The question "Classifying possible sources of supernatural abilities in a simulated universe" doesn't currently give any details about that simulation but asks for weaknesses/exceptions in its laws. Is this too broad, or simply unclear? Should it be closed until improved?

It also seems very similar to another question previously discussed "Is the question "Hacking the universe" too broad?" so discussion there may be relevant.


2 problems

  1. The author ask for the limitations but he should be the one to specify them. Otherwise, it comes to the answerers to set them but that is just too broad and we end up saying that everything is possible. Unless I misunderstood what crude video game means.
  2. There are no limit (see 1)

Right now, this is too broad.

  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. I think the answer is "No its not too broad" with the caveat that the author describe what limitations or specific facets you are considering as part of their specific world (versus the general world you are framing within). $\endgroup$ – James Jan 15 '15 at 20:22

I'm torn on the best way to answer. As a programmer, I absolutely agree it is too broad, but I'm not sure if it is easy for me to explain why it is too broad to a non-programmer.

Programming languages have a class of behaviors called "undefined behavior," or UB for short. If you do something with UB (such as using memory you don't have official rights to use), anything goes. The compiler can refuse to work, you can crash, you can launch nuclear missiles, or it could work seamlessly like nothing ever happened. If you get anywhere near this class of glitch, the capabilities are limitless.

I feel like I've seen this kind of question several times. I paraphrase it as, "Hey, check out this new insanely overpowered ability/creature in my world, which you can mathematically prove is more powerful than the rest of the world combined. I don't want to get into implementation details, but how do I stop it?" I've been wondering if we should start closing such questions.

One common place they show up is the singularity. So many questions are in the form "assuming computers are better than humans in every way shape and form, and can build themselves. How do humans keep up?" The answer is "they don't," until you get into implementation limitations for computers (such as FLOPS/watt) which have been swept under the rug by the initial wording. In such scenarios, they intentionally leave the capabilities of computers boundless, but force their humans to wrestle with their implementation details.


I'm the author of the mentioned question, and I'm not sure that it is "salvageable".

The problem is that I am not good with words and I cannot precisely describe what I really want to ask about. First the question was too broad, now I get answers on a different level of abstraction that I was interested in. Yes, they are nice answers (deserving upvotes etc), but they are answers to a completely different problem - and if I edit the question more, the thread will become even more incoherent.

I don't want to break the quality of the site (especially in the beta phase it is important!) so I think it's better to close this question than to leave it open.

  • $\begingroup$ Some questions are really difficult to put into words. I find the sandbox can be useful for experimenting with a question before deciding whether to post it. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Jan 15 '15 at 11:49

I think it's too unclear to have a meaningful answer. Even the author is saying he isn't getting answers he wanted, and I don't think other readers will find this Q or the A's useful unless they are already confused.

This and what Cort and Vincent say are all true. The question does not explain well what it means, starting right off with "crude video game" when it seems to mean something incredibly sophisticated and nearly indistinguishable from the real world, like The Matrix. And you really don't explain what the actual issues and questions you are trying to get at are. The best answer to the question as written is in this thread: you need to define it more. Even the most detailed actual video games have major limitations, and the values in even a serious simulation are just entered in based on the real universe's natural laws as the programmer understands them, so they could be changed to anything without being inconsistent with the simulation itself.

Note that The Matrix simulates an earth-like world because it is trying to fool brains from the real earth so that their instincts will not notice that the world they are in isn't the one they evolved in.

In general there's no practical limit on what powers or causes there can be in a simulation, or in a story, unless the creator, programmer, or hacker decides there are limits or causes and builds them in.


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