Prasanna Natarajan

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - by Eliezer Yudkowsky

READ: 2017-03-16, RATING: 10/10

This is a Harry Potter fanfiction written by an AI scientist who is also a practising Rationalist. In this world, Harry is an extremely intelligent kid parented by smart and kind humans. This is the real Harry Potter that JK Rowling should’ve created. This is the Harry Potter the world should’ve read. And Eliezer should’ve been a Billionaire just like Rowling for creating this. I can say with certainty that all the people who’ve read nad liked the canon will like hpmor even more.

Read the full book online here.

Few things in life will produce a continuous stream happiness that can last for days. Sex will not, helping the poor will not, or even making a ‘dent’ will not (don’t ask me). But reading this book will. It’s the greatest fiction ever written. Here are my guidelines to read this book:

  • Read the original Harry Potter story, the Canon. Read all 7 books. Or if you can’t, at least watch all 7 movies (or 8?)
  • Set aside at least 5 days with enough food supplies and get untangled from the world around you. Trust me on this. If you start reading this while you are searching for a job so you could feed your baby or while you are being the head manager of a critical project at your work, you’ll regret it.

So here are the “great things” about this book. Things why you should read this book for:

  • Harry is not friends with Ron and Hagrid just because they aren’t as smart as him. Instead he is friends with Hermione and Draco Malfoy.
  • The canon portrayed Draco as unnecessarily evil, but since his father was Lucius Malfoy who’s a powerful Death Eater as well as a wealthy and influential wizard in the wizarding community, it’s only natural that his brilliance and skills would be seen in his junior. Hpmor honors the fact and makes Draco intelligent.
  • Hermione wants herself to be a Hero. She doesn’t like to be Harry’s sidekick. Since she’s smart and capable, it’s only natural that she too wants to be the center of the action.
  • It’s Harry that Hermione will eventually hook up with. Not Ron the Bland.
  • Quidditch is satisfactorily made fun of. You could literally hear Eliezer shouting at Rowling for coming up the rules of the game.
  • Oh, btw, Voldemort is not an angry and idiotic villain. He’s a cool, intelligent and calculating villain. (Voldemort here makes hundreds of horcruxes just to be sure.)
  • The book teaches you the “methods of Rationality” - about cognitive biases, about game theory, mentions the “Influence by Robert Cialdini” book more than once, mentions Daniel Kahneman a few times etc. These are hands down the best sections of the book, if not for…
  • the outrageously funny and extremely witty lines and…
  • a great plot. It’s just not a story with a bad plot but good writing, it’s a story with a great plot, great writing and great characters (the characters of Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape etc are all very well written)…
  • and omg the many foreshadowings! You’ll catch them only on the subsequent reads. And it was even more delicious the second time I read it.
  • The canon was dark with its deaths and killings. But this is way more darker, especially towards the end. And well, Harry does quite a bit of the killings. (sorry for the spoiler)
  • It’s an adult only reading. Not because it writes about sex, but Draco mentions about ‘raping’ a girl and Voldemort mentioning giving Bellatrix to the pleasures of the Lestrange brothers. And there are things like ripping the tongue out, hanging just the skin of victims etc.
  • It has a good deal of science into it, especially cognitive science. The book talks, actually educates us, through Harry, about the various cognitive biases. If you are a fan of Scott Adams or LessWrong, you’ll love these sections. Some of the topics mixed into the story are: Efficient Market Hypothesis, Fundamental Attribution Error, Planning Fallacy, Positive Bias, Self Disciple with Delayed Gratification, Bayes’s Theorem, Egocentric Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford Prison Experiment, Milgram Experiment etc etc. And I promise you, none of it will be boring as you think. It entertainingly educates you.
  • It respects the intelligence of the reader by having intelligent and rational characters. Eliezer has written in detail about how to write intelligent characters.
  • Chamber of Secrets exist in this world too. But what it holds (or rather held) as secrets is mindblowing (as well as how Voldemort dealt with the secrets. I experienced the literary equivalent of earth-shattering orgasm while reading this).