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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Ever gotten annoyed or down right pissed off when Harry Potter just doesn’t make sense? For instance, why would Death Eaters put a giant tattoo on their own arms when they’re supposed to be super spies? Or, why didn’t Voldie just mail the entire Order of the Phoenix hand grenades to end the war? Why does Harry NEVER tell adults when he figures out secrets that might lead to the deaths of lots of people? How is a human able to transform into a cat without loss of brain functions? Why is the entire wizarding world completely stupid and incurious about the fact that muggles could have blown up the planet half a century ago? Why doesn’t Voldie make a Horcrux out of a space probe?

Eliezer Yudkowsky thought about these questions, and not being satisfied with Harry Potter, decided to write his own version, titled Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality , in which,

“Petunia married a biochemist, and Harry grew up reading science and science fiction. Then came the Hogwarts letter, revealing a world of intriguing new possibilities to exploit.”

Oh and Harry is a genius a la Artemis Fowl. If this doesn’t tickle your nerd fancy, I don’t know what will.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Harry Potter. Many of the characters were hard-working, noble and fun. I genuinely felt for the protagonists’ trials and tribulations. Maybe it was because I was so emotionally attached, that I kept getting angry at the stupid things characters did, and the inconsistency of the world in general.

Yes, I know, it’s a fantasy, and yes, it’s a kid’s story, and I knew I couldn’t have it all…until I picked up Methods of Rationality. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of science, philosophy and logic, Harry scrutinizes the world of magic bit by bit, starting with how speaking jumbled English-Latin could violate laws of physics to why the Wizarding world seems to be stuck in the 19th century in terms of ethical development.

It’s not all cold hard scientific analysis however, as Harry still needs to go through emotional trials, make and lose friends, and ultimately defeat the big bad, who, in this universe, may not be as stupid as the Voldie was in the original.

Methods of Rationality is definitely not for everyone. A friend of mine read about 2 paragraphs of it and swears to never touch it again. For me, it was like discovering Harry Potter all over again, except with rationality.

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish


  1. June 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm —

    Hmm. Humans not being at all logical, having a huge blind spot, due to assumptions that the “lessers” have nothing of value, or interest, to them, and some super villain who thinks muggles are totally scum, to the extent that he wouldn’t even probably know what a space probe was, let alone plan to use one.

    But, actually, that last one actually makes some sense, if you assume, like the diary, you “need” the Horcrux to restore the person to life. I.e., one floating outward, into space, isn’t much use, since who would know where to find it, and retrieve it, so that it could be used to restore the dark lord?

    So, in context, a lot of the decisions might only seem illogical out of context, or with the expanded information we have of what is actually going on. And, the Horcrux thing, well, there is a good reason to want it to be things that you can actually still find.

  2. June 3, 2013 at 7:37 pm —

    It has always bugged me that house elves can be freed by handing them clothes. Mrs. Malfoy doesn’t seem the sort to do her own laundry…
    So maybe it doesn’t count if they pick up clothes rather than having them handed to them?
    But Hermione leaves hats hidden to trick them in to being freed…
    AND in one of the later books a house elf mentions cleaning robes….
    It doesn’t make sense!!

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