The Theories behind Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

I am currently reading the 1600 pages epos Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR) by the American artificial intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky. Since I found no comprehensive summary of the theories and motives of this book, I try to keep this blog post as a log for myself and anyone interested.

The idea of this book is ingenious: What happens if Harry Potter, who was raised by a loving family and taught to explain everything by scientific reasoning?

4 - The Efficient Market Hypothesis

One competent hedge fundie could probably own the whole wizarding world within a week.

The efficient market hypothesis states that prices reflect all the relevant information and that it is impossible to beat the market. In the Harry Potter Universe, the Gold to Silver exchange ratio is 1/17, while in the Muggle World it is currently about 1/85. Harry wants to exploit this inefficiency in order to beat the market is the task. He believes he can achieve this by trading between Magic Money and the precious metal market in the Muggle world.

5 - The Fundamental Attribution Error

When we look at others we see personality traits that explain their behavior, but when we look at ourselves we see circumstances that explain our behavior.

We humans have a trait that we believe strongly that what other people do directly reflects on who they are as a character or person. That is the Fundamental Attribution Error. we human beings believe that what other people do directly reflects on who they are as a character/person. The issue here is that we disregard easily that there might be history, context or story triggering the behavior of the other person.

6 - The Planning Fallacy

The planning fallacy is when we underestimate how long something will take to complete, for example, software projects. In HPMOR Harry thinks of it not in aspects of time but in pessimism about basically everything. In this chapter, he states that he has to always assume the worst possible outcomes since otherwise he is not prepared for the outcomes. This chapter isn’t specifically about the planning fallacy but more about optimism bias. Optimism Bias happens when you believe that bad things are less likely to happen to you (which they are not)

7- Reciprocity

In this chapter, Draco offers insights into his private life and Harry feels compelled to do the same. In Social Psychology there is a theory called Reciprocity, which basically says if you do something (nice) for someone, they are (more) likely to do something for you. This sometimes even goes as far as that the return is disproportionate to your “investment”.

8 - Positive Bias

Hermione spills a drink on robes, but the robes are clean after three seconds. Harry challenges her to form a hypothesis. By spilling the drink on Harry, she comes to the conclusion that the robes must be charmed. Harry introduces the 2-4-6 Game by Peter Watson. He provides her with the triplet 2-4-6, and she can ask whether any other triplet follows the rules, Most people tend to test their hypothesis by asking only questions that validate their hypothesis and do not try to falsify it. This is called a positive bias. The simple rule of the game is just 3 numbers ascending. After finishing this game Hermione spill drink on the floor, which vanished immediately. Thereby she comes to the (correct) conclusion that the drink is charmed.

12 - Impulse Control

Well that was a short little journey to godhood. Even I expected this to take longer than my first day of school.

The drink described before and named comed-team, does not only vanish after seconds but once swallowed something so surprising will happen that you’ll choke on it from surprise. If Harry casts a spell that makes his sense of humor so specific that he will find only one thing funny he can basically use the tea which seems Omni powered to take over the world.

13 - Conscientiousness

Transfiguration is not permanent. If you inhale or swallow part of the transfigured object you are in deadly trouble.

16 - Lateral Thinking

Give me ten unaccustomed uses of objects in this room for combat!

Harry is challenged by Quirell to come up with objects that fit this criterion. Shortly after Quirrel gives him the title of most dangerous student. Reason for this: All examples Harry gave were to kill someone, instead of merely using the object to block a spell. His own standard/assumption limited his creativity. Lateral Thinking can quintessentially be described as thinking out of the box, meaning thinking aside from the common solution solving ideas.

19 Delayed Gratification

You do not teach students to throw until you have taught them to fall. And I must not teach you to fight if you do not understand how to lose.

#book #psychology #reading #social