Andreea's Reviews > Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
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Dec 30, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, harry-potter, magic, read-in-english, to-finish-later

Quotes so far:
"(The bystander effect, thought Harry, thinking of Latane and Darley's experiment which had shown that you were more likely to get help if you had an epileptic fit in front of one person than in front of three. Diffusion of responsibility, everyone hoping that someone else would go first.)

Being plopped in front of a giant heap of gold coins was a test of character so pure it was archetypal."

""I've had this scar as long as I remember, and I've been told my name was Harry Potter as long as I remember. But," Harry said thoughtfully, "if there's already sufficient cause to postulate a conspiracy, there's no reason why they wouldn't just find another orphan and raise him to believe that he was Harry Potter -""

"Suppose you come into work and see your colleague kicking his desk. You think, 'what an angry person he must be'. Your colleague is thinking about how someone bumped him into a wall on the way to work and then shouted at him. Anyone would be angry at that, he thinks. When we look at others we see personality traits that explain their behaviour, but when we look at ourselves we see circumstances that explain our behaviour. People's stories make internal sense to them, from the inside, but we don't see people's histories trailing behind them in the air. We only see them in one situation, and we don't see what they would be like in a different situation. So the fundamental attribution error is that we explain by permanent, enduring traits what would be better explained by circumstance and context."

"like I destroyed the Dark Lord because I have some kind of permanent, enduring destroy-the-Dark-Lord trait. I was fifteen months old at the time! I don't know what happened, but I would suppose it had something to do with, as the saying goes, contingent environmental circumstances. And certainly nothing to do with my personality. People don't care about me, they aren't even paying attention to me, they want to shake hands with a bad explanation."

"Muggle researchers have found that people are always very optimistic, compared to reality. Like they say something will take two days and it takes ten days, or they say it'll take two months and it takes over thirty-five years. For example, in one experiment, they asked students for times by which they were 50% sure, 75% sure, and 99% sure they'd complete their homework, and only 13%, 19%, and 45% of the students finished by those times. And they found that the reason was that when they asked one group for their best-case estimates if everything went as well as possible, and another group for their average-case estimates if everything went as usual, they got back answers that were statistically indistinguishable. See, if you ask someone what they expect in thenormal case, they visualise what looks like the line of maximum probability at each step along the way - everything going according to plan, with no surprises. But actually, since more than half the students didn't finish by the time they were 99% sure they'd be done, reality usually delivers results a little worse than the 'worst-case scenario'. It's called the planning fallacy, and the best way to fix it is to ask how long things took the last time you tried them. That's called using the outside view instead of the inside view. But when you're doing something new and can't do that, you just have to be really, really, really pessimistic. Like, so pessimistic that reality actually comes out better than you expected around as often and as much as it comes out worse. It's actually really hard to be so pessimistic that you stand a decent chance of undershooting real life. Like I make this big effort to be gloomy and I imagine one of my classmates getting bitten, but what actually happens is that the surviving Death Eaters attack the whole school to get at me. But on a happier note -"

"Shortly after the discovery of X-Rays, an eminent French physicist named Prosper-Rene Blondlot - who had been first to measure the speed of radio waves and show that they propagated at the speed of light - had announced the discovery of an amazing new phenomenon, N-Rays, which would induce a faint brightening of a screen. You had to look hard to see it, but it was there. N-Rays had all sorts of interesting properties. They were bent by aluminium and could be focused by an aluminium prism into striking a treated thread of cadmium sulfide, which would then glow faintly in the dark..."

"Reality, Philip K. Dick had once said, is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

"In that moment Draco had realized that there was something deeply wrong with Harry Potter's brain, and anyone who tried Legilimency on it would probably never come back out again."

"Father had once taken him to see a play called The Tragedy of Light, about this incredibly clever Slytherin named Light who'd set out to purify the world of evil using an ancient ring that could kill anyone whose name and face he knew, and who'd been opposed by another incredibly clever Slytherin, a villain named Lawliet, who'd worn a disguise to conceal his true face; and Draco had shouted and cheered at all the right parts, especially in the middle; and then the play had ended sadly and Draco had been hugely disappointed and Father had gently pointed out that the word 'Tragedy' was right there in the title." Death Note? o_o



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Reading Progress

07/24/2012 "(The bystander effect, thought Harry, thinking of Latane and Darley's experiment which had shown that you were more likely to get help if you had an epileptic fit in front of one person than in front of three. Diffusion of responsibility, everyone hoping that someone else would go first.)

Being plopped in front of a giant heap of gold coins was a test of character so pure it was archetypal."
07/24/2012 ""I've had this scar as long as I remember, and I've been told my name was Harry Potter as long as I remember. But," Harry said thoughtfully, "if there's already sufficient cause to postulate a conspiracy, there's no reason why they wouldn't just find another orphan and raise him to believe that he was Harry Potter -""
07/26/2012
9.0% "The same could be said of Draco's clever use of reciprocation pressure for an unsolicited gift, a technique which Harry had read about in his social psychology books (one experiment had shown that an unconditional gift of $5 was twice as effective as a conditional offer of $50 in getting people to fill out surveys)"
07/29/2012
20.0% "did you know that time-reversed ordinary matter looks just like antimatter? Why yes it does! Did you know that one kilogram of antimatter encountering one kilogram of matter will annihilate in an explosion equivalent to 43 million tons of TNT?

"Any vow was an Unbreakable Vow if made by the right sort of person.""
09/06/2012
25.0% "Maybe they believe they believe there's a dragon, it's called belief-in-belief. But they don't actually believe it. You can be mistaken about what you believe, most people never realize there's a difference between believing something and thinking it's good to believe it."
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