In Douglas Adams’s brilliant science fiction parody, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings ... built themselves a super computer ... the size of a small city.” The single task assigned to this computer, which was named Deep Thought, was to provide “the Answer” to “the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” After 7.5 million years of work, it came up with the answer: 42.
I thought of this when the editors asked me to write about “my life philosophy ... interspersed with social philosophical issues, some perspective on the nature of life and of the universe, and the relationship between economics and other disciplines.” It took me less than 7.5 million years to come up with the answer: 23.
When the hyperintelligent beings complained, “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?” Deep h ought replied, “I think the problem . . . is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.” My assignment is similarly vague. Deep thought told the hyperintelligent beings that they should construct an even larger computer to calculate “the Question to the Ultimate Answer.” I will not set the editors such a daunting task. I will merely make a few random remarks that may help sharpen the question. h ey may not, but what do you expect at er far less than 7.5 million years’ worth of shallow thought, coming from a far-from super computer who occupies barely two square feet of space?