Progress Report, Jan 2015

Ch. 118-120 remain to be written, but I am taking the tentative plunge and saying that I currently but not solidly plan to begin posting HPMOR Ch. 104 on February 15th, 2015, and conclude with Ch. 120 on March 14th, 3.14 or Pi Day, at 12PM Pacific Time.  The idea of a finale celebration has been floated.  I’m curious as to what readers think about declaring Pi Day celebrations as the Schelling Point for HPMOR readers to meet up if there’s no larger local meetup.  I’d also like to know whether there’s any off-the-shelf software anyone would recommend for organizing meetups all over the world.

If I choose to solidify this date, I will post Ch. 103 on January 28th, 2015 at 5PM Pacific Time to announce the fact.


Speaking of finishing writing HPMOR, I’m looking for an English-speaking Chilean reader to meet me at the Santiago, Chile airport noonish on January 12th, in order to help me to get on a bus to another city (where I’ll meet up with Brienne).  Since I am not a Spanish speaker, this brief guidance would make me feel significantly less nervous about my trip.  Also, thanks to Exosphe.re for helping Brienne find the place where she’s staying and where I’ll be visiting her.


The 13-essay sequence forming my abridged guide to writing intelligent characters in fiction is now complete.


I highly recommend to everyone that they read the most recent newsletter of the Center for Applied Rationality:

CFAR in 2014: Continuing to climb out of the startup pit, heading toward a full prototype.

This has important new information about what CFAR did and learned in 2014, and where they’re heading in 2015.  CFAR is also currently running their annual fundraiser and I highly commend this as an effective use of charitable dollars.


I’d like to take this moment to commend to you the products of the following companies started by HPMOR readers / effective altruists:

Bellroy (owned by active Effective Altruists) makes elegant and functional slim-profile wallets. (They are recruiting for several roles including a data scientist. Interested readers should send an effortful pitch to jobs@bellroy.com.) Matt Fallshaw is one of Bellroy’s founders and is an early CFAR alum and active member of MIRI’s Board of Directors. I have many complimentary things to say about Matt that this margin is too narrow to contain.

General Biotics is a recent startup that is producing a pill-based probiotic that may help to replenish gut flora aka the intestinal microbiome.  They intend to donate 10% of profits to effective charities.  If you are currently unhappy with your digestive system, this is a quick way to test whether your gut microbes might be the cause.  (If you don’t have a current pain point but are interested in trying general improvements, you might want to wait for v2.)


Either Ch. 103 will post on January 28th, 2015 at 5pm Pacific Time (yay!) followed by Ch. 104 on February 15th, or I will have been distracted by something going very wrong (boo!), in which case the next Progress Report will post on February 1st, 2015 at 5pm Pacific Time.

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 yudkowsky@gmail.com 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.