Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Close enough :)

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-05-30T19:36:42.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you ever read any of L.E. Modesitt's fiction?

Replies from: Furcas
comment by Furcas · 2010-05-30T19:44:09.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What about it?

(I'm looking for good fantasy fiction)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-27T01:56:30.711Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think some of Harry's annoyingness is due to the fact that he's modeled after young Eliezer. He's a mix of wish-fulfillment for young Eliezer and an opportunity for older Eliezer to criticize his younger self. This is really apparent with the chapters involving the Sorting Hat.

comment by gwern · 2010-05-29T18:48:49.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

Culture shock can be tiresome for the people not suffering it. I've been reading blogs and forum postings by expats in South Korea lately, and that constant perpetual shock & outrage? Par for the course for some people.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T01:41:19.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's tiresome for those undergoing it, too - ever since moving to Sweden I have been suffering from a terrible chronic neck pain. Way too much snapping to ogle at passing blondes.

comment by EStokes · 2010-05-27T14:12:53.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of kids are obnoxious and hyperactive. Shock and outrage are IC too. (Not that I think Harry is obnoxious or hyperactive or too shocked and outraged.)

comment by PlatypusNinja · 2011-08-24T19:42:22.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the issue was that Harry was constantly, perpetually, invariably reacting to everything with shock and outrage. It got... tiresome.

But I went back much later and read it again, and there wasn't nearly as much outrage as I remembered.

Good story!

comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-16T22:59:43.047Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", I'd like to make predictions that can be eventually verified publicly in time, but won't tempt the author to change things to prevent it from coming true (as is the usual way of serial writers on the Internet). I'm therefore encrypting my prediction with the md5 hash function, so that afterwards it can be verified. (One difficulty is that I have the power to edit this comment; is there a way to make it obvious if I've done so, or store it in a less editable space?) Anyway, here goes:

July 16 (after Chapter 31): 28f9e3b2165344763c35514b473cb347

Replies from: Unnamed, orthonormal, Douglas_Knight, jimrandomh, Unknowns, ciphergoth, kpreid, JGWeissman, mattnewport, orthonormal, apophenia, ata
comment by Unnamed · 2010-07-16T23:12:45.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

orthonormal predicts:

July 16 (after Chapter 31): 28f9e3b2165344763c35514b473cb347

There, that's less editable for you.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-25T17:23:48.678Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

July 25 (after Chapter 32, prediction for Chapter 33):

SHA-1: f5721b3c6010973ee195dc160d0679477401a3df

Replies from: JoshuaZ, orthonormal
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-25T17:27:14.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

SHA-1: f5721b3c6010973ee195dc160d0679477401a3df

Copying here to verify lack of editing in future.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-08-01T06:05:29.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Translation:

End of 32 only listed 3 options for Zabini. The fourth creates a 3-way tie. Zabini shoots himself as traitor.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T07:36:16.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
 [03:35 AM] 215Mb$ echo "End of 32 only listed 3 options for Zabini. The fourth creates a 3-way tie. Zabini shoots himself as traitor." | sha1sum 
 09a3ee331d8900b7b7475b0a89911207672cbbda  -
Replies from: ata
comment by ata · 2010-08-01T09:10:10.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Try echo -n.

Replies from: gwern, rhollerith_dot_com
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T11:44:00.299Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, you're right. I forgot echo appends a newline by default.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-08-01T09:47:50.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When the -n flag is added to the echo command (as suggested by ata) the hash matches.

So, unless orthonormal has exploited a security vulnerability on the Less Wrong server, orthonormal has expended a costly number of computing cycles to defeat the purpose of the hash function, I misunderstand the cryptographic guarantees provided by the hash function, or something equally unlikely, orthonormal really did write the following back on 25 July:

End of 32 only listed 3 options for Zabini. The fourth creates a 3-way tie. Zabini shoots himself as traitor.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T11:43:41.737Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Erm, yeah. I thought we all understood the hash scheme.

Replies from: rhollerith_dot_com
comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-08-01T11:54:10.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see I have failed to communicate unambiguously.

I meant to say that orthonormal really did write the message back on the 25th with p=.99, and here are the three events that I am aware of that might cause my high level of confidence to be misplaced -- the three largest sources of my remaining uncertainty, if you will.

If I assign p=.99 to an outcome and the outcome turns out to be false, it is a good bet that I misunderstood the question or misunderstood some proximate cause of the outcome, and in this case, the proximate cause I am most likely to misunderstand has to do with properties of hash functions.

Clear now?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2010-07-17T00:06:05.359Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One difficulty is that I have the power to edit this comment; is there a way to make it obvious if I've done so

If you edit the comment, an asterisk will appear after the time. Compare jimrandomh's reply to the others.

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-17T00:46:05.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, clever.

EDIT: Let me see this for myself.

EDIT 2: Hey, it's not working yet!

EDIT 3: Duh, I had to reload the page.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-07-16T23:05:03.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can have a third party create a cryptographically signed timestamp for you. For example, secure-timestamp.org will do this. This can only be falsified by getting the timestamping server's private key or breaking its crypto algorithm. For things more important than Harry Potter predictions, you can have multiple third parties timestamp them for you, in which case falsification requires stealing all of their private keys.

comment by Unknowns · 2010-07-20T18:14:01.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you edit the comment a little asterisk will appear by the time stamp. Just make sure you don't do that.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-07-20T06:39:01.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

MD5 is utterly utterly broken and recommended against for any purpose. Use SHA-1.

EDIT: I should mention that SHA-1 is also theoretically broken and may see a demonstrated break soon, but nothing like as problematic as MD5. Until SHA-3 is agreed, the SHA-2 functions are a good stopgap where you need better security.

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-20T18:01:04.891Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks; I'll do so in the future.

comment by kpreid · 2010-07-20T05:58:55.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you include your own name in the text? If not, someone else can present the same hash and there's no way to tell who came up with it.

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-20T17:59:26.185Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, good point. Fortunately, the actual importance of this whole endeavor is virtually nil, so it's a good opportunity for me to learn how I ought to have done it better.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-07-16T23:27:56.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you say anything (without giving away the prediction) about when you would know if it is correct or not?

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-17T00:44:45.903Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's my guess at (some features of) the ending.

comment by mattnewport · 2010-07-16T23:08:10.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You could use Prediction Book.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-16T23:01:03.366Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See, I'm even refusing to edit my badly written intro.

comment by apophenia · 2010-07-25T17:36:34.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, we're returning to the days of math challenges? (i.e. the debate over the calculus?)

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-25T17:42:18.001Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you're confusing separate issues. The idea of having contests where two mathematicians would each issue challenge problems to the other was primarily an event in the Middle Ages. This idea then continued in some forms with people like Fermat (later Middle Ages or early Renaissance depending on how you define things) who would issue challenges to others to prove what they had already proven. What Orthonormal is doing actually more closely resembles a practice from the 19th century where when multiple people were racing to solve a problem first, they'd every so often deposit a sealed envelope with some reputable independent body to verify issues of priority.

Replies from: apophenia
comment by apophenia · 2010-07-25T17:56:51.967Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're right, I was confused on the dates. I'm not referring to the sealed envelopes, but rather to the practice by which an alchemist/scientist/mathematician/etc would write a succinct summary of their discovery (i.e. "to transmute gold, add salt") and write the letters in alphabetical order. They'd publish this somewhere public. Then, if someone else discovered the same thing, they would say "aha, but here's my discovery" and point out how they came up with it ten years earlier by giving the "unhashed" version.

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-07-25T18:08:33.419Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm, you're right, it would have been much more fun to do it that way.

comment by ata · 2010-07-20T07:29:46.924Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One difficulty is that I have the power to edit this comment; is there a way to make it obvious if I've done so, or store it in a less editable space?

Pastebin maybe?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-03T12:27:13.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow. I liked 28! Well, I liked all but 1 of the previous 27 too but this one was brilliant. Just the right balance of overconfident recklessness combined with not being a stubborn fool when realizing his mistake. By right balance I mean for realism given the character. Harry being such an emotionally unstable prick was a little irritating until he started showing clear signs of being aware of his emotional foibles and the rather important ability to take care of important relationships despite his weakness.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-28T07:20:23.549Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From Ch. 7:

Draco snarled. "She has some sort of perverse obsession about the Malfoys, too, and her father is politically opposed to us so he prints every word. As soon as I'm old enough to get an erection I'm going to rape that bitch."

Is this a reference to some poorly-written slash fanfic? I'm assuming Eliezer knows that boys of any age can get erections, so it must be making fun of something, but I'm missing a reference.

Similarly with:

Harry burbled on. "I'm delighted to meet you, Mr. Malfoy. Just unutterably delighted. And to be attending Hogwarts in your very year! It makes my heart swoon." Oops. That last part might have sounded a little odd, like he was hitting on Draco or something.

(Ch. 5)

Is this just making fun of Harry/Draco slash in general, or is there a specific reference?

Replies from: gwern, pozorvlak
comment by gwern · 2010-05-29T19:05:16.666Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is this just making fun of Harry/Draco slash in general, or is there a specific reference?

The newspaper headlines are, I assure you, making fun in general (at the very least).

comment by pozorvlak · 2010-07-12T09:43:20.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As soon as I'm old enough to get an erection I'm going to rape that bitch.

Yes, I found that sentence really jarring too. Even assuming that Draco was for some reason unable to get an erection, he'd hardly admit it.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-15T01:03:48.363Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sentence actually sent me on a quick Google mission to confirm that the author was a woman.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-26T08:35:37.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would have to be; a male would know that boys of any age can get an erection. Did you find the original author of that line? I couldn't find it through Google

Replies from: knb, WrongBot
comment by knb · 2010-07-26T17:27:13.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems plausible that Malfoy wouldn't know that. Some boys never get erections before puberty. Getting erections reliably (as opposed to accidentally) before puberty might not happen either.

Replies from: ata, Blueberry
comment by ata · 2010-07-27T22:56:07.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At this rate, Draco will be a master Bayesian before he figures out masturbation...

(sorry, sorry)

Replies from: pozorvlak
comment by pozorvlak · 2010-07-31T22:51:02.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, that was something about the original books that really bugged me: their sexlessness. Rowling captures the frustration and rage of being an adolescent boy very well, but not the lust - and that's probably deliberate. Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole books are much better in this regard.

Replies from: Cyan
comment by Cyan · 2010-08-01T02:31:00.884Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow, I haven't thought of Adrian Mole in years. I enjoyed those books when I read them -- I should read them again and see how they stand up. Thanks for the reminder.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-27T08:52:33.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some boys never get erections before puberty. Getting erections reliably (as opposed to accidentally) before puberty might not happen either.

Source for this? I would be very surprised if this was true, except possibly in cases of extreme sexual dysfunction caused by a severe injury.

Replies from: knb
comment by knb · 2010-07-27T23:36:04.374Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you don't believe me, do a google search. Lots of people on "ask the community" websites like Yahoo answers have asked whether prepubescent boys could get erections. Some of these people are adult men. In any case, obviously Eliezer didn't know that or he probably wouldn't have included that tidbit!

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-28T05:32:57.069Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A google search didn't turn up anything saying that some boys don't get erections before puberty. Why do you think this?

Yahoo answers isn't an especially reliable source, and it looked like most of the people asking were women, but I guess it's possible that some adult men forgot what it was like to be a kid.

As I said above, my theory is that Eliezer wrote that line to make fun of fanfiction.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Sniffnoy
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-28T09:50:08.211Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternatively, male sexual development might be more varied than is commonly believed.

Or the Malfoys might put a lock on their kids' early sexuality to make them easier to control. Something like that might make arranged marriages less prone to drama.

I think this might actually be feasible. Malfoys are probably not likely to have intimate enough conversations with children from other families that something odd is going on, and could write off what other children imply as just big talk.

Or the children could find out the truth relatively early, and buy into a family belief that this is the sensible way to do things rather than an imposition.

Replies from: NihilCredo, red75
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-28T14:55:05.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given how much emphasis a Malfoy education places on preserving your status and appearance of power, it's fairly silly that Draco would so openly and freely reveal such an important (at least symbolically) deficiency.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-28T15:02:36.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair point.

comment by red75 · 2010-07-28T17:20:35.411Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

BTW. Eliezer removed these words. Now they are " As soon as I'm old enough".

Replies from: pozorvlak
comment by pozorvlak · 2010-07-31T22:47:54.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Victory!!!! :-)

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-28T05:36:54.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternatively, Eliezer forgot what it was like to be a kid. That seems simpler.

Replies from: pozorvlak, Blueberry, ata
comment by pozorvlak · 2010-07-31T22:48:45.105Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or we've just learned something about Eliezer's sexual development that I, for one, would rather not have known.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-28T05:47:06.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is possible but it seems less likely. He's young and sex-positive, and there are other fanfiction references in the story as well, so it wouldn't be too surprising if he included another.

comment by ata · 2010-07-28T05:42:30.069Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or he was too busy to play with himself.

comment by WrongBot · 2010-07-26T17:12:25.069Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uh, that's Eliezer's, from one of the early chapters of MoR. Unless he's making a reference I didn't get?

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-27T08:55:59.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I assumed it was a reference to the way young kids sometimes write slash fanfic when they don't know anything about sex, and they make all kinds of mistakes. There are other fanfic references, like Harry's line to Draco, "It makes my heart swoon". I don't know if it's a reference to anything specific, but NihilCredo seemed to suggest that e found it.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-28T14:50:19.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, what I meant is that I cannot possibly conceive an eleven-year-old kid openly admitting that he cannot yet have an erection - he'd rather jump into a fire. It makes me wonder what kind of kids Eliezer hung out with.

In most Western societies, boys' relation with sex moves straight from "knowing nothing" to "pretending to know everything". (Wizarding Britain could be different, but there is nothing in Rowling's or Eliezer's writings to explain that.)

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-28T18:56:06.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And Eliezer has just fixed the sentence (along with a few other small tweaks to Chapter 7). Glad to see improvements!

Replies from: Furcas, Sniffnoy
comment by Furcas · 2010-07-29T03:06:49.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The new sentence is a bit lacking in the original's shock value. I would have left the "that bitch" part in.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-29T03:19:35.599Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure the Draco I've been writing for the last few chapters would use the term "bitch" in front of Harry Potter, it doesn't sound dignified enough for the heir of Malfoy.

(But yes I did explicitly consider that alternative. If I get enough votes for keeping the shock value I'll put it back in, or figure out something, I guess.)

Replies from: Alicorn, Blueberry, gwern
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-29T04:40:07.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the shock value

Rape isn't nearly shocking enough. We need naughty words.

Replies from: WrongBot, Furcas
comment by WrongBot · 2010-07-29T15:53:08.577Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This, unfortunately, is precisely how most people's minds work.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-29T17:53:24.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Correct. Do I need to point out again that no one even noticed the thing with the monastery?

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-29T20:31:30.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is expected that villains, even in the canon of children's books, will kill and maybe occasionally torture victims in order to establish that they are bad. It is not expected that villains, especially in the canon of children's books, will permit/condone/commit rape. Additionally, the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede murder and torture are more familiar than the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede rape, and so someone unfamiliar with the actual etiology of any of those crimes finds rape less relatable and more shocking.

Replies from: ata, NancyLebovitz, Blueberry
comment by ata · 2010-07-29T21:48:09.732Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is expected that villains, even in the canon of children's books, will kill and maybe occasionally torture victims in order to establish that they are bad. It is not expected that villains, especially in the canon of children's books, will permit/condone/commit rape.

Agreed. I also think the original "Which of these characters has crossed the moral event horizon?" question (in one of the Author's Notes) was a little bit misguided because, as far as most HP readers are concerned, Voldemort is already considered to have passed the moral event horizon from the outset. There's little he could do that would make us think "Wow, I didn't know Voldemort was that evil". And 11-year-old Draco, being the son of a Death Eater, might be expected to hold certain evils as justifiable or compulsory — we expect that he's been conditioned to find it acceptable to kill, torture, and exploit non-purebloods, and generally to manipulate people for his own ends. And as long as he's still young, we're inclined to be relatively lenient in judging him for those attitudes, considering he has never learned anything else, nor been allowed (or allowed himself) to reconsider it. What we don't expect is for him to talk casually about committing rape, considering that nobody in the series does, even the darkest of the canon dark wizards; it makes it seem like it's an idea he came up with on his own, like he just heard a definition of rape and thought to himself "Hey, that sounds like a fun thing to do to young female political enemies, and I bet I could get away with it, too". So I bet most of the objections were based not on thinking "that's more evil than Voldemort", but "that's way more evil than Draco is supposed to be right now".

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, NancyLebovitz, NancyLebovitz, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-29T22:40:00.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What we don't expect is for him to talk casually about committing rape, considering that nobody in the series does

Those are the children's books version, and MoR is not a children's book, nor is most fanfiction. If you'll pardon the size of the hypothetical: If the Death Eaters actually existed, no way in hell are the males not committing rape.

Replies from: Alicorn, katydee, ata
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-29T22:43:16.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the Death Eaters actually existed, no way in hell are the males not committing rape.

This is true. But even among works of fanfiction, the ones that point this out tend to also be the ones that are full of sex acts in general, which MoR is not.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-29T22:50:19.114Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

MoR points things out for the sake of pointing them out, by way of trying to teach the art of the awakened mind. Actually I'm not clear on what if anything we're arguing about at this point.

comment by katydee · 2010-07-30T00:45:59.995Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see no need to limit that claim to the males.

Replies from: b1shop
comment by b1shop · 2010-07-30T01:01:45.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. By the laws of fiction, most evil characters are fugly.

Replies from: JoshuaZ, katydee
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-30T01:41:07.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. By the laws of fiction, most evil characters are fugly.

Not true. Indeed, Draco is a classic counterexample to this statement. This is part of the reason why there's a whole trope entitled Draco in Leather Pants. Moreover, the notion that whether people are ugly or not has something to do with whether or not they engage in rape is so wrong-headed I'm not at all sure how to even begin to touch it.

Replies from: b1shop
comment by b1shop · 2010-07-30T02:19:17.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I said most fictional, evil characters are fugly. I stand by that statement.

Correct my "wrong-headed" beliefs if you can, but I suspect the sexually desperate are more likely to rape. This column presents evidence that sex crimes go down when the internet is introduced.

Porn -> decreased desperation -> less rape

Is there another pathway that explains this evidence I'm not seeing?

Ceteris paribus, girls are far, far less desperate than guys. Supply and demand says an egg produced once a month will have a higher asking price than what guys churn out. This makes me suspect female rapists must be less attractive.

Replies from: JoshuaZ, NancyLebovitz, katydee, Blueberry
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-30T02:54:43.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Correct my "wrong-headed" beliefs if you can, but I suspect the sexually desperate are more likely to rape. This column presents evidence that sex crimes go down when the internet is introduced.

Right, this evidence is one of the strong pieces of evidence that undermines the entire rape-is-about-power claim. And there's other evidence for this also (for example, prison systems that allow conjugal visits have lower rape rates than those that don't(a citation for this claim would be nice. I've seen it before but a quick Google search doesn't turn up anything useful)). But sometimes, it is about power. Indeed, the type of rape being discussed in this context, by someone like Draco is the classic power situation. And when people are raping enemies that's more or less unambiguously about power.

Replies from: b1shop
comment by b1shop · 2010-07-30T03:42:14.375Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good point. However, I think there's a false equivalence in there.

I imagine rape is way, way, way more painful for girls than for guys.

Replies from: katydee, wedrifid
comment by katydee · 2010-07-30T04:05:51.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that depends entirely on particulars that should probably not be discussed here-- suffice it to say that a male can be raped in multiple ways, just as a female can, and that rape involves emotional/mental pain as well as physical pain.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-31T03:51:54.503Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I imagine rape is way, way, way more painful for girls than for guys.

What!

Oh, wait. You mean rape of males by females without the use of any paraphernalia.

My impression of approximate rape statistics was along the lines of 90%/9%/1% male->female/male->male/female->male. I don't know where female->female fits.

"Involuntary heterosexual coitus" is the last think of when evaluating the relative expectations of pain.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T08:35:31.758Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wikipedia on motivations for rape

I think it's complicated. Even the access to the internet lowering the incidence of rape could be about increased chances of finding partners as well as access to more porn-- it isn't as though porn was rare before the internet.

My impression is that it isn't as true as it used to be that fictional evil characters are ugly, but I don't have stats. It's certainly reassuring to think that the people you find repulsive are also more dangerous.

comment by katydee · 2010-07-30T04:03:35.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interestingly, I actually had a specific female Death Eater that I had in mind when I wrote that post. The character in question, Bellatrix Lestrange, was played by Helena Bonham Carter, who does not strike me as unusually physically unattractive.

Replies from: b1shop, Alicorn
comment by b1shop · 2010-07-30T04:34:29.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. But I still think Harry Potter is a traditional melodrama in that evil is very hard to miss. Bellatrix's boss looks like this.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-30T04:48:10.304Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is the movie.

(Warning: TV Tropes)

Replies from: katydee
comment by katydee · 2010-07-30T04:54:44.044Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I recall correctly, she was attractive-- even beautiful-- in the books until she was imprisoned, at which point she became a shadow of her former self. However, she was imprisoned for torturing two people into insanity (I can rot13 that if necessary, but I think it's a very minor spoiler at best), so I think it's fair to say that she was evil before she became unattractive and not the other way around.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-30T06:56:11.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ceteris paribus, girls are far, far less desperate than guys. Supply and demand says an egg produced once a month will have a higher asking price than what guys churn out. This makes me suspect female rapists must be less attractive.

There may be different factors going on for female rapists. The statistics you cite don't separate out male and female rapists, and I suspect that female rapists are less likely to rape out of desperation, rather than being less attractive.

comment by katydee · 2010-07-30T01:23:45.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see what that has to do with my post, and I also don't think it's true.

comment by ata · 2010-07-30T07:31:58.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those are the children's books version, and MoR is not a children's book, nor is most fanfiction. If you'll pardon the size of the hypothetical: If the Death Eaters actually existed, no way in hell are the males not committing rape.

I agree. My point was only that, in the context of the canon, having an 11-year-old boy talk about committing rape seems more jarringly unexpectednarratively, not inferentially — than having him talk about committing torture and murder (or having an adult Death Eater commit or talk about committing rape), relating to my point that the "Which of these characters has crossed the moral event horizon?" question was probably not relevant to people's actual objections.

(For the record, I'm not arguing the line shouldn't be there, and I don't disagree at all with your rationale for including it. I'm just trying to imagine the thinking of people who did react negatively to it.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T08:40:02.354Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's little he could do that would make us think "Wow, I didn't know Voldemort was that evil".

Would people be shocked if they found out that Voldemort didn't believe in Pure Bloodism and/or didn't care whether it was true-- he was just using it as a means of getting power and an excuse to kill people?

Replies from: wedrifid, gwern, ata
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-31T03:29:58.700Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would people be shocked if they found out that Voldemort didn't believe in Pure Bloodism and/or didn't care whether it was true-- he was just using it as a means of getting power and an excuse to kill people?

Huh? That was what I assumed when reading the books. I recall some 'blood purism' claims but thought they were just cheers. The sort of thing that only the low-to-mid level death eaters actually believe, before they evolve enough to actually 'get it'.

I suppose on reflection that in a fantasy story I should expect the 'evil' to be blamed on something politically incorrect rather than on universals of human nature.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-31T06:22:01.038Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm reading this, which goes into some detail about how carelessly built the Harry Potter universe is.

Still, while blood purism is an obviously easy win for the author, it strikes me as pretty well built into human nature to have a destructive political movement based on amping up prejudice. What would you consider to be a more universal basis for evil?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-31T10:48:45.129Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have to say, for a blog (?) focused on good writing and story structure, that's a really terrible essay/brain-dump - highly repetitive, problems mostly alluded to rather than described, fact & citation-free, and very very ranty. (I suspect I'd also find a number of self-contradictions if I cared to re-read.)

If it didn't have the occasional good insight, I'd never have finished reading it. I did, but I still hate essays which are intermittent reinforcement schedules.

But here's one good point. By the end, the real sin of Voldemort is not being evil, but in seeking to avoid death. Rowling implicitly seems to be saying: 1) you can't live forever 2) you shouldn't avoid death 3) death is good.

LWers may grudgingly accept #1 ('fine, I can't live for ∞ but can't I live for a few thousand years at least?'), but I think we all pretty much vociferously disagree with #2 & 3. And if we were put into the Potterverse, I think we would pretty quickly all go over to the Dark side.

And that observation suddenly changes my interest in MoR from 'what is Quirrelmort's grand plan?' to 'how does Harry rewrite Good & Evil and fix that sordid little world?'

Replies from: JoshuaZ, NancyLebovitz, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-31T14:43:13.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But here's one good point. By the end, the real sin of Voldemort is not being evil, but in seeking to avoid death. Rowling implicitly seems to be saying: 1) you can't live forever 2) you shouldn't avoid death 3) death is good.

LWers may grudgingly accept #1 ('fine, I can't live for ∞ but can't I live for a few thousand years at least?'), but I think we all pretty much vociferously disagree with #2 & 3. And if we were put into the Potterverse, I think we would pretty quickly all go over to the Dark side.

Would we go the Dark Side? I'm not sure. I think most people here would not murder someone to get the chance at a few extra centuries of life. And it seems that making a Philosopher's Stone is not a Dark Side event, although why no one other than Nicholas Flamel makes one is never made clear.

And that observation suddenly changes my interest in MoR from 'what is Quirrelmort's grand plan?' to 'how does Harry rewrite Good & Evil and fix that sordid little world?'

Mass produce Philosopher's Stones maybe?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T07:37:39.695Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mass produce Philosopher's Stones maybe?

I'm afraid that still puts us on the Dark Side; even wise and great Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel weren't allowed to use a single PS for, at max, more than 4 centuries. Indefinite use by any joe schmoe...

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-31T13:44:21.815Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I'd been wondering why I was having trouble focusing on the essay, and thinking the problem might be me.

I kept reading it because I thought a lot of the zip in the series faded out in the later books, I hated the epilogue with a passion, and was hoping that I'd get some explanations for why. I think I got some partial explanations, though I got tired of the theories about what Rowling must have been thinking.

Also, at the point when I'd mentioned the essay, I hadn't gotten to the material about accepting death nor the revolting chunk of resentment about how Rowling cheated to make her books popular by not concealing that she's pretty.

"Accept death" is a cheap and easy way to add profundity to fantasy and science fiction. I think the anti-immortality stories are pretty much sour grapes, and there are a lot of those stories. Peter Beagle's built a big chunk of his career on them.

Rebecca Ore's Centuries Ago and Very Fast is an exception-- the main character is non-aging and a time traveler, he likes his life, and he has a pragmatic ability to enjoy it.

Replies from: gwern, Cyan
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T07:43:48.829Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I got some partial explanations, though I got tired of the theories about what Rowling must have been thinking.

I too was tired - of his incompetence.

There is a lot of value to critically sifting authorial statements over decades about multi-installment works. But his sucked.

If you want to see it done right, in a way that completely revolutionizes your interpretation of the source material and gives you genuine insight, resolving all sorts of continuity issues, plot holes and whatnot, proving its case with citations and points beyond a reasonable doubt, the beau ideal would have to be The Secret History of Star Wars. I doubt you've read it, but take this old SW fan's word for it, it was a masterpiece that that essay comes nowhere near.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-08-01T09:26:04.885Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was more interested in what he had to say about the books themselves rather than his guesses about what Rowling was thinking.

I'm not likely to get around to The Secret History of Star Wars, but if there's a short answer, what happened to Lucas between the end of the first trilogy and the beginning of the second? He seemed to have forgotten most of what he knew about telling stories.

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" is brilliant. Starting a movie with a scrolling description of the tax(?) situation isn't.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T11:46:49.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

if there's a short answer, what happened to Lucas between the end of the first trilogy and the beginning of the second?

The short answer is that A New Hope had nothing whatsoever to do with any grand story about Darth Vader, who was merely a mid-level flunky of the Empire. Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi frantically retcon this, but Lucas simply didn't have a decent backstory centered around Darth Vader and couldn't come up with one.

The longer answer goes into the above, and also points out that Lucas's support network (of beta readers, if you will) which edited and improved his trilogy had largely fragmented or vanished by this point. For example, his wife, a very skilled film editor, had divorced him by the time of the prequels.

comment by Cyan · 2010-08-01T02:34:47.253Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got tired of the theories about what Rowling must have been thinking.

Me too. I stopped reading the essay because of this.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-31T19:20:01.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

J. K. Rowling once said that Harry Potter was a story about death.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-08-01T04:42:04.316Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Citation? I think I've read a fair number of JKR interviews and I don't remember her saying this. A quick Google search doesn't turn anything up but my Google-fu may be weak.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-08-01T07:35:30.208Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your Google-fu is weak; a search like http://www.google.com/search?num=100&q=%22J.K.%20Rowling%22%20%22Harry%20Potter%22%20death%20interview turns up Wikipedia linking to several interviews, and then some quick C-fs turn up:

Death is an extremely important theme throughout all seven books. I would say possibly the most important theme. If you are writing about Evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who is essentially a psychopath, you have a duty to show the real evil of taking human life.

http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/1201-bbc-hpandme.htm

comment by gwern · 2010-07-30T09:04:46.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, because the books heavily imply that Voldemort didn't believe. He was not pure-blood himself (Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a very bad example of the Aryan ideal). And, I think that the discussions of how Voldemort chose to interpret the prophecy as referring not to Neville (as pureblood as they come) but to Harry (who, through his mudblood mother, is impure) specifically take this tack.

Replies from: Leonhart, NancyLebovitz
comment by Leonhart · 2010-07-30T12:46:15.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. My recollection was that as the books progressed, the plausibility of LV not caring about pure-bloodedness grew larger, but he himself didn't admit to any such thing onscreen. Then in Deathly Hallows he suddenly did care about it again, because Rowling suddenly realised that he didn't actually have a motive at all. So any old ill-fitting one would have to do, as part of the overall trainwreck.

Then again, my perspective on HP has been thoroughly polluted by the brilliant essays over at http://www.redhen-publications.com/.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-07-30T14:05:22.549Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Voldemort says so little on-screen that I don't really get much out of him. His minions certainly do get more pure blood-centric as time goes on - look at Dolores Umbridge even before Deathly Hallows.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T10:12:54.184Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I really should give up on having opinions about most details in the books-- I've read them at most three times (once for the last two) and have forgotten a lot of detail.

Do you think the Death Eaters really care about Pure Bloodism?

Is MOR's Draco being shocked to find out that Pure Bloodism isn't true just a sign that he's young and naive?

Replies from: gwern, wedrifid
comment by gwern · 2010-07-30T11:19:49.990Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read them at most three times (once for the last two)

Only twice here, but I have a good memory for written material, and the ideology, physics, and philosophy of Harry Potter interested me long before MoR - so this is just an old topic for me.

Do you think the Death Eaters really care about Pure Bloodism?

Some do. The Blacks and Malfoys, probably. Others are in it to 'back the strong horse', and others are in it because it gives scope to their sadism.

Is MOR's Draco being shocked to find out that Pure Bloodism isn't true just a sign that he's young and naive?

Yes. Eliezer has written about 'nonoverlapping magisteria' before: they are transparent efforts to shrink religion to something which can't be falsified, an effort at special pleading. Even though religion (especially Western ones) have made many empirically falsifiable claims - which largely have been falsified. A very young person might take those claims seriously and be shocked that they are falsified.

To not know theological explanations of the theodicy (a topic recently relevant because I finally got around to reading Eliezer's Haruhi story (which was very good)), to not 'believe in belief', to not dismiss empiricism, to lack all those sophisticated dodges and excuses that intelligent adult theists use to remain theist - this we call 'young and naive'.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T14:06:57.730Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is it plausible that Lucius would allow Draco to be that much of an idealist?

Replies from: gwern, MBlume
comment by gwern · 2010-07-30T14:18:24.276Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. What would Lucius worry about disillusioning Draco? The anti-pure blood wizards don't have a leg to stand on, unlike theists and atheists.

(Think back - do you recall any good arguments made against pure blood, the theory as opposed to the believers? Rowling assumes we'll instantly identify pure bloodism == racism, and that's that. If they think any harder, most people will fall into the usual trap of thinking that exceptions/brilliant-mudbloods like Hermione Granger disprove pure bloodism, which of course they don't. The history of the Wizarding world is even more consistent with pure bloodism than not!)

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T15:41:53.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It wouldn't just be about Pure Blood. It would be about not having any abstract loyalties of any sort-- Malfoys want to be in charge because it's more comfortable at the top.

comment by MBlume · 2010-07-31T04:53:54.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Were Robin here, I suspect he would point out that allowing your children to remain innocent and naive is a sign of luxury, and a signal of high status. Lucius would be embarrassed not to have his 11-year-old son appear innocent and naive.

ETA: Childhood innocence is conspicuous consumption!

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-31T06:08:54.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, and note that Draco expects to spend his life catering to idiots. Harry's upbringing is clearly higher status.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-31T03:32:23.796Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is MOR's Draco being shocked to find out that Pure Bloodism isn't true just a sign that he's young and naive?

That sounds exactly right to me.

comment by ata · 2010-07-30T15:39:34.070Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be somewhat but not entirely surprised if I learned that about canon Voldemort. I'd be pretty surprised if Smart Science-Aware HPMoR Voldemort hasn't figured it out (not sure how likely it is that he knew all along).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T02:08:41.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My deduction was that the Malfoy family culture included rape for spite, not that it was something Draco came up with.

Replies from: ata
comment by ata · 2010-07-30T04:42:21.839Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The new wording — "As soon as I'm old enough I'm going to rape her" — makes it sound, in the absence of any alleged biological limitations now, like it's some sort of traditional rite of passage in the Malfoy family. (Or at least that's what it made me think of. Probably not the intended meaning.)

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-30T06:51:01.144Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't be surprised if it were one.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-30T03:34:44.566Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's little he could do that would make us think "Wow, I didn't know Voldemort was that evil".

Replies from: ata
comment by ata · 2010-07-30T07:20:44.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Was there supposed to be something after that quote, or did you cast a non-verbal Protego and deflect one of my points back at my own argument? (If that's the case, I don't quite see the significance of that line. Is it that we're supposed to have the same attitude toward Draco?)

Replies from: WrongBot
comment by WrongBot · 2010-07-30T14:21:31.951Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect that Eliezer may be taking that statement as a challenge.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-07-31T04:10:46.053Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I certainly hope so.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T00:56:33.841Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, murder can be presented in fiction with enough distance to be fun, but this isn't true of rape.

Note that there are mystery weekends for solving murders, but not for solving rapes.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-29T23:46:42.892Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Additionally, the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede murder and torture are more familiar than the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede rape, and so someone unfamiliar with the actual etiology of any of those crimes finds rape less relatable and more shocking.

Aren't the sorts of emotions that are commonly supposed to precede rape just extreme sexual arousal, frustration, and anger? Is that what you mean? I'm not sure how accurate that is in real life but that doesn't seem too unrelatable.

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2010-07-30T00:01:01.211Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems to me that people think rape is preceded by sickness, as in "he must be a real sick bastard". That's in large part because the common picture of rape is someone leaping out of the bushes at a random stranger, when a lot of rape is actually between acquaintances who know each other, and like or at least voluntarily spend time around each other.

comment by Furcas · 2010-07-30T02:00:11.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are few people above the age of 10 who find the word 'bitch' shocking nowadays. What was shocking about it isn't its 'naughtiness' (??), it's what it revealed about Draco's mentality, namely that it's polluted by a good amount of medieval misogyny.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-29T23:59:47.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I vote for putting the shock value in. I'd also change it to "When I'm old enough, I'm gonna rape that bitch and knock her up" or "When I get a chance, I'm gonna rape that bitch." As well as being old enough to get an erection, 11-year-olds are old enough to rape, though of course this could just be Draco's bravado.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-07-30T02:18:43.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a notion that this bit (especially the earlier version where Draco admits to not having erections yet) was the result of story constraints.

After somewhat about the Malfoys being pretty cool in ways which are important from the point of view of the story, it was necessary to shockingly remind the reader that they're also morally deficient and seriously bad news. At the same time, it was also a good idea to make this a hypothetical threat-- the story line isn't now (and perhaps not ever) about Hermione being in danger.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-30T00:10:10.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Read chapter 22 and 23, then look at what you just wrote. Are you sure that's the same Draco? If the passage actually does need more shock value (and I'm not quite sure that it does, especially given the wide variance in reader taste and the number who enjoyed the rest of the fic but thought that one part was too shocking) then it has to be more in-character for the later-revealed Draco. There's a simple way to increase the shock without adding vulgarities that polite young Death Eaters don't use - namely, substitute "torture and rape" for "rape" - but I already think this whole conversation is getting a bit off-topic for LW.

comment by gwern · 2010-07-29T05:32:17.635Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It didn't bother me. If Malfoy was thinking about self-control and wasn't really bothered, he wouldn't be using a curse at all; once your self-control is lost, it doesn't matter whether you use 'bitch' or some amusing Elizabethanism like 'trull' or 'maculate hobbyhorse'.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-28T20:52:40.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can we maybe get a list of these changes somewhere?

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-28T23:45:15.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't think so, sorry (unless archive.org or similar sites are especially zealous with ff.net). But you can do what I did and add the various chapters to the Update Scanner extension for Firefox, which will do the job for you.

Replies from: Sniffnoy
comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-28T23:58:08.233Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I was more of hoping we could prod Eliezer into supplying us with a list of such. :)

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-07-29T02:21:03.608Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, for one thing, sometimes Orwellian Retcons are there for important future reasons. It's one thing if someone reads Chapter 7 well enough, before and after, to spot the other change I made to Draco; but having a little automatic computer notifier makes my life more nervous.

Also, what kind of load does Update Scanner put on FFN's servers?

Replies from: Sniffnoy, JoshuaZ, NihilCredo
comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-07-29T03:01:20.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was thinking more for the benefit of those of us who only saw the older versions rather than for those of us who only saw the newer versions...

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-29T06:44:37.253Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, a diff would be great, so we don't need to read the whole thing to get the Orwellian Retcon.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-29T02:28:44.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, for one thing, sometimes Orwellian Retcons are there for important future reasons. It's one thing if someone reads Chapter 7 well enough, before and after, to spot the other change I made to Draco; but having a little automatic computer notifier makes my life more nervous.

Well then, please keep notes on the different versions so that future historians can look at the versions. I estimate a small chance that historians will be interested in this work (< 5%), but if one puts a high probability of a Singularity then the probability goes up a lot. So you would presumably think that it is worthwhile to keep them.

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-29T16:53:25.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Less Wrong Drinking Game: have a shot each time someone brings up the Singularity in a completely unrelated thread.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-07-29T18:37:06.950Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's worse is that I'm one of the people here who seems to give a lower estimate for a Singularity type event... Maybe it should be two shots whenever it is brought up by someone who doesn't identify as a Singularitarian?

Replies from: NihilCredo
comment by NihilCredo · 2010-07-29T19:30:29.322Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe it should be two shots whenever it is brought up by someone who doesn't identify as a Singularitarian?

Unfortunately, which category you belong to won't be apparent from a random post, unless you happen to drop some illuminating clue (say, a screenshot of your porn folder).

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2010-07-29T23:39:17.011Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do Singularitarians like a different type of porn than non-Singularitarians? I guess transhumanists might be more likely to like animated or photomodified porn...

I'd love to see some Singularity porn. The Prime Intellect stories might be included in this genre, thought they're a lot more than just erotica.

Replies from: PeerInfinity, None, HughRistik
comment by PeerInfinity · 2010-07-31T16:56:37.818Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ok, I just have to reply to this comment...

I am a Singularitarian, and yes, I think I do like different porn than non-Singularitarians. Porn of stuff that won't be possible until after the Singularity. Porn of nonhuman beings: furries, aliens, fantasy creatures, robots... and beings of nonstandard gender. Not just remixes of the standard male and female genders, but entirely new genders too. And yes, I also like tentacle monsters :)

And that's just the sorts of images I like. There's also the role playing I do in Second Life. I do stuff that's only possible in a virtual reality. Morphing my body into whatever form I happen to find convenient, creating and manipulating virtual objects in ways I find useful, and of course defying the conventions of our universe's physics. And sometimes even directly manipulating my mental state, or doing stuff like telepathically sending out waves of pleasure and happiness.

And then there's books... My favourite transhuman sex scenes are from Greg Egan's novels. He did a good job of thinking of some genuinely original ways for transhumans to have sex. Most notably in Shild's Ladder, with the aliens whose genitals form new and interesting shapes by exchanging pheremones with their partner. And also Oceanic, which featured the "bridge&quo