Progress Report, Dec 2014

76,800 words in and Ch. 117 is done.  3 chapters left to go.  My current plan is to post the final arc in February, but I’m not committing to a definite start date until the first draft is complete.  (Earlier chapters have also been significantly polished.)

I am currently reading Gate! Thus the JSDF Fought There, which appeared in response to my plea for manga with Level 1 Intelligent characters.  Gate! Thus the JSDF so far appears to be doing well in terms of characters acting like they have inner sparks of optimization, being self-aware, and thinking the same things readers are thinking.  (E.g., just as the Japanese Diet member is about to insult the Apostle of the Death God, the protagonist stands up and says, “Excuse me!  There’s something you really ought to know!” just like we in the audience are thinking.)  I would much appreciate recommendations for other manga of this sort – not manga with characters pretending to be exceptionally clever, because from my perspective this is never done well, but just manga with characters who think the same sorts of things we’d think in their shoes instead of being railroaded by the plot.  The Worm fanfiction Weaver Nine, which I liked, is now complete.

There is now a Rational Stories community on FFNet.

The next Progress Report will appear on Jan 1st, 2015 at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Nov 2014

Not much HPMOR writing to report since October; 72,000 words in and working on Ch. 116 (of 120).

For RaNoWriMo (Rational Novel Writing Month) I have started to publish some abridged excerpts of my planned How to Write Intelligent Characters minibook.  Discussion takes place on the Yudkowsky’s Essays facebook group.  Consider it a Harry Potter Day gift.

Reading The Unwelcome Warlock (on Kindle Unlimited) has reminded me of how awesome Lawrence Watt-Evans’s Ethshar novels are—he just puts Level 1 Intelligent Characters into his stories and lets them run free.  The F/SN fanfiction Path of the King looks to be a deadfic, but it was fun while it lasted.

The next Progress Report will be on Dec 1st, 2014 at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Oct 2014

Ch. 103-115 are written, at 66,650 words.  Many of those chapters are in at least second-draft state.  Ch. 116-120 remain to be written, but these will hopefully be shorter and faster—we are past what I thought of as the main hump of writing.  The next three months will be on a tight schedule at MIRI, though, and I’m not currently holding out much hope for beginning to post before the end of 2014.  I do hold out a lot of hope for starting to post the final arc pretty soon after that.  Ch. 103 is a brief one-shot and I will post it to announce the schedule for the final arc when I have one.

I have signed up for Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, a service in which you pay a $9.99 monthly flat rate and get unlimited access to all the Kindle Unlimited books (which includes all Kindle Select books).  As always, it’s hard to find books I want to read within the vast puddle of books, but at least with Kindle Unlimited there’s no marginal added penalty each time I try.  Two Kindle Unlimited books that I’ve enjoyed so far were Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron, and The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington.

(I think Kindle Unlimited is the direction where I want book sales to go—I really don’t like marginal payments, for some reason.  Reading on Kindle Unlimited feels a lot like trying out fanfictions.  But for the system to work in the longer run, it needs a better way of showing me books I have a decent probability of enjoying.  Then again, browsing for fanfiction on the Internet has a pretty sad recommendation system too.)

My significant other, Brienne, is visiting Cordoba, Argentina for four months with intent to work on a book of meditation-style exercises for cognitive self-training.  Drop me a line at if you might be interested in helping her set up when she arrives, or helping her find a new place to stay after the first couple of weeks.  (She was also considering Uruguay, but just could not find any sunlit, out-of-the-way places to stay that weren’t too expensive—everything in Uruguay that’s online seems to be at tourist prices.  Chile remains a possibility if anyone wants to advocate for it strongly, but you don’t have much time before she buys the ticket.)

Raymond Arnold has just announced the crowdfunding campaign for the Secular Solstice 2014.

MealSquares has now opened the beta (with free shipping) of their nutritionally-complete meal-replacement muffins.  Think of it as Soylent in solid form.  Be warned that MealSquares are currently very dense (presumably for shipping reasons), but as with Soylent, some people report very good experiences already.

The next Progress Report will be on Nov 1st, 2014 at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Sep 12 2014

37,000 words into the final arc, and just starting Ch. 109.  It’s a good pace, but I’m not sure I’m going to be done with the final arc by the time it’s time to fly back from North Carolina, there’s just a lot of final arc to write.  (At the pace I am currently writing, I would be producing one 100,000-word novel every 40 days if I could keep it up, and not a trashy novel either.  This is despite the fact that I’m typing these very words from inside the waiting room of an urgent care office.  No silly complaints, please!)

There will be a meetup at Branciforte’s Brick Oven in North Wilkesboro, NC at 5pm local time on September 13th, 2014 (tomorrow).

Hitherby Dragons is… genuinely impossible for me to describe in one paragraph.  Weird, interesting, weird, very poetic, and weird.

The next Progress Report will be posted at 5pm Pacific Time on October 1st, 2014.

Progress Report, Sep 2014

Hi everyone!  I am ensconced in North Carolina, near Wilkesboro, which is an hour from Greensboro or Charlotte.  The good news is that Ch. 104 is complete at 10,331 words and I am 744 words into Ch. 105.  The bad news is that things are looking very crunch-time busy at MIRI up until the end of 2014 once I get back, so I have revised significantly downward the probability that I will be able to start posting the final arc before the end of 2014.  Grump grump, trust me I’m not happy about it either.  Regardless, I shall still try to storm my way through the draft of the entire final arc while I am in North Carolina.

Email me if you’re reading this and would with high probability come to an HPMOR meetup near Wilkesboro, NC.  I don’t know yet if that will happen, but it seems worth checking.

The next Progress Report will post on September 12th at 5PM Pacific Time.  I’m putting it there (two weeks from now) to give myself an incentive to have more progress to report.

Author’s Notes, Ch. 102

The end is now in sight!  Thanks to an extremely generous anonymous sponsor, and to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute which decided it was a wise use of my time, I will be spending Aug 26-Sep 25th in a remote house in North Carolina writing the first draft of the end of HPMOR.  After this comes a standard seasoning / revising process so don’t get your hopes up for an instant update; but revising is more routine for me, and writing the first draft is the hard part.  I can’t make solid promises upon the future, but I believe with >50% probability that we are on track for HPMOR to finish before the end of 2014.

My aforementioned employer, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, is running its 2014 Summer Matching Challenge.  There’s a lot of things going on at MIRI, now—check the link to the Summer Challenge announcement for a list.

The Center for Applied Rationality has upcoming workshops:

  • September 11-14, Berkeley
  • January 16-19, Berkeley
  • April 23-26, Boston
  • Fall or Winter: Europe (exact date and location TBD, but applications are open now)

Nick Bostrom’s nonfiction book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is now available on Amazon.  Nick Bostrom is the Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute, and on a very short list of people I regard as research peers.

The second Effective Altruism Summit (August 2-3 in Berkeley, CA) still has a few seats open.  Expect representatives from GiveWell, the Centre for Effective Altruism, the Future of Humanity Institute, the Leverage Research, the Future of Life Institute, and Founders Fund, as well as MIRI and CFAR.

The philosophy behind Effective Altruism (EA) is to quantify how much good gets done per dollar in various places, and donate some or all of one’s philanthropic dollars where they are most effective.  Since there is no efficient market in philanthropy, some interventions are hundreds or thousands of times as effective as others, and those are just the ones we can solidly measure.

Not everyone in EA agrees on exactly what “the most effective thing to do per dollar” may be, or even what we’re trying to impact—are we trying to help modern-day humans? do animals also count? do we really care most about the much larger number of people who will exist in a larger future?  But we share a common interest, and a common way of looking at the world, since we agree that maximizing impact per dollar is at least the correct question to ask; and that we are allowed to be calculating about it.  I am honored to count as fellow travelers all effective altruists who ask that right question, even if we arrive at different conclusions for the moment; and I feel a warm sensation in my heart whenever I hear about someone who got involved with effective altruism through a pathway that included HPMOR.

Fan art:

(Reminder:  HPMOR is now out of room for new cameos.  I will let fan artists know if this changes.)

Recursive fanfictions:

Most awesome things I have read since Ch. 101 posted:

  • Ra by qntm, for everyone who keeps saying, “I liked the part where Harry was trying to figure out the laws of magic, can’t you just get back to that instead of having all this plot?”
  • Carpetbaggers by cofax, which addresses the question of what Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edward did as Kings and Queens of Narnia.
  • Alexanderwales is turning into an impressive and prolific rationalfic writer.  See especially Metropolitan Man and The Last Christmas.
  • The legendary Homestuck which is… Homestuck.  I’m still working my way through this.  Best on a 7″ or larger tablet.
  • The manga Qualia the Purple has updated with Ch. 14-15.  This is what it looks like to “actually try” at something.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I realized that I have a (very) short Ch. 103 that also goes before the final arc.  I am not sure what to do with it—I would have liked to post Ch. 103 with Ch. 102 but it needs heavy revision first.  I’ve also been working on a small guide on How To Write Intelligent Rational Awesome Fiction, in the hope that someday people other than me will produce works that can be read by the sort of people who say they currently have nothing to read, and possibly nothing to live for, except HPMOR.

The next Progress Report will be on September 1st, 2014 at 5pm.   (They’re mostly pro-forma now so far as progress goes, but will still contain interesting things I’ve been reading recently, or any sufficiently interesting short pieces I’ve written.)