I'm getting tired of this site. It's supposed to be a factual site about software development and stuff. But 90% of the questions are sci-fi/fantasy questions like "If AI becomes sentient.......". The word "consciousness" does not refer to any scientifically definable concept. The answer is what ever you want it to be. What are the guide lines for this forum? are these questions even on topic? – Lorry Laurence mcLarry 8 hours ago

I share Lorry's distaste of these type of questions. Speculative questions are easy to ask, easy to answer, and easy to engage with, but they don't necessarily help humans to truly understand the field of AI (especially since many of these speculative questions are not really answerable within a reasonable timeframe). Speculative questions also might degrade into opinion-based questions, which is an obvious no-no. Many of these questions have the potential to be unanswerable.

It's not like these questions are bad. AI and science-fiction have been closely connected to each other, and people do want to speculate about the future. The scope of the site is to answer "conceptual questions about life and challenges in a world where 'cognitive' functions can be mimicked in purely digital environment", which seems to suggest that these types of speculative questions might be on-topic.

However, I don't think the site would survive if we were flooded by them.

Non-speculative humanities questions about AI are difficult to come up with and difficult to answer, but they seem to be more useful and applicable in the present-day. I think this is the type of content we want to have...

What can be done to encourage people to ask the latter type of questions?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a very important concern, thank you for raising it. I hope to have a good answer ready soon. (Potentially relevant SE blog post.) $\endgroup$
    – Ben N
    Jan 26, 2017 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


I am also concerned about low-effort speculation questions (especially those that are very broad), and even more concerned when they manage to gather several upvotes. To help stop questions you deem low-quality from proliferating, you can exercise your voting rights: cast downvotes when appropriate, and optimally leave a comment to help the author improve. Conversely, upvote good questions, the kind you want to see more of. Note that close votes and downvotes are different things with different purposes: a question can be on-topic but poorly expressed or unresearched. If a question is in a useful/interesting topic but doesn't yet adhere to our expectations, edit it into shape. Try to preserve the original meaning as much as possible.

Our site is by design a little more subjective than, say, Data Science. That said, we don't allow pure speculation; a question that is primarily opinion-based should be closed as such. A somewhat squishy question that can invite facts instead of personal beliefs and wild speculation would be allowed. If an answer is only speculation with no reasoning or sources provided, please downvote.

"You get the site you build," said some MSE or blog post, if I remember the quote correctly. New users will take the most salient existing content as precedent, so we want our best content to be the highest-voted. If you're feeling particularly generous, you can add a bounty to reward excellent answers. Alas, there's not a way to give a big reward for an awesome question. You can, however, reward authors of good questions by putting effort into writing an answer to them. It's tougher to put together something based in fact than to write up a personal opinion, but it's what we collectively need.

  • $\begingroup$ I downvoted this answer because I think your suggestion (of just downvoting) is not sufficient to solve this problem. Rules should be introduced which somehow prevent the proliferation of this type of questions. It's completely untrue that this site doesn't allow primarily opinion-based questions. Most of the questions mentioned by the OP are indeed primarily opinion-based or lead to answers that are inevitably opinion-based. Speculations are just opinions. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Apr 23, 2017 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted this answer because I think your suggestion is sufficient, and has proven to be sufficient through extensive testing on other SE sites. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 25, 2017 at 13:56

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