The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

My other obsession

Every day for the last week or so I’ve rushed home from work to read another chapter of some Harry Potter fanfiction.

It’s called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, written by Eliezer Yudkowsky and has as its (simplifed) premise — What if Harry was an 11 year old Richard Feynman like genius (with all the attendant flaws), raised by a scientist. The author has explicitly stated that this is a rationalist tract, meant to teach people common errors of thinking. (I was aware of the author prior to this, because of his writings on Less Wrong).

So there are lectures about confirmation bias, falsifiability, conformity experiments, and the like. But there is also a phenomenal story that takes place firmly in the world of Harry Potter (while still tweaking it) and is, in many ways, much more awesome than the original (at least, for me. Which is fair, since the original series has to work as a story for kids, and this works as a more complex story).

I’d read it a few years ago, but there was a long hiatus before the final arc was written. When the finale was announced, I went and re-read all 100 prior chapters. Apart from being a wry take on the Potter verse, Yudkowsky also gives many of the characters more agency than the original series, and the fact that Potter is different causes changes in those around him.

But mainly, it’s a hell of a story. And looks to be entirely consistent plotted out from day one (which, given that it has a much more convoluted plot, is itself a miracle).

It does have a slow start. I personally think it doesn’t get rolling until Chapter 9 or so. By Chapter 16 (the first Defense against the Dark Arts Class) I was hooked. And make no mistake, many of these are long chapters … the current word count is over 600k words.

But I recommend it wholeheartedly, it’s a thought-provoking delight.


Written by taogaming

February 23, 2015 at 8:25 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Oh, man. Multiple friends of mine have engaged in epic rants about Yudkowsky’s work. I think they all like the Potter fic, though.

    Fred Bush

    February 24, 2015 at 1:44 am

    • HPMOR is the most interesting story I have read in a long time. It has been a long wait for the final arc, and I am scheduling my days around the chapter releases. Highly recommended!

      Tyson Stanek

      February 24, 2015 at 9:53 am

    • “Epic Rants” — About what? Most of his basic stuff seems solid. (An early chapter on HPMOR references Cialdini’s book Influence, and yes, it is a hell of a book that changed many of my beliefs. But I already knew it). I admit that when I’ve gotten really deep into a Less Wrong sequence my eyes start glazing over. I’ve never gotten into “Timeless decision theory” or something like that.

      As for the Singularity institute (etc), it strikes me as either worthless (because AI is impossible) or incredibly important (because it is). I’m not sure which.


      February 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      • The SJW hates the dark enlightenment guys lurking in LessWrong. The AI researcher thinks the Singularity Institute is a con game.

        Everybody mocks the basilisk.

        Fred Bush

        February 24, 2015 at 8:18 pm

  2. Is this something that can be enjoyed by someone who hasn’t read all the Harry Potter books?

    B W

    February 24, 2015 at 9:28 am

    • I suspect so. A vague idea should be enough. Having seen the movies it’s nice that I have actors and voices in my head clearly, as there are lots of characters. I do know that several others have commented that “Oh, the author went too far in introducing X,Y,Z” and then others point out that it’s straight from the books. So others have read it without being aware of the universe, and stuck with it. (Edit — Updated for typos and clarify)


      February 24, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  3. I also recommend it. Flawed, but still my favorite piece of writing of any kind.


    February 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm

  4. Thanks for the recommendation. Already enjoying it.


    February 24, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    • Yes, thanks. I downloaded it before a work trip, was praising it to colleagues after reading the first few chapters on the flight down, and one of them was reading it himself by the trip home.

      I am bemused by the dig at Rand/Atlas Shrugged at one point, since the numerous scientific explanations in HPMOR are the kind of things people complain about in Rand (well, one of the things, I suppose).


      February 28, 2015 at 9:27 am

  5. Incidentally a (much shorter) fiction by EY is Three Worlds Collide, and is also quite good.


    February 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm

  6. The only Harry Potter derivative work I’ve indulged in is Wizard People, Dear Reader:

    but this looks good too.


    February 25, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    • I tried to watch that, but the voice is so grating. (The random chapter I tried of the HPMOR podcast also had that issue for me, too).


      February 28, 2015 at 11:50 pm

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