Imagine a website where people can post questions, and receive just answers (no chit-chat). Anybody could ask a question, anybody could answer. Some questions would be fanciful, others relevant to current affairs, imaginary, or even scientific. Anything you can imagine could be asked. There would be little to no moderation.

Imagine the website then being used to "harvest" the answers by anyone who had access to the information published - and the people who participated with the best answers. Targeted individuals would then be privately contacted, or watched as the need may be, or even 'cultivated' into specific directions. Some could even be recruited to implement even better or related ideas.

Targeting inquisitive and bright minds would be tempting to corporations and businesses alike who learned of this website, perhaps government and technology industries or finance, or biology and science. Volunteering 'expertise' could even be perceived as dangerous for some, or as an opportunity by others.

So the question is, would this website be benign and beneficial or would it be something else?

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    $\begingroup$ This is way too broad. Yes, it would be used for benign purposes. Yes, it would be something else. Yes, many somethings. What's stopping it from being used for malignant purposes? $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Jan 3, 2017 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ You've ... scared me just a little. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Jan 3, 2017 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ It's funny but sometimes after I post ideas online, a few years later, a new product or intellectual property is released that has very similar ideas, and I always wonder... $\endgroup$
    – Devsman
    Jan 3, 2017 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ We have seen countless way to conquer and/or destroy the world and you say it now ! $\endgroup$
    – Rigop
    Jan 3, 2017 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ The real question that need be asked now is: Was your question put-on-hold because it was "too broad", or because you're question is too close to exposing the true purpose behind WB.SE??? $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2017 at 1:05

4 Answers 4


Ideas are over valued, I have often heard from the specialists in the innovation industry. Often the ideas are something like: "Let's use machine learning to solve problem X." Machine learning is simply statistics optimized to data to find out most probable answer. There is a lot of math behind and the actual work. Think about Linus (Tornwalds) and his Linux. No-one would even know about it, if it weren't free. The true innovation was not the product, but how it was delivered. You can still argue whether it was worth the effort for Linus to do Linux. If the Linus had not coded Linux, no-one would care about him and his ideas.

Of course there is some value in ideas, but it is often the person that has the insight is the value. There is some abstract things about implementation behind the idea, that are seldom communicated.

I think that it depends whether it is benign and beneficial. Creating lots of good ideas only says that you have potential, while having bad ideas says that you have no idea what you are doing.

  • $\begingroup$ Linus didn't create the OS. Linux (the thing Linus Tornwalds created) is just the kernel, but the operating system created by combining the almost-operating-system GNU with the-one-thing-missing Linux is commonly known as "Linux". Some say that it should be called GNU/Linux, but many distros are just "Linux". $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 3, 2017 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 no disrespect to the integral efforts of the GNU project, but marketing counts, and 'GNU/Linux', as a name, sucks. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JaredSmith But "GNU", as a name, sounds like "new". Unfortunately if somebody called a popular distro "GNU" there'd be criticism, but calling it "Linux" brings much less. This is tangential to the answer though; if we are to continue this discussion it should be done in chat. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 3, 2017 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ I removed that part of OS from the answer as it is not necessary and wrong. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Asoub In the case of the idea being "open source", GNU is the implementation. GNU (the userland) was still in active development, but quite usable, by the time Linux came around. IIRC, the early versions of Linux were licensed under a different license, but the kernel pretty quickly adopted the GNU GPL. (Nowadays, it's essentially stuck with it.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jan 3, 2017 at 16:14

The website is just a collection of ideas - either realistic or theoretical or fantastical one. It's how you use the info that defines you. Don't forget, a knife is neither good or bad, it's just a tool. You can use it to slice bread or kill someone.

So, you ask a fantasy question about aliens wanting to spread a virus to the atmosphere to kill us all, and I provide a good answer on how to prevent this, or how to best accomplish this using a fantastic (non-existent) spread mechanism.

General Havok reads this and finds it to be a good option to weaponize (either offensively or defensibly). James, the farmer, reads this and considers it a good approach to help him spread vaccines to his diseased crops. Dr Evil finds this to be a good solution to spread his deadly virus. An artist finds it to be a good approach, adding colors to the spreading mechanism and creating images out of colored clouds. The possibilities are endless.

  • $\begingroup$ Aren't there specific knives for different lives? Like there are daggers and bread knife, which are very different in shape. $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Jan 3, 2017 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ yes but the original idea was something along the lines of "create a tool to cut something". This evolved/upgraded to various tools/shapes of same behavior (bread, cotton, flesh, humans, etc) $\endgroup$
    – andrew
    Jan 3, 2017 at 11:30

Someone could set up a website to harvest questions and answers. General information can be broken down into categories and would be beneficial, as the Stack Exchange network proves.

Several institutions already do something like this, including MI5, the UK security agency. They set an annual quiz that they publish and invite people to solve. If you can solve it, they offer you a job interview!

To use this for evil, you would run up against the problem of implementation. Ideas are a starting point, but you need to be able to implement them. Even having a prototype is not an answer. Prototypes usually start out working on a small scale, but might not scale-up.

Overall, the Internet provides a place to do this, where lots of people can benefit.


The answer is Yes. Agencies, governments, next Bond villain can and probably are watching this board. And many others.

The proof is very simply: in World of Warcraft there was this "disease" spread by animals. Epidemiologists used this opportunity to study how people act, how the "virus" is spread. In the same time FBI put on "potential danger" people who well knew they are infected but spread the sickness, violated quarantine rules or used macros or hacks to further weaken the players and community for they own gain or just "for the LuLz".

What we are doing here is basically the same "The Pretender" was doing in the tv series.

  • $\begingroup$ I know the incident (it was with Hakkar), but do you have any sources for your claims of FBI surveyllance? $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Jan 3, 2017 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ engadget.com/2008/06/11/… There is also a report from 2009 I think about CIA, FBI and other using WoW, Second life and similar to spy on terrorists. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ The Corrupted Blood effect was spread, and could only be spread, deliberately. Using the virtual worlds to spy on terrorists was simply because they were using the virtual worlds to communicate. It's unrelated to people playing games. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jan 3, 2017 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, those two things are unrelated. But while scientist we're busy with mapping the way human act while sick the FBI (already present in the game) targeted player who spread it deliberately as potential thread in real life. Just like Columbo asking one last question. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 11:41
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    $\begingroup$ I think everyone nows that agencies look into online communities. WoW is no exception. But the specific claim is that spreading the corrupted blood made you a target for the FBi, and its that claim I'm very sceptical about. I don't see any connection between real-world terrorism and spreading a disease in an MMO. I think they are more interested in communication channels... $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Jan 3, 2017 at 12:33

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