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In many episodes with the Q, they seem to place themselves as omnipotent and ultra-intelligent, superior beings - but at the same time, they do such a poor job at portraying themselves as omnipotent, that I'm asking myself how that fits with their "selfproclaimed" superior intelligence.

First of all, a really omnipotent being should be omniscient. Why? Because as an omnipotent creature, you'ld be able to make yourself omniscient.

But they are obviously not omniscient, proven by the many "surprises" they face. This also makes it a bit weird when time travel plots come into play... how can a species that is not bound by time, be surprised by the future? (example: when Q is punished and turned into a human). The result of that is that one can guess: No, the Q are not omnipotent.

Now, why do such incredibly "intelligent" beings do such a poor job at making others believe they are omnipotent, as they seem to imply? If they really are so incredibly intelligent and superior to humans, shouldn't they have a much easier time to manipulate them than just doing some "magic tricks"?

The reasons for this out of universe are obvious (after all, there is still a need to create characters that are entertaining) - but what would be an explanation in-universe? Is it as obvious to other species, that the Q are basically lying? Do the Q, in reality, possess human intelligence just with more knowledge?

And yes, they can access a huge amount of knowledge in a very short time - but that's not intelligence. A computer can do that too.

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    Just because you have access to all information doesn't necessarily mean you've noticed everything. The Q likely see branching realities of possibility, and thus may not be certain what will actually come to pass.
    – Nerrolken
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:08
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    Have the Q ever really claimed to be omnipotent? The very concept is classically paradoxical. I've never read them as claiming to be omnipotent and omniscient (ie Gods), just very very close. They've stated that humanity could one day surpass them, after all. Also, you seem to list intelligence as binary - human intelligence and then omniscience. There are states between!
    – DavidS
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:08
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    Also worth mentioning: when Q is made into a human, he mentions his IQ as being 2,005. Even if this was sarcastic (which is likely), it likely means that an IQ of 2,005 would be high even by Q standards (otherwise he'd have picked an even higher number). This gives us a rough estimate of his possible intelligence, and more importantly, a probable confirmation that his IQ can be measured, and thus isn't infinite.
    – Nerrolken
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:10
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    @Katai My point is that calling them omnipotent is misleading - omnipotence is paradoxical. Could a Q create a stone so heavy they couldn't lift it?
    – DavidS
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:22
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    Perspective may be the issue -- to the Amoeba in the petri dish, the researcher is clearly both omnipotent and omniscient, but not from the researcher's perspective, nor that of his/her peers. But, if the researcher could communicate with the amoeba, it would probably be simpler to claim both than to try to explain something far beyond the amoeba's understanding. A bit of condescension might be understandable, too. Then again, despite all his/her power, if the amoeba is Naegleria fowleri, it could well be able to kill the researcher if handled improperly.
    – K-H-W
    Aug 18, 2015 at 7:03

5 Answers 5

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This conversation between an ascended-type being (the Pollisand) and a more-or-less "normal" woman (Oar) comes from a different fictional verse (James Alan Gardner's Ascending, book 5 of his League of Peoples series), but it gives one possible answer:

    “Ah,” the Pollisand said, “but perhaps my facade is an act. A truly advanced being might realize it’s best to approach lesser species in a non-threatening way—as a ridiculous-looking creature who comes across as a pompous jerk barely able to keep his foot out of his mouth. It puts you at ease, doesn’t it, when you say, This Pollisand guy isn’t so scary; he’s not the swaggering staggering super-genius the rest of the universe thinks he is. You catch me making a few goofs, you throw my words back in my face, and after a while, you relax cuz you think I’m not smart enough to pull the wool over your eyes.”
    If this was an attempt to disconcert me, it nearly worked. A vastly intelligent beast who controlled what I saw and heard might indeed present himself as a silly buffoon so as not to be taken too seriously, On the other hand, a silly buffoon might boast of himself as a vastly intelligent beast who was merely play-acting. Which was more likely?
    “The most important point,” I said, “is that I wish to know the direction of your plan. What is your goal? What is your purpose?”
    The Pollisand shuffled his feet, “All right. The part of the plan that concerns you—the immediate part of the plan—is related to the race you call the Shaddill.”
    “Are you for them or against them?” I asked.
    “I fervently want,” the Pollisand said, “to wipe them off the face of this galaxy. And your part in the plan will help accomplish that.”
    “Why did you not say so?” I reached out and laid my arm across the alien’s back in a comradely manner. “Of course I shall help you defeat the Shaddill… especially if you fix my Tired Brain too. You should have known I would say yes if you put it like that.”
    “I did know,” the Pollisand said in a soft voice totally unlike his previous obnoxious tone.

Later, in the same book:

    “Hey,” he [the Pollisand] said, “I keep telling you: I’m a fucking alien mastermind.”
    “Or,” said Festina, “a complete fraud who takes credit for being a lot more omniscient than he really is. You took damned good care to keep your leathery white ass out of sight till the Shaddill were gone. Could it be you were afraid to tangle with them directly?”
    “Ah, yes,” said the Pollisand in an even more nasal voice than usual. “A god or a fraud? Am I or ain’t I?” He lifted his forefoot and patted Festina fondly on the cheek. “You don’t know, my little chickadee, how hard I work to keep the answer ambiguous.”

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  • That's actually a point I was thinking about as well, that would explain some inconsistencies (but then again, the inconsistencies would offer the problem of being too obvious). When Q was a human... he didn't know what sleep was. But he still mentioned having his knowledge about the universe. The only way this would make sense would be "acting dumb". But then again, that mistake would be so obvious that one would suspect he's "acting" - since he should know the concept of sleep. I was actually surprised that the crew didn't find that strange.
    – Katai
    Aug 18, 2015 at 12:00
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    Knowing about a concept and experiencing it is.not.the.same.
    – flq
    Aug 18, 2015 at 21:18
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If we accept that it's just "near omnipotence" instead of true omnipotence it does not change anything. He already demonstrated enough of his power to prove that he is way beyond everyone else, and technicalities do not influence that judgement nor the behaviour presented in response.

Intelligence itself is also worth looking at. While there are many definitions to choose from, they mostly converge on the idea of understanding the world and making plans in order to steer the future in alignement with their plans. The true measure of intelligence is how well an actor does in achieving it's goals. We do not know his True Goal - however, if we follow Star Treks route of "all the races are in principle similar"... His own amusement, helping people he likes and steering humanity towards an unspecified but glorious future seem to be of interest to him, and are achieved each time he makes an appearance.

And as a side note - computers are (currently) not intelligent and can't do anything with the pure knowledge available. However, the goal-achieving part of intelligence benefits greatly from having knowledge, so there is a good case to be made, that more knowledge does in fact increase intelligence

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Omnipotence is a complex concept, perhaps best defined by its inverse: how many things are there that a being cannot do? This becomes more complex if there are multiple comparable beings. What limits are there on Q's power? Other Q.

So perhaps the question is appropriately asked, what limits are there on Q's foreknowledge? Other Q. They can not with 100% surety predict each other's actions. Thus Q can be surprised, but only by Q.

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  • There is also that one episode that shows Q Continuum as a house by the road in the middle of nowhere. That episode openly states that Q used to be explorers and have fun in the universe, but that they basically got bored with their own omnipotence: there is nowhere to go, nothing to see and nothing to do, because they've been everywhere and everywhen, seen everything and done everything at least once. Q's son with Janeway was supposed to change that.
    – jo1storm
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:27
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There probably are Q who are omniscient but the ones we see haven't chosen to give themselves that ability. If they had, they would cease to interact in any physical capacity.

The Q we see like to play games and playing a game isn't much fun if you know the outcome already.

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What I call the Omnis are virtually interdependent. (Not sure of the spelling of the plural of Omni.)

Here is my list;

Omnicompetent: able to handle any situation.
Omnificent: unlimited or infinite in creative power.
Omnipotent: having unlimited or infinite authority, influence or power.
Omnipresent: present in all places at all times.
Omniscient: having unlimited or infinite awareness, understanding, and insight or all knowing.

Complete and total or absolute omnipotence can't be completely useful or fully excercised without omniscience. If you are not aware or knowledgeable about some aspect or characteristic of reality then you can't make yourself capable of understanding, interacting, or minipulating it. Absolute omnipotence would require omniscience to make full use of it.

This is virtually true of all the Omnis. The DS9 Prophets existing in the wormhole exist throughout time. They aren't trapped in our now. This is a limited form of omnipresence. An unrestricted form or absolute omnipresence would be what most consider God to be, immediately present in all places, dimensions, alternate universes, throughout all points in time thus omnipresent.

All the near godlike aliens in most SciFi franchises or stories are a limited form of the Omnis. Some seem to have more of one aspect of an Omni while having less of the others. Given the interdependence/interconnectedness of the Omnis I'm not sure they would exist. If they did I wouldn't think they would for long as I would expect the aqcuiral of one would put pressure on the entities to acquire the others.

Perhaps more accurately or precisely, a certain level of ability or level of awareness of the other Omnis is required to reach a particular level of any one Omni. Without them the level isn't achievable in any one Omni.

Also, as the higher levels are attained the more difficult the interaction with those of a lower level. At some point infinite patience would be required to communicate and educate an entity on a much lower awareness than you. They would appear extremely dim requiring what would seem to be inordinate amounts if time to educate or enlighten them.

The Q don't seem to exist at all points in time. They appear to be conscious of other points in time only when they focus their attention on it. This seems to be true when it comes to knowledge. They aren't fully aware of some knowledge until they focus on it. This is why those less knowledgeable will sometimes surprise them.

Of coarse we must entertain the possibility they ARE omniscient and possibly omnipresent but for our benifit act like they are not.

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