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.)

Progress Report, Jul 2014

The next update, a single chapter (Ch. 102), will post on July 25th, 2014 at 7PM Pacific Time.

From August 26th to September 25th, an extremely generous HPMOR reader has arranged for me to occupy a remote house in North Carolina, and I will spend that month working solely on HPMOR.  I intend to try like hell to get at least the first draft of the final chapters fully written by that time.  Please don’t expect an update immediately after that; there’s a seasoning process where I slowly edit and polish things and think them over once they’re written, at least if they’re meant to end up reasonably perfect, and I do want the ending to be reasonably perfect.  That part, however, is much more reliable, casual, and unblocky part than writing the first draft, which is what takes unbroken concentration.  So right now it looks like HPMOR is clearly on track to finish by the end of 2014.

Latest fanfiction recs: In Fire Forged and Right Moments.  Also I finished reading Ra by qntm and it is excellent and 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?” ought to go read Ra right now.

My current brilliant idea is that myself, Andrew Hussie of Homestuck, and Sam Hughes of QNTM, should all finish our respective masterworks, then coordinate with each other to start posting simultaneously, on the same days, at the same time of day, preferably late in the evening, starting just as finals begin.  Because that’s the closest we can come to actually eating our readers’ souls.

(Just to be clear:  That was a joke.  I haven’t talked to either of them.  Yet.)

Progress Report, Jun 2014

No writing progress to report.  May was one crazy month—well, you don’t care about that.

Question to the general readership:  Does anyone have a quiet vacation home, not necessarily somewhere with good Internet access or more than 1x speed on Verizon, where I and my SO could spend 3-4 weeks while I just work on nothing but the final arc of HPMOR?  Maybe during September, say?  If so, please drop me a call at  You will get one of the last remaining cameo opportunities, and the eternal gratitude of many HPMOR readers.  For optimal productivity I’m looking for a quiet location, AC if the weather goes over 80 degrees, a shower stall at least the size of a bathtub, 2 bedrooms, and solitude.  Can take a plane trip in the US or Canada as required.  Will pay utilities.  And again, good Internet access is definitely not needed.  (EDIT:  I have an excellent offer!  Thanks, readers!)

If you’ve been dying to have something like a MIRI technical workshop with you and some of your friends trying to make progress on our open problems, we’re now sponsoring those at other universities.  Read up on MIRIx independent workshops for more info.

Upcoming CFAR workshops:  Jun 6-9 (Bay Area), Jul 25-28 (Bay Area), Sep 11-14 (Bay Area), Apr 23-26 2015 (Boston).

Things I am reading:  Carpetbaggers by cofax is a marvelously original-flavor continuation of the first Narnia book – what Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy went through to establish their reign over Narnia.  It’s complete, though I haven’t yet finished reading.  Alexanderwales continues to produce interesting rational fics, including A Bluer Shade of White (Frozen, complete) and Metropolitan Man (Superman, updating once/week).  I’ve very slowly started to read Ra at QNTM (I’m on Ch. 3).  And I’m sloowly making my way through the legendary Homestuck which is… Homestuck. That thing is not going to be everyone’s cuppa tea and darn me if I have any idea how to describe it; besides that it’s best read on a 10″ Android tablet using the Dolphin browser so you can read the Flash parts.

I estimate a >50% probability that the one-chapter short update, Ch. 102, will appear in July.  I… hope people don’t get too worked up about this, because it’s just one chapter.  But I know that far too many of you have nothing else to hope for.

Next Progress Report on July 1st, 2014, at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, May 2014

No new writing progress to report; moving to Berkeley ate everything.  I’ve been trying to write up a small guide to writing fiction with intelligent characters and other rare vitamins of HPMOR, but that’s not done yet and may not be done soon.  Next month is a MIRI workshop, but after May the pace of other imminent priorities should slow down a bit once more.

Recent good reads:  I am currently in progress on the non-fanfiction Sunshine by Robin McKinley and it seems quite good so far.  Back in the world of fanfiction, the Toasterverse, and particularly the first story In Which Tony Stark Builds Himself Some Friends, receives the honor of being the first fanfiction so hysterically funny that I read it even though it’s M/M slash, skipping the sexy parts so I could read more about the things Iron Man builds when he’s sleep-deprived.  The non-funny parts are nothing special yet; the humor is already Terry Pratchett level.  Also on the pretty-good list is the LOTR fanfiction Back Again by Waugh, featuring PeggySue!Bilbo.

There’s a large online fundraiser on May 6th for many different charities, in which the Machine Intelligence Research Institute is participating, featuring up to $250,000 in matching funding from sources that would not ordinarily give to effective altruist causes.  The gotcha is that this is $250K total, not per institution, and the rules for which charity gets it seem to be complicated.  If you’re interested in giving $500 or more on May 6th in a coordinated fashion, please contact Malo at, and see this blog post.

That’s it for now.  Next Progress Report as usual on June 1st, 2014 at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Apr 2014

3,000 words into Ch. 103.  MIRI has just hired Benja Fallenstein and Nate Soares as the second and third full-time researchers, and I expect to spent most of April working with them.  While I do think that making some steady progress on HPMOR is important, I also think the main plan is going to be to spend some time with Benja and Nate, write up existing progress to a suitable tutorial quality for bringing in other minds, finish the Open Problems in Friendly AI writeups, and then, with something like a clear conscience because all important things are already in progress and moving forward, set aside a huge block of time to finish HPMOR.

This day I have written and published “The Confession of Eliezer Yudkowsky“.  Since this is April Fools’ Day, nothing in it is true.  Remember that if you find yourself tempted to take it seriously, because you shouldn’t take it seriously, because nothing in it is true.

At the top of my list of fanfiction recommendations is the Worm fanfiction Cenotaph, by ‘notes’.  You must have read Worm first, but if you have, Cenotaph is the most original-flavor thing I can ever remember reading.  Also on the pretty-good list are the warning incomplete Worm/Exalted fanfics Memoirs of a Human Flashlight, She Who Skitters in Darkness, and Goblin Queen; the Worm/Lovecraft Starry Eyes; and the Worm fanfics Tale of Transmigration and Bug on a Wire.  I’ve been on something of a binge.

Jonah Sinick (formerly at Givewell) and Vipul Naik (silver medalist, International Mathematical Olympiad) have started Cognito Mentoring.  This is targeted at gifted slash highly intelligent students, and tries to provide them with counseling to make the best of their lives.  Mentoring, help in selecting good places and ways to learn, help in locating the right online resources to get started on calculus or whatever, statistics about which college careers have which expected outcomes financial and otherwise, etcetera.  I have heard sufficiently good things about them to advertise Cognito Mentoring here, where it may be of some interest to certain HPMOR readers.  Sinick and Naik say that they’ve recently been shifting some focus away from additional tutoring to writing up (for free) the info that previous students have found most useful, which appears on the Cognito Mentoring Wiki.

As always, further Progress Reports will arrive on the 1st of each month at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Mar 2014

Ch. 102 is finished and mostly polished at 3,874 words; and I’m 358 words into Ch. 103, meaning that I’m now beginning work on the Last Arc.  I used to think that the important thing was to begin things, because then they could continue.  Today I think the more important thing is to be able to find solid uninterrupted weeks in which to work on things, which I obviously haven’t been able to do so far, just a couple of hours here and there.  But nonetheless, I’ve begun writing the Last Arc.

Although I expect a certain amount of dissent to this decision, even though Ch. 102 is complete and is a standalone chapter I am not releasing it immediately, because, as hundreds of you have already begun to type upon your keyboards, I am pure evil and have no intentions in this decision other than to cause as much reader suffering as possible.  Actually, my reasoning is that it may be a while before the Last Arc is complete, Ch. 102 is kinda short, and hence I’m going to save it to release it during summer, in what will hopefully be the middle of the interregnum, if I can really finish up this year.  Go ahead and hate me.  I suppose I’ve earned it.

Fiction recommendations:  Have you seen BBC’s Sherlock?  Imagine that he’s Lord Voldemort, John Watson is Harry Potter, and the two of them meet after time stops just before a nuclear war starts.  That’s How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Lord Voldemort, by cheryl bites.  And another word to the ever-growing MLP Loops, which contains by far the best confrontation I’ve ever seen between Fluttershy and 40K’s God-Emperor of Humankind, and is now up to 69 chapters and 638K words.  If your tastes run to seeing Louise de la Valliere summon Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of Zero by Nietzschian is surely the best work in that particular category.

In sadder news, we, his readers, all mourn the passing of Brian Randall, author of the now-forever-unfinished “Kyon: Big Damn Hero“.

As always, further Progress Reports will arrive on the 1st of each month at 5pm Pacific Time.