I recently responded to a question, since closed, regarding the social impact of quantum computing.

The reason for the closure was that any answers were expected to be primarily opinion based. This seems reasonable — in my answer, I clearly stated that any assertions were bound to be speculative in nature. That said, despite the norm violation of the question, I do see value in it being asked. Specifically, these kind of questions:

  • Encourage the community to consider the social impact and broader implications of our work.
  • Can serve as a wellspring of new ideas for practical applications of quantum computers, something which many in the QIP community see as important to the future of the field.
  • May bring to light evidence (or lack thereof) for quantum computing applications, yielding novel research directions and/or better prioritization of resources in applications research.
  • May allow for more communal inclusivity, especially for members outside of domains traditionally associated with QIP.

Of course, with these potential benefits may come potential drawbacks. These may include:

  • Low quality, opinion-based arguments.
  • Low quality, unfocused questions.

Nonetheless, my view is that these drawbacks are ones that can be mitigated against by the expectation of high-quality, logically consistent arguments and, when needed, robust evidence. This is one purpose of the reputation system and these are norms that are already well-established on the QCSE. Further, to make this meta (pun intended), we have opinion based discussions in the QC meta every day and other SE sites every day.

All said, I would be very interested in hearing thoughts from other members of the community. Thus, my question is, should we consider social impact questions? And, more generally, what criteria should we use to determine whether an answer is opinion based?

P.S. Regarding the latter question, I think it should be pointed out that communal knowledge may consist of evidence based facts and shared intuitions, the latter of which may in some instances be opinion based. Further, even when evidence supports a fact, the degree of confidence in that evidence may vary and thus some individuals may accept it whereas others may not; that is, an objective fact may have a subjective interpretation. For example, a very small minority of computer scientists believe that $P=NP$, often pointing to the lack of a proof that $P≠NP$ and ignoring the overwhelming non-specific evidence that the odds that $P=NP$ are very low.


2 Answers 2


I've upvoted your answer, and I don't personally see why such questions need to be closed. Opinion based questions are fine on several SE sites, for example Academia.SE, Workplace.SE, Software Recommendations SE, etc.

There's plenty of questions on QCSE that are not opinion based but are much worse than the question you mentioned.

However, when you see how many downvotes this answer gets, you'll realize that apart from me, there's not a lot of people interested in making this site more welcoming to the extent proposed in your question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. As an example, the World Building SE is a place where opinion and supposition are common. From my perspective, it can be done well and there’s a communal advantage to be gained from doing so. $\endgroup$
    – Greenstick
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 22:31

Generally speaking, opinion-based questions are to be avoided. This is an overarching principle of the whole stackexchange network, see e.g. Is there a place to ask opinion based questions?.

So, in my view, asking about "social impact question" is off the mark. The only relevant property is whether the question is opinion-based, be it about social stuff or not. Now, granted, sometimes it's not so obvious whether a question should be characterised as "opinion-based" or not. Nonetheless, I'd say that an example such as the one you mention here is quite straightforwardly categorised as such.

Further, to make this meta (pun intended), we have opinion based discussions in the QC meta every day.

Sure, and that's because meta sites operate under (not so) slightly different operating principles than main sites. Many types of opinion-based questions are fine here, but that doesn't mean they are in the main sites.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The link you provided is to a Meta question that was closed within 26 minutes and therefore did not get the opportunity for much dialogue, other than one answer which says opinion-based answers should not be allowed, though the answer has 17 upvotes (net score of 13) and it has a comment with 21 upvotes saying that opinion-based answers should be allowed. I also disagree with your claim that "This is an overarching principle of the whole stackexchange network" because several contrary examples have already been given, and those are SE sites much more established and active than this one. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @user1271772 meta.stackexchange.com/a/92110/276202 $\endgroup$
    – glS Mod
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 23:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So now you post a link to a question from nine years ago instead of just 7 years ago, and this time the link says nothing about opinion-based questions at all, so combined with the fact that you've just posted a link and no explanation whatsoever: I still disagree with your answer, and I still disagree with your claim that "opinion-based should be avoided" is an "overarching principle of the SE network", and no further links to meta posts from years ago will change that, especially if you refuse to address the fact that Academia.SE, Workplace.SE, Software Recommendations SE, $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ Worldbuilding SE, and others do allow questions seeking opinions. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 2:29

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