Highlights from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (until chapter 85)

I recently discovered the fan fiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by the esteemed Eliezer Yudkowsky (I used to read his friendly AI stuff back in the day) and having never read any Harry Potter1 I still immensely enjoyed this.

In science our powers wax by the year.

I don’t want to rule the universe. I just think it could be more sensibly organised.

Star Wars was the only universe in which the answer actually was that you were supposed to cut yourself off completely from negative emotions

everyone in the wizarding world is completely stupid.

That your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality

“If you have not dealt with journalists before, take it from me that the world gets a little brighter every time one dies.”

But then human beings only understood each other in the first place by pretending.

and so it might not have occurred to you that to respect the truth, and seek it all the days of your life, could also be an act of grace.

So why would anyone possibly think any thought so silly as that death is a good thing? Because you’re afraid of it, because you don’t really want to die, and that thought hurts so much inside you that you have to rationalize it away, do something to numb the pain, so you won’t have to think about it –

I’m certainly becoming a bit frustrated with… whatever’s going wrong in people’s heads.

The Earth was what made the stars significant, made them more than uncontrolled fusion reactions, because it was Earth that would someday colonize the galaxy, and fulfill the promise of the night sky.

As though there’s something in science like the shine of the Patronus Charm, driving back all sorts of darkness and madness, not right away, but it seems to follow wherever science goes.

That was what it meant to be used by a friend, that they would want the use to make you stronger instead of weaker.

I see little hope for democracy as an effective form of government, but I admire the poetry of how it makes its victims complicit in their own destruction.

A lot of common wisdom like that isn’t just mistaken, it’s anti-epistemology, it’s systematically wrong.

Or rather, cheating is what the losers call technique

He’d been struck, even then, by an essential emptiness in the indignation of politicians – though he hadn’t had the words to describe it, at that age – a sense that they were trying to score cheap points by hitting at the same safe target as everyone else.

How very sad, how very hollow the indignation, of those who refuse to say that money and life can ever be compared, when all they’re doing is forbidding the strategy that saves the most people, for the sake of pretentious moral grandstanding…

Hogwarts students don’t actually know enough cognitive science to take responsibility for how their own minds work.

And you have already witnessed, I wager, that their fondness vanished like dust in the wind once it was no longer in their interest to associate with you…

And now it’s waiting until new chapters arrive, a pleasure and torture at the same time.

  1. I watched the movies.

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