I’ve read all the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality there is, currently chapter 79.  I think it has, as gamers say, levelling problems.  For the first half or so, Harry runs into real challenges and real challengers.  And then, for the most part, he’s already invincible.

Yudkowsky should have realized something was up when he made Harry so powerful in Quirrell’s battle magic training wars that he had to give up 1/3 of his army to his two opponents.  That is, even two opponents can’t compete with Harry any more.  He’s out-levelled them.  That means it’s now a superhero story, and it gets old fast to read about a superhero wasting enemies that are beneath him.

There’s a long section where he tries to focus on Hermione, who decides she wants to be a heroine rather than a sidekick.  It may be trying to make a meta-narrative point, but that too is not as clever as it sounds; it amounts to saying that an author makes some chracters succeed and not others, which is a boring insight about art and not an insight at all about the rest of life.  Yudkowsky comes close to making fun of Hermione, but what I wanted to see what her levelling up along with Harry.

The thread seems to have been lost a bit, too.  There’s an intense, well done set piece involving a raid on Azkaban, and then Hermione’s escapades, but these are almost entirely action sequences parallel, in fact, to the ones in the original book.  That is, there’s little about the methods of rationality any more.

There’s also a fairly sharp critique of  Dumbledore as someone who is too ready to live with small evils for the sake of the larger war.  When Harry sees an injustice he wants to shove the pedal to the metal and do whatever it takes to fix it; he has no patience with any reasons for going slow.  That isn’t rationality, it’s bull-headedness.  Few real-world problems can be solved merely by bursts of toughness and heroism.  Bullying really gets under Yudkowsky’s skin, for instance– he objects to both Snape (for being a bully) and Dumbledore (for not stopping the bullies).  But his answer comes down to “intimidation by the powerful”.  And sure, it’s great when the powerful take the problem seriously and beat up the bullies.  But when the powerful move on to some other challenge, what happens then?  Bullies are extremely good at waiting for the moments the big boys aren’t paying attention.  Thinking that intimidation will solve all your problems is what gets you into Vietnams and Iraqs.

Hmm, all that came out more negative than I thought it would.  I still stayed up late reading this stuff, and the last chapters are a new plot arc that seems very promising.

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