Joe has a special ability where everyone always believes whatever he says. For example, if Joe says "the sky is black" then everyone believes that the sky is black. If Joe says "1+1=3" then everyone believes it. Note that this doesn't just change their affirmations of what is real, it also changes their thoughts and senses. If Joe says the sky is black, everyone will see a black sky. Similarly, if Joe says 1+1=3 then any set of 2 items will appear to be 3 items.

It's kind of like programming. With the invention of chat gpt there has been an increase in interest in "text injection hacks/prompt hijacking." This made me think, what if everyone had to do/think/believe everything, no matter what, that someone (or people in general) said.

The basic situation of my world is that text/language can reshape reality. The problem is that illogical and nonsensical commands can be formed from any language. In English, for example, if someone says "a circle is a square that gulps water to fart" then reality has to obey, and that would be an issue. Also, there is nothing to stop one angry lunatic from saying "everything got blown up in an inferno" and ending reality. Then of course, there is the issue of if someone says/writes jjjienmjdk88nug. Since reality has to obey text data, then reality would have to make that happen, but "that" doesn't mean anything meaningful.

How can I reconcile a world where whatever is written down becomes true with a world that doesn't fall apart in an instant?

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    $\begingroup$ What would actually be valid effects of this? Even your examples of "the sky is black" and especially "1+1=3" would break things hard if they literally reshaped reality. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ You said it wasn't actually true, you just said they perceive it as true. There are plenty of lunatics in our world with crazy ideas and possibly crazy perceptions, but it doesn't break the actual world. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ There is no way to do this. Computer programming is the science of writing instructions that are clear enough that the computer can execute them. Getting it to do what you want is a bonus. When you have multiple programmers working on a system, immense care must be taken to ensure that they don't break what the other people wrote. Source forks are what happen when competing ideas try to invade a code base. If you "fork" reality, then it isn't objective any more. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 18:18

11 Answers 11


Forget about consistency

There is no way that a world that must make everything that is noted true has any internal consistency. Think about the following statement getting written down:

  • Yesterday, every human, including me, died.

The result is, that the day before all humans died. But then nobody could have written the statement! We are in on the deep end of Paradox, and there is literally no way to resolve those and keep an internal consistency.

We pretty much have the time-machine-wars Redux: everybody loses and wins at the same time: the idea of a single reality existing stops being a thing the moment the first time machine activates and the sheer idea or reality becomes a theoretical construct. Everybody creates their own world by writing stuff down.

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    $\begingroup$ @D.Collins that is one interpretation that might solve the problem $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 15:29

Note: This answer was written before the question was changed to state that language truly affects objective reality. As written, the new question does not leave any room to resolve the inconsistencies and paradoxes that are a necessary consequence. I leave my original answer to explore an alternative approach that still allows for a consistent and functional world.

Reality does not actually change, just peoples' perception of it

The question actually describes two different scenarios:

Joe has a special ability where everyone always believes whatever he says


The basic situation of my world is that text/language can reshape reality.

As others have pointed out, the second scenario is quite problematic, easily leading to inconsistencies and paradoxes.

However, if text (written or spoken) only alters peoples' perception of reality, this is much easier to handle. If Joe tells me "That fire is refreshingly cold.", I might not even notice my hand burning to a crisp - and neither would anyone else who heard Joe.

Problems with nonsensical instructions could easily be handled by having the effect be subject to the reader's or listener's interpretation - whenever Joe says or writes something, peoples' perception of reality changes to what they believe the sentence to mean. If they don't understand it, or believe that it doesn't mean anything at all, nothing happens.

This works even if the power is not limited to Joe, but affects all text. In that case, language would become an incredibly powerful weapon. Likely, earmuffs and blurring glasses would be commonplace to avoid both targeted and accidental exposure to harmful text. People would carry around easily accessible emergency sentences affirming their identity as well as the main aspects of reality. Paramedics would be schooled to provide first-text-aid in the form of carefully crafted sentences intended to undo harmful effects.

  • "You are a human being."
  • "Your eyes perceive light that falls into them and nothing else."
  • "Your ears hear vibrations in the air, and nothing else."
  • "You remember things that happened to you, and nothing else."

Laws would handle harmful use of language just as they currently deal with other deadly weapons - potentially even in the form of self-executing if-then rules that people are regularly forced to read, with subclauses ensuring that they don't overwrite the conditions with their own sentences. Since communication is still incredibly important, conventions would arise to ensure that people do not accidentally alter each others' perceptions. Non-verbal communication would be commonplace, with guard clauses (e.g. "Nothing in the next sentence will affect your perception of reality.", shortened in practice to "Non-altering") being used wherever non-verbal communication is not possible.

  • $\begingroup$ @D.Collins then everyone who perceives it thinks there are no rules? $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 17:08

Old Text Overrides New Text

This allows precautions against future disaster, as well as adaptations as new threats are discovered. But those threats must be intelligently addressed in the moment, allowing for fun storytelling. Imagine that it works as a living document like the constitution. Perhaps early on, after averting a catastrophe, Joe lays down some sturdy ground rules. However, they can't be too sturdy if Joe wants to have any fun! How do you implement such a rule? Joe writes it down! Here are some examples of his rules:

  • Old text overrides new text.
  • The world can't fall apart in an instant. (Delightfully vague enough to allow multiple interpretations, almost completely solving your problem in one sentence!)
  • Text can't cause paradoxes. (Spacetime is secure, and unfortunately BBC has to cancel Doctor Who)
  • To reshape reality, text must be meaningful in the author's native language. (Phew, now "jjjienmjdk88nug" doesn't melt everything, and a babbling toddler can't accidentally cause a disaster in ancient egyptian)
  • Everything is itself. (This avoids some Baba is You-style horror scenarios)
  • Humans can't be directly physically hurt by text. (No nasty violence, thanks. May also solve papercuts)

This is just a fun idea, but I imagine that at the end of the story, the only way to defeat the villain is for Joe to give up his power by writing "After this sentence, text can't reshape reality." Then he erases the period and adds "...except to make ice cream."

  • $\begingroup$ Something written overrides something spoken? I really like your answer, especially the fairy-tale "ancient magic" vibe, and the (assumed) halls of old books, hidden away under lock and key so no one can damage them (and mostly, no one remembers them, too). I do think only a subset of your rules are actually needed to solve the problem, though. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ I leave it up to the OP whether written text must be physically preserved for its effects to continue. If Joe wants to be sure, he could just write "Written text is still in effect after it is physically destroyed" and then he is free to tear up the pages. Or maybe Joe speaks his ground rules, and written text is better used when Joe intends to end an effect later. My last paragraph does suggest that erasers are dangerous! And yes, the last 2 bullet points are bonus -- they aren't directly asked about in the original question, but they would make Joe's life a lot less messy. $\endgroup$
    – BoomChuck
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ I discovered a strange grey goo that eats all plant matter and replicates to fill all space it cal. It is safely stored in a glass vial on my desk. Safe but for my cat that is playing there will start the apocalypse in about 10 minutes, as the cat drops the vial and the grey goo will do what grey goo does: eat everything. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 6:33

There is no way to accomplish what you speak of in terms of altering reality generally merely by speaking or writing potentially nonsensical or mutually contrary things, since it would introduce inconsistency, contradicting the very nature of reality.

What can be altered is people's perceptions of reality, and in so many ways, we are already there. Perceptions have no requirement of being internally consistent, so illusions can be perpetuated for as long as the gullibility of the audience lasts, which in many cases may be forever.

Well, actually, building somewhat on Nepene's answer, there is a way to have a being that alters reality by speaking--but this being would have to be perfectly consistent, rigorous, and self-disciplined. This includes being omniscient about cause and effect, even about those consequences that would ordinarily be unintended, so as to prevent contradiction. In short this Being would have to be God.

Of course, this does not necessarily change people's perceptions, since people's perceptions are unhinged and sometimes completely unrelated to reality. So the two transformations--of reality on the one hand, and of people's perceptions on the other hand--can occur largely independent of one another.


All orders are carried out by omnipotent but not omniscient helper angels/spirits

Reality is run by very powerful and eager to serve spirits/ angels which will carry out whatever written command. They do not have infinite creativity, and if you make nonsensical commands they can't carry them out.

Past people have locked down key functions.

Key functions, like the nature of numbers and shapes and the world in general are locked out of the control of most people. Older and more powerful people with better access have written stuff like "Only those with metatron permissions or above can modify the geometry of shapes and if you try you'll be timeline wiped" and if you try to change that you'll be erased from the timeline before you can try.

Cities and settlements have also established elaborate networks of written commands to stop anyone from causing too much damage.

  • $\begingroup$ Then because the past people anticipated that, before they finish writing they get written out of the timeline. If someone does find a clever bypass to past laws written to stop destruction, then you have a story with lots of fun chaos. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 16:51

For a world to be consistent when the observed laws of physics can change basically on demand, there would still need to be a set of laws that define how this power can, and more importantly can't, act on the world. Were it that any one person can change the world for everybody, then reality would essentially just be a chaotic mess and life would likely die as it it would only take one person to end it all by stating that there is no atmosphere or something and killing everyone.

As such, what is needed is a set of rules that would keep the world in a somewhat consistent state even as several being are basically trying to twist reality with their words.

Warning: Twisting reality with your beliefs can be dangerous. Take care to avoid the strangely unaffected high school student and more importantly his right arm. And whatever you do, don't believe that the kid is a monster -- it will not end well for you.

The World "Computer"

Looking at the universe from a programming perspective, pretend that it stems from the base class of Plane. The Universe object has a set of parameters that defines its physical constants. Declare the Universe object with the proper parameters, and boom -- the universe was created.

This will make a lot of people very angry and will widely be regarded as a bad move. References aside, there's more to declare.

The celestial objects -- stars and planets may be their own objects derived from the Universe object. From there, a Planet may have Life, and Life can extend into say Human. Each Human is its own object with its own set of parameters and processes.

Basically, Object-Oriented Programming, but for the universe.

Your reality warping powers works by changing the various variables of the objects of the world. As those variables and/or flags are changes, the affects on the world change. Ideally, this can only work on individual objects but occasionally there's a person that has higher rights and might be able to affect a superclass or a group of objects.

Depending on the strength of the reality warper, they will have specific access to affect changes in the programming values of the various objects of the universe. Of course, like any good systems, there are forces that are there to prevent malicious or undesirable changes to the code.

The sysadmins of this reality program should be checking into malicious changes, but they are busy with their sister and her boyfriend.

The Laws of Reality

As stated, there needs to be some laws to keep reality working properly. To keep the programming metaphor going, you can't change reality in such a way to create a syntax error in reality and crash everything. As such, there are four rules that this reality changing power adheres to in order to not break anything with a description to follow.

  1. Law of Paradox Prevention -- No statement can change reality in such a way as to create a paradox
  2. Law of Awareness -- For a statement to change your reality, you both have to perceive the statement and have it make sense
  3. Law of Subjective Reality -- What you perceive is not what somebody else may perceive
  4. Law of Collective Reality -- The belief of the multitudes is stronger than the belief of one

Law of Paradox Prevention

This rule prevents things that would cause a paradox in reality trying to resolve it. As a rule, it's pretty straight forward -- you can't kill somebody yesterday by stating it today.

From a programming perspective, it's about using data validation to ensure that your programmed changes in reality don't cause an error in the system and crash it. Whether the validation is on the data of reality as a whole or on a person, the point is that what you say is vetted to not crash the system.

Error checking is very important when it runs reality.

Law of Awareness

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? That, but applied to reality warping.

Basically for reality to change, somebody has to perceive it. In the context of the question: Joe can say that the sky is black, but if nobody hears it, then really only Joe is affected by the statement. Should other people hear him, they will believe the sky is black

Going back to the programming metaphor, you have to not only have access to a Person object to change their reality, you have to know about that Person object in order to affect it. After all, you can't change code that you don't know where it is. The same would be true no matter what entity you're referring to -- the floor, a rock, a tree, etc.

Law of Subjective Reality

As it says -- Reality is subjective. What I see may not be the same as what somebody else would see. For a more literal example, compare the vision of a colour blind person compared to an average person (trichromatic) or a tetrachromatic person.

Alternatively, using the 1 + 1 = 3 example, there are multiple ways to resolve this statement. One could always see an third item where there are supposed to be two as per the question. Alternatively, one could resolve that statement by the reversal of 2 and 3. There are absolutely a host of side effects with that interpretation, but there was nothing in the assertion that denies that perception of the new reality

Programming-wise using the sky is black statement, the Person object could have a colourIsSky variable. It could be black for Joe and those he has told, but for the rest of the world, it is blue. The variable values are different for different Person objects.

Law of Collective Reality

In short, many people believing something will make it harder to change by an individual. Consider the idea that Joe says that the sky is black. By telling me, one could argue that I will now perceive that the sky is black. But I believe that the sky is blue, as does common knowledge believe that the sky is blue.

Using the programming metaphor, there's two things in action here. The first is that multiple people are trying to change the same variable in the same object. One way around it is to consistently change the value, but it is taking the other way and locking the value in until the conflict in the changes is resolved.

For things believed by the masses, the variable that was once editable is not a constant value and unable to be changed by the average person -- one needs higher permissions to change a constant value.


The Matrix resets

When an invalid operation happens the system crashes and resets itself, loading the last autosave from a valid state.


It happens all the time already, it's called propaganda...

Just an example: "Hitler was far right" was repeated so often that billions of people believe it like gospel, despite Hitler himself ALWAYS having said he was a socialist and that fact being well published.

Tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of people believe that Covid-19 vaccines are bioweapons, that the disease doesn't exist, despite all the evidence to the contrary, simply because they choose to very selectively believe certain people over others, disregard any information that doesn't reinforce those beliefs.

The hard part (and it's not that hard, a lot of (maybe even most) people are extremely gullible) is planting those first seeds of misinformation in a believable fashion. After that the hoax takes on a life of its own and once it gains critical mass there's almost no stopping it. That's what charismatic people are so good in, making people believe the weirdest things and disregarding reality.


Sentences are interpreted by the worst, but kindest Djinn

You know how evil genies of the lamp alter people's wishes? That, for instance if you wish to be incredibly powerful, they transform you into a powerful yet crazy monster? That if you wish to be the richest in the world, everyone's purse get empty excepted yours which now contains a single gold coin?

Your idea is following the exact same principle, excepted the djinn listening to you is the guardian of this world : All texts are wishes, and all are fulfilled in a way that ends in the least damage possible to the current's reality. This is getting into story territory as wishes's contents are driven by the story, not by the world. However, I'll give answers to some examples you raised out, so you get the gist of how to interpret them :

  • (You wish) the world is engulfed in an universe-wide inferno : Of course... In 50 billion years, when a new big bang will happen. The time is given? Well, too bad you didn't say which kind of world it was. Perhaps the little Earth-globe on your desk just turned into cinders. Or perhaps it's your world which got burned to ground, so your family and your village went into blaze?
  • "Kazeiormlqsdkl" : Was that ever a wish? If we make an analogy to computer science, this sentence will raise an error at the execution, and so will not be executed.
  • (You wish) Life never came to existence. Great, everyone are technically (un)dead now, since this world became some kind of temporary heaven/hell/purgatory. People don't know it, of course, since the sentence was not about remembering their previous life. Or perhaps it's just that life was always here now?
  • (You wish) You make reality exactly as you think them. Congratulations, you vanished into the air and are now part of the universe. You will make reality as people (they now are part of you) try to change reality. Since you're now the Djinn, you'll think about each wish like the original Djinn, ie. interpret them in its kindest way.

Understand that as long as you're not showing good will, there will always be a way to turn a sentence "the wrong way". An omnipotent deity will always find something, even if wishes are made one after the other.

Note on your world

As I read it, your world will be hard to sustain, both from an in-world perspective and for your audience. Let's say that there are thousands of people, with even a meager 10% potentially writing wishes every day. This is still a lot of reality-changing wishes, a lot more than what is possible to understand as one of its reader.

To reduce the risks of breaking the suspension of disbelief and losing attention, you'll probably need to give strong conditions to call upon wishes. There's a reason in fairy tales djinns only grant 3 wishes/person, and that there's at most one or two djinns in the world : It keeps the topic raised by such powers focused on what you want to tell.

Adding rules like "You cannot wish to have 100 more wishes" also prevents altering the system against your favor. In this case, I believe you want people to keep altering reality, so you might want to add an innate rule that you cannot write that "texts can't change reality".

To end this part, remember well that wishes are a very convenient and powerful tool for the story, not for the world it is happening in.

  • $\begingroup$ "I wish that in 2 minutes this world is coated with a thin layer of self replicating nanites that for the next millennium eat all the trash on the planet so we can live in a clean world." (10 minutes later) "All humans are trash and no human is not trash." => Grey Goo event started, humanity ends. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:57

the world this happens in is fictional

this idea would be incoherent if applied to a real world with actual natural laws that have to be consistent. but luckily, this is worldbuilding for the purposes of fiction (unless you happen to be god ofc). the world it's happening in actually is made of words (or pictures if you're making this in some visual medium, or other symbolic sense-impressions). it can contradict itself and contain lacunae freely.

if facts made true by speaking them override merely empirically observed facts, then contradictions are only bad when they're between such facts-by-fiat. if the sky is black now, the physical implications of that need not be relevant since the reason the sky was blue yesterday wasn't because of physics, it was because that was how you described it. if someone does say "p and not-p", then any consequence may ensue, but that doesn't mean every consequence must ensue. since a story is generally a linear sequence of events, you can just pick one possible consequence that you like. i usually go for 'something explodes' when i write about this sort of thing, because it's the principle of explosion. which is to say, if a character does choose to locate and observe a lacuna, presumably they'll be eaten by a wogly.


You can achieve this effect right now using magic - the real kind, defined as "the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will". It is already being used often, and with great effect too, by many people who are very much like your Joe. Advertising for example practically runs on magical formulas; so does seduction, and political slogans. Making people believe that 1 + 1 = 3 would require some more sophistication, but is perfectly doable in this way - and since we generally believe that magic cannot possibly work, we lack ways of protecting ourselves from bad faith actors.


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