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171 votes

What would happen if an alien race gave us a computer capable of 2^256 calculations per second?

The destructive power of this device would be immense. If you defeated the safeguards on it, it would become the single most powerful bomb ever envisioned. Doing irreversible calculations, as ...
Cort Ammon's user avatar
  • 132k
170 votes

In a world with very advanced computer science, how would people be taught sufficient programming skills?

Complexity is compartmentalized It used to be that one person could know everything and write a book about it, like Aristotle or St. Isidore. Even after the scientific revolution began, certain ...
kingledion's user avatar
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137 votes

Why would characters spend time answering imaginary questions to fictional hypotheticals?

Gamification. Virtual scores are the nicotine of the 21st century. Also this should be moved to meta.
The Square-Cube Law's user avatar
125 votes

Why would technology dictate graphical interfaces to be rare on spaceships?

A quick web search for "CLI vs. GUI" (Command Line Interface vs. Graphical User Interface) shows that many developers hold the following1: CLI is faster for an experienced user It is much faster to ...
G0BLiN's user avatar
  • 3,607
121 votes

How long would it take to create a Windows 1.0 capable machine from complete scratch?

This demands a full chemical industry developed. (Let's guess they can get at iron ore and coal somehow, and suitable material to make ovens, and you swiped a few axes, saws and shovels to start with. ...
Karl's user avatar
  • 3,528
118 votes

What steps are necessary to read a Modern SSD in Medieval Europe?

If they are just bringing the drives, and not the attached computer, this is pretty much impossible. The infrastructure simple isn't there in 1300 to refine anything to the necessary purities to even ...
abestrange's user avatar
  • 6,122
94 votes

Does my shipboard computer slow down as I approach light speed?

This is a pretty interesting topic, and one of the things that makes special relativity so mind blowing. But the answer is: From your perspective on board the ship, the computer will function just as ...
el duderino's user avatar
  • 3,383
93 votes

What is a recently obsolete computer storage device that would be significantly difficult to extract data from?

SyQuest SparQ Drive Forget IOMega Zip Disks, any kind of standard floppy, or magnetic tapes. They were too reliable and popular, and therefore will be always relatively abundant, and boring. You need ...
Alex R's user avatar
  • 1,226
88 votes

Is It Possible to Make a Computer Virus That Acts as an Anti-virus?

That has already happened. The "2012 Internet Census" (known professionally as the Carna botnet) was a virus that infected ~400,000 consumer network hardware devices (like routers or modems) by using ...
Knetic's user avatar
  • 1,314
76 votes

How could I have modern computers without GUIs?

As almost anyone who ever used shell would say, a text based UI is much more comfortable, fast, easy to develop and just BETTER. The big problem, though, is that it's a language you have to know prior ...
Dotan's user avatar
  • 3,139
75 votes

Most efficent way to transmit binary data by human voice

This problem has been much studied. While it may be difficult to define what 'best' is, there is a very efficient one already in existence, and that's PGP Words. This method was designed for ...
Neil_UK's user avatar
  • 704
73 votes

Dangerous pending task in world managing A.I

A Faulty Watchdog Timer In the early days, the AI was prone to locking up on certain tasks (things like asking it, "What's the last digit of PI", "What would happen if Pinocchio said ...
Sanchises's user avatar
  • 1,496
71 votes

What is valid evidence in a world with perfect CGI technology?

Cryptography. If the surveillance camera contains a private key which it uses to sign its footage, that's a piece of evidence you cannot fake without having access to the camera's private key. Any ...
celtschk's user avatar
  • 31.4k
70 votes

Non-visual Computers - thoughts?

Youngsters. The first computers read and wrote punched cards or punched paper tape; they did not have any kind of user interface where being blind or sighted mattered. It was perceived as major ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 91.5k
70 votes

Way to prove you are human when the Turing test is not sufficient

I would reverse the problem. Do not try to find things in which humans are better, find the things in which we are worse. Anything with optical illusions, misdirections or anything using memory ...
Jemox's user avatar
  • 4,361
67 votes

Designing Hacking Arrows

Don't try to get information into the computer. Computer hardware just doesn't work that way. You're going to have to rely on so much extreme handwaving that you might as well have had a wizard cast ...
Cort Ammon's user avatar
  • 132k
66 votes

How could I have modern computers without GUIs?

One simple change: Never invent a Computer Mouse No matter how comforting a graphical user interface (GUI) is, it wouldn't be nearly as comfortable and useful without the invention of the computer ...
dot_Sp0T's user avatar
  • 12.1k
66 votes

How can I keep the computers on my spaceship from temperature related death after a hull breach?

Actually you have just the opposite problem. Computers inside a pressurized vessel can dump heat into the atmosphere via convection (the reason the heat sinks on the CPU in your computer have fins, ...
Thucydides's user avatar
  • 97.7k
64 votes

What is a recently obsolete computer storage device that would be significantly difficult to extract data from?

Iomega ZIP disks. They were popular in the late 1990s and were useful when the data would not fit on a floppy. They were in widespread use at the time, but now are obsolete. Finding hardware to read ...
Nate White's user avatar
  • 3,507
62 votes

Way to prove you are human when the Turing test is not sufficient

It depends on what the robots are like There is no specific test that will distinguish any possible AI from a human - you're going to have to establish the specific details of robot psychology in ...
IndigoFenix's user avatar
  • 29.1k
61 votes

Why would technology dictate graphical interfaces to be rare on spaceships?

I have worked in spacecraft avionics for 17 years and was involved in the data management system for the latest ORION spacecraft. We do actually use graphical interfaces and in fact the the ORION ...
Jamie Ross's user avatar
58 votes

How long can it really take to calculate a hyperspace jump?

An arbitrary example of a calculation with suitable complexity, that matches the complexity of a hyperdrive jump, which cannot be pre-calculated but which can be calculated and shared to multiple ...
PcMan's user avatar
  • 26.3k
57 votes

What is valid evidence in a world with perfect CGI technology?

I think you are missing the fact that generally speaking, even in courts of today, no single piece of evidence is sufficient for a guilty verdict. Sure, technically speaking, you can make an image ...
user's user avatar
  • 29k
54 votes

How could I have modern computers without GUIs?

Slightly alternative answer. You could have had a major breakthrough in voice recognition in the early days of the computer. The effect of this could be that interfacing would evolve around using ...
Deruijter's user avatar
  • 655
54 votes

Is It Possible to Make a Computer Virus That Acts as an Anti-virus?

Yes it's already happened See Welchia Virus*, discovered in circulation in early 2003. The Welchia virus downloads itself via the same vulnerability that the Blaster virus used. It then deleted the ...
Thorne's user avatar
  • 47.4k
53 votes

If magic is programming, then what is mana supposed to be?

In this cosmology, envisioning mana as akin to the computational resources - CPU time, RAM, or other crucial system components - that a sentient program or a fragment of the universe's architect can ...
intro's user avatar
  • 846
50 votes

Quantum Based AI getting around Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"

Asimov himself proposed ways to circumvent the Three Laws. "A robot may not harm a human": but what is a human? George-series robots are so human-like that they deduce they are humans. They are ...
LSerni's user avatar
  • 55.4k
50 votes

Why is Hyperspace more hostile to computers than human brains?

Brains aren't computers We often talk about brains as though they are computers, but while it's often a useful shorthand, it's not accurate. A little inaccuracy can save a ton of explanation, but it ...
Tom's user avatar
  • 15.3k
48 votes

How does one program an AI?

The purpose of AIs is to permit increasingly vague instructions. "Typical" computer programs need extremely precise instructions and they are followed without error. Modern AI's are typically given "...
Cort Ammon's user avatar
  • 132k
48 votes

How many years could notebook computers and phones be stored in a closed bunker/vault and still operational when found?

There are three really big problem components for long term storage of computer hardware, batteries, flash memory, and electrolytic capacitors. While there are other components that can fail in long-...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar

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