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.)

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.