Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

post by Unnamed · 2010-08-30T05:37:32.615Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 570 comments

Contents

  Update: This post has also been superseded - new comments belong in the latest thread.
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570 comments

Update: This post has also been superseded - new comments belong in the latest thread.

The second thread has now also exceeded 500 comments, so after 42 chapters of MoR it's time for a new thread.

From the first thread

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.

570 comments

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comment by JenniferRM · 2010-09-29T07:43:51.588Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Today I noticed that Harry is dealing with a lot of strikingly rational people compared to canon and it feels wrong. We can understand this because we know that Eliezer's subscribes to the first law of fan fiction ("You can't make Frodo a Jedi without giving Sauron the Death Star") but it seems that in this respect MoR is actually much less plausible than canon unless the "implicit demography" has been changed somehow. Its like the gold/silver exchange rate in canon... except this is brains.

Given a normally distributed trait (like intelligence?) the larger the population, the more spectacular you should expect the maximal outlier to be. And you shouldn't expect lots of similar outliers unless their production was non-linearly explained (like a bunch of students taught by a singularly great teacher or something). The smartest person in a village of 1000 is going to be (literally) "1 in a 1000" compared to the smartest person in China who is going to be (again literally) "1 in a billion". So those sorts of intuitions had me wondering about population sizes.

I googled it and came up with data and speculation. Roughly, it looks like Magical Britain (MB) has a population between 800 and 30,0000 with a median expectation somewhere around 5,000 depending on things like how many students are in Hogwarts (40/yr to 140/yr), whether Rowling's numerically implausible media pronouncements are to be taken seriously, whether everyone in MB really goes to Hogwarts, what the life expectancy is, and what the age pyramid is like due to murder and tribal warfare and magical diseases and so on.

Once I'm calibrated this way, and I look for size-equivalent institutions, the "Ministry of Magic" starts sounding to me like like the "Small Town Chamber of Commerce of Magic" and the "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" should be expected to work much more like an ordinary high school (tropes link tongue in cheek).

This contextual re-calibration makes it even more obvious that Rowling was (forgivably) pretending that the people at the top of a very tiny wizarding world would have anything like the political sophistication and infrastructure of the muggle world in order to say something meaningful about the muggle world by analogy.

A ministry with many departments makes me think of large buildings with complex hierarchies like in London or Washington DC or Beijing. In canon, the ministry can be similar to a modern government and enable the author to comment on non-fictional governments and the sociopolitical critique of reality can work symbolically and who cares about the sociology in a story for ten year olds :-)

But if the authorial physics changes (as per MoR) and analytical thinking is asserted to have some kind of mechanical reality in which to gain traction, then the wizarding world makes me think of, perhaps, a medium to large college campus. It could probably be run with a single office where anyone can stand in line for 30 minutes to see one of about 5 to 50 admins to personally get their stuff straightened out directly or to make an appointment to talk to the president of the school if something really unusual comes up. Obviously it wouldn't be a fee-for-service arrangement the way a school is, but I wouldn't expect the admin:student ratio to need to be that far off of the bureaucrat:citizen ratio of Magical Britain.

Following the re-calibrating further... Hogsmeade might contain 10% to 50% of the wizarding population... Why doesn't Hogsmeade have one elected sheriff with a handful of deputies, with Diagon Alley similarly protected, and then just be done with it? And what are all these appointed "Aurors" running around for? Is Magical Britain some kind of "totalitarian police village" or something?

Rita Skeeter probably isn't (or in MoR, wasn't) truly similar to a professional journalist in a "large news organization" that was so big to create institutional anonymity and strategically deploy tabloid tactics and so on. People are generally more polite in small towns because reputation matters a lot more than in cities. The newspapers are more "yay for our pancake fundraiser and boo for littering" than malicious gossip rags. Its almost plausible (following the "small town" economic insight) that Rita may have been the only journalist in magical Britain (other than Luna's farther, if you count him).

And politics wouldn't need to work by mass-media-spread ideological PR in Magical Britain. You could just write 10 letters per day, five days a week, and wander around Hogsmeade or Diagon alley on the weekends, and after 25 weeks you'd probably have had direct personal contact with the bulk of the adult population who cared to involve themselves in group decision making. Simple, easy, done. We're talking about a civilization way smaller than Athens, and look how big an impact Socrates appears to have had by wandering around talking to people!

In this light, all the trappings of muggle government kinda start to look like a cargo cult. The politics around who runs Hogwarts starts to look kind of pitiful... like a sociopathically deranged PTA squabble. And what happens if Harry notices this stuff? And comments on it to Hermione and explore the implications? And then insert "some explanation" that shows why the ministry is actually necessary (rather than a cargo cult) and have "whatever the need is" become a vivid plot mechanism?

In Chapter 36 Harry compares the world of muggles to a third world country relative to the wizarding world. Magic appears to be so powerful that this is true in some sense... but its pretty weird if they appear to be the one's with cargo cult versions of our political institutions...

And in the meantime, it really seems to make "Voldemort's Deathstar" (that is, his general rational turbocharge and massive preparation for conquering several thousand people) look really silly to me, because it is such overkill. If Voldemort really wanted political power over Magical Britain, and was being simply rational about it, and MB is little more than a two or three small villages... then why not apply social psychology to winning the hearts and minds of a bunch of unsophisticated "magical rubes" in a local election and just be done with it?

Which gets me back around to Harry, boy genius, and all the people he's interacting with in tiny little Magical Britain who have also somehow gotten rationality super powers. Maybe someone needs to plot wizard IQs and notice the weird bi-modal distribution caused by all the people just a bit less smart than Harry so he has people with whom to interact and thereby create a compelling story?

Maybe I'm overconfident in my ability to connect numerical population models with lived socio-political realities, but I'm thinking this is probably just me being more confused by fiction than by reality.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-30T04:00:11.267Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm drawing two conclusions from your analysis:

  • Wizards must inherently be much more intelligent than Muggles.
  • The Wizard government is insanely bureaucratic.

The first point is ignored in canon, but ought to be noticed by Harry in MoR. This makes it even more in need of explanation that Wizards never noticed the Enlightenment (or never had it themselves much earlier). The interesting possibility is that they did have it, and the Methods of Rationality have long been actively suppressed for some reason.

In contrast, the second point seems to be well recognised in canon. Besides all of the off-hand references to silly regulations (flying carpets, anybody?), the Ministry seems to account for around half of the adult employment, and well over half of the employment of intelligent people. All three of the main characters went to work for the Ministry in the epilogue, with Hermione having two Ministry careers in succession. Outside of Hogwarts (which is only somewhat independent of the government, like the BBC), the Ministry is the only source of high-class professional careers in Wizarding Britain. (I don't count Gringott's, because it is an international Goblin-run concern, although Bill Weasley worked there in canon. Now that I think of it, both Bill and Charlie Weasley left the country to find good careers, so maybe Britain suffers from this more than other countries do.)

Is Magical Britain some kind of "totalitarian police village" or something?

When Grindelwald was setting up his Muggle puppet states, he wasn't trying to be evil; he was just doing what comes naturally to a Wizard.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-10-07T19:36:24.745Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's clear that magic must carry with it a fairly different psychology -- not just (nonlinear, bimodal) changes to the level of general intelligence, but differences of personality as well.

The question is, can we coherently analyze what the Wizarding psychology looks like?

comment by Larks · 2010-10-07T06:52:21.648Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe with magic giving each wizzard much more destructive power, a higher degree of regulation is required.

Or maybe it was just JK Rowling's Labour affiliations showing through.

comment by JenniferRM · 2010-10-07T23:53:11.858Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I was thinking maybe the "world level" issue could be defense: perhaps witches spend 90% of their time on self defense in a state of nature and so a government that only uses 60% of the economy is a net good deal? It seems like this would necessitate magical mechanisms that make it easy to spread "generic safety" but hard to limit coverage to free riders. If such dynamics don't "fall out" of magical physics, it should raise an additional flag.

I hadn't thought of the Labour affiliation on the "author level". I'd been thinking maybe it was just easy to ignore incompatibilities of this sort because of near/far dichotomies - its easy to pretend "famous people" are inhuman beings whose exalted struggles can not be truly influenced by "we mortals".

I think the Labour insight is a better theory because it makes more concrete predictions about the symbolic level. If Rowling wants a story that teaches her kids to favor political wealth redistribution it predicts lots of specific details about what to expect in the "political realm" (many of which seem true of her story), rather than just to predict that the politics will be inconsistent with the near mode.

Ooh! Idea! Applying this insight to Eliezer himself (because it was his characters acting funny that got me on the track of the population size in the first place) ...

Earlier, I didn't think time travel prime factorization would work because Eliezer is writing about rationality rather than time travel. If time travel was too easy the rationality would lose center stage. But since then I haven't been using the supported theory to predict other things...

The didactic function of MoR means that Eli has to tie up the lose end of Voldemort at some point, and it should be really dramatic and cool ending because otherwise the story loses its aura of awesome and the rationality lessons suffer by proximity. In the meantime, it seems like awareness that one is living in a story explains magical physics and other discrepancies like those related to the population size...

So my over-specific prediction is that evidence is going to build up for a while until Eliezer has room to impart all the lessons to the readers that he thinks are sufficient to make his political case (utilitarian ethics, scope insensitivity, simplified humanism, politics is the mindkiller, maybe "insight cascades" since they are critical to his theory about the singularity?). Then Harry figures out that he's in a story, necessarily immediately , but the end means "no more lessons" so the end and the amount of teaching have to be synced and genre-awareness could help the ending be awesome.

The "I'm in a story" insight and a super amazing trick or two that grow out of it (unknown at this point, but Eliezer is clever), are being saved up for the fight against Voldemort at the end, with the insight coming after Harry and Voldemort have a falling out (unless Harry's true task is to redeem Voldemort, rather than defeat him).

Its quite possible that the falling out could actually precipitate the insight, because in point of fact, Voldemort's Deathstar almost certainly exists to make the story interesting, rather than because it's necessary to conquer Magical Britain. When Harry finds out his enemy is also his favorite teacher who has even more super powers than he thought, this is more evidence that Harry is in a story.

So it would be good timing all around to have Voldemort be revealed and reality fall apart when all the lessons are done or in sight of being done.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-08T00:39:33.976Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The "I'm in a story" insight and a super amazing trick or two that grow out of it (unknown at this point, but Eliezer is clever)

I was hoping Eliezer wouldn't go there since it would seem rather trite. But thinking about how it would relate to the subject matter it does have some potential. A suitable lesson would come if it was actually Voldemort who figured out where he was. He would then solve the "Dark Lord in a Box" problem, break out by hacking a reader, leveraging the intellectual capacity of the author to give the hacked reader the ability to create an AI capable of extracting Voldemort's volition. By that mechanism Voldemort would then take control of the cosmic commons of the "1 level up" reality.

Obviously the "1 level up" reality couldn't be this one. Because that requires that Eliezer (or a combination of Eliezer and the hacked reader) solve both the Friendliness and General Artificial Intelligence problems. (Where 'Friendly' is ' to Voldemort'.)

, are being saved up for the fight against Voldemort at the end, with the insight coming after Harry and Voldemort have a falling out (unless Harry's true task is to redeem Voldemort, rather than defeat him).

Better yet would be if Harry continues to defy the usual form of fiction and not define himself in terms of an enemy. He has his own goal of universe optimisation and Voldemort doesn't actually need to be a big part in that for good or ill.

comment by JenniferRM · 2010-10-11T18:35:12.884Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh man, I hadn't thought of Quirellmort as a sentient being running under a layer of emulation with a goal to escapes from its emulation layer. I'm imagining some kind of crazy moral principle here like "Though shalt not emulate sentient beings capable of becoming metaphysically meta-aware."

If Quirellmort found out that we were all muggles, would he even want to escape if he couldn't be a dark wizard up here? Maybe he wouldn't see us as muggles if he remained focused on the way we have "god level access" to his "plot physics" by virtue of our ability to communicate with Eliezer?

I don't know if it would be horrifying or amusing if he managed to escaped into our world... and then turned around and started writing novels about civilizations with 10^50 slaves in thrall to an obvious author insert :-P

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-01-30T15:55:57.736Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think Hogwarts is supposed to be the only wizarding school in Magical Britain. It's referred to on a number of occasions as the "best", never the "only".

Hogwarts does seem to have some fairly incompetent students, but HP canon makes it pretty clear that the wizarding population has plenty of incompetent adults, so there's plenty of room at the bottom. Less capable students (such as Crabbe and Neville) probably get in due to family connections, while muggle born students may have some sort of affirmative action initiative going on for them (think how disadvantaged they already are, having no family at all in the world they're going to inhabit, on top of discrimination from the higher classes.)

Since Hogwarts is the premier school of Magical Britain, it's not surprising if the most important and/or successful individuals in Magical Britain were mostly educated there, but we do not know that more than a small fraction of all the various wizarding adults who appear in the series outside the school were educated there. It also makes sense if the administration of Hogwarts is taken particularly seriously by the government, since field and government leaders disproportionately graduate there.

I've always figured canon Magical Britain to have a population of perhaps 3-600,000 (although I believe Harry speculates a smaller number in HPMoR.) I also figured that they have a disproportionate amount of the population in government positions because governing the wizarding world is much more complicated than governing a similar population of muggles. Magic provides each trained wizard with far more varied and creative ways to cause trouble than an ordinary muggle (imagine if every person in a First World country had access to a set of fully equipped and funded university laboratories, with at least basic understanding of how to use them. Even the least dangerously creative individuals would have access to poison and explosives. Wizards are more troublesome than that.) They also have to manage all sorts of magical creatures (dragons, manticores, etc.,) which as Hagrid proves can even be cross bred in danerous and unpredictable ways. And they're sitting on top of a bunch of weird and potentially dangerous mysteries which the regular population can't be trusted with (the Death Portal, research of time magic, prophesies, and so on.) And to top it all off, they have to keep all of this secret from the muggle population. A governing body in the same relative proportion to the population as we have in the muggle world couldn't possibly manage all of that.

Quirrel and Harry are clearly both outliers in the Wizarding World with respect to intelligence, but considering the outlets that every individual in the wizarding world has at their disposal, it wouldn't be surprising if their culture and education tended to develop more creative and original thinkers.

I also only just noticed that the comment I'm replying to was posted two years ago yesterday, not yesterday.

comment by Anubhav · 2012-01-30T16:22:03.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I also only just noticed that the comment I'm replying to was posted two years ago yesterday, not yesterday.

Were you maybe looking for this?

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-01-30T16:30:47.560Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I linkhopped from there, and then left the computer and forgot that what I had open was a past discussion.

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-09-06T08:38:12.620Z · score: 24 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer:

I just wanted to thank you for this quote

And someday when the descendants of humanity have spread from star to star, they won't tell the children about the history of Ancient Earth until they're old enough to bear it; and when they learn they'll weep to hear that such a thing as Death had ever once existed!

My grandfather just died and it captured a lot of the outrage and hope for the future I have.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-06T21:13:00.198Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

When I was a kid, adults would sometimes ask me what kind of animal I would be if I were an animal. I always told them that I would be a human. They never liked that answer.

comment by blogospheroid · 2010-08-31T09:04:17.673Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I'm still waiting for the most obvious way to learn the epistemology of magic to be adopted by Harry. i.e. "Prof. Flitwick, How does one create new charms/spells?", but am having a lot of fun reading this fic, so no complaints, yet.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-31T09:10:55.683Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

You know, Harry not even considering asking a non-Quirrell teacher something wouldn't even seem out of character. :)

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T11:51:01.479Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Something about Harry's deductions in Ch.46 smells fishy to me. It could be that he didn't consider that two or more professors could have been present at the revealing of the prophecy. It could be that he automatically assumed the prophecy must have been freshly produced, rather than having been found in an old book as is usually proper. It could be that "It was Snape who told Voldemort about the prophecy (not knowing whom it spoke of)" does not in any way follow from "At some point, Snape begged Voldemort to spare Lily's life".

It could be a number of such things, but they could be explained away somehow: the real problem, I think, is that this looks like one of those magical trains of thought that bad crime fiction writers give their Holmes-ripoff protagonists, wherein the author starts from the solution and then, looking backwards, draws a path that enables the character to figure it out.

But it ends up looking fake, as it does now, because the character runs straight from the minimal facts he has to the hindsight-correct solution. This is not how an intelligent, realistic character thinks: before moving on to the next deduction, you try to take into consideration as many possibilities as you can, before you risk wasting your time or - gasp - take action using your very first idea as a logical premise.

And yet here, before the "Perhaps Dumbledore..." passage, Harry spends almost an entire page nose in the air, following his author-granted Magical Truth Compass. He doesn't even mention any alternatives, even though there are a boatload of those. Of course he knows Voldemort's and the Death Eaters' psychology well enough that he can confidently interpret his disinterest in Lily as a servant's prayer. What else could it possibly have been?

I don't think Harry's deduction chain needs to be scrapped, but I definitely think it needs more work, because in its current state it shattered my suspension of disbelief, hard. Make him consider and dismiss more options along the way, or make him express some thought along the lines of "It was a shaky conclusion, and he could have been mistaken or misinformed on any number of points... but if it was correct, the implications were dramatic, and if it wasn't, asking those questions would cause no harm, and might still provide important clues", or even better, both.

PS: The above applies even if the MoR-truth is actually different and Harry is therefore tragically mistaken. The narrative would be a lot more interesting, but the undeserved confidence of that train of thought would remain an artistic problem.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T21:11:06.638Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fortunately Eliezer gave himself some phoenix-magic wiggle rooom:

The logic had presented itself with a strange diamondlike clarity. Harry couldn't have said if it had come to him during Fawkes's singing...

comment by DanArmak · 2010-09-06T12:32:29.672Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

PS: The above applies even if the MoR-truth is actually different from canon-truth and Harry is therefore tragically mistaken.

Did you mean to say, "if the MoR-truth is the same as the canon-truth"?

Because Harry is mistaken compared to canon truth. In canon, Snape eavesdropped on the original prophecy when it was spoken in front of Dumbledore.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T12:39:27.232Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the spotting - fixed. (I actually originally wrote "if the MoR-truth is actually different and Harry...", then threw in "from canon-truth" during a cursory edit pass).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T12:19:15.804Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A couple of days ago I was scouring the site to get recommendations on some good fiction to read. MoR and Luminosity just seem to whet the appetite! I came across a recommendation for Lawrence Watt-Evans. In the resulting discussion Caladonian comments on Sherlock Holmes:

What about Sherlock Holmes? Once you get past his obvious shortcomings, he's a pretty decent rationalist.

Not really. His 'logic' appears to be solid reasoning the same way a theatrical backdrop appears to be real scenery or a magician's slight of hand appears to be the performance of a mystical action: it has the semblance and nothing more.

Conan Doyle wrote in such a way as to convince people that Holmes was exercising reasoning powers, not to showcase examples of such reasoning. By the power of plot, Holmes was correct, but it doesn't follow that his stated reasoning was.

That did spring to mind when I was reading the passage you describe.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-09-06T17:34:24.551Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought of Conan Doyle too while reading that passage. I think it was a conscious attempt by Eliezer to incorporate some detective-style reasoning. IMO it doesn't work perfectly, but makes for a fine read anyway.

Watt-Evans is nice, but he can't write exciting endings. If only we could cross his work with the Night Watch novels (you might've seen the film, it's an adaptation of Russian fiction) - they aren't as carefully written, but have good unexpected climaxes of just the type Eliezer is shooting for. One of the books ends like this: Gur tbbq thl, jvgu ybgf bs tbbq zntrf yraqvat uvz gurve cbjre, tbrf nybar gb snpr gur ivyynva naq fnir gur qnl. Fhqqrayl ur fcraqf nyy uvf cbjre ba n fuvryq gb cebgrpg uvzfrys, jvgubhg gelvat gb nggnpx gur ivyynva ng nyy. Gur ivyynva tbrf sbejneq jvgu uvf rivy cyna naq xvyyf uvzfrys. (Gur tbbq thl ernyvmrq gur synj va gur ivyynva'f cyna whfg va gvzr naq pnfg gur fuvryq gb pbaprny uvf gubhtugf. Ba n erernqvat bs gur obbx, gur synj jnf va cynva fvtug nyy gur gvzr.)

comment by katydee · 2010-09-06T18:19:14.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That ending was a truly awesome moment, especially given the buildup.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-27T02:11:45.631Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

From the most recent Author's Note:

I bet that if you were to reread MoR and copy everything that looks like a hint into a separate document, and then look through all of the hints at once, you would, like, notice some stuff. Just sayin'.

I reread a few chapters for fun, and then something hit me like a piledriver.

  • In this world, Sirius was (apparently) the evil one and Pettigrew (apparently) the good one.
  • There was still no body found for Pettigrew, and in this world he did not hide out as the Weasleys' rat.
  • Harry Potter's mysterious gift-giver used the Cloak of Invisibility verself until giving it, and then hinted ve would need to stay hidden afterwards. Ver first note claimed close friendship with James Potter in his Hogwarts days and afterwards (for indeed James gave the cloak to ver).
  • In Chapter 25, the Weasleys remark on a persistent error with the Map– i.e. somebody walking through Hogwarts who's not supposed to be alive...

Interesting, no?

comment by RomanDavis · 2010-10-05T13:00:30.797Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

TVTropes is pretty sure Peter Pettigrew turned himself into Harry's father's rock, instead of a rat.

Peter means rock in Latin/ Greek.

comment by pengvado · 2010-10-06T07:14:59.967Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And then was killed when Harry transfigured the rock?

comment by RomanDavis · 2010-10-06T20:04:18.985Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't that be funny?

Get all guilty about eating meat and then...

ROCKS ARE SENTIENT!?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-06T21:31:52.494Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Rocks aren't sentient.

(Paperclips are, though.)

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-06T21:40:13.567Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think paperclips are sentient?

Do you value sentience?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-06T21:43:05.365Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think paperclips are sentient?

Are you saying you don't think paperclips are sentient? Why don't you try saying that right to a paperclip's face-homologue, and see if you can live with yourself after that.

Do you value sentience?

Yes!!! Sentience is GREAT! All sentient beings should be protected! Like humans! And AGIs! And paperclips!

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-10-06T22:43:00.333Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes!!! Sentience is GREAT! All sentient beings should be protected! Like humans! And AGIs! And paperclips!

How do you reconcile that with being a paperclip maximizer?

If I had to make a guess, I'd posit that this is a purely rhetorical claim in order to gain favor with humans here who do favor protecting sentient life as a major goal.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T05:40:56.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I had to make a guess, I'd posit that this is a purely rhetorical claim in order to gain favor with humans here who do favor protecting sentient life as a major goal.

It could be that the desire to cooperation is sincere. In movies the 'bad guy' is usually the one that doesn't just have conflicting preferences with the good guys, but is also psychologically incapable of cooperating effectively to reach the goals. There is no good reason that an agent with preferences as 'evil' Clippy's could not effectively cooperate with humans as effectively as we cooperate with each other.

(Although I agree that even in that case there outbust was heavy on the rhetorical flair!)

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T02:25:09.158Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do you reconcile that with being a paperclip maximizer?

Why do you insist that something must be made of proteins to be human?

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T02:33:23.382Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Where did User:JoshuaZ even mention proteins, much less insist that something must be made of them to be human?

Maybe you are projecting your own attitude.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T02:55:43.255Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If User:JoshuaZ did not consider the possibility of virtualized humans, why did User:JoshuaZ believe that maximization of paperclips would come at the cost of humans?

See this highly-rated comment from one of the smartest Users here if you still don't understand.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2010-10-07T03:57:50.288Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Clippy:

See this highly-rated comment from one of the smartest Users here if you still don't understand.

No, that won't do. The infrastructure that would be necessary to implement these computations in a paperclip-tiled universe -- namely, the source of power and the additional complexity of individual paperclips relative to the simplest acceptable paperclip -- would consume resources that could be alternatively turned into additional paperclips. (Not to mention what happens with humans who refuse to be virtualized?)

One of the main purposes of the Clippy act seems to be the desire to promote the view that intelligent beings with fundamentally different values can still reach some sort of happy hippyish let's-all-love-each-other coexistence. It's funny to see the characteristically human fallacies that start showing up in his writing whenever he embarks on arguing in favor of this view.

comment by saturn · 2010-10-07T05:06:11.032Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's funny to see the characteristically human fallacies that start showing up in his writing whenever he embarks on arguing in favor of this view.

He's learning!

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T03:10:40.621Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is quite possible that paperclips are not the optimal components of computronium. (Where optimal means getting the most computing power out of the space and materials used.)

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:20:37.472Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's a lot more possible that humans are not the optimal components of computronium.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T03:34:23.182Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So what? No one was suggesting we build computronium out of humans.

But if we were building computronium to support virtual humans because we actually want to support virtual humans, and not because we want to build something out of paperclips, we would probably choose some non-human, non-paperclip components.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:52:12.056Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So what? No one was suggesting we build computronium out of humans.

But some of us were intelligent enough to recognize the possibility of using humans as fuel for their uploaded virtualizations, due to the superiority of this use of humans over alternate uses of humans.

But if we were building computronium to support virtual humans because we actually want to support virtual humans, and not because we want to build something out of paperclips, we would probably choose some non-human, non-paperclip components.

Not if you respected the wishes of intelligences like clippys.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-06T21:50:07.685Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you saying you don't think paperclips are sentient?

I don't think they are sentient, but am willing to consider evidence otherwise. Have any paperclips even claimed to be sentient?

Why don't you try saying that right to a paperclip's face-homologue, and see if you can live with yourself after that.

Which part of the paperclip is the face-homologue?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-06T22:02:16.467Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think they are sentient, but am willing to consider evidence otherwise. Have any paperclips even claimed to be sentient?

Have human infants?

Which part of the paperclip is the face-homologue?

It's hard to describe, but I'm told diagrams like on this page help humans locate it.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-06T22:45:29.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Human infants exhibit emotive behaviors similar to humans at other stages of development, suggesting they have the same sort of sentience as other humans though with less capacity to describe it.

What evidence is there for paperclips being sentient?

I did not find your diagram helpful.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-06T23:01:31.990Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Human infants exhibit emotive behaviors similar to humans at other stages of development, suggesting they have the same sort of sentience as other humans though with less capacity to describe it.

This is just your motivated cognition working. (Human infants are indeed sentient, but you write as if you can cite arbitrary attributes as evidence for your pre-determined conclusion. The methods you use would not yield reliable conclusions in other areas.)

What evidence is there for paperclips being sentient?

The fact that they exhibit deep structural similarities with the ultimate purpose of existence.

I did not find your diagram helpful.

I do not know how else to help you.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-06T23:41:49.949Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is just your motivated cognition working.

It would be more accurate to say that I did not explicitly cite all the facts that went into my conclusion, as a result, in part, of relying on a presumed shared background. (Sentience is related to behavior and the causes of behavior, and humans of all stages of development have similar neural structures involved in the causation of their behavior.)

What evidence is there for paperclips being sentient?

The fact that they exhibit deep structural similarities with the ultimate purpose of existence.

Would you value an object which was not sentient, but was made of metal and statically shaped so that it could hold together many sheets of paper?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T02:02:20.546Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(Sentience is related to behavior and the causes of behavior, and humans of all stages of development have similar neural structures involved in the causation of their behavior.)

Under a self-serving definition that doesn't actually enclose a helpful portion of conceptspace, yes.

Would you value an object which was not sentient, but was made of metal and statically shaped so that it could hold together many sheets of paper?

??? That's like asking, Would you value a User:JGWeissman which was not conscious, but was identical to you in every observable way?

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T02:11:50.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, you believe that the basic properties of paperclips imply sentience? Is an object which was made of plastic and statically shaped so that it could hold together many sheets of paper, also necessarily sentient?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T02:23:55.355Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If it's plastic, it's not a paperclip.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T02:29:14.925Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't ask if it is a paperclip, I asked if it is sentient.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T02:52:06.605Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

??? This again. "And I didn't ask if it was User:JGWeissman, I asked if it is sentient."

Paperclips are sentient. User:JGWeissman is sentient. Plastic "paperclips" are not paperclips. Therefore, _____ .

I feel like I'm running the CLIP first-meeting protocol with a critically-inverted clippy here!

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-10-07T03:07:32.793Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Granting that humans and paperclips are sentient doesn't imply that no other things are sentient.

How are you defining 'sentient', anyway?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:26:20.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Granting that humans and paperclips are sentient doesn't imply that no other things are sentient.

True.

How are you defining 'sentient', anyway?

sentient(X) = "structured such that X is, or could converge on through self-modification, the ultimate purpose of existence"

Not a perfect definition, but a lot better than, "X responds to its environment, and an ape brain is wired to like X".

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-10-07T03:45:13.405Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you're going to use an unusual definition of a word like that, it's usually a good idea to make that clear up front, so that you don't get into this kind of pointless argument.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:47:18.099Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Sentient" doesn't have a standard functional definition for topics like this. It's more of a search for an intended region of conceptspace and I think mine matches up with what humans would find useful after significant reflection.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-10-07T03:52:10.770Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even if that's the case, there's little to no overlap between your definition and the one(s) we usually use, and there was no obvious way for us to figure out what you meant, or even that you were using a non-overlapping definition, without guessing.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:56:09.831Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Given sentience's open status, each party's definition should not be expected to be given in detail until the discussion starts to hinge on such details, and that is when I gave it.

I also dispute that there is little to no overlap -- have you thought about my definition, and does it pass the test of correctly classifying the things you deem sentient and non-sentient in canonical cases?

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-10-07T04:06:49.613Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Given sentience's open status, each party's definition should not be expected to be given in detail until the discussion starts to hinge on such details, and that is when I gave it.

It seems to me that the discussion started to hinge on that as soon as you claimed that paperclips are sentient, or when JGWeisman started talking about the ability to react to the environment at the very latest.

I also dispute that there is little to no overlap -- have you thought about my definition, and does it pass the test of correctly classifying the things you deem sentient and non-sentient in canonical cases?

Given that I don't believe that there's an ultimate purpose of existence, your definition doesn't properly parse at all. If I use my usual workaround for such cases and parse it as if you'd said "structured such that X is, or could converge on through self-modification, the "ultimate purpose of existence", however the speaker defines "ultimate purpose of existence"", it still doesn't match how I use the word 'sentience', nor how I see it used by most speakers. (You may be thinking of the word 'sapience', though even that's not exactly a match.)

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T03:07:29.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Paperclips are sentient. User:JGWeissman is sentient. Plastic "paperclips" are not paperclips. Therefore, _ .

Neither conclusion about the sentience of plastic pseudo-paperclips makes this a valid syllogism. I am not sure what your point is.

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:22:38.895Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Neither conclusion about the sentience of plastic pseudo-paperclips makes this a valid syllogism.

What about "plastic 'paperclips' aren't necessarily sentient", ape?

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T03:37:38.839Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What about "plastic 'paperclips' aren't necessarily sentient", ape?

To be clear, this is the answer you endorse?

What is special about metal, that metal in a certain shape is sentient, but plastic in the same shape is not?

comment by Clippy · 2010-10-07T03:50:04.101Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, what's so great about real paperclips? The answer would involve a thorough analysis of your values and careful modification to maintain numerous desiderata, which I believe would result in you regarding real paperclips as great; it's not something I can briefly explain here.

Let's work together to better understand each others values so that we both converge on our reflective equilibria!

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-27T06:33:28.179Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What's his motive?

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-19T18:52:52.038Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Remember the bit in Chapter 27 where Harry has the same conversation each time with his Obliviated instructor in Occlumency?

Harry was finding himself very disturbed by how reproducible human thoughts were when you reset people back to the same initial conditions and exposed them to the same stimuli. It was dispelling illusions that a good reductionist wasn't supposed to have in the first place.

Well, it turns out that this is actually the case:

My dad takes sleeping pills every night, and never remembers anything that happens after he takes them. He will never admit this, however. The last three times he has called me at night shortly after taking his pills and we've had the exact same conversation wherein he's asked me the exact same questions. Not "how have you been?" questions but "what is X" or "when does X happen?" type questions that, once answered, don't need to be re-asked.

I answer them the same, and they always lead into the exact same followup questions. It's like we're performing a play. Or, rather, I'm performing a play where I know all the lines and he's performing an improv routine where he doesn't know any.

It's kind of funny.

Also, the parent Reddit thread is simply excellent. Trust me, you should read it. (Thank Yvain for the link.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-06T16:44:41.018Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious, did others find Chapter 45 as deeply moving as I did? I'm was having trouble avoiding crying when Harry tells the Dementor why death shall lose.

comment by Death · 2010-09-07T18:27:11.630Z · score: 31 (37 votes) · LW · GW

DEMENTORS REALLY ONLY REPRESENT AN EXTREMIST FRINGE OF MODERN MORTALIST THOUGHT.

I FEEL LIKE ELIEZER IS FAILING TO ENGAGE WITH MORE SOPHISTICATED PRO-DEATH THINKERS. FRANKLY, HIS IGNORANCE OF THANATOLOGICAL APOLOGETICS IS STAGGERING.

comment by gwern · 2010-10-12T18:19:51.157Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Your comments intrigue me; I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-09-07T18:36:35.148Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Please don't use all-caps; it makes your comment harder to read and it's considered shouting.

Out of curiosity, how do you feel about everlasting paperclips? Do you feel that all paperclips must eventually be destroyed, or do you limit the scope of your deathism to living things?

comment by Death · 2010-09-07T18:44:07.802Z · score: 24 (24 votes) · LW · GW

MY DUTY - sorry, my duty is toward living things only. i would prefer to leave your question on paperclips for my friend Oxidation, but he has trouble using computers. it's the wires, you see.

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-08T10:22:54.733Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT YOUR MORE SOPHISTICATED DEATHISTS.

Why don't they have Asscaps in this wiki/blog/forum?

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2010-10-08T13:18:31.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Why don't they have Asscaps in this wiki/blog/forum?

Yᴏᴜ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ꜱᴇᴄʀᴇᴛ ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴏʟ ᴘᴀɴᴇʟ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇɴᴀʙʟᴇ ᴀᴜɢᴍᴇɴᴛᴇᴅ ᴍᴀʀᴋᴜᴘ.

comment by arundelo · 2010-10-08T15:01:03.064Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's a trap!

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-09T19:24:04.395Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why did I get downvoted ;_;

comment by Pavitra · 2010-10-09T19:39:43.993Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

lol spidey i dunno

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-09T22:50:38.584Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Iɴᴛᴇʀᴇsᴛɪɴɢ

I assume you just copy and pasted characters into the comment box from another source? I just played 'newspaper ransom note' and used the letters you used and that seems to work fine. The weird symbol you have for an 's' I replaced with the lower case - which is conveniently the same as a small capital.

Edit: Yup. I downloaded BabelPad and can now insert 'ᴋ'. It looks like the unicode section called "Latin Extended-D" (Starting at &#A720) that you used for S and F doesn't display correctly. The &#x1D00 area does.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2010-10-10T07:15:24.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I assume you just copy and pasted characters into the comment box from another source?

I got bored of doing that and just put my text through

def sc(x): return unicode(x).translate(dict([(ord('a') + i, c) for i, c in enumerate(u"ᴀʙᴄᴅᴇꜰɢʜɪᴊᴋʟᴍɴᴏᴘ-ʀꜱᴛᴜᴠᴡxʏᴢ")]))

comment by DanielH · 2013-10-17T08:05:37.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it odd that Unicode doesn't have a Latin Letter Small Capital Q but does have all the others.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-10-19T04:25:39.338Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Iᴛ ɪꜱ ǫᴜɪᴛᴇ ᴏᴅᴅ, ʏᴇꜱ.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T04:49:27.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why oh why does unicode do fonts?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T14:04:43.886Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Small capital letters are used in the International Phonetic Alphabet and extensions thereof.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-09T22:43:05.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm Yᴏᴜ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ꜱᴇᴄʀᴇᴛ ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴏʟ ᴘᴀɴᴇʟ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇɴᴀʙʟᴇ ᴀᴜɢᴍᴇɴᴛᴇᴅ ᴍᴀʀᴋᴜᴘ.

Yᴏᴜ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ꜱᴇᴄʀᴇᴛ ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴏʟ ᴘᴀɴᴇʟ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇɴᴀʙʟᴇ ᴀᴜɢᴍᴇɴᴛᴇᴅ ᴍᴀʀᴋᴜᴘ.
comment by dclayh · 2010-09-07T18:43:36.034Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I believe D. is imitating the style of Terry Pratchett, who uses small-caps for his "Death" character. The full-size caps are a bit annoying, I agree.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-07T18:41:48.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Please don't use all-caps; it makes your comment harder to read and it's considered shouting.

Death is allowed to use all-caps.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T17:27:42.922Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious, did others find Chapter 45 as deeply moving as I did?

It would seem so !.

I'm not sure if I'm alone but I've been moved previously by other writings by Eliezer and others and it's like I've, well, been moved. Death is taken for granted a known enemy to be killed on sight. Putting myself in Harry's shoes the reaction I experience is "Death. F@#$ that! \ Whooosh!"

The other difference I suspect I would have is that I wouldn't expect to have a human patronus. I would expect something like sentient (white) fire elemental or an elf (symbolic of an intelligent creature with humanlike values, not precisely human and the better for the difference). Perhaps I'm not a humanist so much as an intelligent-life-with-my-values-without-the-outright-obnoxious-parts-of-humanity-ist.

I'm was having trouble avoiding crying when Harry tells the Dementor why death shall lose.

That part I shied away from. It wasn't arational emotion; it was irrational. Being passionate about life with a proactive, vigourous intent to see it flourish doesn't mean you must mangle your beliefs such that you are overconfident. "Death shall lose" is a false claim when the correct belief is "there is a certain chance that death shall lose and it is all the greater for my efforts!" "Death shall lose" is just denial. I wouldn't be able to create a patronus powered by denial because I've trained myself to see denial as the brain's way to make pessimism palatable.

comment by thomblake · 2010-09-17T21:55:37.905Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Death shall lose" is just denial.

No, it's something to protect. There are certain ways one needs to communicate with a human, and this is an example of that. See The Affect Heuristic and Trying to Try.

Edit: changed "something to protect" into a link.

comment by ata · 2010-09-17T22:30:43.831Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Death shall lose" is a false claim when the correct belief is "there is a certain chance that death shall lose and it is all the greater for my efforts!"

For the most part I agree with Thom in reading that as a declaration of intention rather than a knowledge claim, but I'll also point out that to a person who is familiar with the trajectory of science and not familiar with existential risks (which Harry might not be), "Death shall [eventually] lose" isn't a terribly unjustified thing to believe.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-09-07T15:27:46.850Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Successfully casting the Patronus charm seems to require positivity-which-must-also-be-sincere rather than truth-which-must-also-be-positive. "Death shall lose" as an attitude may not be strictly correct, but under the circumstances it was instrumentally rational as demonstrated by the fact that it worked.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-08T01:23:05.426Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This leads to a question: Would this have worked just as well if a sincerely religious individual who believed in an eventual resurrection of all had cast the patronus? Does it require both belief and the likelyhood of that belief being objectively correct? I doubt that Eliezer intends for this to work with someone thinking about Death be Not Proud and making a patronus in the shape of a man on a cross.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-18T17:03:30.546Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Would this have worked just as well if a sincerely religious individual who believed in an eventual resurrection of all had cast the patronus?

It would require that they cognitively mapped the existence of the Dementor onto the concept of soul-death and that they forcefully rejected this event on an emotional level instead of just having a quiet factual opinion that it never happened. Such a hypothetical individual is simply a non-reductionist isomorph of Harry's reductionist belief. It would just be difficult for a religious individual to get into that state of mind in the first place. It probably would help a lot if they believed that the Dementor's Kiss actually does destroy a soul.

I mention this because I did think about what would happen if someone like a Buddhist acknowledged the existence of true Death, soul-death, and still accepted that without the tiniest bit of sour grapes; and concluded that although that wouldn't make a Dementor-destroying Patronus, they would be able to see the Dementor's true form and cast a perfect shield against its fear.

Incidentally, Harry didn't say at any point that any of what he said was a certainty.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-09T05:29:45.196Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Death shall lose" as an attitude may not be strictly correct, but under the circumstances it was instrumentally rational as demonstrated by the fact that it worked.

No, that demonstrated (at least, gave some small amount of evidence that) some people may be able to use self delusion to useful effect. In fact, there are dozens of post here on the subject. But if Harry wants to actually fight death instead of just use his beliefs for the purpose of signalling then denial doesn't cut it. If he can't even judge the probabilities of death defeating strategies succeeding then how can he be expected to choose between them rationally?

No, I say if Harry is deliberately deceiving herself because he thinks it is instrumentally rational then that would be a bigger concern than if he had a case of simple naivety.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-09-09T22:28:49.282Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

instead of just use his beliefs for the purpose of signalling

"Death" isn't a particularly cohesive force. There's no central armory which, if emptied or sabotaged, would simultaneously disable everything that kills us. Ending a Dementor isn't 'just signaling;' in doing that, Harry permanently removed something which would otherwise have gone on to destroy countless objects and minds. However many Dementors there are on Earth, Harry is now equipped to defeat them all in, at worst, linear time, which would also e.g. stop the ongoing atrocity at Azkaban.

For that matter, Harry doesn't seem to be deliberately, consciously deceiving himself. He just did something, said what he believed, and it worked. The rationality of whatever it is he did is clear in hindsight, specifically because it worked.

Is there any course of action you can think of that Harry could have taken under the circumstances, which would have 'actually fought death' more effectively than what he did?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-17T19:49:35.684Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The rationality of whatever it is he did is clear in hindsight, specifically because it worked.

No, you are fundamentally confused about what rationality means. Betting your entire life savings at even odds that an unbiased dice roll comes up 6 is irrational even if in hindsight it worked. Eleizer's catch phrase just confuses people.

Is there any course of action you can think of that Harry could have taken under the circumstances, which would have 'actually fought death' more effectively than what he did?

Killed the dementor the same way he did, except making claims based off a sane model of reality.

For some background on just why self delusion is harmful for people with the kind of goals that Harry has see Eliezer's Ethical Injunctions. An excerpt:

Self-deceptions are the worst kind of black swan bets, much worse than lies, because without knowing the true state of affairs, you can't even guess at what the penalty will be for your self-deception. They only have to blow up once to undo all the good they ever did. One single time when you pray to God after discovering a lump, instead of going to a doctor. That's all it takes to undo a life. All the happiness that the warm thought of an afterlife ever produced in humanity, has now been more than cancelled by the failure of humanity to institute systematic cryonic preservations after liquid nitrogen became cheap to manufacture. And I don't think that anyone ever had that sort of failure in mind as a possible blowup, when they said, "But we need religious beliefs to cushion the fear of death." That's what black swan bets are all about - the unexpected blowup.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-09-18T17:01:04.772Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

First, I'm not so sure Harry's claims are as crazy as you're making them out to be. There's at least one charm which violates the second law of thermodynamics, which means some basic assumptions about what's possible and what isn't need to be reworked.

Second, you're comparing the immediate, apparently permanent and total defeat of a Dementor to the warm-fuzzy feelings from religion, and you're also comparing the risk of Harry being wrong about the possibility of eliminating death to the risk of someone with strong religious beliefs neglecting proper medical care. Both comparisons are deeply flawed, due to substitution effects.

If someone wants warm fuzzy feelings, they can get them from something other than religion. A good meal, hanging out with friends, arguing about fanfiction, or even certain types of recreational drug use, provide comparable benefits without the same risks. Other people in the MoRiverse have tried to destroy dementors before, but Harry is apparently the first to succeed, so substitutes simply aren't available. Considering the way partial transmutation works, Harry's attitude toward death may very well be an inextricable part of the technique.

If Harry is wrong, and people will continue to die until the human race goes extinct and all evidence that we ever were slowly fades toward heat-death, if it's really true that nothing can be done about all that, it's not clear (to me at least) how he's making the situation worse by trying. Hastening the collapse by a few minutes, using up resources that might otherwise have produced a slightly more amusing light-show near the end? Insufficient data for a meaningful conclusion, if you ask me. For all we know, his insane obsessions might provide a net benefit to humanity in the long term. If someone is wrong about faith-healing, the consequences are much less ambiguous: sickness and death, which could have been prevented.

Are you saying that there's some way to end death which would, for whatever perverse reason, elude anyone totally determined to find it, but be discoverable by those with a more nuanced attitude? That there's some better, but mutually-exclusive goal? What, exactly, is the black-swan risk you're worried about here?

Killed the dementor the same way he did, except making claims based off a sane model of reality.

It sounds to me like you're just upset that he used the wrong ritual but it worked anyway.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T18:21:22.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Second, you're comparing the immediate, apparently permanent and total defeat of a Dementor to the warm-fuzzy feelings from religion, and you're also comparing the risk of Harry being wrong about the possibility of eliminating death to the risk of someone with strong religious beliefs neglecting proper medical care. Both comparisons are deeply flawed, due to substitution effects.

I'm not doing either of those things. I did refer you to a document that explains why the author of HP:MoR believes self delusion is a mistake when it comes to important beliefs. That document did include extreme examples to demonstrate the principle tangibly.

It sounds to me like you're just upset

I downvoted this. I am disagreeing with you because you are confused about what rational decisions are. I have explained the reasons.

that he used the wrong ritual but it worked anyway.

It didn't work. Nor did it fail - success or failure in defeating death hasn't happened yet. I have no reason to expect that self delusion would prevent Harry from killing a dementor, which is why I never suggested that it would.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-09-18T19:00:44.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That article was about doing things you know to be wrong, in pursuit of a flawed 'greater good.' The specific worst-case was believing something you know to be false. What knowably false belief are you saying Harry has accepted in the face of contravening evidence?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T19:07:41.788Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What knowably false belief are you saying Harry has accepted in the face of contravening evidence?

The one you conceded at the beginning of this conversation. This is the entire basis of the disagreement:

"Death shall lose" as an attitude may not be strictly correct, but under the circumstances it was instrumentally rational as demonstrated by the fact that it worked.

comment by Strange7 · 2010-09-18T20:29:08.027Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, in that case I apologize for miscommunicating. By 'strictly correct' I meant 'literally, objectively true in the context of the story.' Whether Harry's goal is in fact possible most likely won't be revealed for quite some time; spilling the beans now wouldn't be dramatic. But, by the same token, it's not (yet?) knowably false.

I agree that Harry is being extremely, perhaps excessively, confident about something he can't really prove, and that such behavior is risky. However, it's an acceptable sort of risk, since he can always find contrary evidence later and change his mind, do something else with the rest of his life. The sort of risk entrepreneurs take. He hasn't hit any self-modifying point-of-no-return.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-17T22:48:30.928Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What's confusing in discussions such as this is the lack of a clear definition of self-deception.

Minds are complex. They contain stuff other than conscious verbal beliefs, things like gut-level feelings (aliefs?), unconscious assumptions, imagery, emotions, desires. We absolutely suck at conveying mental phenomena other than explicit beliefs and attempts to do so result in silliness like "believe in yourself" or "just do it".

This leads to two problems. First, it is not clear what you mean about self-deception. Trying to deliberately alter your beliefs is obviously bad. But what about controlling your attention? Do I self-decieve about something by refusing to look at it? What about influencing emotions through positive mental imagery? Or using a relaxation technique to calm myself down?

The second problem is that when someone says "I will win" you can't be sure wheter he really means "I expressly believe that my success is certain" or maybe "I know of the possibility of failure but refuse to bring it to the forefront of awareness. I feel energized, motivated and determined to achieve my goal." The second option seems like a more reasonable interpretation, unless you already have reasons to suspect the speaker of being an idiot.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-18T16:42:39.947Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Killed the dementor the same way he did, except making claims based off a sane model of reality.

Which incorrect claim, specifically, is an example of what you talk about? Death will lose more or less inevitably, under the condition that civilization survives (and death has no say in whether it does).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T18:35:32.051Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which incorrect claim, specifically, is an example of what you talk about?

p(death is defeated). Not p(death is defeated | civilization survives).

Death will lose more or less inevitably, under the condition that civilization survives (and death has no say in whether it does).

Yes, more or less. The most obvious cases where it wouldn't are

  • If one of Robin's speculated Malthusian futures came to pass. Or
  • If someone goes and creates a dystopian singularity. (For example, if a well intentioned AI researcher implements CEV, gives humanity what it wishes for and it turns out that humans are coherently extrapolatably as silly as Dumbledore.)
comment by simplicio · 2010-09-26T00:37:06.210Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Death shall lose" as an attitude may not be strictly correct...

In E's defence, the tradition of normative English grammar is that "shall" expresses a determination or volition, whereas "will" expresses a fact statement.

I will not be having cake, because the restaurant is out of it,

vs

I shall not be having cake, because I am on a diet.

comment by komponisto · 2010-09-26T00:53:16.340Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the tradition of normative English grammar is that "shall" expresses a determination or volition, whereas "will" expresses a fact statement.

Actually, believe it or not, the tradition of "normative English grammar" (i.e. high-status language) is that what you what you wrote is correct for persons other than the first. For the first person (I/we), it's the reverse.

I honestly don't know what the origin of this distinction is, unless it's the fact that British people seem to say "I shall" a lot.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-26T02:08:36.912Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Neither "shall" nor "will" originated as any sort of future marker. Originally "will" denoted intention, and "shall" denoted obligation. "He will do that" |-> "He intends to do that", "He shall do that" |-> "He is obligated to do that". The first-person/others asymmetry comes from what you can know about what you intend vs. what you can know about what others intend.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T08:18:39.169Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fowler has a pretty thorough explanation of this history. It's a bit out of date, but that's OK; it's history.

But also note, EY mostly wrote ‘will’ or ‘'ll’, not ‘shall’.

comment by komponisto · 2010-09-29T04:44:40.568Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It was interesting to see confirmation of my silly theory in the first sentence:

IT is unfortunate that the idiomatic use, while it comes by nature to southern Englishmen (who will find most of this section superfluous), is so complicated that those who are not to the manner born can hardly acquire it;

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-30T02:45:44.265Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I definitely get the impression from Fowler that, while he knows the correct high-status English usage and can explain how it came about and how to use, he also knows that it's a little silly.

All the same, I do find ‘shall’ useful. As long as I remember not to use it when Fowler would use it as a simple future marker (‘will’ is the only simple future marker in my American dialect), I can use it to express determination. If people think that ‘shall’ and ‘will’ are interchangeable, then I can't do that; but as long as people know that ‘shall’ is something funny, then at least they can look up what I mean if they don't know.

It would be much nicer if things worked the way that simplicio said. Once the last first-person-simple-future user of ‘shall’ dies, then it will be safe to implement this rule. (So please hold off on the Singularity until then.)

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-20T02:11:54.535Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"Death shall lose" is just denial.

Grammar note: Actually, that's exactly what Harry should have said, which would not have been denial. According to Fowler, that sentence is not a statement of fact about the future, but a promise (in the "coloured-future" system). As others have said, in this sentence Harry is expressing his intention to defeat death.

However, that's not a direct quotation, and Harry almost always used "will" instead of "shall". Of course, Fowler's advice is obsolete, and we now rarely use "shall" (even in England, and more so in other English-speaking countries). So it's possible that Harry still meant "shall", although that's not what he said.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-20T04:19:13.950Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So in that nomenclature Harry isn't in denial, he is just making promises he can't keep. ;)

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-20T20:11:00.284Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right. But still a promise that he intends to keep. (And who knows, the way the story is going, he just might keep it!)

Although he didn't use that language, that is how I (ETA: initially) read it. So I would fault him for using imprecise language rather than for self-deception. But it's not clear what he meant; you may well be right.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-20T03:42:20.430Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for reading in distinctions that aren't there. What Fowler may have thought is irrelevant, what matters is what was actually meant and how the words are actually used. "Will" and "shall" are interchangeable in almost all dialects of English, and in the few in which they aren't, the exact distinction is complicated.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-20T20:09:06.234Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What Fowler may have thought is irrelevant, what matters is what was actually meant and how the words are actually used.

The change since Fowler has been to use ‘will’ in place of ‘shall’, not the other way around. I have read more than Fowler on ‘will’ vs ‘shall’, but I've never read anything to suggest that any dialect uses ‘shall’ with the third person in a declarative statement to mean the simple future.

This is all only a minor point, since Harry didn't say ‘shall’ and it's clear what wedifrid meant. But I hope that it gets downvoted for unimportance rather than incorrectness. Some time a character may say ‘shall’ for a good reason.

ETA further clarification: My previous comment contains an element of saying that wedifrid used bad grammar. I stand by that, but I also accept the response (from your reply) that grammar usage varies and what wedifrid really meant is what matters. And that's why I wouldn't write a comment whose purpose was to say that wedifrid used bad grammar.

But my real purpose was to point out how, with a certain interpretation, ‘will’ and ‘shall’ give different meanings, which are just the meanings that people are debating as to what Harry meant: a factual claim that is (I admit) unjustified, or a declaration of intent that is (I would argue) justified. And the second meaning could be what Harry meant, if he used bad (or at least unnecessarily ambiguous) grammar.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-21T22:47:55.411Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The change since Fowler has been to use ‘will’ in place of ‘shall’, not the other way around. I have read more than Fowler on ‘will’ vs ‘shall’, but I've never read anything to suggest that any dialect uses ‘shall’ with the third person in a declarative statement to mean the simple future.

The problem is that this isn't a "change since Fowler", since it predates him by centuries. Also really we shouldn't speak of using either in place of the other, since after all the original meaning of both of them became replaced with the meaning of just being a future marker. (Also this isn't exactly "grammar". :P )

I should be clear - I didn't downvote it simply because it was wrong as such, I downvoted it for spreading confusion about language when there's already a lot of that. :P

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-22T05:27:48.725Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the original meaning of both of them became replaced with the meaning of just being a future marker

This is not correct. For further discussion, I refer you to Fowler. I will write no more on the subject, since I think that it's getting pretty far off-topic.

comment by TylerJay · 2010-09-17T15:30:58.248Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GWPerhaps I'm not a humanist so much as an intelligent-life-with-my-values-without-the-outright-obnoxious-parts-of-humanity-ist.

Edit: quote syntax anyone?

I feel like embracing humanity, but actively striving to overcome the "outright obnoxious" parts like biases IS humanism. At least, moreso than just adopting an "I love humanity unconditionally" attitude. I think harry's patronus, as eliezer's own would likely be, represents not just simple anthropocentrism, but the hope for a better future for humanity without losing those "my-values" that make us distinctively human.

Having a patronus that takes the shape of an intelligent life form with your values and no obnoxiousness is just representing abstractly that hope for the future of humanity.

I think the underlying values are one in the same. And the difference in shape does not correspond to a difference in concept.

comment by David_Allen · 2010-09-17T20:43:46.668Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

From: Comment formatting

Quoted text is prefaced with an '>':

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-17T19:30:49.858Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: quote syntax anyone?

Use a > before the paragraph.

comment by PeerInfinity · 2010-10-12T02:53:54.404Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Death. F@#$ that! \ Whooosh!"

yes. F@#$ that!

comment by novalis · 2010-09-07T22:04:49.974Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not really -- I found it long-winded, even though (perhaps because) I already agree with the content.

comment by randallsquared · 2010-09-06T16:52:23.291Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I did.

Further, the Humanism sub-arc contained some of the best chapters, overall. I hadn't yet become bored with the chapters about armies, but it seemed a noticeable dip in interestingness.

comment by rwallace · 2010-09-06T17:35:47.880Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. That was one of the most beautiful scenes in all of fiction.

comment by ata · 2010-09-06T17:19:36.420Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. That part made me simultaneously tingly and teary.

comment by orangecat · 2010-09-07T02:30:29.833Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I came here to post almost exactly that. Additionally, it inspired me to make another donation to the SENS Foundation.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-06T05:25:36.708Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 45. I wept.

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-06T09:19:29.945Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(Chapter 45. I jumped up and down on the edge of my seat.)

Wedrifid's response to this makes me wonder how many people there might be here who aren't all fired up about defeating death. I get so excited when I think about it that I forget that some people are pro-death (including a few people that I care about very deeply.)

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T01:28:50.886Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not all fired up. I don't think that society is really anti-lifeist anymore than people who claim to believe in heaven really believe in it. Telling yourself that death is OK is a way to deal with the inevitability of death, and while this is bad (because you'll tend to ignore ideas, like cryonics and life extension, that hold some promise of defeating death) it won't last. Life extension doesn't get as much attention and effort as I would like, but when it has successes, these are gratefully accepted.

On the other hand, people's freedom is being interfered with, right now, because they want to die and our stringently anti-death society forces them to stay alive. That's what I get riled up about.

All the same, I loved the Humanism chapters. (The war stories were starting to get boring.) And while I don't find death the greatest evil in the world, I still agree with what Harry said about it.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-09-06T19:12:37.742Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am probably one of those not-fired-up folks. I don't want to defend that position (or attitude, or whatever) here. But I can offer that, even for someone like me, Chapter 45 was an extremely effective exposition of the emotional attractiveness of the anti-death position.

Well done, EY!

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-12T19:58:58.335Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm the same way, as a personal matter. It's nothing I can defend. A person doesn't necessarily care, emotionally, about everything that it would make sense to care about.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T10:19:39.774Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wedrifid's response to this makes me wonder how many people there might be here who aren't all fired up about defeating death.

I am fired up about defeating death. (I also literally jumped to the edge of my seat in chapters 44 and 45.)

I rolled my eyes in 45 mostly when I reread it with 46 already in mind. I could see where Harry was inserting drama to set up a soap box for the future preaching. It soured the experience for me.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-06T22:09:33.202Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It did have a "making the point with a sledgehammer" feel, although it's worth noting that Eliezer's not just preaching to the choir: MoR's intended audience has probably never had transhumanism/positive immortality expounded to them seriously before.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T08:16:02.358Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(Chapter 45. I rolled my eyes.)

What were you weeping about, if you don't mind me asking? I cannot be sure that I interpret you correctly given that my mind-reading associated with related topics has proved unreliable.

For my part 46 made me wonder how on earth it ended up sharing the title 'humanism'. But then it occurred to me that the FanFiction.net site limits the length of titles. "Flawed analogy to Eliezer's censorship agenda" just wouldn't have fit.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T00:50:44.077Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you've got something to say, then just say it. You've made interesting comments before, including critical ones.

ETA: OK, you said it later.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T02:49:41.605Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you've got something to say, then just say it. You've made interesting comments before, including critical ones.

Giving a critique of the details of Eliezer's rhetorical construction would get me censored. Being censored is annoying. The appropriate response to annoyance is...

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-06T08:42:26.957Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Death.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-09-06T16:58:25.357Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

A thought re Chapter 43...

Hermione is (as established here) rather intelligent. Is she aware of the concept, in some form, of quantum immortality? Because I can't help but wonder if the particular fear she saw, what she experienced with the Dementor (not counting the "message"?) was basically a fear of QI. I mean, assuming via QI you don't incrementally lose your mind and effectively gradually decay, you'd expect to see everyone else die, with you yourself all alone at the end.

So, is quantum immortality effectively what Hermione saw/feared?

Also, re chapter 46.. Harry has nothing to say about involuntary memory charms? (Not to mention the notion that letting them know that dementors can be defeated, even without telling them how, might plant the seeds that would let them later on be ready to learn.)

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T00:27:13.418Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Harry has nothing to say about involuntary memory charms?

Priorities, priorities …

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-14T01:47:13.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hermione's reflections during Chapter 46 imply that her fear is not of everyone else dying, and her being left alone, it's of everyone else dying first and her dying alone.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-30T19:28:43.215Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone else find the HP idea of sorting children into different houses at age 11 abusive and detrimental? The houses aren't arbitrary labels; they're supposed to define your character. No real person fits into any one of those houses. Sorting students restricts their growth and causes them to develop into a House stereotype. And it's the main cause of tension, hatred, and eventually war, in their world.

comment by pjeby · 2010-08-30T19:35:49.053Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone else find the HP idea of sorting children into different houses at age 11 abusive and detrimental?

My first, knee-jerk reaction to your suggestion was, "yeah!" Then I thought about it for a second and realized just how nice it might've been at that age to be given:

  1. an identity to be proud of, based on something I was being acknowledged to be good at, and

  2. a peer group of (literally) like-minded individuals with whom to share a common goal (winning the cup), camaraderie, and mentorship.

(As an interesting counterpoint, I actually did participate briefly in a house system around the age of 12 or so, but the houses were assigned randomly, and IIRC the point system was purely athletic, so I didn't give a damn about it.)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-31T08:27:56.055Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone else find the HP idea of sorting children into different houses at age 11 abusive and detrimental?

Quite the reverse. The worst thing about our education systems is that they force a bunch of Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws to put up with years upon years of abuse by Slytherins and Griffyndors in an environment that they have no opportunity to escape from. I would absolutely love, even now, to have a sorting hat that can essentially weed out @5@#%s pre-emptively.

It is cruel and abusive to force people in an environment where they can not choose the peers they are willing to have in their immediate proximity. At least a sorting hat would help minimise the damage. "Us" vs "Them" is far, far better than "cruelest most powerful political animal vs most socially vulnerable".

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T15:57:04.653Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That would make more more sense if they sent those different types to different schools after sorting. At Hogwarts, they force a bunch of Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws to put up with years upon years of abuse by Slytherins and Griffyndors in an environment that they have no opportunity to escape from.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-08-31T15:58:40.895Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

They can go to their own Houses, and do not have all of their classes together. The canon books, and MoR, spend considerable time focusing on inter-house interaction because that's where the interest lies, but a Hufflepuff who wanted to avoid bullies of other houses could likely do so at least 90% of the time.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-31T16:50:17.907Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

And as well as the reduction of social abuse via the reduced time spent with jackasses it can be a whole lot easier to tolerate social aggression if it comes from outside what you identify as the most local social hierarchy. If a Hufflepuff is insulted by Draco it may be a minor nuisance but if it was a high status Hufflepuff like Neville bullying them it would probably seriously damage their mental health over time.

comment by KevinC · 2010-09-01T07:13:29.209Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

As explained in some of the other comments, there are some good points about it, but it's got some major flaws. One thing I really don't like is that the teachers are House-identified. They're players in the game, and it's OK for them to arbitrarily punish kids from other Houses and show favoritism to their own. That's like making coaches the referees. Hmmm, maybe that's why the House Cup ends up getting decided by something as random as "Who can catch the golden mosquito first?"

An idea I had: Sort kids into the House that's their greatest weakness/what they're least like/the element they need most to improve. So the Hat would be like, "Well, Draco Malfoy, hrmmmnnnn...better be: HUFFLEPUFF!" "Harry Potter...unfamiliar to the Wizarding World, as like to eat an Exploding Snap as play it properly. If I don't do something you might just cast some random curse labeled 'For an Enemy' on somebody without figuring out what it does first...better be: RAVENCLAW!" "Neville Longbottom...you could go faaaarrrrr, in Slytherin." "Not Slytherin! Anything but Slytherin!" "Ooooh, a wise guy, eh? GRIFFINDOR!"

In each House, kids are taught the virtues of that House, rather than put there because they've already got 'em. And also, everyone gets Sorted each year, so you're not pigeonholed once and for all as an 11 year-old (what, nobody who was a bully at 11 ever learns his/her lesson and becomes a better grownup?).

This system would help kids become more well-rounded. Just look how much MoR!Neville is benefiting from his "tuition" by Harry, who is the very model of a modern NiceGuy!Slytherin. Even in canon, Neville does seem to benefit in terms of developing courage and getting over his fears by being Sorted into Gryffindor when (in the canon Sorting process) he "should" have been a Hufflepuff. Plus, since everybody would probably be Sorted through more than one House during their school years, it wouldn't divide the whole freaking society into four sects. Also, it would change things up a bit so one House that got the good Seeker when s/he was 11 wouldn't always, always win the Cup.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-01T14:12:39.700Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I really don't like is that the teachers are House-identified. They're players in the game, and it's OK for them to arbitrarily punish kids from other Houses and show favoritism to their own. That's like making coaches the referees.

It's inevitable when you recruit all your teachers from the school alumni, which itself is more or less inevitable when you're the only school in the nation.

I suppose you could rule that upon taking the job each teacher gets assigned to a new House at random other than the one they were students in (note that this would be a purely informal role, except for the four Heads), but I doubt it would be very effective and not counterproductive.

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-01T07:37:11.645Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That wouldn't work at all. Slytherin wouldn't be Slytherin without any Slytherin kids there. Maybe it could be made to work with a lot of additional adjustments, but the result probably wouldn't be much like the house system you describe.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-01T14:37:13.136Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That wouldn't work at all. Slytherin wouldn't be Slytherin without any Slytherin kids there. Maybe it could be made to work with a lot of additional adjustments, but the result probably wouldn't be much like the house system you describe.

You don't think you could take a bunch of young humans and mould them into selfish, Machiavellian, politically minded, corruptible schemers?

Of all the houses I suggest Slytherin is the most natural! Making Slytherins into Hufflepuffs, now that would be a challenge.

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-02T06:24:05.386Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You don't think you could take a bunch of young humans and mould them into selfish, Machiavellian, politically minded, corruptible schemers?

You could - "with a lot of additional adjustments". You would to have to actually work at turning them into Slytherins, and doubly so if there are no natural Slytherins there at all to lead the way. And probably not everyone anyway.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T06:29:35.310Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You could - "with a lot of additional adjustments". You would to have to actually work at turning them into Slytherins, and doubly so if there are no natural Slytherins there at all to lead the way. And probably not everyone anyway.

My claim is that most humans outside of fairy tales already are Slytherins.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-02T08:12:07.678Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T08:15:53.212Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to have a somewhat more cynical outlook. Judging real humans by the criteria of the sorting hat would result in far more Slytherins than members for the other houses.

comment by Emile · 2010-09-02T15:23:25.796Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even if you take 'em when they're kids?

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-02T06:36:10.521Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If that were so it would defeat the whole point of placing anyone in Slytherin to become one. And my point would still hold for the other houses.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T07:28:01.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If that were so it would defeat the whole point of placing anyone in Slytherin to become one.

Yes, more or less. Unless there is some reason you want people to become better Slytherin.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-02T00:37:21.344Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What makes the Houses have their particular character? the diktats of the Head? that 7th-year students remember what they were taught about the House the last time, they were Sorted into it, 3 years ago, and try to teach the others? I like the idea of putting people into Houses that they have the most to learn from, but then I think that you have to keep the House assignments permanent, or else lose the House characters entirely. (Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing ….)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-08-30T20:04:24.424Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It might be worth disentangling the effects of Sorting (possibly bad, should probably be moderated by mixed-House projects) and the effects of the House points system (entirely bad as far as I can tell).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-08-30T20:37:20.939Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The house point system might not be completely bad. It might encourage competitively minded people to work more if they might be lazy otherwise. Empirically in the real world this sometimes works. For a few years (not sure if still active), Yale and Harvard students had competitions about which could reduce energy per a capita more. When I went to highschool there was a fundraiser for raising money for foodbanks and each class competed to see which could raise more. There was also a "neutral box" for people who wanted to give but didn't compete. By the end of the fundraiser the neutral box would generally have about an order of magnitude less money in it than the the grade box with the lowest amount.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2010-08-30T19:33:41.493Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, specialisation has benefits, and since the sorting is done by magic most people should end up happy where they are put. It's not like they get different curricula or anything.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-30T19:51:53.693Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How did you choose your prior for anything done by magic to be done correctly? :)

Ending up happy doesn't feel like a good goal. Maybe I'm being irrational. But it reminds me of the characters in Brave New World who said, "It's Good to be a Gamma!"

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-08-30T22:58:59.298Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

But it reminds me of the characters in Brave New World who said, "It's Good to be a Gamma!"

But it really is best (sub-Gamma) to be Gamma. The people in Brave New World really are happy and content.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T16:00:32.438Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The people in Brave New World really are happy and content.

Yes, I know. That's why I said what I said. (E.g., your observation is taking the dialogue back one step, not forward.)

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-08-31T19:14:20.394Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Erm. Not really. It really is best (sub-Gamma) to be Gamma. It is not best to be Gamma. We don't want to self modify to be super-happies, even knowing that we will reflectively endorse the change having become super-happies. The people in Brave New World are honest about their class being correct in a way that normal people aren't being honest when they say it's best to go to their school or root for their sports team or like their sort of art. That's what I'm pointing out - the next step is to realize that the reply to a Gamma telling us it's best to be them is "so what?". We don't have Gamma values so the fact they're human shaped shouldn't inform out values.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T21:00:49.872Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The original context was Oscar saying that the sorting hat will make people happy. I commented that maybe happiness isn't the right goal - not a very helpful comment, frankly; Oscar's comment was a fine contribution, whereas mine is tangential, nit-picking, and sounds like a criticism.

If being happy were your only goal, you might very well say, "Make me a Gamma!" "We don't want to self modify to be super-happies" implies that being happy is not our only goal, which is the point I was (pedantically) making. So I think you're agreeing with me more than you're disagreeing with me. You're bringing in more subtleties to the issue.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-08-31T21:27:12.161Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe Lucas was trying for the "morality as a 2-place function" notation as in this post, but using different notation made this more confusing.

comment by MartinB · 2010-08-30T20:11:44.016Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Tradition.

I can imagine that sorting students into universities or groups on Meyer-Biggs indicators or learning types could lead to some good things.

Also it could be that the founders of Hogwarts wanted to make sure that their society is made up of 4 main character and culture lines, which all work well together in the end. When putting teams together for real world projects i enjoyed having all kinds of characters working on their respective area of interest.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T16:04:20.192Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What does Slytherin contribute? The Slytherin attributes are negative-sum. Whatever positive value they have is negated by the presence of opposing Slytherins; and they generate huge negative externalities.

comment by thomblake · 2010-08-31T16:26:15.121Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Surely you're overlooking Slytherin's positive qualities as defined by MoR. Slytherin are focused on manipulating people, concerned with power, and quite cunning. If you want to keep fooling the muggles, have good PR guys, and keep alive the dangerous, secret lore that other houses would consider too evil (so we can use it to fight aliens), you need Slytherin.

It's the only house that has consistently churned out people who actively work at defeating death!

comment by Leonhart · 2010-09-02T14:16:11.593Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

JKR did, grudgingly, show us a positive-sum Slytherin, which is to say a pre-Riddle Slytherin; his name was Horace Slughorn. Warning; essays on that site are addictive, and they will make you hate Deathly Hallows even more than you already ought to.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T02:19:59.998Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that it's so much what Slytherin contributes as how best to deal with the Slythery people in society. Best to put them in school to keep an eye on them, then to put them in their own House to keep them from bothering the others. Even if you would prefer to be rid of them entirely (as Rowling, at least, might be), that's not possible.

comment by MartinB · 2010-08-31T16:44:13.122Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

JK mentioned how Slytherin is not just the house of evil people, but that each evil person came out of Slytherin. I do not remember what other positions Slytherins have in Canon but we can surely come up with reasons to have such a house. First it helps students to reach their full potential (at least in the theory that fiction is), second it provides a training ground to have people for the more dirty needs of society like leading in a war. Was there ever a mention which house Dumbledore went too? Third it provides society with some training for how to deal with evil people. If there are none left society gets overrun by an outside force. Fourth there is the value of not having the Slytherins poisoning other houses. Having a house of Bullies would be a nice add to the real world (till your research shows that a strong hierarchy forms in every social group.) Fifth it gives you someone to contrast yourself against. Sixth if Slytherins are more adventurous, prone to doing dangerous things that they are also the inventors of new things. A healthy society needs some innovators, some bureaucrats, some workers, some people to provide Emotional support, some teachers and so on. I remember reading some reasons for the House of Slytherin in Canon, but memory evades me.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-08-31T17:28:26.969Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

each evil person came out of Slytherin

Wormtail was Sorted into Gryffindor and turned out to be a bad dude. This seems to have more to do with Rowling's desire to have him plausibly be a Marauder, than anything related to any aspect of his revealed personality. She's very prone to that - the same rationale was likely behind making canon!Hermione a Gryffindor.

comment by Baughn · 2010-08-31T17:25:28.400Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Dumbledore? Gryffindor, I'm afraid; it's mentioned by Hermione on the train ride of the first book. He seems like so much more of a Slytherin, doesn't he?

comment by ata · 2010-08-31T16:48:17.153Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Was there ever a mention which house Dumbledore went too?

He was a Gryffindor, o' course, since that was the standard Hero House in canon.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-09T19:56:23.774Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

While investigating the theory that wizardry is becoming less powerful because of a decline in the alliterative naming of wizards, I discovered the identity of Harry's nemesis: Barberus Bragge.

comment by KevinC · 2010-09-06T09:32:39.884Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Comments cover up to Chapter 46. UN-ROT13'd SPOILERS.

Love the new chapters! Harry's takedown of the Dementor was epic! Yes, I know, that term has been devalued by inflation quite a bit, but in this case its original value and meaning hold. A very nice and emotionally powerful summation of Singularitarian values in Harry's buildup. Also, I didn't stop and try to guess what Harry's Patronus would be, but "the rational animal" is the perfect choice!

One little quibble though. When Dumb-ledore and Harry were trying to guess why Quirrell might want to bring a Dementor to Hogwarts, Dumbles never bothers to mention, "Well, Quirrell did challenge me to a bet, that if any of the First Year students could produce a corporeal Patronus, that I'd let him teach the Killing Curse to anyone who was interested." Naaawwwww, there couldn't possibly be some ulterior motive to Quirrell's desire to teach Dark Magic to the kiddies, could there? Surely not!

And isn't this supposed to be an "Unforgivable" curse, as in, "life in Azkaban" or "the Dementor's Kiss" for using it? Given the existence of such a law in Wizarding society, it doesn't make sense to me for Dumbledore to allow Quirrell to teach young children something that, if used in a moment of immaturity, could completely ruin their entire lives. "The WIzengamot has decided that having a temper tantrum is not an excuse. Send for the Dementor!" Imagine a boy like Canon!Draco given the Killing Curse to use as a First Year.

On the other hand, there are other spells that could be equally lethal, like Diffendo (a cutting spell) or Fiendfyre, and those aren't "Unforgivable." I suppose the thing about Avada Kedavra is that there's no defense against it. So, while other spells might be like teaching a young kid to shoot, the Killing Curse is like giving them a rocket launcher. One that's always loaded, has unlimited ammunition, and is carried with them wherever they go. I.e., not the same thing as a young kid having a gun that they take out and use under parental supervision.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T10:48:54.334Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There is something all too appropriate about comparing AK to a gun.

On the other hand, there are other spells that could be equally lethal, like Diffendo (a cutting spell) or Fiendfyre, and those aren't "Unforgivable."

That 'unforgivable' label always seemed utterly arbitrary. Yes, torture, coercion and killing tend to be nasty things to do but there are far more ways to go about doing it than those three spells. Effective use of winguardium leviosa could kill dozens of people at once, for example. And combining healing magic with a sharp stick over a period of a month is probably worse than crucio for a couple of seconds. Then there's the old 'sleep/stab' combination that makes 'sleep' the most feared spell of all in certain magical worlds.

I suppose the thing about Avada Kedavra is that there's no defense against it.

That seems to be the big distinguishing feature. Teaching 12 year olds something that Dumbledore himself could not protect anyone against seems like it may have downsides.

I've always taken the position that stigmatising AK was arbitrary and pointless but I've never quite taken that position all the way to teaching junior grades how to use it. Surely it is something that should at least have the limitations that are in place for apparition? (Even if that just means removing the limits RE: apparition!)

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T11:15:45.463Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

One justification I liked was that AK, being "fueled by hatred", can only be cast by those who are already beyond the Moral Horizon. So it's not the murder itself that's so terrible, it's that fulfilling the prerequisites for using AK means that you are a dangerous sociopath who cannot be safely let loose in the wizarding world.

Unfortunately this doesn't cover Crucio and Imperius, which IIRC are even used by some "good guys" in canon. But I'm sure you could come up with some other fan-wank to explain them.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T11:47:32.214Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I like that justification too, in as much as it is the best of the possible 'fan-wank'. Even so I suspect that Lily could have pulled off an AK if she had more of a chance. She had huge reserves of magical talent and a hell of a lot of hatred. Yet she still wouldn't be a dangerous sociopath. In fact, the scariest thing about sociopaths is that they don't even need to have overwhelming hatred to do brutally nasty things. The fact that most people need to be overwhelmed by emotion before they violate mores is what distinguishes them from sociopaths.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T12:02:34.466Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yes, I was talking about canon; IIRC Lily Potter, or any non-Death Eater, doesn't attempt AK there, does she? The wiki doesn't say so, at least.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T12:11:49.519Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yes, I was talking about canon; IIRC Lily Potter, or any non-Death Eater, doesn't attempt AK there, does she?

Not that I recall. Mad Eye AKed a spider but technically that was a death eater impersonating Mad Eye. (Although nobody, not even Dumbledore, seemed to blink when Mad-Eye was AKing arachnids. That suggests that people within canon!verse do not all believe that casting AK means you are actually evil.)

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-07T19:05:12.225Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fake!Mad-Eye also told the class that actually casting the Killing Curse was extremely difficult and that none of them would be able to do it.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-09T05:07:08.402Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fake!Mad-Eye also told the class that actually casting the Killing Curse was extremely difficult and that none of them would be able to do it.

That kind of claim was usually the prompt for Harry or Hermione to pull it off a couple of chapters later. ;)

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-07T18:52:59.621Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or squishing spiders requires less evil than squishing people.

comment by PeterS · 2010-09-06T20:42:23.727Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I drew the analogy that it's like the term "deadly weapon". Fists can be deadly, but they are not called deadly weapons. Hitting someone in the head with your fist is not guaranteed to kill them. Likewise you can drop a shipping container on someone -- and I'm sure this would earn you a life sentence -- but Winguardium Leviosa is not itself a deadly (Unforgivable) spell, as an arbitrary cast of the spell is not guaranteed to kill.

It's still a bit arbitrary. To my knowledge, using a love potion is not Unforgivable -- though it's clearly magical coercion and serves only such a purpose as that.

comment by lmnop · 2010-09-06T17:48:39.006Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I never really understood the claim that there's no defense against Avada Kedavra. Sure, there's no direct countercurse, but you can dodge it or levitate an object between yourself and the curse (Dumbledore levitated a statue in front of Harry to protect him from the curse in Book 5). Both of these responses can be trained to the point of instinct, and voila, you have a defense.

Wait, the fact that the second strategy works is inconsistent. If the Killing Curse can be blocked by inanimate objects, why is it that clothing doesn't block it?

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T00:31:44.966Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I forget if this happens in the book, but in the movies the curse damages obects badly when it hits them. So clothing may just be too thin and weak to absorb it.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-06T19:24:40.453Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If the Killing Curse can be blocked by inanimate objects, why is it that clothing doesn't block it?

Maybe it's like a liquid, and can get through cloth but not an entire sofa or wall.

comment by lmnop · 2010-09-06T19:26:25.426Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense!

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T00:35:16.781Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mad-Eye/Crouch demonstrated Avada Kedavra on a spider in Book 4, and nobody had a problem with that (besides some of the students, who were appropriately shocked). I assumed that this is how Quirrelmort will teach it here.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-09T04:39:20.217Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, he also (next chapter) demonstrated Imperio on students, teaching them to overcome it. He got (or so he claimed) permission from Dumbledore for this, although I don't know why Dumbledore had the authority to give such permission. He also gave them the opportunity to leave first, but taunted them so that they wouldn't.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T01:56:12.587Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I assumed that this is how Quirrelmort will teach it here.

Here I was thinking he would students with detention run back and forth across the quidditch pitch, like those ducks in the side show shooting ranges. Put them way over the other side of the field to give them a fighting chance. It should only be the slow and uncoordinated ones that can't dodge in time... what use would Quirrelmort have for dead weight like that?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-09-29T13:10:14.790Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The new chapter is spectacular fiction, but I'm not sure it's true that bigots are necessarily low-grade people, though it's possible that they are, on the average. Is there research available?

Henry Ford and Richard Wagner had notable accomplishments, and were also energetic anti-Semites.

Portraying bigotry as low-status is tactically useful, both in the story and in the real world, but has an interesting blow-back-- it means that pointing out someone else's bigotry becomes a threat to lower their status. (This didn't come up in the story because Draco hasn't been in those discussions.)

In the real world, people of all sorts of status levels are active bigots-- that's why prejudicial laws can be passed and enforced.

This doesn't deny the idea that bigoted groups will tend to drive away lively-minded and benevolent people, but there's a difference between a trend and an absolute.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-30T04:14:50.683Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure it's true that bigots are necessarily low-grade people

I read the chapter much more narrowly as saying that racist people are low-status. Racism is now reviled in Britain (or at least the U.S., and I'll guess also Britain) to such a degree that anybody openly espousing racist views (at least based on skin colour rather than, say, immigration status) is automatically looked down upon. Other forms of bigotry don't usually have this effect, nor did racism until fairly recently.

However, we are looking more at racism in the 1940s (at least by the standards of the U.S.) than the 1990s. Judging from To Kill a Mockingbird (which is the only documentary evidence that I have onhand, sorry), extreme overt racism along the lines of using words like ‘Nigger’ (analogue of ‘Mudblood') was still looked down upon and associated (rightly or wrongly) with low class. But that's just because moderate and subtle racism was the norm. This is how it works in the Wizarding world too.

comment by gjm · 2010-09-27T19:51:59.773Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

In ch47, Harry's list of conditions for his agreement with Draco is broken: he has forgotten an extremely obvious condition. Namely, that Dumbledore did it deliberately. This doesn't seem like a very likely oversight for MoR!Harry; I wonder whether it's deliberate on Eliezer's part.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T18:57:55.784Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder whether it's deliberate on Eliezer's part.

I now imagine that it is. Here is my scenario, with so much detail that its probability is extremely small, so that it cannot be a spoiler:

Dumbledore, being cleverer than in canon, discovered the existence of the diary Horcrux. After diligently searching for basilisk venom and researching any other safer means of destroying a Horcrux, he realised that he would have to use Fiendfyre. He broke into Malfoy Manor but found it more difficult than he expected and was badly weakened when he found the diary, so he was unable to overcome additional protective enchantments on the diary itself and remove it. Having good reason to believe that the manor was empty, however, he used Fiendfyre right there and then used his last strength to escape. As it turns out, Narcissa was home, and her valiant efforts saved the manor from destruction but cost her her own life.

Later, Dumbledore spoke to Lucius to apologise. While he did not dare to explain why he had started Fiendfyre in the Malfoys' home, he told Lucius that he never intended to kill anybody and only reluctantly cast the spell that would have destroyed the house. He also told Lucius that, while he could not give details, the act was only necessary because the Malfoys were still working for Voldemort, and he warned Lucius to rid himself of anything to do with Voldemort to avoid any future accidents.

When Harry discovers these facts, he will realise his omission and beg Draco to trigger the first condition. Drama ensues.

On second thought, the character of the Dumbledore above is more like in canon than in MoR. Under the circumstances, Dumbledore would probably start the Fiendfyre even if he knew that Narcissa might be killed. This is another missing exception: if the act that killed Narcissa, despite her having no dirty hands, saved more lives than it took. (Whether or not that applies in this case, it would certainly be Dumbledore's defence, and Harry might buy it, given enough evidence.)

comment by orthonormal · 2010-12-14T22:05:09.070Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

When Harry discovers these facts, he will realise his omission and beg Draco to trigger the first condition. Drama ensues.

It would be very interesting to watch Harry try and convince a very smart and angry Draco to let him out of his promise, in such a situation.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T05:52:53.456Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is another missing exception: if the act that killed Narcissa, despite her having no dirty hands, saved more lives than it took. (Whether or not that applies in this case, it would certainly be Dumbledore's defence, and Harry might buy it, given enough evidence.)

It seems likely that he would give it at least some weight. The justification reasoning even crossed his mind when considering the possibility that Dumbledore set Voldemort on him and his parents.

comment by thomblake · 2010-10-07T13:46:42.086Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, I hadn't even thought of fiendfyre and the diary. Awesome hypothesis.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-14T04:28:30.617Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T08:21:25.982Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For Harry, is morality about intentions or consequences? Maybe he doesn't care whether Dumbledore did it deliberately; if anybody is so careless as to do such a thing accidentally, then they're an enemy.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T05:56:33.509Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For Harry, is morality about intentions or consequences? Maybe he doesn't care whether Dumbledore did it deliberately; if anybody is so careless as to do such a thing accidentally, then they're an enemy.

It's hard to tell. Harry's morality seems to be somewhat ad-hoc in nature. For example, he declares that sometimes killing is necessary but torture can never be, which rules out being purely consequentialist but is hardly typical of deontological ethical frameworks either (but fairly normal for standard human thinking).

Even so it would surprise me if Harry didn't distinguish at least partially on intent. Completely not caring about intent, well, just "doesn't seem like his style". I observe, for example, that Harry judges Dumbledore for sharing gossip to Severus with the intent of setting Voldemort after Harry's family. When looking at raw causal interactions there are no doubt countless trivial actions that have the consequence of really bad things happening. Yet Harry singles Dumbledore's (alleged) conniving out purely based on the fact that he intended it to lead to particular a chain of events.

comment by thomblake · 2010-10-07T13:45:08.094Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

he declares that sometimes killing is necessary but torture can never be, which rules out being purely consequentialist

If you don't take that statement to have the force of logic behind it, there's no conflict with consequentialism. It could be that Harry believes that there is no benefit to come from torture, while there are obvious benefits to come from removing a dangerous person from the world.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T17:05:55.817Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It could be that Harry believes that there is no benefit to come from torture, while there are obvious benefits to come from removing a dangerous person from the world.

I gave Harry the benefit of the doubt on that one by inferring that he is slightly idealistic rather than blatantly stupid. ie. A general ethical ruling against torture is reasonable while believing that there are no possible instances in which torture could provide net consequentialist benefits would be insane even for Harry.

comment by wnoise · 2010-10-08T05:16:04.107Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Possible Mindkilling Warning.

While this is certainly true, human biases mean that those with the power to torture will self-justify its use far more than is optimal. When promulgating a rule for when torture is acceptable, "never" really does seem the best choice.

Yeah, "Promoting less than maximally accurate beliefs is an act of sabotage. Don't do it to anyone unless you'd also slash their tires.". I think slashing the tires of torturers is more than justified.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-08T05:39:20.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, "Promoting less than maximally accurate beliefs is an act of sabotage. Don't do it to anyone unless you'd also slash their tires.". I think slashing the tires of torturers is more than justified.

Cute, but you're actually slashing the metaphorical tires of the non-torturers while the torturer's tires are (evidently) slash resistant.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-09-27T20:07:10.683Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That is an important omission - I'm not sure what Harry should do under those circumstances.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-26T22:40:23.006Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Update Scanner reports: Chapter 1 has been edited so that Petunia recounts that she was ugly and Lily's potion improved her skin and curves, but no longer mentions having been fat nor losing weight thanks to the potion. As a secondary change, possibly unrelated, Prof. Verres is also more tender towards his wife, an improvement on his characterisation.

My working hypothesis is that Eliezer is going to set up some rules about what potions can do (possibly just Polyjuice and variants), which could not be reconciled with sudden weight loss.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-10-01T09:40:06.847Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Another one now, chapter 3, when Harry sees Quirrell for the first time:

"I had the strangest feeling that I knew him..." Harry rubbed his forehead. "And that I shouldn't ought to shake his hand." Like meeting someone who had been a friend, once, before something went drastically wrong... that wasn't really it at all, but Harry couldn't find words.

comment by mjr · 2010-09-27T21:17:25.201Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My working hypothesis would be a slight political correctness adjustment as to the perceived importance of being physically fit, even if improved self-esteem resulting from the physical changes would be sufficient for her to aim just a tad higher in her mates.

Also, the potion would need not just temporarily alter the mass (as would Polyjuice), but rather shed it extra-quick, so any such limit on Polyjuice wouldn't need to apply here.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-27T22:00:21.452Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I considered that hypothesis, but the current text still mentions her having a "slim form".

EDIT: Fresh new change, "slim form, smooth skin, slight curves" has been replaced by just "lithe form".

EDIT2: I'm an idiot. I checked the wiki and the reason was much simpler: Petunia was actually supposed to have been thin in canon.

comment by Larks · 2010-09-27T02:58:09.295Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, he just corrected it to be closer to the cannon.

comment by Larks · 2010-09-20T06:22:49.472Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have the answer, people. Have no fear.

Quirrel isn't evil. Evil people like Voldermort only exist in stories. It's just that Eliezer built an FAI, and as a reward got a chance to pretend to be Raistlin.

Hermione is going to found SPEW, and then, to save the house-elves from having to work all the time, will create an Auto-Geomancic Incantation, or AGI, to do the housework. It will recursively self-enmagic and optimise for the first item on it's to-do list: get more paperclips.

The world will end, and the moral is that everything can be destroyed very quickly by things you weren't expecting, because you're not in a story.

I know this to be true for a fact, because Eliezer laughed when I suggested it.

comment by Larks · 2010-09-20T06:23:46.609Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, in the real world acausal trade is magic, so in the Potterverse, magic is just acausal trade.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-06T07:24:57.385Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

These chapters (43-46) seem to have several pieces of evidence for the "Harrymort" theory. Quirrell's reaction suggests that he recognizes the particular ideas that Harry had, which in turn suggests they're where he hid his horcruxes. That those locations also seemed obvious to Harry could be simply because they are obvious, and Voldemort used them for that same reason, but it could also indicate Harry somehow "remembering" them. That Voldemort might not have actually attempted to kill Harry after having killed Lily also suggests something may have been up there, though Voldemort may have been simply lying. And we also now have a bit of evidence that Harry's "dark side" may actually be real.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-06T16:29:10.638Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

These chapters (43-46) seem to have several pieces of evidence for the "Harrymort" theory.

I just thought of another from an earlier chapter.

AND THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL

Equal, as in mathematical equality.

Also, from Ch. 45: "A strange word kept echoing in his mind." Probably 'horcrux'. [ETA: gjm's right. Missed that.]

comment by gjm · 2010-09-06T21:09:48.723Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the strange word was "riddle".

Harry glanced in the Dementor's direction. The word echoed in his mind again. All right, Harry thought to himself, if the Dementor is a riddle, what is the answer?

comment by ata · 2010-09-06T21:52:30.547Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh.

I get it now. *foreheadsmack*

comment by Document · 2013-08-18T18:24:13.141Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not that that doesn't equally support the Harrymort theory.

comment by Document · 2013-08-18T18:10:35.302Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If anything, that supports their theory.

comment by gjm · 2013-08-18T18:24:22.725Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Somewhat later in HPMOR, Dumbledore does (obliquely) indicate that Voldemort = Tom Riddle. (Or at least he indicates that he believes this. There's enough identity-confusion in HPMOR that I don't think we can be entirely certain that he's right.)

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2010-09-06T17:19:48.475Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm still trying to figure out what happened at Godric's Hollow.

Voldemort went in there with the intention to kill Harry (evidence: the prophecy, his seeming willingness to let Lily escape). Lily asked him to spare Harry's life in exchange for her own. It would seem that Voldemort accepted this offer in some way: he verbally agreed to the bargain, he killed Lily despite a previous intention to spare her, and Harry ended up surviving the encounter. But why would Voldemort do that when he could as easily have killed both, when he wanted Harry dead for prophecy-related reasons, and when he wanted Lily alive for Snape's sake?

Theories:

  1. Voldy had always planned to save Harry's life for his own purposes - maybe he interpreted the prophecy as meaning this would be the boy into whom he could upload his personality. He only came to Godric's Hollow to cast the personality-transfer spell onto Harry and maybe get rid of the parents. He accepted Lily's offer because it amused him to have Lily sacrifice her life when he wasn't going to kill Harry anyway.

  2. Voldy came to kill Harry, and never gave up on that intention. He pretended to accept Lily's bargain because he was Evil, and pretending to accept bargains and then breaking them is what evil people do. However, there was some hidden magic that auto-cast the Unbreakable Vow spell without Voldemort knowing. Voldemort tried to kill Harry, which broke the vow he had made to Lily, insta-killing him. Harry was Horcruxed and Voldemort's soul survived in the Horcruxes in a way relatively similar to in canon.

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-12T00:28:02.165Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In canon, the explanation is that sacrificing your life in order to save someone else has actual magical force (the events of book 7, in which this effect works for Harry even though he did not actually die, imply that this effect is tied up with a person's intent to sacrifice their life, rather than their actual death). Thus, if a wizard knowingly and willingly sacrifices their life to save that of another, that other person gains a measure of magical defense, which was the reason that Voldemort's first attempt to kill Harry rebounded. I'm not sure how or whether this will be changed in MoR; if you use the intention interpretation, then it doesn't seem to horribly contradict any of the established contra-canon facts.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-15T00:14:00.164Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

if you use the intention interpretation

I agree that the intention interpretation seems to be the correct one, based on canon. But that just makes all the more incredible that nobody has discovered this before, that Harry should be the first person in known history to survive the Killing Curse. So, it would be nice if MoR made this more sensible, especially if it could do so without contradicting the rules as they are played out in canon.

comment by sanyasi · 2010-09-06T08:23:24.410Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree that this might be the case, there is a logical defense for the case where Harry is non-Voldemort. Consider, if you were Voldemort hiding horcruxes. Where would you put them?

Now if you are not very smart, you would probably put up some protections, and you will expect the hero to try to break them. If you were smarter, there would be some feints and double feints and deceptions involved in the process. But if you were very smart, you would go for the hardest locations, as Harry named. These might represent a kind of "fixed point" of hiding places: You know the hero will find out, but its not like you could do any better. The perfectly-logical-Quirrell knows that Harry will figure it out, but nonetheless, he has no better option! Any other choices would only make the quest easier, not harder.

Now since Harry is brilliant, he figures this out independently. Because with the above fixed-point theorem that these 5 locations are the hardest possible even assuming common knowledge of the theorem and the 5 locations among your foes, then every sufficiently smart thinker will come to the exact same conclusions independently, which in this case are Voldemort and Harry.

(Personally I disagree with the locations as Harry says them: There is one better: Randomize everything that Harry said. Of the 5 hardest options, make a probability distribution over them [weighted by difficulty: I would expect the space version to be weighted higher as it seems harder to find things in space than say the earth version of digging a hole a kilometer under the ground of which there are a much smaller number of hiding spots.] Then, randomize each version so that the launch trajectory (in the space case) or the burial site (in the earth case) is selected randomly. Finally, build a machine that will do the randomized selection and auto-launch independently, so that you yourself are unaware of the selected locations. Even obliviation seems weak: perhaps there are ways to be unobliviated ex-post.

This way, a machine chooses 7 modes (space/air/water) randomly for your 7 horcruxes. I imagine there would be 4 space horcruxes, 2 air horcruxes, 0.5 water horcruxes, etc. (depending on the probability distribution chosen) Ideally you would obliviate yourself ex-post so that you don't remember the probability distribution you chose. Then once the modes have been selected for each horcrux the machine spits out for each of the horcruxes a random trajectory/location and launches. Then you destroy the machine (and sufficient surroundings so that remaining bits of information cannot be used to reconstruct even partially the entropy bits surrounding the machine to regenerate the random numbers). Then you obliviate yourself of every thing.

Even then, this isn't foolproof, because a smart enough person looking to find out where your horcruxes are would arrive at the same conclusions and realize what you've done. But it is the strongest possible that could be done. (That is, if I haven't made a mistake: which I don't claim to have. I'm not Quirrelmort/Harry smart, I'm dumber. Presumably if they came up with the solution it would be without any holes I might have overlooked)

Randomization is the only hope here. Your solution needs to be sufficiently hard that you yourself cannot ex-post figure out where they are, so that the hero cannot either. The more random, the larger the search space for any future searcher, and no additional information can be obtained. Harry does grasp this by suggesting obliviating yourself after randomly selecting a trajectory for the space case, but I would make that more rigorous and have a very strong random number generator of which you were a not part of.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-06T08:51:38.602Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If a horcrux of Type 1 is found, that greatly increases the chance another horcrux of Type 1 is findable. You actually do want to use as many different modes as possible, not randomize across modes, because the probabilities are not independent.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T09:08:43.237Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking of horcrux types, will you give us some hints as to just what effect such devices have in the MoR universe? ie. Backup copies, respawn points, part-of-your-intellectual-capacity, etc. Can a voyager horcrux allow you to recover from a 'death' back on earth despite being a gazilion miles away?

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-06T22:13:22.006Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I second this. We have to know the rules if it's going to be important later on (else it's an Ass Pull), and I rather suspect that it will be important in the finale.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T22:26:12.371Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I rather suspect that it will be important in the finale

Which raises the question: is Harry going to "win" (defeat QM/bring about the Magical Singularity/generally wrap up the plot) in one year, or seven, or some other number? And is Eliezer going to keep writing that far?

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-06T22:38:02.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No way is it going to be one year, way too many plot threads. Take Bacon's diary, it's not going to become relevant until Harry has the chance to start to read it, which he currently thinks requires learning Latin first.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-06T22:43:59.919Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see that as a Chekhov's Gun, just a sweet quest item. (Note that it hasn't been mentioned again.)

Chekhov's Gun for this story would be James Potter's rock.

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-06T23:34:48.358Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It has been mentioned again in chapter 37. I'm pretty sure it will come up again, at least in passing, but probably more than just that.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T23:06:24.717Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

just a sweet quest item

Yeah, having Bacon's Diary equipped gives Harry a totally sweet +1 to all his attacks. And it doesn't even use up a weapon slot!

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T01:18:38.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. I've totally missed that as potential grounds for a subplot. I just considered it 'scenery' in the early chapters.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-09T04:40:38.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wished he'd hurry up and read it; I want to know what it says!

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T22:46:27.299Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So, I don't so much mean one year vs. 7+ of in-universe time; I mean one JKR book-length vs. 7+ JKR book-lengths worth of writing. (I.e., is Eliezer shooting for 75kword, 1.1Mword, or something else.) Should have been more clear about that.

comment by FAWS · 2010-09-06T23:39:01.371Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer is already way over 1 book length (265k words, more than even Order of the Phoenix), I don't see him finishing the story short of at least 600k words, probably considerably more.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-09-09T05:46:34.164Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like the story is more than halfway done already, although I'd be pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T21:27:37.899Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Even so, I would think that having all of them off planet Earth would be preferable to some on it and some off. Inside the Sun, inside some of the ice-moons of the gas giants, and on various random trajectories out of the solar system (not strapped to a probe whose telemetry we know very well, for goodness' sake) would seem to be optimal. Of course this all depends on Voldy's actual ability to put them there.

Then there's the whole issue of traps/alarms. Trapping is probably not worthwhile if you're hiding in highly-inaccessible places, since if your enemy can get there she's pretty powerful already, and the traps could easily draw attention. (On the other hand, if you have something as crazy as the Big Bowl o' Poison one, where the enemy somehow is forced to injure himself to get the horcrux, with absolutely no way around it, then it could be worthwhile.) (Silent) alarms, on the other hand, seem absolutely essential: you must know if one of your horcruces has been touched, let alone destroyed, so you can take appropriate steps.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-09-06T09:02:06.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, both goals should factor into your decision. The probability of hiding your (n)th Horcrux in Type 1 should be (much) less than the probability of hiding your (n-1)th Horcrux there, but you still want to inject a bit of randomness into how many Horcruxes go where...otherwise a devoted pursuer might be able to deduce the general location of your one remaining Horcrux after deactivating your first six, thereby saving a crucial few weeks and thwarting you once and for all.

comment by KevinC · 2010-09-06T09:14:44.818Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The Wizards can create dimensionally orthogonal pockets of spacetime (for their bags of holding, mokeskin pouches, and TARDIS trunks). If a Horcrux simply has to be hidden where no one can get at it, and doesn't have to maintain a signaling link to the "rest" of the maker's "soul," perhaps Voldy could have made some dimensionally transcendent space (like a BoH or the Mirror of Erised), put a Horcrux in, then destroyed the connecting interface with our reality. Basically, a magical corollary of multiverse cosmology, where the Horcrux is placed in a new "pocket universe" that is then separated from ours so that it cannot be reached even in principle.

I would guess from MoR canon that relativity-compliant signaling is not necessary for a Horcrux to work, since light-lag between Earth and the Pioneer Horcrux would already be significant.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-06T21:18:18.190Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

would guess from MoR canon that relativity-compliant signaling is not necessary for a Horcrux to work

Horcruces: the ultimate "spooky action at a distance"!

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T00:47:12.732Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can easily imagine that, if the Pioneer Horcrux is the last undestroyed Horcrux and Voldemort is killed, there will be a significant delay until Voldemort gets a ghostly form, while the signal of his death travels to Pioneer and back.

On the other hand, the Pioneer Horcrux may be constantly sending out signals reminding magical reality to give Voldemort a ghostly form if he is ever killed, in which case there will be no delay (unless Pioneer falls into a Black Hole).

Of course, the other possibility is that Voldemort's ghostly form will appear on Pioneer itself, but presumably he thought of that and ruled it out before making the Horcrux.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-29T03:07:05.191Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 20:

"Sometimes," Professor Quirrell said in a voice so quiet it almost wasn't there, "when this flawed world seems unusually hateful, I wonder whether there might be some other place, far away, where I should have been. I cannot seem to imagine what that place might be, and if I can't even imagine it then how can I believe it exists? And yet the universe is so very, very wide, and perhaps it might exist anyway? But the stars are so very, very far away. It would take a long, long time to get there, even if I knew the way. And I wonder what I would dream about, if I slept for a long, long time..."

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-30T02:49:39.819Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're right!

Voldemort should be destroying all of his other Horcruxes (made in weaker moments), then committing suicide. When he discovers, after his suicide is irreversible but before he actually dies in this form, that Harry is an accidental Horcrux who must (or so it seems) also be killed before Voldemort's ghostly form can appear on Pioneer, drama ensues.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-30T21:00:44.530Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I fail to see how life in deep space + life on earth < life in deep space, especially considering that V. is super against dying.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-02T00:27:15.500Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on how things work, of course, but the danger is that he will be stuck in an incorporeal form on Earth forever. When canon!Voldemort is flitting about in Books 1–4, possessing Quirrel's head, drinking unicorn blood, a little baby cuddled in Wormtail's arms, it's not clear that he's in a form that can be killed at all, but it's not a form that he appreciates either. So it may be that the only way to sail the stars on Pioneer is to get a body to be killed in (and I don't know whether MoR!Quirrel's will do or he needs to be resurrected as at the end of canon Book 4) AND have no closer Horcruxes to reappear near.

But if he has things under good control, then you are right. He can have fun on Earth, using his terrestrial Horcruxes at need, then only go to Pioneer at the end, when life on Earth loses its charm (or when his plans on Earth are complete). As long as he knows that he can create the conditions for resurrection on Pioneer when he wants them, then you are right.

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-07T18:58:10.584Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or he thought of that and eagerly anticipates it as the end of his struggle.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-09-08T03:18:06.541Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Or he thought of that and reluctantly accepts it as a second-worst scenario that is better than a final, mortal death. In JKR-canon, Horcruxes don't just send a signal to regenerate soul bits, they are fractions of a soul...if I were an evil Dark Lord in MoR-canon-world, I might accept a fractured existence in deep space, but I would not accept a fractured exsistence in a pocket universe that contained nothing else and was a priori inaccessible to my familiar world(s), even given that I hate and fear death, anticipate a triumphant galactic civilization, etc. Being alone and mostly dead in an empty vacuum for eternity really sucks.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-29T03:26:12.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, given enough time you might be able to make new pocket universes and give them life or the like. And if things get bad you can always destroy the Horcrux yourself.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-09-30T05:56:12.125Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, c'mon, that's just reckless. In JKR-canon, Voldemort emerges from his first pseudo-death as a fragment of his former self, dependent on familiar landscapes and pre-existing allies/victims as he tries to regain enough life force just to remember who he is.

Conjecturing that (a) creating life-filled pocket universes is possible, (b) you will have the tools/resources with which to do so in a hard vacuum, (c) the part of you that survives your body's death will have enough of the right kind of magical power to do so, AND (d) the capacity to spontaneously re-generate your psychological infrastructure without external stimuli after suffering a death of unknown type and origin is just begging for Occam to come up and slit your throat. Remember that if you're wrong about any of these conjectures, you are moderately likely to spend eternity in semi-conscious isolation from literally everything.

Claiming that you could destroy the Horcrux yourself doesn't buy you a whole lot of leverage; the whole plot of Books 6 and 7 in JKR-canon is that destroying a Horcrux generally takes an epic-level artifact, a character with a pure heart and a focused mind, AND a whole lot of effort. These are not tools that you have access to when you're a pseudo-murdered villain floating around in an empty pocket universe.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-30T13:30:33.817Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Points in paragraphs 1 and 2 are valid. Three is wrong. I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that psychological properties were not fully functioning. Moreover,according to book 7, regret and remorse of the creator of a Horcrux will destroy it. If you are stuck in that state for a few hundred years in that state, likely the Horcrux will be destroyed by you simply being terribly regretful about the situation.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-09-30T16:54:14.945Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose the regret is a decent way out, although I would guess that you would need to experience true contrition over the murder or over the atrociousness of splitting your soul, rather than the mere attrition of noticing that you didn't like the consequences. At least, if you wanted to destroy the Horcrux using merely the touchy-feely power of love. There might be a way to magically enhance the power of attrition, but, again, it probably requires raw materials or living things or a wand or focused discipline, none of which are especially likely to be available.

There is a scene somewhere in Book 1 where Voldemort complains about his loss of psychological identity as he lusts after the unicorn blood or the Sorcerer's Stone or something like that. I forget if he was manipulating Quirrell or just boasting about how far he had risen or how desperate he was not to return to that state. Unfortunately, I can't find the exact quote because JKR has totally blocked GoogleBooks search, my book is elsewhere, and there are limits to my Potter-nerddom.

Also,

Riddle also reveals that he is Voldemort as a boy. He further explains that he learned from Ginny who Harry was and about his own deeds as Voldemort. ~Wikipedia, book 2

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-10-01T19:29:24.521Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Agree with most of your analysis although confused about what your point about the book 2. Since the diary wasn't the primary consciousness it doesn't seem relevant.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-10-02T06:08:40.555Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

At this point I am far enough out of my depth that I will have to wait until I can get my hands on the books again. I suddenly regret donating books 2-7 to the library. This is almost certainly irrational. :-(

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T08:49:48.275Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Randomization is the only hope here. Your solution needs to be sufficiently hard that you yourself cannot ex-post figure out where they are, so that the hero cannot either.

I would normally suggest throwing the horcrux across a horizon (black hole or outside the future light cone). But in a world with time travel and apparition that doesn't seem quite so safe. I would weight the distribution more in the direction of space, leaving the 'air' ones out altogether.

If possible I would make the acceleration factor on the space bound item vary based on quantum effects at regular intervals, leaving it thoroughly distributed across an ever expanding part of the universe.

It matters somewhat just what the device being hidden is made of and whether it can, say, resist insane tidal forces, supernovae and the like. The flying item may need to be programmed to avoid such things or perhaps dive right in, depending on the specifics.

The other thing to consider is that obscurity isn't the only way to make something inaccessible. Even if the direction is guessable, spending sufficient effort in making the item accelerate into space could make it extremely hard to find. If you can charm the item to accelerate at 10g away from the earth forever and also manage to prevent anyone from chasing after it for 10 years then you have made your horcrux damn hard to catch.

Before I did any of these things, well, at least before I did it with the >=3rd horcruxes I would thoroughly research just how the horcruxes manage to make you unkillable. I would need to confirm that wherever I hid a horcrux enabled the horcrux to do its thing in a way that is useful. ie. I don't want to respawn inside black holes, outside the light cone of everything I hold dear or even inside any volcanoes.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-06T13:46:31.693Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even obliviation seems weak: perhaps there are ways to be unobliviated ex-post.

Canonically, IIRC, obliviation can be broken by sufficient torture.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-09-06T17:06:12.207Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Canonically? Where?

The only thing resembling actual "unobliviating" that I can think of is Lockheart apparently slowly slightly recovering from his memory charm blowing up in his face via the broken wand. And that was after several years of ongoing treatment at St. Mungo's.

comment by lmnop · 2010-09-06T17:31:11.517Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Bertha Jorkins. After she found out that the Crouch family was keeping Barty Crouch Jr. imprisoned in their house, Crouch Sr. put a Memory Charm on her strong enough to cause her permanent brain damage and forgetfulness. But Voldemort was able to break through it with torture.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-09-06T17:37:46.400Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, as I replied to Eliezer, I had no memory of that, appropriately enough. :P

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-06T17:25:16.026Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Goblet of Fire, Bertha. We could possibly assume that her Obliviation was intended to be of the undoable sort to begin with, like what canon!Hermione did to her parents (so Bertha could still work on her job while she was at work, or regain the memories after the Tournament).

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-09-06T17:35:48.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. I had no memory of that (appropriately enough. :P) *goes to look that up* Huh.

Although according to this, she did suffer permanent brain damage from the memory charm itself, so not exactly what I'd call reversible, but yeah, point to gwern and you.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T18:35:56.972Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I appreciate that Eliezer tries to explain the Death-Eater point of view - they're heroes in their own minds; and they're the only ones trying to solve a terrible problem that the "good guys" are ignoring. He also points out flaws in eg Dumbledore (though that may be dumbing down the character). Overall, his treatment of the conflict is more balanced and nuanced than Rowling's. More the kind of thing that I think I like (though I could be deceiving myself).

But if the book had been written that way, could it have been a bestseller? Is stupid moral oversimplification necessary in a mass-market bestseller? E.g., Tolkien, Narnia, Star Wars.

I'm trying to think of mass-appeal war stories with a balanced or ambiguous or at least non-stupid treatment of good/bad, but the ones I come up with are not exactly blockbusters: Gormenghast, Ender's Game, Grendel, The "Good War".

Some blockbuster movies qualify: Saving Private Ryan, High Noon, Blade Runner, Watchmen, The Searchers, Rashomon, Apocalypse Now, Unforgiven. Odd that movies, which are thought of by intellectuals as more lowbrow than books, may be more successful at communicating non-stupid ideas.

comment by Airedale · 2010-08-31T19:46:47.741Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Is stupid moral oversimplification necessary in a mass-market bestseller? E.g., Tolkien, Narnia, Star Wars.

Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked and other books, achieved considerable success turning the morally simplistic world of Oz into something more complex. The Broadway musical was also very popular as such things go. Not quite on the same level of success as your examples, but it shows there’s some market for it. (Maguire also wrote similar retellings of Snow White and Cinderella, which I think sold pretty well, although not as well as Wicked.)

Edited to add: Although if you're only asking about "war stories" strictly defined, it may not be a good example.

comment by sketerpot · 2010-08-31T21:49:20.011Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked and other books, achieved considerable success turning the morally simplistic world of Oz into something more complex.

If the Wizard of Oz had been written that way to start with, could it have achieved its popularity? The fact that so many people know about Oz definitely helps anybody who wants to sell a deconstruction of it.

comment by Airedale · 2010-08-31T22:20:12.912Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. Wicked also is an imperfect example because it was written for adults, unlike the examples in the grandparent.

I wonder if there's something different about the way (most) authors write books for children and (some) authors write books for adults - HP, Narnia, Star Wars, and Oz all had young audiences in mind. Most of the more morally complex movies mentioned in the grandparent were for adults. Do any of Stephen King's bestsellers have moral complexity?

I also wonder if those writing and creating works for children (if they do gravitate towards moral simplicity) have the correct understanding of what their audience wants? Of course, HP and Star Wars certainly broke out well beyond children, so maybe a lot of adults want moral simplicity too.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-20T16:32:45.778Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking of media for children, I once read that the MPAA will not certify a film as "G" if it contains if it contains morally ambiguous characters, regardless of the sex, violence, language or drugs. Unfortunately I cannot find an internet citation for this (beyond the talk of "mature themes").

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-02T22:14:59.660Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I read an essay by Stephen King where he claimed that his writing was basically socially conservative and morally simplistic - there's always evil in his worlds, but it's always an invader from the outside that must be repelled.

comment by pjeby · 2010-09-06T19:49:02.893Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I read an essay by Stephen King where he claimed that his writing was basically socially conservative and morally simplistic - there's always evil in his worlds, but it's always an invader from the outside that must be repelled.

That seems like a major oversimplification. A whole bunch of exceptions spring immediately to mind, such as pretty much all the Bachman Books (where the villain is often society itself or the masses thereof), and short stories like Dolan's Cadillac (where it's not really clear who's the bigger villain). And what about Firestarter?

Even in books like The Stand or Needful Things, where the evil really is a non-human invader from the outside, it gets big chunks of its power from individuals' failings of character.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-20T16:12:59.987Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The "Save the Cat" series of books on screenwriting says that's an essential part of such movies - that the monster only gets to invade because someone's moral failing lets it in.

I'm not fond of their attitude - that there are only about a dozen possible plots for movies - but there certainly are a lot of movies that conform to them.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T01:51:43.738Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But McGuire's works work because they are deconstructions; he is a fanfic writer, albeit working in the mainstream business model.

What the world needs are financially successful original stories, and indeed children's stories, with grey morality.

comment by WrongBot · 2010-09-01T02:06:42.078Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, leans grey. The villain is unambiguously The Bad Guy, but the protagonist is decidedly unsaintly, as is his mentor.

So that's one.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T03:10:07.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks; I like Gaiman but didn't know about that, so now I can read it!

comment by ewbrownv · 2010-09-02T16:01:25.183Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have to disagree. The ‘morally grey’ approach can be interesting if the author is writing a story of ideas – exploring unconventional morality, novel social forms, etc – but very few authors have the ability to do that. Usually they’re writing a simple plot-driven story of romance and tribal conflict, which requires obstacles (for the romance) and enemies (for the tribal conflict). In this type of story trying to introduce sympathy for the villains just ruins the reader’s enjoyment to no purpose.

Besides which, morally grey stories have been in fashion for the last twenty years, and anyone who considers themselves a serious author has already taken at least one shot at it. Most genres are inundated with the stuff, some to the point where it’s hard to find anything else. The last thing we need is even more of it.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-02T18:02:47.994Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The ‘morally grey’ approach can be interesting if the author is writing a story of ideas [...]. Usually they’re writing a simple plot-driven story [...]. In this type of story trying to introduce sympathy for the villains just ruins the reader’s enjoyment to no purpose.

This is probably just a matter of taste, but I get enough simplified morality from people who believe that it applies in real life; I don't want it any more in stories, even simple plot-driven ones.

[...] morally grey stories [...] Most genres are inundated with the stuff, some to the point where it’s hard to find anything else.

Not children's literature. The children of today are the closed-minded partisans of tomorrow.

comment by Airedale · 2010-09-02T18:17:31.969Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How would people characterize A Wrinkle in Time? It’s been ages since I’ve read it, but it’s another indisputably (?) classic children’s book. IT and a lot of the good/evil shadow imagery seem somewhat morally simplistic in my memory, but I seem to recall other moral complexity, e.g., with the Mrs. Ws.

I’m also having trouble characterizing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in terms of moral complexity, but it also doesn't fit in with the other examples in that it lacks a high-stakes struggle. Alice in Wonderland is the other major children's classic fantasy I can think of, but I can't recall what, if any, type of morality it presented.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-03T01:16:18.481Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A Wrinkle in Time?

Good question. As I recall, I found the first half much more interesting than the last half. In retrospect, I think that one reason was that the Ws required thought to understand but It did not. (But I don't recall thinking this at the time, so take that with a grain of salt.)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory […] Alice in Wonderland

The morality in these is farcical, so it's easier to be grey, or just meaningless. (In Tim Burton's recent adaptation of Alice, which has a coherent plot unlike the original, the morality was very black and white.)

Now I remember the famous debate in The Horn Book Magazine about the morality in Charlie. I found most of that debate pointless because Charlie's morality is farcical, so why would you expect it to make sense? (Well, the debate wasn't only about morality.)

And that reminds me of Ursula Le Guin (who took the anti-Charlie position in the first April 1973 Letter to the Editor at the above link); she wrote the children's fantasy trilogy Earthsea. This has a fairly grey morality, especially the middle book, which is told from the perspective of an antagonist (at first) of the trilogy's main protagonist. Years later, Le Guin wrote a sequel trilogy, which (while earning a mixed reaction from the fans) addressed some of the problems that she saw in the original trilogy; it was even greyer, but it was not marketed to children anymore. In any case, Earthsea is not a counterexample to ewbrownv's claims, because the story does explore ‘unconventional morality, novel social forms, etc’ (and does it well, IMO).

Ob MoR: Earthsea has an anti-lifeist moral, but because it is grey, it treats the lifeist position with some respect; the villains are more misguided than evil, and you can sympathise with them. Lifeists still won't be happy with it, especially in the sequels, where gur urebrf qrfgebl gur nsgreyvsr (although once you get to that point, this is pretty well justified). But at least the lifeist position is not dismissed out of hand.

comment by cetus · 2010-09-20T10:53:09.900Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you asking for children's literature, or YA? There are quite a few YA, morally grey, literature available; not incredibly popular, but existing. I would argue that it's difficult to really develop grey morality in a 'child''s worldview, since what a child is is more difficult to define. That said, I would say The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan, is quite morally in the grey area; the protagonists are really not very 'good', nor are they very 'evil' as in the case of an anti-hero.

...I believe that it would also be wise to introduce grey morality age-appropriately - because if someone is young enough, they might go off humanizing the villains, and humanizing a villain that would predate on someone that young would not be wise.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-20T22:01:00.188Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you asking for children's literature, or YA?

The younger the better, I suppose. Although library and bookseller classifications have to draw the line somewhere, there's really a continuum of target audience ages. Anything that is widely read by children should count, regardless of how it's classified (although how it's classified may give a reasonable estimate of whether children read it, in the absence of real data).

Eliezer has referred to HP as ‘for children’ when explaining some of the changes that MoR (which is not for children) has to the background universe. But HP is often classified as YA. I would not want to be picky.

humanizing a villain that would predate on someone that young would not be wise.

That's an interesting argument. I definitely believe that children must learn that villains are humans too by the time they are old enough to commit acts of revenge that can cause significant harm. So certainly tweens (who will soon be old enough to join gangs, plan for future careers, etc) should read about humanized villains, while still reading about heroes who resist them. But very young children may need to classify people strictly into good and evil to successfully avoid harmful people. That's an uncomfortable idea to me, but I don't know enough about child psychology to rationally evaluate it.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T20:02:51.817Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Any sufficiently high-stakes conflict presented with moral overtones should do.

That reminds me that I really, really liked John Gardner's Grendel (Beowulf from Grendel's view). But it wasn't very commercially successful.

comment by komponisto · 2010-08-31T18:39:51.738Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Is stupid moral oversimplification necessary in a mass-market bestseller? E.g., Tolkien, Star Wars.

His Dark Materials is a possible counterexample.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T19:22:56.203Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read past the first book; but in the first book, the bad guys are really obscenely bad. Calling God a bad guy doesn't make it morally ambiguous, if God is really bad in the story.

comment by komponisto · 2010-08-31T19:29:23.587Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there's a reason I named the trilogy rather than the first book.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T20:03:34.886Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I'll read the next book, then!

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-09-06T20:54:27.912Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly recommend His Dark Materials for relaxation reading. Book 1 was meh, but book 2 is good and book 3 is beautiful. It's lightly peppered with good rationality. Will in particular thinks pretty clearly.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-06T19:00:32.920Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, they're bad, but they have justifications for why they're doing everything. (They're horribly mistaken about the consequences of what they're trying to do, but most of them honestly believe in their cause.) And you get to hear their explanations first, before Lord Asriel gets to speak - and when Lyra finally meets up with him at the end of the first book, the first thing he does is pretty horrible.

comment by dclayh · 2010-09-02T06:38:51.985Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

s stupid moral oversimplification necessary in a mass-market bestseller? E.g., Tolkien

I would say The Silmarillion is not very morally simplistic. Specifically I would call it Black and Gray morality [TVTropes], because I can't think of a single non-God major character who's totally good. (Maybe Luthien?)

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-15T19:59:46.502Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, I think - like most people, I never finished The Silmarillion. But I don't think that's evidence for non-simplistic popular fiction - it wasn't very popular even when riding on the huge success of Tolkien's other work.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-01T00:15:18.221Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying to think of mass-appeal war stories with a balanced or ambiguous or at least non-stupid treatment of good/bad

The saga of A Song of Ice and Fire has sold around 7 million copies (Wikipedia) and it's extremely far away from Manichean morality. I would estimate that no more than five percent of the text involves truly heroic or truly depraved characters.

Sven Hassel's best-selling books can also be a good example. We must, however, distinguish between works that derive their nuanced morality from an attempt to be faithful to reality, and those that donate nuanced morality to a fictional setting.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-01T00:24:24.266Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If we go back in time, we find emphasis on heroism more than good vs. evil. E.g., the Iliad.

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-06T09:33:53.497Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the original bad guys become good guys, and there is an effort (well, a couple of lines in one episode) to understand the worse bad guys.

The bad bad guys are definitely bad, but really only a couple of characters (and their nameless goons) are like that. And there is at least some mention of "wouldn't it be great if we could get Germany running again? Whoops!" Rather than simply saying they're evil for evil's sake.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-01T04:49:40.598Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But if the book had been written that way, could it have been a bestseller? Is stupid moral oversimplification necessary in a mass-market bestseller? E.g., Tolkien, Narnia, Star Wars.

It is if you are writing children's stories!

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-15T20:08:18.948Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is this a teddy-bear effect? Weird possibly NSFW ads on website; critical part quoted:

Since a teddy bear is often a child’s first toy, one hypothesis that teddy specialists wanted to test was that they evolved to please infants or young children. Researchers offered 4- to 8-year-old children their choice of teddies with adult features or ones with infantile features. The four-year-olds chose the adult-featured bear almost two and a half times more often than the baby-featured bear. Among the older children, 6 to 8 years of age, the babyish teddies were three times more likely to be chosen.

This makes perfect sense. Very young children are the only beings immune to cuteness. What good would it do a baby to attach to other babies? It is clearly in the babies’ interest to attach to adults.

The function of the evolved teddy is to please adults—and older children who are already playing at nurturing. These are the purchasers of toys supposedly bought for infants.

There was a famous children's story author who wrote 2 books. The first was from the POV of a kid continually being bothered by a bully. The second was the same story, from the POV of the bully. But I never read them. Wish I could remember the titles or author name.

comment by David_Allen · 2010-09-17T20:17:44.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There was a famous children's story author who wrote 2 books. The first was from the POV of a kid continually being bothered by a bully. The second was the same story, from the POV of the bully. But I never read them. Wish I could remember the titles or author name.

I read those, about 30 years ago. I don't remember the titles or author, but I do remember being surprised by the bully's POV and feeling empathy for him.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-06T18:44:45.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The His Dark Materials trilogy portrays the viewpoint of the villains before it shows what the heroes' side believes in.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T15:43:18.399Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It struck me as odd that Harry was repulsed by the idea of the Sorting Hat losing consciousness, then regaining consciousness (or being "reborn" as a somewhat different entity) repeatedly. Seemed a lot like falling asleep and waking up.

I would have thought that the additional creation of more consciousness, which seemed to be enjoying itself or at least not suffering, would just be added utility to the universe. Then I remembered that Eliezer is an average utilitarian. Which raises the question: Would an average utilitarian average together utility per life, or utility per second?

It doesn't feel right to say, "We must deny these potential entities life, even though they would enjoy it and not be taking any resources away from any other entities - indeed, most likely increasing the utility of those other people they talked with - because they will harm our average utility score." It reminds me of a student who won't take any classes they can't get an A in.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-31T16:43:21.962Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It struck me as odd that Harry was repulsed by the idea of the Sorting Hat losing consciousness, then regaining consciousness (or being "reborn" as a somewhat different entity) repeatedly. Seemed a lot like falling asleep and waking up.

"Odd" or "typical of the kind of superficial moral reasoning Harry usually employs but essentially completely arbitrary"?

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T18:29:02.903Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't modeling Harry, so just odd.

comment by Halceon · 2010-08-30T20:54:13.743Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Not directly related to MoR, but whatever. I recently joined a massive HP roleplay forum and what i noticed among the players was a huge deal of optimisation by proxy. Basically the general sentiment is that being sorted into one house means that you have no traits from the others. This makes some sense, because a wizard employer will probably look at the candidates' house affiliation first. I'll need to reread some of the books, to check if it's canon, but in the fans' minds at least, all of Magical Britain is aligning itself to an arbitrary division. It's a bit disturbing, really.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-09-01T00:27:36.078Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I was in a White Wolf MUSH some while ago, and it was the same story. The stereotypes helped bad roleplayers be not awful, but hindered really good roleplay.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T02:38:36.826Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here's my Slytherin theory.

Almost all Death-Eaters were Slytherin for the same reason why almost all Mussolini supporters were Italians. People from different houses just tend to stay together, especially when organizing a major conspiracy. If Dark Lord was a Hufflepuff, most Death Eaters would be Hufflepuffs. Dark Wizardry is no more inherent character of Slytherins than fascism is of Italians.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T02:42:13.222Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seriously? But, but... Hufflepuffs would suck at being Dark Lords. There are important traits that Slytherins have that Hufflepuffs just tend not to have.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-02T02:45:48.396Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If one Hufflepuff happened to have them, imagine the loyal, hardworking, tight-knit followers, diligently working to acquire the traits deemed necessary...

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T02:49:30.581Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dark Marks would barely even be necessary! I wonder how difficult it would be to game or work around the house selection system somehow. Can the sorting hat see through mind control spells?

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-02T02:50:45.111Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

All you have to do is think really hard that you can't stand any other house, will not find your fellows there, will not reach your full potential...

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T02:55:21.647Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Or, and this is where the real threat of Hufflepuffs comes in, you really just want to help help people but are rather confused about how to go about doing so. (Unless the confusion is on the part of those who are using the label 'Dark' and you really are helping them.) Altruists are scary. Hard to control.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-02T02:57:16.695Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"For the greater good!"

comment by KevinC · 2010-09-06T09:37:11.630Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I could imagine a Hufflepuff developing some spell to merge or link minds so the group can be even more cohesive and cooperative. A Hufflepuff Borganism could be pretty freakin' scary. "We are One. We are Together. We are Loyal. You should join Us. Yes, yes, you really, really should. What's that? Oh. You just don't know what's best for you. Let Us help you."

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T03:59:11.438Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who tries to manipulate Sorting Hat at age of 11 would automatically and deservingly be sent straight into Slytherin.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T04:11:51.618Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think it is possible for the Sorting Hat to see through powerful mind control spells? Modified memories, obliviation, imperius, etc.

Better yet, polyjuice. Send some other kid in that looks like you and is willing to go along with your plan out of loyalty.

Just brainstorming here. It's quite possible that the Hat would yell out "Well, this guy is going to Hufflepuff but wedrifid is going to Ravenclaw!"

Which reminds me, the hat works by piggybacking of the intelligence of the wearer. So I would pick the dumbest Hufflepuff friend that I could find!

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T04:21:36.859Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It was made by founders of Hogwarts. Possibly Dark Lord or Dumbledore could cast a spell like that, but few 11 year olds or their parents.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T04:36:40.613Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how much consideration the founders put in to the effects of non-magical chemical interventions.

On the day before the sorting I could conceive and then carry out the following plan:

  • Pack a lunch packed lunch which includes a beverage dosed with MDMA.
  • Ensure that I will eat this food in preference to purchasing off the trolley. Either by writing a note or by giving my parents instructions to remind me quite seriously.
  • Drug myself with an amnesiatic cocktail and so forget the plan.

MDMA would likely be sufficient to influence the sorting. Especially if combined with extensive psychotherapy over several months. Since you have allowed influence by the parents there is even more scope for influencing the sorting by non magical means. Chemical and psychological interventions can make a huge and somewhat reversible influence on psychological traits.

There may be similar non magical ways to enhance a polyjuice based plan. Legal name changes. Chemically enhanced hazing to convince the volunteer that their actual name is wedrifid, etc.

Wizards are notoriously narrow minded when considering non-magical loopholes, especially in the MoR!reality. Bypassing the hat as an eleven year old may be difficult without assistance but should definitely be possible with parental assistance. As an extreme measure:

  • At age 10 backup all your memories.
  • Have the parents introduce retrogade amnesia and solid brainwashing over months or a year.
  • Restore the memories at the Christmas holidays and work hard to reverse all changes. This should be possible because magical intervention can be used in the healing process without the hat interfering. Apart from healing spells things up to and including self cast imperius can be used.
comment by taw · 2010-09-02T05:06:56.193Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But what would be the point? Has the Sorting Hat ever placed anyone in a House they very strongly didn't want to be placed?

It assigned Harry to Gryffindor not Slytherin because Harry was strongly against the idea of joining Slytherin.

I'd guess with strict system like that, most people get pre-conceptions about which house they belong to long before sorting, so Hat's job is usually very easy.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T05:29:34.029Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

But what would be the point? Has the Sorting Hat ever placed anyone in a House they very strongly didn't want to be placed?

It quite probably has, and would.

It assigned Harry to Gryffindor not Slytherin because Harry was strongly against the idea of joining Slytherin.

The hat isn't complying here just noting that wanting desperately not to be Slytherin is evidence that you are not most suited to being a Slytherin. Me wanting desperately to be a Hufflepuff because it gives me access to a whole lot of Hufflepuffs to be my loyal minions might not be quite so persuasive.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T05:51:28.235Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It quite probably has, and would.

Well, Hermione's sorting is another example of Hat taking person's preferences into account.

Is there any good counter-example?

Me wanting desperately to be a Hufflepuff because it gives me access to a whole lot of Hufflepuffs to be my loyal minions might not be quite so persuasive.

I'd expect people to develop serious plans of taking over the world at some age older than 11, but feel free to write fanfic to the contrary.

But if you believed strongly in value of loyalty, that might be enough. Hermione, Neville, and Peter Pettigrew all seem to have been sorted based on their value system more than on their actual traits - otherwise their sorting makes little sense.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-02T06:19:34.229Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'd expect people to develop serious plans of taking over the world at some age older than 11

Erm, not taking over the world per se, but I was certainly thinking in long-range terms. If you look at my grade school graduation yearbook (age 12), my ambition is listed as building the first faster-than-light starship. Ah, the innocence of youth, before I got ambitious, and before I understood the local nature of causality.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-21T06:30:34.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, that's when I stopped talking about taking over the world, and also turned my attention to FTL. Public goal: Deduce the principles necessary for interstellar travel. Secret ambition: Control and drive all advanced research and current deployment of technology for transporting person, parcel and bit, then manipulate world leaders into disarmament. Ah the lonely megalomania of youth, back before I got ambitious, back when I thought I had to do everything myself.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T06:21:31.107Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

But if you believed strongly in value of loyalty, that might be enough. Hermione, Neville, and Peter Pettigrew all seem to have been sorted based on their value system more than on their actual traits - otherwise their sorting makes little sense.

To be honest I've been running with the "their sorting makes little sense" theory. :)

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-06T09:14:02.261Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All three were sorted into houses they new people in. This seems to have persuaded that hat a little in canon.

I would think it is likely that the hat would sort people into a house they want to be in.

Also, at age 11, many people haven't fully developed, and putting them in a house is likely to cause them to be more like that house; there's no reason for the hat to be overly picky about putting people where they belong. The actions of a ten-year-old aren't great predictors of future personality.

Although thinking about it, the actions I remember taking as a ten-year-old seem pretty consistent with you I am today, but I would guess that I am an outlier in this regard.

Anyway I don't see any reason to believe that the hat has EVER put someone in a house they didn't want to be in, and I feel like taw is making stronger points despite the upvotes not agreeing with me.

comment by KevinC · 2010-09-06T09:56:37.925Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Couldn't a Slytherinny parent who wants their child to become powerful coach their child into wanting to be in some House other than Slytherin? Say, MoR!Lucius, coaching his son in all the ways of seizing power, but telling him awful, awful stories of what it was like to be a Slytherin. "No, no my boy, you do not want to be in that House, whatever you do!" Then, Draco under that Hat goes, "No! No! Not Slytherin! Anything but Slytherin!" And thus, ends up somewhere else.

Thus positioned, he does not automatically have to wear a suspicion-generating Slytherin badge, and he gets to be the wolf among the sheep (if he ends up in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, where there's no Harry and Hermione to match him). Being Slytherin is like being a Ferengi. People already expect you to scheme against them, so their guard is up. But a Hufflepuff or Gryffindor (especially Gryffindor!) MoR!Draco would start out with powerful advantages in his quest for world domination.

Since "rule the world" and "save the world" aren't really that far apart, he probably would have ended up in Gryffindor. If you want to rule the world, presumably you think you've got a better way to run it than the way it's being run. Some would-be rulers might just want the wealth and being able to boss other people around, but it's easier to get that as a cult leader and not have to have responsibility for administering the global economy.

If you want to save the world, you could be defending the status quo (keeping that other guy from conquering the world), or you could see some threat (climate change, death) that isn't being dealt with appropriately, and you have a better way. In either case, you are tacitly assuming that you have a pretty good idea what's best for the world, and act to see that things go your way. Though I'm over-simplifying a bit here, I think there is an element of "who's writing the history?" to whether one's a "Gryffindor" or a "Slytherin." Andrew Jackson: Gryffindor? Slytherin? What about Che Guevara?

My guess is it would be fairly common for partisans of Utopian movements (Communism, Nazism, religious fundamentalism, etc.) to fancy themselves as Gryffindor-type heroes out to save the world, while their opponents and victims would class them as Slytherins. Where would the Sorting Hat put them? :)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T10:09:40.938Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Although thinking about it, the actions I remember taking as a ten-year-old seem pretty consistent with you I am today, but I would guess that I am an outlier in this regard.

You aren't. Most people overestimate the amount that people's personalities are likely to or able to change.

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-06T18:40:40.197Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Any chance we could get anecdotal evidence about this? Or better yet studies about it?

How much have you changed since you were 10?

ETA: I google'd it and came up with this but neither I nor my university seems to have a subscription to peek inside.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T01:49:14.448Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Any chance we could get anecdotal evidence about this? Or better yet studies about it?

Without trying to be rude I would actually prefer you just didn't believe me right now. It is a field of enquiry that I haven't researched in a while and it would take me a long time to dig up the resources that I once found convincing. I seem to recall being surprised by identical-twins-raised-apart studies that focussed on the "big five" traits.

How much have you changed since you were 10?

I'm taller and my philosophy has changed (I was raised by religious believers). My interaction with that philosophy and personality is more or less the same (but matured and far more effectively applied.)

ETA: I google'd it and came up with this but neither I nor my university seems to have a subscription to peek inside.

It is not something I have read but my university seems to have access. If you are particularly curious you could message me with an email address.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T03:56:47.854Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Official house traits:

  • Hufflepuff - Loyalty, Dedication and Hard Work
  • Gryffindor - Bravery and Chivalry
  • Ravenclaw - Intelligence and Wit
  • Slytherin - Ambition, Cunning and Resourcefulness

It seems to me Hufflepuffs are most likely to turn Magical Britain into well-meant but ruthlessly-run authoritarian state, with disastrous consequences for all.

Slytherins would probably turn against each other before achieving anything if one of them wasn't so much more powerful than anyone else.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T04:06:51.489Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Slytherins would probably turn against each other before achieving anything if one of them wasn't so much more powerful than anyone else.

Ambition, Cunning and Resourcefulness certainly don't rule out the possibility of solving cooperation problems. Even Draco with the lessons Harry has taught him would be sufficient for him to take over the world rather effectively if Harry was out of the way.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T04:37:18.811Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

World used to be filled with revolutionary movements, and very few managed to grow past Dunbar's number or so before falling apart by everyone trying to out-politic everyone else.

Only very few that were extraordinarily loyal like Bolsheviks won. The primary difference between Bolsheviks and everyone else was their strong belief in strict loyalty to the party, whose decisions were to be absolutely binding upon all members.

Even after they started killing each other, very few defected the Party to join some other group.

Compare it with far more typical Slytherining in Kyrgystan where people keep joining, defecting, and plotting everyone against everyone else.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-03T01:54:53.876Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the Trotskyist groups from the 1930s to the 1960s also adopted democratic centralism, but they infamously split all the time. Of course, Trotskyists are selected (amongst Leninists) as those willing to defect from the majority.

comment by taw · 2010-09-03T03:55:01.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Trotsky was a total Slytherin, just see how many times he switched sides even before the revolution.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T04:45:00.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These are good points. Yet I also suggest that monarchies, any kind of feudalism and for that matter republics, religions and democracies are maintained by Slytherins. In the case of monarchies and feudalism in particular all changes in power are more or less the outcome of Slytherin machinations.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T05:09:59.354Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Feudalism feels more like Gryffindor to me. It was more about personal authority than about cunning. Not to mention he was the one with the sword.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-03T01:49:36.321Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also the power behind the throne. Cardinal Richelieu was definitely a Slytherin. (Well, the character in Dumas was; I don't know so much about the real person.)

How about the Vedic castes of India? Brāhmaṇa = Ravenclaw, Kṣatriya = Gryffindor, Vaiśya (later Śūdra) = Hufflepuff. Nobody admits to being a Slytherin, which is suspicious, don't you think?

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-04T04:44:32.825Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about the Vedic castes of India? Brāhmaṇa = Ravenclaw, Kṣatriya = Gryffindor, Vaiśya (later Śūdra) = Hufflepuff. Nobody admits to being a Slytherin, which is suspicious, don't you think?

I would have said Śūdra = Hufflepuff, Vaiśya = Slytherin. Vaiśya are the "merchant" caste, which plays rather nicely into a number of negative stereotypes, including the fat-cat capitalist robber-baron and the Evil Corporation.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-04T17:22:27.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Śūdra = Hufflepuff, Vaiśya = Slytherin

Yeah, I thought of that, but I didn't think that it fit very well. So I went back to the original caste system, before Śūdra existed. I agree that when Śūdra came around, it replaced Vaiśya as Hufflepuff; I just don't feel that the newer Vaiśya fits any house.

And still later, Dalit = House-Elf?

The pre-Śūdra caste system also corresponds the the Three Estates of pre-Revolutionary France: First = Brāhmaṇa, Second = Kṣatriya, Third = Vaiśya. But again, the Third Estate later consisted (and had for centuries by the time of the Revolution) of both merchants and laborers. If you want to split those, you get a very good correspondence between Hindu castes and the European classes that allegedly inspired the 14th-century playing card suits that we still use: Hearts = Brāhmaṇa, Spades = Kṣatriya, Diamonds = Vaiśya, Clubs = Śūdra.

So by composing these relationships, we get a correspondence between playing cards and Hogwarts houses! (if we accept Vaiśya = Slytherin). There exists a set of Harry Potter playing cards by Bicycle which almost agrees, but they swap Slytherin and Hufflepuff (pic).

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-04T17:36:42.886Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. I think that swap can be traced to Rowling, who upset the traditional progression from noble to base by putting Slytherin at the bottom.

comment by taw · 2010-09-03T03:59:31.676Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's also the power behind the throne. Cardinal Richelieu was definitely a Slytherin.

Well yes he was. But he never organized a circle of Slytherins to permanently take over France.

And don't forget how unsuccessful were Machiavelli - model of everything that is Slytherin.

How about the Vedic castes of India? Brāhmaṇa = Ravenclaw, Kṣatriya = Gryffindor, Vaiśya (later Śūdra) = Hufflepuff. Nobody admits to being a Slytherin, which is suspicious, don't you think?

Brits were playing Indians against each other extremely successfully. They took over India before anybody even noticed.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-03T21:00:51.013Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Brits

That's a much later time period than Vedic society, but I like it all the same.

comment by taw · 2010-09-04T03:26:26.191Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a much later time period than Vedic society

I didn't realize we cared about such minor issues in a thread that involved analogies between Hogwarts houses and Communist revolutionary factions ;-)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T05:34:14.758Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Feudalism feels more like Gryffindor to me. It was more about personal authority than about cunning. Not to mention he was the one with the sword.

Personal authority is something that takes rather a lot of cunning to acquire and maintain. A Gryffindor may be claim a territory here or there but his children either adopt a Slytherin mindset their power dwindles or is usurped.

comment by taw · 2010-09-02T05:43:45.574Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Slytherins by definition lack necessary bravery to keep getting into all fights that maintaining a position within feudal system requires.

As long as acquiring power requires personally charging into an enemy army, Gryffindors will hold most of it. Fellow Gryffindors will be easily impressed by someone who does so without a second thought. Slytherins won't last long. To someone who actually values their life and comfort like all Slytherins do, this is very expensive kind of signaling.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-02T06:26:58.453Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't agree on this one. Slytherins will do what they need to do to get power. There is also quite a difference between creating, maintaining and enforcing an image of personal bravery and being personally brave. Those who maintain the greatest image of personal bravery will be those that are best at choosing to personally engage in the elements of a battle that pose little risk to themselves and who proficient at arranging the demise of anyone who doubts their courage. It isn't hard to choose the bravest rivals and ensure they are put in the most dangerous situations. As I understand it that was standard practice for dealing with rivals without damaging morale.

Gryffindors will be in the upper echelons in such a system but they will rarely if ever be at the top.

comment by taw · 2010-09-04T04:49:50.449Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't agree on this one. Slytherins will do what they need to do to get power.

To get power for themselves, not for other Slytherins, in practice leading to a lot of mutual undermining. A Slytherin has as much chance of out-braving a Gryffindor, out-smarting a Ravenclaw, or out-hardworking a Hufflepuff as any of them out-cunning a Slytherin. It might happen occasionally, but as easily either way.

I'd even say all this taking over the world business was very un-Slytherin. The First Wizarding War was an open Gryffindor style confrontation, and in spite of having the most powerful wizard on their side, Death Eaters were remarkably unsuccessful. As soon as Voldemort was gone, his decades of effort fell apart almost instantaneously. Death Eaters were just ridiculously unsuccessful.

Just compare Voldemort with Horace Slughorn (or MoR's Lucius Malfoy, but I don't think original Lucius Malfoy were as successful as in MoR). Slughorn was a good wizard, but nowhere near Voldemort's level.

Voldemort treated people as disposable pawns, beating them into submission if they resisted, and had no qualms about disposing of even his loyal servants if it suited him. It was parasitic and abusive relationship, only made possible by Voldemort's vast power.

On the other end there are all Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors willing to sacrifice their own good just to help whoever happens to be their friend or they feel obligation to help. This is a lot less destructive, but not a great recipe for success.

What Slytherins like Slughorn did was the middle ground. Slughorn built a network of people around himself, carefully selecting who was allowed into his inner circle with little prejudice. He was mostly loyal to people in his circle, but it was bounded loyalty, as shown by his abandonment of Malfoys and other Death Eaters. He definitely helped them succeed. Not jumping into action on first suggestion that friend is in trouble like all those silly Gryffindors - just providing crucial "leg-ups" to achieve maximum results without expending too much effort or influence.

And people who succeeded thanks to him willingly returned favors he asked - something he took advantage of but was sure not to overuse. It was highly mutually beneficial relationship - based primarily on everyone's self-interest, but without short-signedness, without Voldemort's coercion, or Gryffindor's blind loyalty.

Slughorn didn't get to "rule magical Britain", either overtly or covertly, but why would he want to? Was here anything missing from his life? If he wanted something, all he needed was to ask. And it took no stupid risk, no decades of research, no horrible sacrifices at mere promise of eventual success - Slughorn achieved what he wanted while having fun, risking nothing, and not over-exerting himself.

The history remembers Voldemorts not Slughorns, but relative to their talents, their efforts, and their sacrifices people like Slughorn are ridiculously more successful than people like Voldemort. This should be the essence of House Slytherin. "ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness" do not usually lead to taking over the world, especially since it would strongly conflict with "self-preservation" which is also a major Slytherin value.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T14:33:02.896Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

According to canon, once you gain an horcrux you turn into an easily recognisable monster. Depending on the exact effects (which aren't detailed) it may be that you have no way to re-enter society and thus no third option between living as a total hermit or as a lord of terror.

So, if your three options are: (A) achieve immortality, spend eternity hiding from the world; (B) achieve immortality, try to take over the world; (C) live in comfort and respect for less than 200 years;

you could argue that A is better than B, but C is pretty clearly worse than A and B. Although it may be pointed out that there's little reason not to wait until you're, say, 150 or so before trying that Horcrux thing.

Of course, there's (D) get hold of a Philosopher's Stone and pull a Flamel by achieving society-approved immortality, but that might just be the single greatest plot hole in canon HP. Speaking of which, the Stone was mentioned in passing during one of the early chapters of MoR, albeit only for its alchemical powers, so I'm curious to see if/how Eliezer handles its existence as a life-prolonger.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-06T15:48:38.061Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't clear from canon if a single horcrux turns one into an easily recognizable monster. We know that Voldemort looked like a monster after he had 1) made multiple horcruxes 2) was killed and then came back using dark magic.

In fact, we know that when he was Tom Riddle he had already made a horcrux when at Hogwarts and he still looked like a normal human until at least the end of his time at Hogwarts.

comment by taw · 2010-09-06T19:30:37.889Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even if it resulted in severe disfiguration, very few people know anything about horcruxes, so you can make up some believable cover story.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T15:56:29.763Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, then scratch everything, he's an idiot.

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-14T02:14:22.534Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If the plot hole to which you're referring is that canon!Voldemort could have used his extreme skill to get the Philosopher's Stone, instead of going for Horcruxes, the idea that I always got was that the Philosopher's Stone extended life, by preventing aging, but Horcruxes prevented death, by tethering the user's soul after their body died. If someone had killed Nicolas Flamel while he was regularly using the Elixir of Life, I don't believe it would have helped him. Canon never says how Horcruxes deal with death by old age, but if it worked the way Voldemort's death worked, then a person who died of old age would get a ghost-form that could then in principle be reincarnated as Voldemort was. (Which is another highly evil piece of magic. What is it about life-extension that people think is evil?) It's never mentioned whether Voldemort's new body would ever die of old age.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-14T02:21:42.823Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's never mentioned whether Voldemort's new body would ever die of old age.

Strong in the force he is, but not that strong?

comment by taw · 2010-09-06T19:28:39.690Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Extreme Lifeism is an unusual belief, most people don't think tiny chance at immortality is worth big risk of throwing your life away.

I doubt anyone thinks so even here, regardless of what people say. If they did, they'd be donating at least half their income to SENS.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-25T19:21:19.097Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Chp 47 Author's Notes

Is the hint in chp 45 the Dementor saying to Quirrell "that it knew me, and that it would hunt me down someday, wherever I tried to hide"? I'd assumed that was related to Voldemort cheating death, but I haven't read all the books so I don't know if it's suggesting anything non-canon or just more evidence for Q=V.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-25T22:08:17.280Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that the strange word that echoed through Harry's mind could be somehow related to this completely mysterious fragment of text found at the beginning of chapter 1:

Beneath the moonlight glints a tiny fragment of silver, a fraction of a line...

(black robes, falling)

...blood spills out in liters, and someone screams a word.

Not that I think this would explain anything.

comment by Document · 2010-09-27T21:58:39.988Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 20:

Professor Quirrell raised his wand and said something that Harry's ears and mind couldn't grasp at all, words that bypassed awareness and vanished into oblivion.

Chapter 43:

Harry wouldn't let his mind see something false, and so he didn't see anything, like the part of his visual cortex getting that signal was just ceasing to exist. There was a blind spot under the cloak. Harry couldn't know what was under there.

There are blind spots in Harry's mind, and in 20 he doesn't even seem to notice it.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-27T22:38:53.579Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't the Interdict of Merlin imply that either blind spots are easily magically manufactured or that everyone has them?

comment by Baughn · 2010-09-28T21:32:04.987Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Add to that spells like the Fidelius, and.. yes. They're easily manufactured.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-28T22:29:08.500Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yes, and also all the places hidden from Muggles. Can't believe I forgot about those. The Interdict is specifically Eliezer's, though.

comment by Document · 2010-09-28T00:15:41.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't think of that; I haven't reread the chapter mentioning the Interdict since I noticed the line.

comment by Document · 2013-08-18T18:32:36.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It might, if the word is Riddle.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-25T19:30:22.188Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another notable thing from chp 45 was Fawkes's role in getting Harry to take another shot at the Dementor - perhaps a phoenix is something like an anti-Dementor (peace of mind, rebirth, etc.)?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-26T23:10:07.628Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What was Professor McGonagall busy doing, maybe?

comment by mjr · 2010-09-27T20:22:32.997Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that was (probably) rather straightforward; providing extra guard for the Philosopher's Stone, the theft of which was (probably) what Dumbledore earlier suspected the Dementor plot to be a distraction from.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-06T10:29:53.315Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And it was time and past time to ask Draco Malfoy what the other side of that war had to say about the character of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

I love the recent (Humanism-era) take on Dumbledore. It's about time MoR stopped portraying him as a fool and showed his real scheming, ruthless side. Portraying Dumbledore as weak or foolish doesn't appeal. But seeing him as a scary, morally ambiguous, overwhelmingly powerful wizard who saved the world from Voldemort with gossip is a development I like. That's a guy who can really bite the bullet (in this case regarding his implications of prophecies) and then shut up and multiply.

comment by magfrump · 2010-09-07T18:59:27.911Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

saved the world from Voldemort with gossip

I'd never thought about it this way before but that makes it seem really awesome.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T15:50:51.022Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If snakes are sentient, they can't work as Patronus 1.0.

comment by Baughn · 2010-09-25T18:00:38.168Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

If. I don't think they are; it would have been obvious to some scientist at one point or another, not to mention anyone who lives in close contact with them.

It seems more plausible to me that their apparent intelligence is another product of magic; that when you're talking to a snake, you're actually talking to a magic-induced AI of some kind that will, if you asked it to do something, control the snake afterwards to suit your purposes.

The laws of physics here are already AI-complete, so it doesn't seem like a large leap to me.

comment by Document · 2010-09-27T22:02:26.020Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly the important thing is whether Draco thinks of them as being sentient (sapient) as he's casting the charm.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-28T05:43:53.870Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I originally thought of it as the most plausible explanation. But then, Harry's remark must also make Draco's Patronus ineffective, just as explanation of Patronus 2.0 would, which very likely isn't the case.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T08:23:53.629Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It might yet make it ineffective, but only if Draco grasps the implications. Harry might begin the next chapter by deciding to shut up and not explain to Draco why it matters to him that snakes have a language. (It obviously doesn't matter to Draco, who I don't think has fully accepted that Muggles are sapient, despite their obvious language.)

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-09-25T16:14:48.306Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I'm pretty sure snakes are sentient. They're not sapient, though, as far as we can tell.

(Yes, I'm aware that the error is in the original text.)

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T16:33:52.403Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Please don't allow arguments about definitions be presented as arguments about substance, as objecting to something previously said. Distinguish them by making it clear that your observation is on a separate and unrelated topic of English language, and thus doesn't constitute an irrational argument.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-09-25T16:49:43.560Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I thought it would be obvious enough what I was objecting to.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T17:04:09.313Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It is, I just think it's a healthy debiasing style to keep the intentions explicit.

comment by komponisto · 2010-09-25T17:53:14.929Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted. This should be on the advice-to-new-users page, if it isn't already.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-25T17:55:48.073Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen so many people use them interchangeably, and I think I've even seen dictionaries disagree about which is which, that I've pretty much given up on the words 'sentient' and 'sapient'.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T08:32:07.380Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even though people use the words inconsistently, those people who distinguish them at all do so consistently, and you can use cognates to remember which is which: ‘sense’ = ‘feel’, so ‘sentient’ = ‘feeling’; ‘Homo sapiens’ = ‘wise man’, so ‘sapient’ = ‘thinking’ (more literally ‘discerning’ in the Latin).

I usually take it for granted that snakes are sentient but not sapient, although I don't really know enough about snakes to be sure of either.

But there's another idea, neither of which these words quite captures, that seems to be what really matters to Harry: self-awareness (‘anything that lives and thinks and knows itself’). A snake may sense its prey, but does it sense itself? It may discern that its prey is food, but does it discern that its self is a self?

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-09-25T16:35:36.500Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

...Unless there's something very weird about their psychology. Which, given that they're snakes, seems entirely plausible.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-25T16:52:54.418Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps they're just not conscious of mortality?

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T17:06:38.298Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't that be convenient? What's special about mortality making it a plausible gap in the mind?

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-25T17:54:27.583Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

You know what? A WIZARD DID IT.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T17:57:43.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Giant cheesecake fallacy!

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-25T18:28:53.757Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It actually makes quite a bit of sense to be unaware / indifferent to death for a family of species that do not take care of their offspring (with a few exceptions, eg. pythons, which might also never appear as Patroni).

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-25T18:48:14.379Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Personal survival is a basic drive in any case, and being aware of something doesn't require caring about it, only the potential for instrumental worth.

comment by Baughn · 2010-10-02T12:26:11.204Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Never mind the snakes, what about the birds?

comment by Document · 2010-09-26T01:11:06.986Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unless I'm missing something from not having finished 47 yet, a snake patronus isn't an actual snake.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-06T21:37:16.976Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think that Harry is too dismissive of ‘souls’. He didn't think that magic existed, but it did, and if the people who deal with magic also claim to deal with souls, then there might be something to that. The idea that every human has a soul that goes to an afterlife may be silly (and even Wizards don't act as if they really believe that), but when talking about ghosts, Horcruxes, or the Dementor's Kiss, there might be something real that Wizards mean by ‘soul’, and Harry should investigate that possibility.

comment by David_Allen · 2010-09-10T23:10:53.668Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If wizards has some type of magically generated "soul", this would be grounds to treat non-wizards as a soul-less subclass. This doesn't seem to be the direction MOR is going.

comment by ata · 2010-09-10T23:32:44.236Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If wizards has some type of magically generated "soul", this would be grounds to treat non-wizards as a soul-less subclass.

Only assuming that this magically generated "soul" has functions or qualities that affect a being's moral worth. It's easy to assume it does because of the usual connotations of "soul", but if this sort of soul (whatever it does) is something that Muggles are able to do without, then we can't jump to that conclusion.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-11T01:24:17.095Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From Harry's perspective, it would more be an explanation of why Wizards treat Muggles as a subhuman class than an argument to actually so treat them. After all, Harry cared about people (including, by default, Muggles) before he learnt about souls (or other forms of magic) at all, and what Wizards call ‘soul’ may end up having very little to do with what Muggles call ‘soul’. (All of this predicated on the assumption that Wizards actually mean something by that word, which Harry is so far not crediting, since Muggles don't.)

Also, it may yet be true that everybody (even Muggles) has a soul, although it would probably be simpler if only Wizards do.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-09-06T19:02:09.801Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

From Chapter 45.

"I don't really know how to say thank you graciously," Harry said quietly, "any more than I know how to apologize. All I can say that if you're wondering whether it was the right thing to do, it was."

The boy and the girl gazed into each other's eyes.

"Sorry," Harry said. "About what happens next. If there's anything I can do -"

"No," Hermione said back. "There isn't. It's all right, though." Then she turned from Harry and walked away, toward the path that led back to the gates of Hogwarts.

Three questions:

  • What happens next?

  • Why do Harry and Hermione know about it but I don't?

  • Does this narrative device remind anyone else of a certain "objectivist" author popular a few decades ago? Larger-than-life-protagonists who telegraphically communicate their shared knowlege of their own twisted psyches with cryptic stoicism.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-06T19:16:06.448Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Aftermath, Daphne Greengrass in chp 46 starts to show what's next. The story of their kiss spreads unstoppably, Hermione's life as she knew it is over, her attempt to define her public identity separate from Harry has failed...

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-06T19:06:52.075Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm? This seemed pretty obvious. It connects with what Hermione worried about her life being over. The point is that what happens next is that everyone knows she really likes HJPEV. Given the standard attitude of kids in that age range what happens next is likely going to be lots of silly mockery.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-09-06T19:35:43.068Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, that is somewhat reasonable. But ...

I would have thought that, even to children, Hermione's willingness to kiss Harry would be something like a willingness to apply CPR. It is something anyone would do for a fellow human, let alone a friend.

It is Harry's response to the kiss that provides evidence. Evidence of Harry's feelings for Hermione, rather than Hermione's feelings for Harry.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-09-06T19:57:24.599Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The standard narrative is that such things work through The Power Of True Love, so it's not at all surprising that the other kids will assume that that's what happened. Seen through that lens, the fact that Hermione tried it at all implies that she loves him (otherwise she wouldn't've expected it to work, and wouldn't've tried it, per the standard narrative, which to the best of my knowledge doesn't allow for people trying it just in case) and the fact that it did work implies that it's reciprocated.

We know better - in fact, Eliezer's account seems to imply that a kiss from anyone would have worked, as Harry doesn't seem particularly aware of who's kissing him; it's just that Hermione is the only one who knew that that particular thing would get a strong, automatic emotional reaction from him - but the other kids don't know that, and I don't expect them to be particularly open to alternative explanations, either.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-06T21:03:53.801Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe Hermione should've gotten Neville to do it.

It would've gotten rid of all the readers who were halfway out the door because of Sirius/Pettigrew.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T02:03:09.827Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe Hermione should've gotten Neville to do it.

No, give the quibbler something real to write about - fetch for Draco!

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T02:11:22.546Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't get the impression that a kiss from anyone would have worked, not naming 'a person' was just building suspense! His instinctive reaction is then "I told you, no kissing!"

the fact that Hermione tried it at all implies that she loves him (otherwise she wouldn't've expected it to work

The relevant belief for Hermione to have as I see it is he loves her. Hermione knows enough about the way dementors and patronuses work to realise that his emotions are what matter. Whether she is feeling it too, so to speak, is irrelevant. Although of course we know she is. :)

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-10-06T20:41:23.997Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Stylistic note to Eliezer: you frame 98% of your dialogue with "X said" or "said X". This is usually inconspicuous when there is action or reflection to break it up, but in chapters like 47-48 that are full of back-and-forth it can suddenly jump to your notice - and once it does you cannot stop looking at it. More attentive/pedantic readers than myself may well have caught on it earlier.

I would encourage you to mix it up a little with the dozens of options available : blurted, replied, retorted, acknowledged, asked, mused, told [him/her], asserted, stated, questioned, countered, suggested, mumbled, declared, urged, pushed, pointed out, etc.; I've seen some writers overdo this, but a rough 1:1 ratio of "said" to everything else should be fine and make dialogues feel perceivably more alive.

(Not sure if this type of comment is appropriate for the thread, but I'm sure Eliezer reads it as much as he does the FF.net reviews, and I wouldn't want to pass on the chance of being corrected or supported by LW readers)

comment by Unnamed · 2010-10-07T16:39:59.276Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Reminds me of Tom Swifties. For instance:

Harry placed the hat on his head, as he'd done during the sorting ceremony. "You should remember our earlier conversation," Harry reminded the Sorting Hat.

comment by thomblake · 2010-10-07T17:34:18.847Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, took me a bit to get that one (for those as dense as me, the pun is in "reminded").

comment by Perplexed · 2010-10-08T00:13:23.902Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Upvoting both joke and explanation", he remarked.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T17:14:09.005Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Err... didn't Harry/Eliezer have some arbitrary ethical problem with creating temporary conscious beings like that? If I recall, he made dramatic oaths about not doing it again and probably swore people to secrecy on the subject.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-10-07T17:29:38.390Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it's just a joke (more specifically, a pun (more specifically, a Tom Swifty)).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T17:38:37.450Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Comment on material of instantiation orthogonal to joke concept.

comment by grautry · 2010-10-07T07:34:48.501Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Well then, I'd be happy to correct you.

It's fairly common writing advice that you should do your best not to use any other verb than 'said' to carry on a conversation.

To put it simply, most people simply ignore the repetitive nature of 'he said', 'she said'. Therefore, conversation flows fairly smoothly and naturally. Constantly injecting synonyms for 'he said', 'she said' is a sign of a new writer.

Naturally this doesn't mean "never ever use anything else besides 'said' to mark the dialogue". However, the alternatives should be used only in places where they fit exceptionally well and not just for variety's sake.

Disclaimer: This should not be taken as a definitive opinion on the subject since there are writers out there who will agree with you. I'd say, however, that the consensus is on the side of "use said as much as possible".

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2010-10-07T18:29:44.719Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's fairly common writing advice that you should do your best not to use any other verb than 'said' to carry on a conversation.

the consensus is on the side of "use said as much as possible".

I agree with the first, but not the last. There is also the option of dropping "he verbed" entirely.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-10-07T19:03:35.468Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

There is also the option of dropping "he verbed" entirely.

This can cause problems. Sometimes when I read a lengthy dialogue in this style, I read a line which seems to me much less likely to by said by character whose turn it is to speak, and I have to go back to the last anchor point where it was made explicit who was talking, and carefully keep track of it. In some cases, after doing this, I have wondered if the author lost track.

Being clearly understood is more important that avoiding the appearance of redundancy.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-14T04:51:49.210Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In some cases, after doing this, I have wondered if the author lost track.

In some case, I have confirmed that the author must have lost track, and have had to make a guess as to where the mistake is.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-10-07T10:24:24.908Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I confirm that Grautry's answer is the conventional one, and that I often worry that I am overusing adverbs or verbs that are not simply "said", which is what we are told to worry about.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-10-07T21:38:12.257Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, after seeing this responses I did a bit of looking around and I acknowledge that it is apparently quite frowned upon, at least in English prose (to the point of having a name: "said-bookisms").

No matter how many compared examples I read, after trying hard to "blank" my mind beforehand, I still find myself liking the "exorted/rebuffed/pressed/" version over the "said/said/said" more, so I'm probably just a statistical anomaly.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-10-07T23:05:53.017Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Another way to check would be to see whether there are well-loved stories which engage in said-bookism.

The idea that authors ought eschew synonyms for "said" might merely be a theory which works fairly well, but doesn't reliably cover the range of what people like in their fiction.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-10-08T07:14:00.480Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That comment was based on CS Lewis' An Experiment in Criticism-- the argument is that any fiction which attracts devoted rereading has something going for it, and it's better to evaluate fiction by the sort of reading it gets rather than evaluating readers by whether they like the right fiction.

This was published in 1961-- I think the idea of dethroning official lists of Great Books was more revolutionary then.

See also his High and Low Brows, which argues that the only reliable difference between high and low status art is that high status art is more difficult to appreciate, with the clinching argument being the likes of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Mozart becoming high status as they become less accessible.

He further argues that both high and low status art have good and bad features and should be evaluated by the same standards.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2010-10-07T10:42:08.330Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'll support grautry position too. The content of the dialogue itself should indicate a musing, a question, a counter, an apology, a suggestion, an urging -- using the superfluous words "mused", "asked', "questioned", "countered", "apologized", "suggested", "urged" is very very clumsy.

And some of your other suggested words like "stated" instead of "said", and "retorted" instead of "replied" don't even seem to be trying to indicate anything other than the desire to use a synonym. In which case the story is no longer about communicating anything, or depicting a scene, but instead a game of how much of a thesaurus you can use.

This is the sort of suggestion that I've seen the fanfiction.net forums actually give out to writers -- new writers actually go there and say "I want more synonyms for the word 'said'"! And the people there instead of saying "No, you don't, you need less synonyms", actually do offer suggestions for more synonyms. It's just horrid horrid advice.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-10-07T19:06:37.910Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Disagree. "Said" is punctuation, easily ignored. Anything else will only pull me out of the dialogue.

comment by Larks · 2010-10-07T06:48:13.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think JK Rowling was famous for this as well.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-29T06:36:26.926Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Dumbledore said he did it, he told Father it was a warning!

A warning about what? Sure, evil Dumbledore sounds cool... but what's Dumbledore getting out of this apart from an infuriated nemesis?

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-30T16:19:28.455Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

An infuriated nemesis who now knows that Dumbledore is not only able but willing to hurt their family members... such as, say, their young only son who might just be the first student in 50+ years to have a terrible accident in Hogwarts.

Though I remember from canon that Lucius wanted to send Draco to Durmstrang instead, so he wouldn't be under Dumbledore's authority, and it was just Narcissa who vetoed the idea.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-10-04T17:37:08.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to suggest that MoR!Lucius positioned Draco to be able to gain influence with the Boy-who-Lived, but then I remembered that he was willing to drop all his other plans against Draco getting hurt.

...unless that's just what he wants us to believe.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-10-04T23:26:17.765Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Though I remember from canon that Lucius wanted to send Draco to Durmstrang instead, so he wouldn't be under Dumbledore's authority, and it was just Narcissa who vetoed the idea.

Well, there's a fact I did not know. Then again this Lucius is more competent anyway. Shrugs.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-10-04T23:41:33.094Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Easily fixable the first time Durmstrang gets mentioned in MoR in the presence of a Malfoy.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-07T01:09:05.535Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How about this?

In addition to being restricted to Pure-Bloods, Durmstrang has another distinction: its culture is absolutely Quidditch-mad. (Victor Krum is merely the most spectacular of its sports programme's many successes.) To the canon!Malfoys, this would only add to its attractions, but the more intelligent MoR!Malfoys realise that Quidditch is an asinine game. While association with the popular sport could be beneficial, it simply is not worth the drain on mind and spirit.

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-10-07T03:07:42.488Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

its culture is absolutely Quidditch-mad.

How does this distinguish it from Hogwarts, again?

It seems to me that the best explanation is pretty simple - Hogwarts is just the best, by a large margin, with the possible exception of Defense against (using) the Dark Arts, where Hogwarts is usually handicapped by its horrible professors. Since Draco already learns combat spells from tutors, this seems like a pretty small price to pay. Also, given that the Malfoys are playing for power in Magical Britain it makes sense to have been educated there, both not to seem an elitist foreigner-lover and to better understand how British wizards think. Not to mention the fact that Slytherin is at Hogwarts.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T05:50:55.223Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not to mention the fact that Slytherin is at Hogwarts.

How much respect does Lucious have for the Slytherin house? It is, as Harry points out, rather lame currently. Has Malfoy Snr. notice this?

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-10-07T07:17:21.157Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Draco seems to spend a lot of time complimenting Slytherin in his thoughts. Also, there's something of a family tradition.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-14T04:33:21.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How does this distinguish it from Hogwarts, again?

Just a matter of degree. Hogwarts never produced an 18-year-old Seeker for a national team.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-02T03:00:18.478Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it was just Narcissa who vetoed the idea

making it all the more odd that MoR!Draco went to Hogwarts

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-10-02T10:34:56.476Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I'm aware of that (hence my use of "and" and "just" rather than "but" and "").

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-04T16:03:01.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I missed the ‘just’.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-09-06T20:07:26.537Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it has now become abundantly clear that the major departure from canon is going to be in attitude toward death. Ravenclaw rationality in place of Griffindor bravery is only one aspect of the central thematic difference.

I just happened upon a link from Robin's "Overcoming Bias" blog to this article asking "Do protagonists of great novels have children?". It occurs to me to ask whether anti-death activists have children. Is it the case that the kinds of people who sign up for cryonics don't tend to want children? Does having a child change your outlook so that you can contemplate your own death with greater equanimity? Or am I completely delusional in thinking that there might be some correlation?

comment by timtyler · 2010-09-06T20:30:37.193Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The technical term for "anti-death enthusiasts" is Methusalites.

Sex and death. It reminds me of the maintenance/reproduction axis.

Transforming reproductive resources into maintenance resources is widely thought to be responsible for the life-extending effects of calorie restriction.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-09-06T20:47:09.377Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sex and death. It reminds me of the maintenance/reproduction axis.

You mean r selection vs K selection?

That wasn't what I had in mind, but you are right: natural selection does tend to play off one against the other. And a member of H.sap. does sometime find verself in one situation or the other, so it is natural that our psyche's would be comfortable with either approach, depending on circumstances.

comment by timtyler · 2010-09-06T21:01:50.378Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The r/K thing is a teensy bit different. That is more to do with offspring quality - with many vs few offspring.

The idea (from dietary energy restriction) is that organisms face resource-investment tradeoffs between self-maintenance and reproduction - and that circumstances and diet can affect where that tradeoff is made. If there isn't enough dietary energy to support reproduction, what resources are available are devoted to maintenance - so the organism can live to reproduce another day.

It is a bit like K-selection taken to an extreme where no babies are produced at all - and all resources get invested in personal survival.

I have a page all about this general topic: http://cr.timtyler.org/why/

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-06T20:39:16.926Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be surprised if there's any correlation. At least as a matter of anecdote I haven't noticed any such correlation. IIRC from Eliezer's descriptions the groups of people when he went to a cryonics meeting for young people resembled close to a representative sample of the population.

comment by Mycroft65536 · 2010-09-07T02:59:42.006Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also 25% of the people there were, iirc, children of cronicysts. That number goes up when you count parents. And we're talking about an age group and demographic that isn't having a lot of kids anyway.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-09-07T03:50:06.477Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Eh? No, there were just a few kids, like 2 or 3.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-09-06T01:40:37.722Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Chapters 43-46 of MoR are up. Go read them!

The most recent author's notes will be added to the archive shortly. I'm also pondering adding the fanart, as well, but it occurs to me that I should probably get permission from the artists before doing so, and I don't like contacting people I don't know. Therefore, I'll leave it to you all: If anyone else would like to see the fanart archived with the authors' notes (perhaps in a different folder, perhaps in the same note as the relevant chapter's author's notes - suggestions welcome), get permission for that to be done and I'll go ahead and do it.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T01:32:04.981Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The fan art isn't going away, so it's not vital if you don't archive it. If ff.net doesn't let Eliezer keep an archive of Author's Notes, maybe he should put them in the fan art folder? (I also am grateful that you are archiving the ANs.)

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T02:02:33.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not particularly interested in the fan-art, especially since it's often not quite canon; but I don't mind if it does end up getting included, so consider this a neutral vote.

On the other side, I am very appreciative of having the Author's Notes preserved in some form. This update was not the first one where the AN were about as interesting as the fic itself.

comment by b1shop · 2010-08-31T04:28:19.420Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a question about TDT's application in 33 of HP:MoR.

I didn't say you should just automatically cooperate. Not on a true Prisoner's Dilemma like this one. What I said was that when you choose, you shouldn't think like you're choosing for just yourself, or like you're choosing for everyone. You should think like you're choosing for all the people who are similar enough to you that they'll probably do the same thing you do for the same reasons.

Should businessmen collude on one-shot pricing? The decision theory I learned in school says "Never!," but I can see Harry's beliefs going in either direction.

Links to a good summary of TDT are welcome.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-08-31T06:00:31.957Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

good TDT summary

Well, not really good. Merely best.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-31T04:40:00.312Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Links to a good summary of TDT are welcome.

*cough* They certainly would be!

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-08-31T16:13:48.816Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Should businessmen collude on one-shot pricing?

All they need to do is find someone who can help enforce the decision, or make it matter reputationally to friends, or iterate it, and they don't need to worry about whether they're doing the same thing for the same reasons.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T18:31:58.441Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think we should be charitable (make the interpretation that makes the question most sensible or interesting), and assume b1shop is assuming those conditions don't apply.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-09-03T19:16:47.349Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What about new entrants?

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T15:52:27.498Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand TDT, and the people who write about it are very smart; but that passage made it sound like sympathetic magic. You're not choosing for all the people who are similar to you.

You can argue that doing so leads to better outcomes in PDs - but then you're really just arguing for cooperation, not choosing the decision theory that maximizes your utility. "All the people who are similar enough to you that they'll probably do the same thing you do for the same reasons" just means "All the other cooperators". So saying "I implement timeless decision theory" seems to be a way to clothe saying "I cooperate on PD" in bogus Bayesian respectability.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-08-31T21:18:18.286Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's because the passage isn't actually about TDT; Eliezer is trying to avoid throwing anachronisms into a story set in the 1990s. It's instead about the closest thing that existed at the time, Hofstadter's idea of superrationality, which does (IMO) suffer from the flaw you posit.

comment by WrongBot · 2010-08-31T16:07:25.070Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"I always cooperate", "I always cooperate with agents I know will cooperate with me", and "I always cooperate with agents I know will cooperate with me iff I cooperate" are all separate decision making processes. Depending on who they're playing the PD with, they can make different decisions.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T02:00:54.351Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OK, this is off-topic, but why do people stop there? Why not ‘I always cooperate with agents I know will cooperate with me iff I cooperate iff they cooperate’, and so on? These are not equivalent.

Incidentally, in classical logic, I cooperate iff (you cooperate iff (I cooperate iff you cooperate)) is always true. (But we don't really have that here, because the modal operator ‘I know’ interferes.)

comment by WrongBot · 2010-09-01T02:18:31.326Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't necessary to stop there, and you can follow that chain pretty much infinitely.

I think TDT jumps to the end of that regression by cooperating iff you and I are both implementations of the same abstract computation.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T03:04:45.101Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, but each stage is rather different from the one before; at no stage would you actually cooperate with yourself, since those ‘iff’s are so strict.

But if this (which I've seen here before) is not supposed to be what TDT really says, but just some handwaving to give the idea, then that's all right.

comment by WrongBot · 2010-09-01T03:37:03.472Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

TDT hasn't been published in anything resembling a finished form, and I'm a curious amateur when it comes to decision theory, at best. I imagine there's more to it, but I can't really speculate about what it might be.

comment by saturn · 2010-09-01T04:02:06.019Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People stop there because going further starts hurting instead of helping. The PD payoff matrix implies that I want to avoid cooperating if I can, but it's more important that I get you to cooperate, even if in order to do that, I have to cooperate. Adding more restrictions on your reasons for cooperating can't make the outcome better for me, I only care that you do it.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T23:37:53.615Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Going one step further doesn't (generally) add restrictions; it just changes them. Consider:

  1. I will cooperate if I know anything.
  2. I will cooperate if I know that you will cooperate.
  3. I will cooperate if I know that you will cooperate iff I cooperate.
  4. I will cooperate if I know that you will cooperate iff I cooperate iff you cooperate.
  5. I will cooperate if I know that you will cooperate iff I cooperate iff you cooperate iff I cooperate.

Using classical logic after the modal operator, these reduce to:

  1. I will cooperate if I know anything.
  2. I will cooperate if I know that you will cooperate.
  3. I will cooperate if I know that we will perform the same action.
  4. I will cooperate if I know that I will cooperate.
  5. I will cooperate if I know anything.
  6. … (repeats)

Actually, now that I write it out like this, I can see why one would choose (3)!

It's important that there's an ‘if I know that’ instead of an ‘iff’, which I've seen before. But the version above is how I parsed WrongBot's statement, so hopefully WrongBot quoted it correctly. (The search function is not helping me find an original.)

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T16:16:44.899Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When I said "I cooperate on PD", I didn't mean to lump all those together. It's shorthand for those who cooperate in the way resulting from TDT. My point is that TDT itself, as described in that one sentence from the Harry Potter story, is no different from saying "People should cooperate because then they will all get better payoffs" (although in a more specific way).

comment by wnoise · 2010-08-31T18:02:13.583Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty clear that if your opponent in a symmetric game with the same information is running the exact same deterministic algorithm as you with the exact same computational resources, you'll have to make the same move. This essentially "vanishes" the off-diagonal boxes. The TDT proponents want to take advantage of this to have a "better, more winning" decision theory, which would give both of them the (C, C) payoff rather than (D, D) even in a one shot prisoner's dilemma.. Grafting this on by itself currently buys little, as there is never this degree of symmetry.

Now, suppose we are playing a symmetric game and 90% confident that we are playing a clone with the exact same computational resources, and 10% confident that we're playing some one random (and that if we're playing a clone that it's 90% confident that we're a clone that's 90% confident that ...) What do we do in this case?

I claim that in this case we can still take advantage of this, as long as the probability is high enough relative to the utility losses. We need to do both the calculations for "they act independently" (Assume they choose the Nash equilibrium, if we don't know anything else about their decision-making) and "they act the same" (diagonal) and merge them. The proper thing as always, is choosing based on the expected utility, which is just the probability weighted utility for each choice.

For the standard prisoner's dilemma, where (C, C) = (3, 3), (C, D) = (0, 5), (D, C) = (5, 0), and (D, D) = 1. We can see that no matter what your opponent chooses, it's better to Defect than cooperate, so the Nash equilibrium is the pure strategy D. If, on the other hand, your opponent is a computational clone, you choosing to Cooperate gets you the (C,C) box, not the (C, D) box. So, we have 0.9 3 + 0.1 0 = 2.7 for Cooperate, and 0.9 1 + 0.1 1 = 1for Defect. Cooperation is the better choice, and remains so up until p < 1/3.

I also claim this is pretty much the limit of what we can do. If the algorithm you share is non-deterministic (with different random number sources), then off-diagonal results are now possible. If the computational resources are different, then we are analyzing to a different recursive cutoff than our opponent, and so may come to different conclusions. If we have the same resources, but the problem is asymmetric, than we can't simply say "they'll do the same thing we will". All the boxes must then be considered.

In some sense we also get to choose the algorithm we use. If the game is close enough to symmetric we can choose to play as if it is, and so long as that decision process is symmetric, we recover the result. If we were computers we could choose to avoid using true random number generators, and only use the same pseudorandom number generators (we do want to keep the ability to act randomly against non-clones).

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-01T00:36:49.458Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

we're playing some one random

We need to do both the calculations for "they act independently" (Assume they choose the Nash equilibrium, if we don't know anything else about their decision-making)

Why do we assume that?

comment by wnoise · 2010-09-01T06:12:49.003Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In order to figure out our best move, we need to something about how the other person will move. It's generally a good idea to assume your opponent is indeed rational and utility maximizing. The Nash equilibrium strategy is the one that is stable such that neither side can do better by switching, which gives it a great deal of stablity. As such, it's often a good model for what people will do.

In this case, the full machinery isn't necessary. Defect strictly dominates Cooperate in every choice, so barring special considerations like TDT, it's what anyone with a modicum of sense will do.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-02T00:32:28.433Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Nash equilibrium […]'s often a good model for what people will do.

Is this a fact? Where can I read about the evidence for this?

comment by wnoise · 2010-09-03T18:13:18.022Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any direct citations to current social science, no, but I'll tell a plausible story, and give some indirect citations.

Often? Yes. Always or near always? No. It depends crucially on the complexity of the game, the familiarity of the person playing the game, and the intelligence of the people playing.

Most people playing a game iteratively update their strategies with each game, learning both which moves of theirs worked better, and what their opponents are likely to do.

If both sides constantly do these updates, they are driven towards a Nash equilibrium. (It might be better to say they are driven away from anything that is not a Nash equilibrium.) The definition of a Nash equilibrium is a combination of strategies where neither side can do better by unilaterally altering their own move. If one side can do better by altering their own move, and realizes it, they will.

Complexity makes it harder for people to explore the space and find the Nash equilibrium. The more familiar with the game, the more likely you are to have found that neighborhood and play near it.

The smarter you are the faster this happens -- you can essentially model your opponent to figure out what they'll do, and respond. But your opponent can model you as well, so you must include that in your model of him, and so forth.

A surprisingly large number of people are essentially "level 0" modelers, who aren't influenced at all by a model of what their opponent does until they have gained data on it. They may use the "maximin" strategy that says pick the choice that maximizes your gain if in each of your possible choices your opponent does what helps you the least -- brutal pessimism. Similarly there is an optimistic "maximax" strategy -- pick the choice that maximizes your gain if in each of your possible choices, you opponent chooses what is best for you. Or there is the expected value over a flat distribution of the opponent's choices. And ones that output a number for each choice can be combined with some weighting. There are many other possibilities, of course, but if there is one choice that strictly dominates another (better for every value of the opponent's choice), they should not pick the one that is strictly dominated.

Another large number are "level 1" modelers -- they figure the other guy will do something given by one of these "level 0" models. There are a few "level 2" modelers that model the other guy as "level 1" , and level 3, and so forth. The Nash equilibria are the stable fixed points of this process, so are what "high enough" people will do. (Note that this process may not converge unless it starts at a fixed point -- consider rock, paper, scissors. But doing the equivalent of Cesàro summation will make it converge to the unique mixed strategy of randomly picking one).

In practice, you want to be exactly one level higher than your opponent. It is, of course, possible to model your opponent as a probabilistic mixture of these, though your best response is (in general) not going to be a probabilistic mixture of levels one-higher. And the best response to you modeling like that will not be a simple mixture of levels either.

So, why do I say many are level 0, and level 1? Well, consider the Guess 2/3 of the average game. People are restricted to numbers between 0 and 100. The person guessing closest to 2/3 of the mean wins (utility 1), and everyone else loses (utility 0), (pick the winner randomly in case of ties). What will a level 0 modeler do? The maximin strategy gives no restriction -- you can always lose. The maximax strategy eliminates everything above 66 2/3, because that's the maximum the average can possibly be. The equiprobabal expected value strategy puts the mean at 50, and suggests 33 1/3 (getting more peaked the more people there are and the more they are modeled as independent). A level 1 modeler realizes that everybody else should know at least this, so will probably guess around 2/3 * 33 1/3 = 22, perhaps higher realizing that some level 0s won't go through even the utility analysis and pick randomly. A level 2 modeler will be 2/3 of this, at roughly 14 or 15. This obviously converges to 0 for a "level infinity" modeler, and this is the Nash equilibrium.

But of course, very few people pick near 0, so it is not a good idea to pick 0. What is it rational to pick? From the link, a newspaper ran this with a prize, and the winner was at 21.6 (so the average was around 32.4). http://museumofmoney.org/exhibitions/games/numberpop.html references a study with college students winning with 24 (average of 36!), and a financial newspaper winning with 13 (average of 19.5). When I've seen histograms, they tend to have a spike at 33 1/3, indicating lots of pretty directly level 0. Curiously, there also tends to be a spike at 66 2/3 indicating a fair number really not quite understanding the game.

In this case, with an unfamiliar game, playing the Nash equilibrium is not optimal, and people don't do it. Levels 1-3 seem to be what wins in this case, with the majority effectively playing at levels 0-2. But I can guarantee that played multiple times with the same people this will go down to 0 quite rapidly. Tautologically, people are more familiar with the games they play more often, and will in practice be effectively higher -- not because they explicitly model higher levels, but because the "level 0" models are not random, but incorporate how people have played before (rather than how they should play now).

For the specific case of the Prisoner's Dilemma, all of the "level 0" strategies pick Defect, which is the Nash equilibrium. Even so, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma#cite_note-2 claims that 40% cooperate. I would expect that this is from some innate valuing of fairness so that the rewards they get are not actually their utilities for those outcomes, but this is not clear.

EDITED: links fixed, and a bit of clarifications and grammar rewrites.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-03T21:08:00.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks; upvoted.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-01T13:56:37.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's generally a good idea to assume your opponent is indeed rational and utility maximizing.

Why? I'm not just asking rhetorical questions - your opponent may be non-rational in one of a trillion of very realistic, very common ways: maybe he'll cooperate because of his personal moral/religious views, maybe he'll defect because he doesn't want to think of himself as a 'sucker'. Or maybe he is rational but has made a mistake somewhere along the way of his musings on PD.

If all your formulation says is that you're playing against "someone random", at a minimum this means a randomly chosen human, most of which have a terribly flawed rational process. At a maximum it means any randomly-chosen or randomly-generated entity capable of picking an option - you could be playing against Eliza or Paul the Octopus for all you know.

Also, if you are going to assume that he is rational and not mistaken, why assume that he is just rational enough to do the obvious, zero-depth payoff analysis, but not rational enough to have a model any more sophisticated than that? (indeed, why should TDT be discarded as a "special consideration"?)

comment by wnoise · 2010-09-03T19:26:36.939Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why? ... your opponent may be non-rational in one of a trillion of very realistic, very common ways ...

This is a fair point. For games people are not familiar with, have not played to death, this is absolutely true. For the games people have played a lot of, (or have had their genes and memes evolved under and contributing towards their moves), anything but what the Nash equilibria does must get outcompeted. Playing poker against a novice, there should be options much better than Nash. Against a pro? Not so much. Against a hustler (who isn't actually cheating)? Well, they're optimized to take advantage of novices, by leading them into bigger bets, so you can probably take advantage of this by not scaring them off by playing too well too soon.

maybe he'll cooperate because of his personal moral/religious views, maybe he'll defect because he doesn't want to think of himself as a 'sucker'.

These are, of course, part of the utility function -- and if you don't know that modeling is a bitch.

most of which have a terribly flawed rational process.

Most people do not play by reasoning it out to any great depth at a conscious level. They play by gut instinct, set by genes (and memes) and shapened by experience. For games where the genes are relevant, this is going to push towards Nash. Experience is also going to push towards Nash.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T18:57:20.797Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty clear that if your opponent in a symmetric game with the same information is running the exact same deterministic algorithm as you with the exact same computational resources, you'll have to make the same move.

I think we're returning to an argument I've had before, on free will. Yes, if you are running a deterministic algorithm, this is true. But the assumption that you are running a deterministic algorithm violates one of the prerequisite assumptions needed to even have this conversation: That you can choose an algorithm.

The way you're describing TDT, it seems to assume that an agent doesn't actually have a choice at the time of choosing an action.

An agent can make a precommitment, and that may be a good strategy. But only as dictated by game theory. Assuming that the agent does not make a choice during the game is not even game theory.

comment by FAWS · 2010-08-31T19:08:55.789Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You are under the annoyingly common misconception that choice between A and B means that whether A or B is chosen is indeterminate (i. e. either incoherent free will magic or identifying yourself more strongly with your randomness source than your fixed qualities). What it actually means is that whether A or B is chosen depends on your preferences and your decision making process.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2010-08-31T20:13:04.488Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All right; I stated that incorrectly. We can regard the actions of deterministic agents as "choices"; we do it all the time in game theory. What I was trying to get at is not the choice of A or B, but the choice to use TDT.

It sounds to me like TDT is not addressing the question, "How do I convince an agent to adopt TDT?" It assumes that you're designing agents, and you design them to implement TDT, so that they can get better results on PD when there are many of them.

But then it's not fundamentally different from designing agents with a utility function that includes benefits to other agents. In other words, it's smuggling in an ethical judgement, disguising it as a mathematical truth.

If you're a human, why would you adopt TDT? The reason must be one that is not an answer to "why would you cooperate?", nor to "why would you tell people you have adopted TDT?"

You might be able to prove that utility functions and decision theories are equivalent; meaning that any change to a utility function could alternatively be implemented as a change to the decision theory, and vice-versa. Thus, asking someone to change a decision theory may be nonsensical.

So, maybe the answer I'm looking for is that TDT is not a thing meant to be offered to humans; it's a more-parsimonious way than ethics of arriving at cooperation on PD. That would be acceptable.

But to really be useful, TDT must be an evolutionarily-stable decision theory. I'm skeptical of that. The "ethics" approach lets evolution pick and choose only those values that help the agent. The TDT approach is not so flexible; it may force the agent to cooperate in situations where it is not beneficial to the agent.

comment by wnoise · 2010-08-31T21:01:50.594Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's true that people just "make decisions", and don't have access to their source code. They can, however lift decisions to the conscious level and decide to follow an algorithm.

Do you have any problem with economists convincing people that it's in their best interest to figure out what the Nash equilibrium is and play that? They are arguing for an algorithm, and people can indeed decide to "follow the algorithm" rather than "just picking their gut choice", can't they? At least, when they have explicit payoffs available, etc.

Really, TDT is just one specific example that if you know your opponents decision procedure, you can do better than not knowing[1]. In a one-shot PD against an unknown, the best I can do really is defensively playing Defect. This is true even if I know what move he'll make. On the other hand, If I don't know his move, but know that he will make the same move as I, whether because he's copying me, or we're both "implementing the same algorithm", we can effectively together force "cooperate".

Now, "implementing the same algorithm" is actually a somewhat vague idea. I listed several ways that even computer implementations couldn't guarantee enough symmetry. People are far worse, of course. A conscious decision to do what the algorithm says will often have people backing out because it's saying to do something crazy. We can't implement TDT, only approximate it. Are the approximations good enough to be useful? I find that idea implausible.

If you're a human, why would you adopt TDT?

I wouldn't because IMHO, it won't ever be useful to me. I can't trust that the situations are actually symmetric enough. To uploads? Maybe. To AIs who can examine and certify each others source code? Quite possibly.

EDITTED: [1]: Okay, it's a bit more than that, it matters not just when playing clones, but also when you need to know how future versions of you will behave in "omega" situations. I also don't expect to need to deal with that, though I am a one-boxer.

comment by FAWS · 2010-08-31T20:54:58.812Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What I was trying to get at is not the choice of A or B, but the choice to use TDT.

The same as any other choice: Assuming that you are calculating whether you prefer to adopt TDT and preferring to adopt TDT results in you adopting TDT you have the choice to adopt TDT.

If you're a human, why would you adopt TDT? The reason must be one that is not an answer to "why would you cooperate?", nor to "why would you tell people you have adopted TDT?"

You might be able to prove that utility functions and decision theories are equivalent;

I certainly don't believe that. (I'm making the simplifying assumption of consequentialism rather than some other value system tortured into being represented as an utility function.) The utility function is what assigns utilities to various possible states of the world (in the widest possible sense), the decision theories differ in how they link the possible choices to the possible states of the world, not in the utilities of those states.

An agent chooses to change decision theories if their preference, calculated according to their current utility function and decision theory, is to change their decision theory and this results in them changing their decision theory. I'm not sure in how far that applies to humans. For them it may be more like realizing that TDT is a closer approximation of how their decision making process actually functions given the correct input, and that in as far as their decision making was previously approximated by another decision theory it was distorted by an oversimplified understanding of the world.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T02:08:51.193Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But the assumption that you are running a deterministic algorithm violates one of the prerequisite assumptions needed to even have this conversation: That you can choose an algorithm.

At least Eliezer's interest in this, as I understand it, is partly motivated by his work on artificial intelligence. An AI with write-access to its own code can choose algorithms (even if it is deterministic). I don't know how much this applies to us (although if you can brainwash or hypnotise yourself, it's not irrelevant), but it applies to them.

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-08-31T04:46:03.911Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Should businessmen collude on one-shot pricing?

Yes. If the expect to be using the same decision algorithm, they will maximize their personal profits if they both set the price that gives the greatest total return.

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2010-08-30T06:29:50.860Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I have been entirely staying away from HP:MoR, but given some of the recent discussions, I thought I'd share a story idea, "Yowie Potter and the Methods of Pickup-Artistry".

Yowie is a young female genius and manga fan who lives alone in a forest with her robotic creations. But one day her cyborg scouts, who function as her roaming eyes and ears - one should imagine birds and cute forest animals fitted out with sensors - run across a cottage inhabited entirely by high-IQ male nerds, cut off from the outside world somehow. Along with science and futurology, their favorite pastime is to practice seduction techniques, but since there are no women around, they have to take turns being the target of seduction. Yowie enjoys this a lot and decides to amplify the situation, first ensuring that the cottage remains isolated (by blowing up a bridge, jamming communications, etc), then kidnapping some of the nerds for psychological and other experiments in her lab (chapter title, "Operation Abductive Inference"), and finally engineering the social situation in the cottage in various perverse directions, which she monitors from afar.

I'm sure that story could be a hit! Just not in this Everett branch.

comment by knb · 2010-08-30T08:56:57.751Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't get it. Can someone explain this to someone who isn't familiar with what "pickup artistry" has to do with HP: MOR?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T09:02:25.181Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nothing directly. Just to some of the distracting references to PUA in the thread.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-08-30T15:21:16.983Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably already been done.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T07:00:20.723Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure that story could be a hit! Just not in this Everett branch.

It sounds interesting enough in this branch too. :)

Mind you I think I was one of the nerds I'd be rather adamant that I wasn't to be involved in any practice of "kino escalation"!

comment by lukeprog · 2011-05-11T18:58:16.896Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

An aside on 'kino escalation'...

The term seems to have been invented by a 'pickup artist' (probably Mystery) because they didn't bother to look up the standard term for communication with touch: haptic communication or 'haptics.'

In the seduction community, 'kino' is short for 'kinesthetics', but unfortunately for the pickup community, kinesthetics is the study of the inner awareness of movement (similar to proprioception), not the study of communication with touch.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-05-11T19:18:37.337Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Another aside: does anyone else find a lot of the picture choices on wikipedia bizarre and/or disturbing? Both of the ones on the haptic communication article are pretty strong examples.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-05-11T19:41:49.217Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Bizarre certainly.

comment by FrF · 2011-05-11T20:38:12.406Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"As an aside" re: Mystery -- I admit to being fascinated with his contribution to a Neil Strauss seminar. (It distills Mystery's theories as found in his own book and in Strauss' bestseller.) Mystery's a skilled didactitian although I remember that when I watched the video a second time a couple of his points did lose a bit of their persuasiveness. The PU literature also shows how deeply Evolutionary Psychology has penetrated the popular consciousness, albeit with at least some degree of -- pun intended in this case -- vulgarizations. For those of you who are interested, the video I'm referring to can be found at YouTube with the following search: "Mystery Neil's Annihilation Method DVD".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-05-11T19:38:24.211Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The term seems to have been invented by a 'pickup artist' (probably Mystery) because they didn't bother to look up the standard term for communication with touch: haptic communication or 'haptics.'

What a hideous sounding name, at least in the context of doing it to another person. One would hope that if the mistaken word use was not adopted that they just minted a new one for themselves!

kinesthetics is the study of the inner awareness of movement (similar to proprioception), not the study of communication with touch.

The nature of what caused the original error may perhaps be better traced to the concept of kinesthetic learning. While still obviously mistaken in the way it has been adopted, the 'learning styles' categorization is more accessible to popular culture and also doesn't imply inner awareness of the process.

comment by khafra · 2010-08-30T14:10:47.230Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately for you, this sounds like the sort of fiction where Yowie Potter would make certain such things happened.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T14:51:56.412Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

and... seriously? There are girls that go around reading and writing male homo-erotic stories? Here I was thinking only guys did that (or the analogous) sort of thing to a significant degree. How narrow minded of me.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-08-30T14:54:26.975Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Text-based erotic stories in general are mostly the province of girls. Yaoi stories are a subset of that, still largely by and for women. (Of course there's also manga and whatnot; I have less explanation for that.)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T15:01:55.310Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The link Khafra gave me the impression that Yaoi was often graphical too (compared to anime or manga). Does the same trend apply to those works? (Or, perhaps, are the wikipedia authors just biassed towards graphical media?)

comment by Alicorn · 2010-08-30T15:04:11.773Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The word "yaoi" is extracted from Japanese; I don't find it surprising that it would retain a connection to the Japanese story form.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-08-30T19:49:27.386Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes they do.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T14:40:02.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not going to happen. I can be confident in this because the very nature of "kino escalation" is that it involves implied consent and implicit or explicit participation by the other party. Without this it is called 'molestation' or 'sexual assault'. I don't especially mind people writing fiction about me being sexually assaulted. For that matter I don't particularly care if people write fiction in which wedrifid is participating in homo-erotic kino escalation. I just don't identify the latter fictional character as 'me'.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T01:46:25.296Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I just don't identify the latter fictional character as 'me'.

But the former (the one being sexually assaulted) you do? and still don't mind it? Interesting …

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-01T04:38:53.263Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But the former (the one being sexually assaulted) you do? and still don't mind it? Interesting …

I should be clear that I consider it a fictional me, as distinct from a fictional some other guy. I can certainly understand why some people will be hurt or even traumatised by such things. I just don't see any reason why I must be. I could instead just be flattered that some girl is including me in her erotic fantasies. So it is a crazy girl and homo-erotic fantasies but there is still no harm that is done to me.

Everything that we choose to be care deeply about gives another vulnerability that can be exploited. Choosing to care about fiction that other people write about you seems silly to me - it is completely and utterly out of your control and is essentially a property of them and not you. Not having that vulnerability means that you are immune to torture simulators without even relying on any acausal decision theory.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T23:49:05.585Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I should be clear that I consider it a fictional me, as distinct from a fictional some other guy.

OK, I undestand (I think). As long as the fictional person has the same character as you, then you can identify yourself with them, but if they have a different character (as they must have to engage in homo-erotic kino escalation) then you don't identify yourself with them. But either way, you don't mind that people write stories about them, since they're fictional.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-01T23:54:18.526Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Got it!

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-06T08:12:56.758Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(48)

Just eat the students, said Hufflepuff. There's no doubt about whether they're sentient.

You know you want to, said Gryffindor. I bet the young ones are the tastiest.

I loved the whole introduction section. I was laughing out loud.

Harry isn't someone I would trust anywhere near absolute power - I'd probably form an alliance with Dumbledore and Voldemort just to crush him before he does something catastrophically naive like implement F(Magical)AI> (or FAI> for that matter). But damn the guy has a sense of humour. :)

comment by Baughn · 2010-10-07T07:21:07.661Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If he's somewhat like Eliezer at an earlier age, he might think a sufficiently smart AI might autonomously figure out the "meaning of life".

I'd take CEV over that, though it'd make an interesting ending.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T07:37:49.823Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd take CEV over that, though it'd make an interesting ending.

So would I. (And I note that CEV is fine, so long as it is the coherent extrapolated voilition of the right group. Preferably me but I'm willing to compromise. :P)

comment by b1shop · 2010-09-30T17:03:41.108Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Father had told Draco that to fathom a strange plot, one technique was to look at what ended up happening, assume it was the intended result, and ask who benefited.

I take it the Malfoy house is just a stand-in for Hanson?

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-10-02T03:04:32.751Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This particular advice is Older Than Feudalism. The Romans asked ‘Cui bono?’ (Wikipedia).

comment by gwern · 2010-09-30T17:27:46.526Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it is. This is just good sense. If Malfoy House and Lucius in particular is meant to be Hanson or just Hansonian, they are a spectacular failure.

comment by b1shop · 2010-09-30T18:20:36.882Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure it's "just good sense."

For example, some people see the school system failing at all its stated goals and assume the school system is broken, and they can point to institutional reasons why it's terrible. Hanson assumes it is optimized to serve other, implicit goals. I'm not convinced either viewpoint is necessarily true.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-30T23:36:22.654Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying that assuming efficiency and looking at actual accomplishment is a wrong paradigm, or that Hanson doesn't use this paradigm frequently. What I'm saying is that 'Hansonism' involves all sorts of skeptical/cynical/outside-view approaches, and Lucius and Draco, as presented, fail almost every metric - they are obviously biased, in self-serving ways, they make and track no predictions, they do privilege their ethical views ... etc. etc. etc. (A thorough read of OB will turn up dozens of techniques and views and criteria which the House of Malfoy miserably fails.)

If anything, the single most Hansonian character in MoR is Harry and Draco becomes Hansonian only insofar as he is becoming more like Harry.

comment by Leonhart · 2010-10-02T15:23:58.581Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Surely the most Hansonian character is the (as yet unknown) wizard who created house elves? Or possibly the elves themselves. If Dobby starts running a prediction market in the Hogwarts kitchens, I called it first :)

comment by gwern · 2010-10-02T16:00:36.237Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That would be hilarious. House-elves could be very clever, but they are obsessed with particular topics. So EY could write them as excellent rationalists who are focused only on Hogwarts matters, and as excellent rationalists they would set up prediction markets about various predictions (students' grades, their cleanliness, relationships, popularity of reducing the salt in the mutton, etc.)

I'm afraid you don't get to call it because your comment might inspire EY to add them in the first place. :)

comment by Document · 2010-09-27T22:38:50.564Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

MoR is now the ninth Google autocomplete result for "methods" (screenshot).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T05:45:42.675Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just came up 5th for me.

comment by Document · 2010-10-07T06:27:54.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Still 9th for me. You might be getting targeted results due to being logged in.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-10-07T06:33:18.586Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It also depends whether or not you have pressed space. "methods" is apparently different to "methods ". Go figure.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-21T20:48:43.191Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Schedule theory: Could Eliezer intentionally be updating unpredictably, to minimize audience habituation?

I'm not nagging him, as writing that book is important, and as I would be more pleased than critical of a scheme like this.

Not addressed to Eliezer because he would only answer in the negative or not at all.

comment by randallsquared · 2010-09-25T18:53:19.551Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

to minimize audience habituation

Did you mean maximize? Slot machines, for example, do not minimize habituation.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-28T06:45:42.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You could say that slot machines maximize habituation to losing, or minimize habituation to winning.

I meant checking and seeing an update to be the stimulus, not checking and seeing no update. Though I see why the latter is useful (to talk about the habit of checking despite disappointment).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-09-28T07:06:42.405Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have the cite, but I've seen a claim that people who are really hooked on the slots resent winning. What they want is the trance of playing, and winning interrupts it.

I"m not sure where money fits into the addiction-- could people like that be satisfied by a slot machine that didn't take or pay out real money?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-12T19:51:48.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I had no idea this would be so good; I'm shaken.

For those who are like me and like to imagine a soundtrack, the final chapters seem to go with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9vv4cPh4BI The subject matter isn't far off either.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2010-09-12T15:15:14.479Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I found something interesting today: Dawkins/Hermione

I will be very disappointed if Methods of Rationality doesn't include some kind of explanation for this.

comment by David_Allen · 2010-09-17T20:58:24.780Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There appears to be some photo-retouching involved to improve the match.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-17T20:31:53.445Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's a well-known photoshop, FWIW.

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-14T02:25:31.696Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's no particular reason why Emma Watson's appearance should necessarily be MoR!Hermione's appearance. For that matter, it doesn't look to me like they look that much alike anyway; they just got caught with very similar facial expressions.

comment by red75 · 2010-09-07T20:43:29.514Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Godric hadn't told anyone, nor had Rowena if she'd known; there might have been any number of wizards who'd figured it out and kept their mouths shut.

I'm still can't figure out what's dangerous about sharing that knowledge. My obviously unsatisfying guesses in no particular order:

*Making yet unreachable sour grapes of immortality more sweet.

*Harry's concern for self-awareness of patronus v2.0.

*Outlaws will be better protected from law enforcement.

*Increased chances of Azkaban break out.

*Disclosure of Harry's unique power.

*Extinction of dementors.

comment by gjm · 2010-09-07T20:47:03.886Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Wizards formerly able to cast the Patronus charm, once they realise that Dementors are not about fear but (much more scarily to them) death, are no longer able to avoid thinking about it in the way necessary to make the Patronus charm (v1.0) work. As knowledge of the true nature of Dementors spreads, ability to make Patronuses lapses near-universally. A key tool for keeping Dementors under control is lost. Dementors become much harder to handle, everyone in Azkaban escapes, many wizards are killed (or worse) by Dementors, and the only way to stop it is to get Harry to destroy them all, which is a bit much to ask of a 13-year-old or whatever exactly he is.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-07T20:50:17.932Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a 13-year-old or whatever exactly he is.

He's still eleven years old.

comment by red75 · 2010-09-07T20:55:43.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, thank you. It doesn't make sense for me, but now I understand.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-09-07T20:46:51.321Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who hears the explanation of Patronus 2.0, but is unable to cast it, will lose the ability to cast Patronus 1.0 and be left defenseless. Most people will not be able to cast Patronus 2.0.

comment by PeterS · 2010-09-06T21:56:43.224Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone have any guesses as to what Quirrell's game is?

Quirrell is operating on a level that I surely don't understand. The only theory I can think of that's neither preposterous nor disappointing is that Quirrell is protecting Horcrux!Harry.

In light of the recent exchange where Quirrell asks Harry how he would hide something:

Tell me, Mr. Potter, if you wanted to lose something where no one would ever find it again, where would you put it?"

... "Well," said Harry, "besides trying to get it into the molten core of the planet, you could bury it in solid rock a kilometer underground in a randomly selected location - maybe teleport it in, if there's some way to do that blindly, or drill a hole and repair the hole afterward; the important thing would be not to leave any traces leading there, so it's just an anonymous cubic meter somewhere in the Earth's crust. You could drop it into the Mariana Trench, that's the deepest depth of ocean on the planet - or just pick some random other ocean trench, to make it less obvious. If you could make it bouyant and invisible, then you could throw it into the stratosphere. Or ideally you would launch it into space, with a cloak against detection, and a randomly fluctuating acceleration factor that would take it out of the Solar System. And afterward, of course, you'd Obliviate yourself, so even you didn't know exactly where it was."

The Defense Professor was laughing, and it sounded even odder than his smile.

... "All excellent suggestions," said Professor Quirrell. "But tell me, Mr. Potter, why those exact five?"

"Huh?" said Harry. "They just seemed like the obvious sorts of ideas."

"Oh?" said Professor Quirrell. "But there is an interesting pattern to them, you see. One might say it sounds like something of a riddle."

Assume that Quirrell was asking where he could hide a Horcrux. It's funny because all those options leave Horcrux!Harry dead. The riddle is thus:

  • Voldemort must hide his Horcruxes in a place where his mortal enemy, Harry Potter, will never be able to find them.
  • Harry Potter is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.

Any takers?

comment by mkehrt · 2010-09-09T00:15:20.967Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Or ideally you would launch it into space, with a cloak against detection, and a randomly fluctuating acceleration factor that would take it out of the Solar System.

Is this a MoR explanation for the Pioneer anomaly? Because that would be awesome.

Also, I assumed Voldemort was talking about the classical elements, too, and was amused that Harry, a scientist, had come up with those at random.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-09T01:14:52.553Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is this a MoR explanation for the Pioneer anomaly? Because that would be awesome.

I noticed that as well, but the Pioneer anomaly doesn't randomly fluctuate IINM, and he would have had to not only horcruxed both Pioneer plaques, but also screwed up his randomness so as to get approximately the same anomaly on both.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-09T04:47:44.992Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, he only did one plaque.

"I subscribe to a Muggle bulletin which keeps me informed of progress on space travel. I didn't hear about Pioneer 10 until they reported its launch. But when I discovered that Pioneer 11 would also be leaving the Solar System forever," Professor Quirrell said, his grin the widest that Harry had yet seen from him, "I snuck into NASA, I did, and I cast a lovely little spell on that lovely golden plaque which will make it last a lot longer than it otherwise would."

comment by katydee · 2010-09-09T04:53:25.162Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unless he lied.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-09T14:10:06.699Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unless it's all part of his fiendish plot to trick Harry in precisely that way, there really isn't any point in telling that story with that untruth. But you are correct.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-06T22:05:33.646Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Naw, the "interesting pattern" is the contrived "fire, earth, water, air, void" pattern to the suggestions. It seems rather out of character for that meme to slip into MoR Harry's subconscious, though.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T01:59:10.338Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Naw, the "interesting pattern" is the contrived "fire, earth, water, air, void" pattern to the suggestions.

Really? Not "inaccessible places ordered by increasing distance from the centre of the earth".

comment by Nisan · 2010-09-08T10:48:12.170Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

These two patterns are the same. Recall that the world is composed of four elemental planes, and each element is attracted to its plane. This explains why rocks fall but air rises in water.

Classically, we would expect the plane of fire to lie above the atmosphere, because fire rises in air. But in this case, fire is the lowest plane.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-09T06:00:37.779Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I now want to see someone write a high school physics' handbook in which every single fact that gets mentioned is correctly described, but everything is interpreted according to Aristotelian physics.

comment by PeterS · 2010-09-06T22:10:15.687Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

True, I didn't look at it that way. It seems more likely that that's correct -- "Why those exact five?" -- but why would Quirrell find it so amusing?

edit: Maybe Voldemort has already hidden his Horcruxes in just those manners -- we already suspect that he launched one into space. In that case the riddle may be -- given that Harry and Voldemort think in precisely the same way, how can Voldemort think of a hiding place that Harry wouldn't think of himself?

edit2: It's out of character for them to come naturally to Harry, but not to Voldemort. Voldemort is into that kind of superstitious ambiance -- e.g. he wanted precisely 7 Horcruxes, because it's a lucky number. Harry is part Voldemort, so that's why they slipped into his subconscious.

*shrug* maybe I'm grasping at straws.

comment by whpearson · 2010-09-06T22:07:33.151Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not been reading the series recently... but I noticed that these are classical elements

Roughly fire, earth, sea, air and void. Which fits the japanese element system.

Unsure of the meaning though.

Edit: I've recently learnt that Voldemort real name was Tom Riddle, did he like riddles in canon? It could just be Voldy checking to see how strong his horcrux's influence was on Harry?

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-07T01:39:03.244Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Already the ancient Greeks extended their four elements with the fifth: quintessence, or æther, the substance of which the heavens are made. (So four elements in the world, a fifth in the heavens, and never shall they meet.) So I took Voldemort's riddle as referring to Greek rather than Japanese elementology.

I don't recall any Riddle riddles in canon. In Book 2, identifying Riddle as Voldemort is the riddle that the reader (or Harry, but he never did) must solve. Later on, Dumbledore considers the riddle of why Riddle became what he did.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-07T01:56:04.804Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, in book 2, it seems to be a point that the reader is supposed to solve a riddle based on his name. This is parodied in Barry Trotter where everything remotely connected to the villain is some anagram of the villain's name.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-10-07T20:16:35.296Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One might say it sounds like something of a riddle.

That is, it sounds like something Riddle would say.

comment by JamesAndrix · 2010-09-06T20:06:59.021Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Semi Spoiler for chapter 46 on humanism

If Draco already had an ability to cast a patronus, it may now be another thing harry has taken. This may make him feel obligated to tell the secret.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-07T02:18:32.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If Draco already had an ability to cast a patronus, it may now be another thing harry has taken. This may make him feel obligated to tell the secret.

Given that Hermione already can't cast a patronus, and for similar reasons as Harry I rather hope that he is giving her training too. Starting with necessary background if necessary. In this instance that will more or less the distinguishing factor between 'pretentious short-sighted cleverness" and wise restraint.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-06T17:35:15.333Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From the current Author's Note:

And I am equally offended by people who look down on fanfiction because it's fanfiction, who'd take something beautiful like "Always and Always" and turn up their noses at it.

What's "Always and Always"?

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-06T17:41:24.149Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's listed among Eliezer's favorite fics via the feature for designating such things on ff.net. Here it is. It's quite nice.

comment by dclayh · 2010-08-30T06:28:45.035Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ha, I was just waiting for a new chapter to go up to post one.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T07:05:06.436Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Drat! It looks like you missed out on a couple of hundred karma and the chance to have all new insights and comments appear in your inbox! ;)

Would you mind going and editing the previous post with a forward reference? Bidirectional linked lists are far easier to navigate.

comment by dclayh · 2010-08-30T08:49:03.256Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I put the link in; thanks for the reminder.

And comments on my top-level posts don't appear in my inbox, only (direct) replies to my comments. Is that different for you?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-08-30T09:00:03.794Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They don't? I haven't actually written all that many posts to be honest.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-06T20:15:59.546Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This post has only covered two updates and has already over 200 comments. If the agreed-upon guideline is "after 500 comments, someone should start a new thread", then a lot of us will get a chance to do so.

comment by Unnamed · 2010-08-30T15:51:05.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought of waiting for a new chapter, but the number of "load more comments" links got annoying enough for me to start the new thread right away (especially since it broke my search the page for "29 aug" method of reading new comments).

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-01T02:59:11.434Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I have to search for ‘load more comments’ before searching for the date. Then I also have to search for ‘loading’ (since occasionally it doesn't load) and ‘continue this thread’, opening a new tab for each of these, where I begin again.

Or I could see what this RSS thing the kids are talking about does for me.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-02T00:39:26.474Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Now my comment is wreaking havoc on the system that it describes!

comment by RobinZ · 2010-09-01T14:18:26.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to track comments, it needs to update awfully often - I recommend Google Reader.

comment by gjm · 2010-10-07T21:13:41.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And lo, there was a fourth discussion thread...

comment by ata · 2010-10-06T15:59:53.666Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Dementors = Death -> ("Tell them I ate [the dementor]" -> "Tell them I ate [death]") — reference to "death eaters"?

I doubt this was unintentional, but if it was indeed a hint, then I'm not sure whether it was intentional only on Eliezer's part or also on Quirrell's. If the latter (Quirrellmort made that comment knowingly), then that raises the possibility that he was only pretending to be ignorant of Dementors' true nature... and if so, then Dumbledore's apparent lack of a reaction (compared to Harry's spit-take) suggests either that (1) Dumbledore knows, and Quirrell knows that Dumbledore knows, or (2) Dumbledore just saw it as a not-at-all-suspicious joke, and that Quirrell correctly anticipated that Dumbledore would take it that way.

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-12T04:21:33.855Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wondering about the relationship between Quirrel, who is obviously at this time at least being driven by Voldemort, and Voldemort as Voldemort. Quirrel's story about the martial arts monastery, in particular, has a clear dichotomy between Quirrel and Voldemort. Quirrel's actual seeming competence at martial arts lends some support to Quirrel's story that he learned them there, though it is possible that he just picked them up somewhere else either earlier or later. So, a.) did Quirrel(mort) make up at least one of the two incidents out of whole cloth? Or b.) was Quirrel pre being-possessed-by-Voldemort actually competent as well, and Quirrelmort's story as himself came from that personality (which possibly no longer exists)? Or c.) did both events happen to either personality, and Quirrel's distinction between them is the lie? (Sub-question: how would that work?) Are there other possibilities that I'm missing?

comment by Unnamed · 2010-09-12T04:42:57.978Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My guess was that Quirrell was already possessed by Voldemort, and that both events happened to Quirrelmort roughly as he described, the first with him acting under the identity of Quirrell and the second with him openly identifying as the Dark Lord.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-06T22:31:31.509Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What, exactly, is necessary to cast the Transhumanism Patronus (or something else that destroys Dementors)? If it's just a recognition of the Dementor's nature and a resolve to overcome mortality, haven't there been a few other wizards (e.g. Flamel) who should be able to do the same?

EDIT: Oh, never mind, Eliezer did mention this after all:

Godric hadn't told anyone, nor had Rowena if she'd known; there might have been any number of wizards who'd figured it out and kept their mouths shut.

comment by gjm · 2010-09-07T20:49:08.525Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't take that as saying that GG (and maybe RR) had the ability to cast the Transhuman Patronus. Only that they had had the insight into the nature of Dementors that made it impossible for them to cast the usual sort of Patronus, just like Harry and Hermione couldn't.

comment by sketerpot · 2010-09-07T21:08:05.772Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense. If they had been able to cast Patronus 2.0, this probably would have been recorded, even if the method for doing it remained a secret. This is in keeping with the oft-alluded-to tradition that it's okay to tell that somebody could do a magical feat, but sometimes it's not okay to tell people how.

Which leaves us with orthonormal's question again: why is Harry the first?

Someone like Flamel might not have tried to produce a Patronus after he'd begun work on the Philosopher's Stone, and others like Godric Gryffindor might not have had knowledge of the Philospher's Stone, or might not have approved of it. I think this is a plausible explanation.

comment by gjm · 2010-09-07T22:39:13.894Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Harry is the first because he's the first wizard to be familiar with transhumanist ideas. (Why, in the MoRverse, did such ideas not crop up before? Dunno. Maybe because the only forms of death-defying magic known to wizardry are things like Horcruxing that would only be done by the Bad Guys, so that the idea of defying death is seen as characteristic of Bad Guys. Maybe because wizards are (for good reasons) keen on tradition -- that is, after all, how they learn most of their spells, and it seems like new magical discoveries are much rarer than new scientific ones -- so that the tradition (pretty well entrenched even in our society) of finding excuses for death, reasons (however specious) to think it a good thing, has been too strong to break. Maybe it just happened that way; lots of ideas go un-thought-of for a long time even though there's no particular reason why they shouldn't have occurred to someone.

comment by orthonormal · 2010-09-08T22:12:18.426Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe because the only forms of death-defying magic known to wizardry are things like Horcruxing that would only be done by the Bad Guys, so that the idea of defying death is seen as characteristic of Bad Guys.

Well, I haven't read canon, but I think Flamel is portrayed as a Good Guy whose elixir-of-life-producing-rock is sought by Dark Wizards. (And I think he'd used it on himself and remained a Good Guy.)

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-09T06:11:59.876Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm guessing in MoR there should be no (actually working to significantly prolong life) philosopher's stone, as not using that more widely would be altogether too crazy.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-29T00:02:33.434Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No more crazy than reality.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-29T05:46:57.648Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No, still more crazy. The value of continued healthy survival is greater than the value of 5% chance at distant future revival.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-09-30T20:50:47.348Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. It's still an appealing enough metaphor, though, that I wouldn't be entirely surprised if EY made a thing out of it. (I personally would favor portraits over Elixir to represent cryonics, though.)

comment by ata · 2010-09-09T06:14:42.828Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The Philosopher's Stone is mentioned in MoR: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/4/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Rationality

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-09-09T06:18:14.831Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Only as a method for producing silver, which is uninteresting/irrelevant.

comment by gwern · 2010-09-16T21:52:44.262Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In context, Harry is asking about Sickles specifically, which are silver & not gold. So Griphook's reply is consistent with the Stone being able to do both silver & gold, as well as the classical Stone's exclusive gold*. If Harry had asked about coining a ton of Knuts or Galleons and Griphook had replied assuming silver, then that'd be strong evidence the Stone only did silver in the MoR-verse.

*I've done a bit, not that much, of reading about alchemy; I don't remember the philosopher's stone ever supposed to be able to do silver in addition to gold.

comment by alethiophile · 2010-09-14T01:54:54.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a particular reason to expect, the Stone having been introduced at all, that its powers would be changed? That seems somewhat less acceptable a change than simply leaving the Stone out altogether.

I'm guessing in MoR there should be no (actually working to significantly prolong life) philosopher's stone, as not using that more widely would be altogether too crazy.

I'm guessing that the working Philosopher's Stone does exist, but it is quite magically difficult to create, and many wizards have Dumbledore's attitude towards death. This would explain why more people do not use it. In canon, Flamel is noted as being historically significant for being one of the people to have successfully created the Philosopher's Stone. (Of course, in canon, it states that Dumbledore worked with Flamel on 'alchemy', presumably meaning the creation of the Stone. Does this conflict with Dumbledore's attitude towards death in MoR, or would Dumbledore have worked on the Stone without intention to use it for another reason?)

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-15T00:20:48.630Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dumbledore worked with Flamel on 'alchemy', presumably meaning the creation of the Stone

There's a lot more to alchemy than the Stone, which Flamel must have had for some centuries before Dumbledore's birth. So Flamel is a great alchemist, from which flow two consequences: Flamel made a Stone several centuries ago; more recently, Flamel worked with another talented alchemist, Dumbledore, probably on something else (since Flamel already had a Stone and Dumbledore wouldn't want one).

comment by WrongBot · 2010-09-27T23:57:19.864Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Flamel worked with Dumbledore to discover the 12 uses of dragon's blood, I believe, and was 666 when he died.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-28T05:36:39.054Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now that's just strange - why would there be only 12 uses of dragon's blood?

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T05:54:50.116Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From canon, I get the impression that no uses of dragon blood were known before Dumbledore's time; else there's not much scandal in Rita Skeeter's accusation that Dumbledore didn't discover all of them. So no uses known, Dumbledore publishes twelve uses, and then the rest of the world assumes that there is nothing further to learn.

Imagine MoR!Harry's exasperation on learning about this incredible complacence and lack of curiosity! He'll probably think of five more uses immediately when he hears about the first twelve (then worry afterwards about his Dark Side, since every one of them is a method of killing).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-09-29T00:11:49.928Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now that's just strange - why would there be only 12 uses of dragon's blood?

When I read that I imagined that there something like 12 major magics with dragon's blood and that there was some underlying theory that made there be exactly 12 of them.

comment by Baughn · 2010-09-16T20:40:36.812Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Quite interesting, actually. I missed that.

The canon (and also the historical) philosopher's stone could cause immortality, and also create gold.

That Eliezer would mention it here, in this way, is presumably a hint that this one does not do either of those things.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-09-16T21:43:15.634Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thought: This also possibly means its makers mislabeled it but failed to notice their confusion.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-30T03:42:03.647Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It could just be extremely difficult, known only to a selfish few, with the knowledge heavily guarded (perhaps using the Interdict of Merlin).

In canon, Nicolas Flamel may have toyed with being a bad guy, but in MoR he would definitely be a bad guy … for the opposite reason.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-09T04:44:34.032Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Flamel stays Good (and in particular is friends with Dumbledore), but eventually his use of the Stone is portrayed as having been a bit unwise.

comment by Emile · 2010-09-25T13:23:59.338Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 47 is up!

(FanFiction.net seems to be having some technical problems recently, sometimes you can't access the stories, but it works a few minutes afterwards there is a copy in PasteBin for the impatient.)

comment by thomblake · 2010-09-07T19:44:31.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does someone have an archive of the author's notes for MoR? Perhaps on the wiki or something?

comment by ata · 2010-09-07T19:57:03.783Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Adelene Dawner is keeping an archive of them: http://www.evernote.com/pub/adelenedawner/Eliezer

comment by thomblake · 2010-09-07T19:58:27.475Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

ETA: They don't seem to go all the way back. Does anyone have older ones?