Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

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Jorpho
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:32 am UTC

Maybe a sequel isn't so unlikely after all – if LW is invoking the names of Rowling and Radcliffe (!?), it suggests he's sufficiently drunk on power (see also Roko's Basilisk) that he won't let a little thing like a lack of ideas stop what has probably given him orders of magnitude more attention than anything else he's attempted thus far.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:27 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:Maybe a sequel isn't so unlikely after all – if LW is invoking the names of Rowling and Radcliffe (!?), it suggests he's sufficiently drunk on power (see also Roko's Basilisk) that he won't let a little thing like a lack of ideas stop what has probably given him orders of magnitude more attention than anything else he's attempted thus far.

It sounds to me like he wants to make a film adaptation of it is all. He was also talking about possibly making a live-action or animated adaptation of some of his other writings.

One thing I don't get about these latest turns of events is why Harry didn't
Spoiler:
spill the beans about the identity of David Munroe when asked for the truth of what happened at the graveyard, rather than letting everyone believe that Harry was just a stupid child acting mostly on the plans of this famed hero, thus undermining everyone's confidence in him that it seems he could really use right now while trying to get them all working together for him. I can see why he would want to preserve Quirrel's memory in the public mind, but certainly these three top-ranking officials who are already in on some of the biggest of secrets in the wizarding world can keep one more secret, can't they?


For that matter I also didn't get why he
Spoiler:
spun the whole lie about what happened at the graveyard instead of just telling one or two trusted confidants like McGonagall and Moody the truth to start with, and then working with them to decide how much to tell the public and in what order. In retrospect I can see why it's personally good for Harry not to have admitted to the killing of a bunch of his classmates' parents, but by his own confession he hadn't thought of that at the time, so I don't see what his rationale was at the time.


Oh and one other thing: I don't get how Moody
Spoiler:
can point his wand and say the words of the killing curse and not actually cast it. Is it just that he doesn't really want Harry dead, and so it doesn't work? (What if it had actually been Voldemort then? He does actually want Voldemort dead. Could the spell have told the difference, or would Moody himself have needed to know in advance? If the latter, that indicates the Moody already thought that Harry was not possessed by Voldemort, so what was the point?) Or can you go through the motions of casting any spell and simply not will to cast it? It seems to me it would have been a much clearer (to the audience) and equally effective for its stated purpose (in-universe) ruse to just say something like "Avada Kadabra" or "Avada Kadavro". If it were Voldie he would have started dodging long before that last syllable was spoken, but the last syllable would have made it clear to the audience that it definitely wasn't actually the killing curse being cast.

And worst of all, anyone with half a mind would start dodging as soon as someone starts casting the killing curse at them, so really the only thing that could possibly be a test of is reflexes. What if Harry had been fast enough to dodge, would Moody have then started with real combat magic right off the bat?
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Ingolifs » Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:00 am UTC

My interpretation of the prophecies surrounding Harry and the destruction of the world:

In the future, harry will transfigure the earth (or at least parts of the earth) into interstellar spaceships to seed the galaxy.
I belong to the tautologist's school of thought, that science is by definition, science.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:00 am UTC

Re: moody's spell
Spoiler:
It would not go off, as he did not want to kill the target.

Voldy can fly -- miody does not know how -- so can dodge better than anyone else. Nobody else that moody knows would stand a chance.

Had it worked (shown voldy), moody might retreat or die. But lie about voldy being dead would be cleared.

Had potter dodged *like* voldy, maybe moody would consider killing potter an acceptable risk. Or maybe he intended to retreat immediately. It being moody, odds are he had contingencies set up. He is still probably not certain.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:00 pm UTC

Ingolifs wrote:My interpretation of the prophecies surrounding Harry and the destruction of the world:

In the future, harry will transfigure the earth (or at least parts of the earth) into interstellar spaceships to seed the galaxy.


You're thinking too small - he's supposed to rend the stars (or some similar wording) - sounds like cosmic-scale engineering projects to me...

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Mar 12, 2015 5:20 am UTC

A thought just occurred to me.

Spoiler:
Quirrel became possessed by Voldemort by touching one of his old, unimproved horcruxes, right? And after Voldie smartened up a little bit, but before inventing the Mark II horcrux, he started making hundreds of such horcruxes out of unremarkable pebbles and such instead of specially hidden-away significant items like the canon horcruxes. Does that mean that the world is full of innocuous stones that any random person might step on or pick up and suddenly become possessed by a Voldemort copy?
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:20 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:A thought just occurred to me.

Spoiler:
Quirrel became possessed by Voldemort by touching one of his old, unimproved horcruxes, right? And after Voldie smartened up a little bit, but before inventing the Mark II horcrux, he started making hundreds of such horcruxes out of unremarkable pebbles and such instead of specially hidden-away significant items like the canon horcruxes. Does that mean that the world is full of innocuous stones that any random person might step on or pick up and suddenly become possessed by a Voldemort copy?

You're misinterpreting some part of Voldemort's explanation. I don't think he ever made any copy-style horcruxes other than Harry. Quirrel became possessed because he found one of Voldemort's old - but still Mark II - horcruxes, made when Voldemort hadn't yet recognized the stupidity of vainly picking important objects and surrounding them with impressive but obvious defenses. If Quirrel had been possessed by a Mark I horcrux he would have been far weaker due to missing most of Voldemort's magical knowledge and the real Voldemort would still be out there.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:18 pm UTC

The last chapter will post on March 14th, 2015, at 9AM Pacific (4PM UTC).



So... It has come to this.

Also:
Spoiler:
May I recommend Dr. Bronner's Soap?

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Sat Mar 14, 2015 6:53 pm UTC

And they lived magically ever after.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:43 am UTC

Well, I'm satistfied.

The thought came then to Harry of another work of fiction, more obscure than Tolkien:
Where'd that bit come from? Google be clueless.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby phlip » Sun Mar 15, 2015 5:12 am UTC

Google did find it, but it took some prodding...

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
[he/him/his]

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:03 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:Well, I'm satistfied.

I am not. I didn't really care what happened to the characters; I want to know how magic works in this universe.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:12 am UTC

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:
Jorpho wrote:Well, I'm satistfied.

I am not. I didn't really care what happened to the characters; I want to know how magic works in this universe.

EY's answer is that it would take too much research to happen in Harry's first year (and he hasn't decided on exact rules anyway).
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby patzer » Thu Mar 26, 2015 4:43 pm UTC

So, I decided to start reading this legendary fanfic a few weeks ago. Let's just say that it's brilliant.

I'm about two thirds of the way through (just past Hermione's trial)

Here are my predictions for the rest of the book. I'll look back later, once I've finished the book, and see how many are correct.

*Quirrell is Voldemort. I'd suspected this for a long time, but the Auror's analysis of Quirrell's records basically confirms it.

*Harry ends up marrying Hermione. (was this ever in doubt?)

*Harry works out a way of reconciling logic and emotion via statistical means, realizing those he cares for are placed higher.

*Voldemort faked his own death to a baby upon realizing its power, so that he could return incognito and train said baby to power and have it follow him, possibly via the Horcrux implanted in its brain.

*Harry's Dark Side is the horcrux.

*Quirrell/Voldemort believes he's the good guy uniting the country, as do his followers. The myriad deaths are a necessary sacrifice.

*Dumbledore feels the same way, but he's not quite as far gone.

*Somehow, the book ends with both Voldemort's and Dumbledore's factions swearing allegiance to the twelve-year-old Harry.

*Harry conquers ageing, "evil", and the galaxy. Rainbows ever after.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Thu Mar 26, 2015 4:47 pm UTC

patzer wrote:Prediction



Cute.


:wink:

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Thu Mar 26, 2015 6:00 pm UTC

DANGER: Spoilerriffic response! (to patzer)
Spoiler:
patzer wrote:*Quirrell is Voldemort. I'd suspected this for a long time, but the Auror's analysis of Quirrell's records basically confirms it.

That was sort of implied by the fact that this is the plot of the source material, even before chapter 1.
*Harry ends up marrying Hermione. (was this ever in doubt?)

This, I suspect, depends on the ability for camels to pass through eye's of needles.
*Harry works out a way of reconciling logic and emotion via statistical means, realizing those he cares for are placed higher.

Nope.
*Voldemort faked his own death to a baby upon realizing its power, so that he could return incognito and train said baby to power and have it follow him, possibly via the Horcrux implanted in its brain.

Nope.
*Harry's Dark Side is the horcrux.

Nope.
*Quirrell/Voldemort believes he's the good guy uniting the country, as do his followers. The myriad deaths are a necessary sacrifice.

Nope.
*Dumbledore feels the same way, but he's not quite as far gone.

The truth is more interesting.
*Somehow, the book ends with both Voldemort's and Dumbledore's factions swearing allegiance to the twelve-year-old Harry.

Nope.
*Harry conquers ageing, "evil", and the galaxy. Rainbows ever after.

He's a first year high school student. Give him time.


I tried to keep things somewhat vague. As far as I can tell, exactly one of my answers in the spoiler is a lie, so even if you read it, it won't ruin every surprise.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby patzer » Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:54 pm UTC

...dammit, someone replied to thread, which means it could well be a reply to my prediction comment, but I won't be finished the book for a few days :evil:

Oh, while I'm in this "submit reply" box:

Bonus prediction: Harry points out that the world is just a huge prisoner's dilemma- in the political game between Voldemort and Dumbledore, each side would be better off fighting the opponent than not. But in a choice between both sides eventually fighting or reconciling, reconciliation is the superior choice. Thus the entire fanfiction is just an elaborate advertisement for Yudkowsky's timeless decision theory :lol:
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands. –Douglas Adams

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Nork » Mon Mar 30, 2015 10:49 pm UTC

Question for people regarding the final confrontation:
Spoiler:
Wasn't the whole point of HPMOR that it was supposed to be a "What if" of "What if everyone had behaved rationally throughout the Harry Potter story?"

If so, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am. Voldemort spent pretty much the entire final confrontation in Bond Villain mode. He explained all of his history to Harry, including vital keys to the secrets of his resurrections. He explained various secrets about himself and his mindset that allowed Harry to figure out his weaknesses. He let Harry obtain and then retain his wand. He even planned a death by unnecessarily-slow-dipping-mechanism. All of this violates the Evil Overlord list, and certainly doesn't count as rational behavior for an intelligent villain.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:52 am UTC

Obviously, the Stone was covered in Bahl's Stupefaction.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:51 pm UTC

Except the Bond Villain Exposition began on the way to get the Stone.

And to address the original concern: most of Voldemort's "stupid" actions were done for a necessary purpose (e.g. Harry needed to have his wand in hand to take the Unbreakable Vow, which was a necessary precaution to avert the prophesied end of the world) and with extremely high and well-justified surety in their safety (like Harry being otherwise naked and unable to move or speak outside a limit channel without immediately and assuredly dying). Harry's partial transfiguration trick was an Outside Context Problem, and one that Voldemort was actively in the process of trying to discover when it was pulled on him. No matter how rational you are, there's always the possibility that someone has some knowledge or power you don't and can blindside you with it.

In retrospect, even the Bond Villain Exposition was done on purpose as part of the setup for Harry's attempted betrayal which was necessary for Voldemort to be able to actually kill Harry.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:03 pm UTC

Letting Harry keep his wand was a mistake, sure. Obviously. But Voldemort had every rational reason to believe that an 11 year old, no matter how intelligent, could not out-think and out-magic a superior (in Voldemort's view) and more experienced intelligence. Voldemort was completely justified in thinking he could easily handle anything young Harry could dish out, wand or no wand. If he can take on a dozen aurors without breaking a sweat, he can handle one little boy. And even if, by some miracle, Harry managed to kill Voldemort and all the Death Eaters, there was still all those horcruxes. Voldemort was entirely confident in his ability to take advantage of whatever happened. Therefore he could afford to play with Harry a bit and enjoy himself a bit before he just takes over the world. His blind-spot of the fence-post error was realistic. Even evil geniuses can't think of everything, and in a world where the most secure buildings don't even use anti-polyjuice methods, Voldemort's experience with security measures is limited (as further evidenced by the ease with which Harry broke the Dark Mark secret).
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:44 pm UTC

Yep. Bunch of stuff to force a betrayal by Harry (bond villain).

Then needed to give Harry wand to cause unbreakable vow (as maybe Harry has a dead-man's switch whose side effects involve destroying world). By forcing the unbreakable vow *first*, while hope that Harry would survive dangles, and making it "reasonable" even to Harry, it makes it less likely that Harry will "go off" and pull something drastic (that will destroy the world).

At that point, wand is pointing down. Disarming (or trying to disarm) Harry could result in violence, and violence could kill Harry. And Voldy wants the power that Harry has that he knows not. So force Harry to keep wand pointing down (no transition to a "this is your last chance to do anything" state, which would force Harry to respond, which forces Harry's premature death), and ask Harry for information in exchange for leverage.

Harry then exits leverage game (with antimatter threat). Note that antimatter boom is one example of what Harry might have already had ready once he had the wand in hand.

Suppose Harry had worked out how to create the equivalent antimatter dead man's switch (transfigure antimatter, *and contain* it with an active transfiguration), and activated it once he had the wand in order to do the vow? Now Voldy disarms Harry, and boom there goes Voldy's information (and current life).

Instead, force transition to give information. Inform harry that trying to exit "you are doomed" state will result in worse than death. Don't place moment of truth *before* information -- encourage Harry to dump information first (if only to delay death and buy more time). Harry might reveal a dead-man's switch to block said death (which gives Voldy a chance to respond, instead of being surprised), and in fact did.

Harry having an unknown attack method that was (A) basically invisible, (B) wordless, (C) did not require pointing, (D) could defeat every death eater present and (E) could cripple voldy, and *then* had a spell capable of defeating Voldy using wandless magic, might be a risk worth taking for "a power Voldy knows not".

Arguably the only reason why Harry had exactly reached that state was because Dumbledore was walking a prophesy tightrope to exactly engineer that state. To force the unbreakable vow (to not destroy world) *and* have Harry then defeat Voldy *and* have Harry save his friend from death *without* drawing "too much" attention to Harry. Heck, maybe even making Harry to discombobulated to try to save Lucias after the fact was important.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Nork » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:27 pm UTC

It still feels like all the exposition was entirely un-necessary. Voldemort knew that Harry had been prophesied to be a threat, and he had enough respect for prophesy to force the vow on Harry, so he shouldn't ever have been in the "I've already won, I can relax now" mindset. His plan should have been:

0: Disarm (and unequip) Harry.
1: Explain parseltongue's anti-lying mechanism.
2: Use parseltongue to (vaguely) threaten everyone unless Harry cooperates.
3: Proceed in silence to Mirror (and don't reveal flight capability) while occasionally checking for betrayal.
4: Procure stone as in book.
5: Proceed to graveyard in silence. Make some threats in parseltongue if needed to motivate betrayal.
6: "Accidentally" create a betrayal opportunity, thwart it. Re-disarm Harry as needed.
7: Resurrect girl, I suppose.
8: Summon deatheaters.
9: Put deatheaters on "Kill Harry" orders
10: Give Harry wand long enough for vow. Take it the @#$% away afterwards.
11: Kill order. Do all the extra "make sure he's completely dead" ceremonies after he's at least mostly dead.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:47 pm UTC

One other important thing to factor in to all of this is Voldemort's motivations for everything in the first place. He likes the game. He does want to win, of course, and will do everything rational to ensure he wins, but not playing in the first place is a boring kind of victory that defeats the purpose of playing. It's like, imagine if the only thing Voldemort enjoyed was extreme sports, like skydiving and base jumping. Of course he wants to survive them. The best way to survive them is to stay at home and not participate in them. But participating in them is what he wants. He wants to experience the thrill of danger and win through it.

The persona of Voldemort as known to the world at large is a wimpy irrational facade put on by the real Tom Riddle because taking over the world in a more interesting way was thwarted by the forces of good being too dumb to live, and completely obliterating them and taking over the world in the most efficient way would be boring. Voldemort is what Tom Riddle did to pass the time for lack of an actually interesting challenge. Harry is that actually interesting challenge, and I'd wager that if Harry hadn't managed to blindside Voldie with the power-he-knew-not, Voldie would have found some excuse or another to keep Harry alive and fighting him, just so that he has a worthy opponent to keep beating. He still would do everything he could to ensure his continued victory, of course... except quitting the game, because quitting may avoid defeat but it does so at the cost of forgoing the thrill of actual victory.

I still kind of wish the fic had ended with reasoning Voldemort out of his intentions by appealing to the root of his motivations for them. He is constantly bored and annoyed by dumb people, and the only tiny bit of pleasure he ever gets is from the rare genuine challenge and the rare intelligent interlocutor. So how's about he challenges himself with the task of making everyone else in the world the kind of intelligent person he would enjoy the company of, instead of the annoying dumb people that are barely interesting enough to even warrant killing. Of course he has to also ensure his survival in the process of that, which requires making sure that that world full of intelligent interesting people aren't going to kill him, or destroy the world in conflicts between each other. So he has to make the world full of at least minimally moral (at least rationally self-interested and far-sighted) intelligent people, if he wants a world he will actually enjoy living in. And... that sounds like it would actually be a good thing. What do you know.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

Nork wrote:It still feels like all the exposition was entirely un-necessary. Voldemort knew that Harry had been prophesied to be a threat, and he had enough respect for prophesy to force the vow on Harry, so he shouldn't ever have been in the "I've already won, I can relax now" mindset.

I disagree, I think that Harry was prophecied to one day be a threat, but there wasn't any reason for Voldemort to have perceived Harry to be a significant threat as an 11 year old (other than having Voldemort's brain inside him). Several times in the story Voldemort mentions that Harry is disappointingly stupid and magically weak. I think the story was carefully crafted such that we could see Harry's major strengths while Voldemort did not (i.e. partial transfiguration, his duel with Moody). To Voldemort, any of the armed death eaters were more likely to be a threat.

And pride is an absolutely reasonable fatal flaw for Voldemort to have. He's never really failed except by his own doing.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

Nork wrote:It still feels like all the exposition was entirely un-necessary. Voldemort knew that Harry had been prophesied to be a threat, and he had enough respect for prophesy to force the vow on Harry, so he shouldn't ever have been in the "I've already won, I can relax now" mindset. His plan should have been:

0: Disarm (and unequip) Harry.
1: Explain parseltongue's anti-lying mechanism.
2: Use parseltongue to (vaguely) threaten everyone unless Harry cooperates.
3: Proceed in silence to Mirror (and don't reveal flight capability) while occasionally checking for betrayal.
4: Procure stone as in book.
5: Proceed to graveyard in silence. Make some threats in parseltongue if needed to motivate betrayal.
6: "Accidentally" create a betrayal opportunity, thwart it. Re-disarm Harry as needed.
7: Resurrect girl, I suppose.
8: Summon deatheaters.
9: Put deatheaters on "Kill Harry" orders
10: Give Harry wand long enough for vow. Take it the @#$% away afterwards.
11: Kill order. Do all the extra "make sure he's completely dead" ceremonies after he's at least mostly dead.


This seems to rely on Voldie knowing the book way, and that it works. For instance, not revealing flight means walking on potentially trapped ground. There's no reason to take that risk. Yes, WE know that it's fine, but he doesn't.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Wed Apr 01, 2015 1:49 am UTC

Voldemort made two meaningful mistakes: he allowed Harry to keep his wand longer than necessary, and he allowed Harry time. From our position beyond the fourth wall these are glaringly obvious, but consider them from Voldemort's position.

In Voldemort's place, with no prior knowledge of Harry's secrets, would you seriously expect that there was even the slightest chance of the precautions Voldemort took being insufficient? You are facing a first-year student who didn't know magic existed a year ago. Said student is naked, forbidden to speak or move, and watched closely by 37 adult wizards all prepared to take him down on a hair trigger, one of whom is you, the most feared Dark Lord of recorded history. You do not know you are in a fictional story. What odds would you give that this student had a wordless motionless undetectable way to take down every single one of you simultaneously and instantly with no warning? Granted, this is an exceptionally intelligent student with a background in a type of knowledge you haven't mastered, and there's a prophecy saying he'll have a power you don't, but would you really expect any secret capability - of a first-year student - to extend to that order of magnitude?

So, given that Voldemort considers himself 99.9999% safe (and it's a reasonable assessment from what he knows), it's worth risking a little time to gain new knowledge. As for the wand, he had to let Harry have it to take the Vow, and from that point transitioning into the interrogation "Harry with wand" is the default. Voldemort would have to take positive action to rid him of it, and doing so could have prompted a panic reaction from Harry that would end any possibility of interrogation results and would not have meaningfully affected Voldemort's assessment of the risk - if you're positing a hypothetical ludicrous capability that fits all sorts of ridiculous constraints, adding "wandless" to the mix doesn't make much difference to how ludicrous the idea is. Also, sticking with the default far more than is rationally warranted is one of those "known bugs" in the human brain, which even Voldemort may fall prey to from time to time.

I can't really fault Voldemort for taking his paranoia about Harry's abilities to 13 (on a 10 point scale), only to discover what he needed was 14. Because, really, without all the background of the earlier story setting it up from Harry's viewpoint, what Harry pulled off there would sound utterly ludicrous.

Edit: Another point I thought of about the wand: letting Harry keep the wand increases the predictability of any escape action he might attempt, by giving him an obvious most useful tool. Take Harry's wand away, and Voldemort has no idea what Harry might attempt in order to escape. Moreover, in the wandless scenario Harry's most likely escape seems to me to be some form of accidental magic, which could do damn near any random thing with no visible sign of action on Harry's part until it's done. For Harry-with-wand, whatever escape attempt he makes is almost certain to involve using the wand, and that gives Voldemort and the Death Eaters something specific to watch for. Too bad for them that Harry's action required neither speaking nor pointing, both of which are in the normal course of things attributes of rare high level magic that Harry shouldn't have been able to learn yet.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Nork » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:05 pm UTC

I understand where people are coming from, but I still mostly disagree:

1 - Power levels: Yes there's a power level difference. Even so, Voldemort stations 30+ death eaters on him, forces an unbreakable vow on him, and plans an excessively elaborate death. Voldemort doesn't do that for people he thinks aren't threats. For people that aren't threats, he kills them and moves on. So Voldemort's actions prove that he thinks Harry is a significant threat, he just doesn't know how. I'm fine with the vow and the "tell me what I don't know" game, I'd even be willing to concede that there was some arbitrary reason for the Bond Villain gloating speech, but Voldemort didn't get to where he his by leaving threats alive and armed, so his failure to relieve Harry of his wand after the vow wasn't a rationally sound move, and without his wand, Harry would have died.

2 - Maybe Voldemort enjoys playing the game: That's fine for a bond villain, but if this is the "everyone behaves rationally" experiment that I thought it was, he doesn't get to add risks by playing games. I'm content to be told I misunderstood the premise of the book, but if the characters in the book are supposed to be rational thinkers, having Voldemort lose because of unnecessarily detailed explanations and unnecessarily leaving his enemy armed, then the ending cheated.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:12 pm UTC

Nork wrote:1 - Power levels: Yes there's a power level difference. Even so, Voldemort stations 30+ death eaters on him, forces an unbreakable vow on him, and plans an excessively elaborate death. Voldemort doesn't do that for people he thinks aren't threats. For people that aren't threats, he kills them and moves on. So Voldemort's actions prove that he thinks Harry is a significant threat, he just doesn't know how. I'm fine with the vow and the "tell me what I don't know" game, I'd even be willing to concede that there was some arbitrary reason for the Bond Villain gloating speech, but Voldemort didn't get to where he his by leaving threats alive and armed, so his failure to relieve Harry of his wand after the vow wasn't a rationally sound move, and without his wand, Harry would have died.


That pushes it into "now or never" territory, which forces a confrontation. Volde was attempting to gain all potential advantages before the inevitible confrontation. This is quite rational. He's about winning, not about mindless slaughter. Yes, there are points where he easily could have killed Harry, but that isn't his primary goal. It's about winning. Harry is just a tool toward that end. A dangerous tool, but still...

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:32 pm UTC

Nork wrote:So Voldemort's actions prove that he thinks Harry is a significant threat, he just doesn't know how.

I think this is close but actually slightly off the mark. Voldemort doesn't think Harry is a threat, he thinks the prophecy about Harry is a threat. Along with that, Voldemort treats prophecies seriously but hasn't quite fully bought into the "prophecies are inevitable" idea.

But back to the wand thing: suppose you are facing Harry as Voldemort was, and you know there's a prophecy that makes it far more likely than you would normally expect that Harry will somehow escape, but you have no idea how. Which sounds better to you, stripping Harry of all known tools so any possible avenue the prophecy might try to beat you must be something you haven't guessed and can't anticipate, or leaving him one obvious tool that you can watch closely and be ready to counter?

As for the premise, it is not "everyone behaves rationally", but rather "certain major characters attempt to behave rationally, and some of them are very good but not perfect at it". Letting Harry keep the wand is a trade off - it gives him a potentially potent tool, but also makes him far less likely to consider unpredictable actions that do not use that tool. Voldemort likely thought of this and judged that trade favorable, his only mistake being in his assessment of the chance of Harry having a significantly threatening wand-based move that did not require pointing with it.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Nork » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:21 pm UTC

douglasm wrote:But back to the wand thing: suppose you are facing Harry as Voldemort was, and you know there's a prophecy that makes it far more likely than you would normally expect that Harry will somehow escape, but you have no idea how. Which sounds better to you, stripping Harry of all known tools so any possible avenue the prophecy might try to beat you must be something you haven't guessed and can't anticipate, or leaving him one obvious tool that you can watch closely and be ready to counter?


Always always always deprive him of every tool that might be a part of his secret plan. You don't leave Batman with his utility belt just because he might also have a lock pick in his glove. If Harry has a way to beat Voldemort that he can use while motionless and wandless, than Voldemort loses, so it's in Voldemort's best interest to assume Harry needs his wand or movement. Harry has repeatedly seen what happens to people who engage Voldemort in wand based combat, so he's not going to use the want overtly like you're suggesting if he has a wandless super-option.

As a side nitpick, assuming Voldemort was waiting for Harry to do wand based shenanigans, he certainly wasn't prepared for it. Having seen Harry win a battle with use of the Swerving Stunner, Voldemort shouldn't have fallen for it. That would have been exactly the type of thing Voldemort would have been watching for in your scenario.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Diemo » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:54 pm UTC

To be fair, he had just lost both his hands. I doubt that you would be too rational at that point either.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:01 pm UTC

Voldemort did not see Harry use the swerving stunner before. Only Dumbledore, Moody, and McGonagall saw it. There is no way he would have anticipated it, unless he legilimized any one of the three or Prof. Flitwick.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Nork » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:46 pm UTC

Good point - I hadn't remembered that Quirrel hadn't seen that.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Thu Apr 02, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

Nork wrote:Good point - I hadn't remembered that Quirrel hadn't seen that.

In fact, not only did Voldemort not know Harry had that spell, but I believe Voldemort didn't even know that the spell existed. Flitwick invented it himself but retired from dueling before using it, and he probably never had reason to mention or teach it to anyone until Harry asked. Only 5 people knew the spell existed, and Voldemort wasn't one of them. He might have had an instant's confusion on realizing the pronunciation of "stupefy" was a little off, but no idea what it meant until it was too late. The dodge he executed would have been sufficient for any spell he knew of, and in particular for the spell he thought he faced, and he was acting on a time scale where unthinking reflex is all you really have to work with.

I agree that letting Harry keep the wand was a genuine mistake, made with time to think about it, but I maintain that it only seems so egregious to us because of our knowledge of Harry's capabilities that Voldemort did not have. To the best of Voldemort's knowledge, the wand was, in fact, neutralized by the precautions he had already taken.

Nork wrote:If Harry has a way to beat Voldemort that he can use while motionless and wandless, than Voldemort loses, so it's in Voldemort's best interest to assume Harry needs his wand or movement. Harry has repeatedly seen what happens to people who engage Voldemort in wand based combat, so he's not going to use the want overtly like you're suggesting if he has a wandless super-option.

I would not normally consider it likely, but in the face of a prophecy I would place high odds on a wandless Harry manifesting some kind of accidental magic. Exactly what this would result in could be nearly anything and would be completely unpredictable and happen without warning. It is, in short, a deus ex machina waiting to happen. I would expect this only if Harry has no channel for intentional magic, as having and attempting to use that channel would prevent the sort of unfocused desperation that triggers accidental magic.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby patzer » Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:30 pm UTC

Does anyone else read the unofficial sequel to HPMoR? It's called Significant Digits, and set seven years after the events of HPMoR.

http://www.anarchyishyperbole.com/p/sig ... igits.html

IMO, it captures the atmosphere of HPMoR very well- rational, detailed plot, and full of little references. Maybe not quite as much humor as in the original version though. Not nearly appreciated enough, considering it manages to just about match the high standards of HPMoR. It's usually discussed on the HPMOR Reddit community, when the new chapter comes out every Saturday.


Spoilers for the latest chapter (14) of Significant Digits:

Spoiler:
Was a very emotional, powerful, chapter. To see Hermione's deep struggles... that one can consistently fail is normal, and ultimately didn't impede her final success... beautiful.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:01 pm UTC

I've been wondering if anyone was going to take up EW's invitation to write a sequel! Thanks for linking this, I will have to check it out soon.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Mon Jul 27, 2015 5:37 am UTC

Ooh yes, will do.

I saw this thread being bumped and thought it might be news of that omake chapter being published. But not yet, I suppose.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:20 am UTC

So I'm all caught up on Significant Digits and am really liking it so far. (Happy to have come into it at this exact point, the end of Arc 1, too).

Does anyone want to discuss it in this thread? I'm not one for Reddit.

If so, my opening comment: I like that this new author comes into the Rational!PotterVerse from a different angle and background than EW, and that is shows; more humanities than computer science, while still respecting the scientific and mathematical bent of the original. As much as I loved HPMOR, it was always a bit heavy-handed about some things being so obviously right and there being no legitimate argument or controversy about them (beyond some kind of ridiculous and indefensible straw-alternative maybe), and this new author seems to have a bit more respect for moral ambiguity and for uncertainty and ongoing debate within some fields; and both Harry's older character looking back on his younger self, and other characters looking in on even present Harry, seem to shine a bit of critical light on that discussion-ending heavy-handedness.

One element of that that looks like it might be ramping up to be a major theme, possibly even a plot point, is consequentialism vs deontology. EW (in HPMOR and elsewhere) seems to think that consequentialism (specifically a brand of utilitarianism) is obviously correct and the alternative is some kind of religious or might-as-well-be-religious absolutism (into which he seems to subsume, and refers to as, deontology). But Significant Digits seems to be casting a critical light on consequentialism and its "ends justifies the means" mantra, showing why other people might not be comfortable with Harry operating according to such a principle and why they might be right, and I'm hoping that it ends with Harry learning some kind of lesson about it, though preferably not something equally preachy and heavy-handed just biased the other direction. Just... some room for doubt and reconsideration, reopening the question that, amongst actual real-world professionals studying such things to this day, is still very much an open question.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:50 am UTC

Ooooh, I really want to read it, now :-)
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out


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