The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything Is Forty-Two

Douglas Adams? Deep Thought? Geoffrey Hinton? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: The number forty-two is sometimes presented as the answer to life’s deepest question. Where did this answer originate? Who suggested this eccentric and opaque answer?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1978 BBC Radio 4 broadcast the science fiction comedy series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” created by Douglas Adams. The fourth episode recounted a tale about the answer to humanity’s ultimate existential question.

Millions of years ago a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings decided to build a computer called Deep Thought to solve the problem of Life, the Universe and Everything. After the computer was finally built and the question was posed, the response was displeasing. Deep Thought stated that it would require an additional seven and a half million years to arrive at an answer.

After this long waiting period elapsed, a magnificent ceremony took place, and the pan-dimensional beings waited expectantly for an answer. The speakers identified as One, Two, and Three are computer attendants. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1985, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts by Douglas Adams, Section: Fit the Fourth, Quote Page 79, Harmony Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

DEEP THOUGHT: All right. The Answer to Everything …
TWO: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: Life, The Universe and Everything …
ONE: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: Is …
THREE: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: IS …
ONE/TWO: Yes … !!!
DEEP THOUGHT: Forty two.
(Pause. Actually quite a long one)
TWO: We’re going to get lynched, you know that.
DEEP THOUGHT: It was a tough assignment.

Deep Thought indicated that simply knowing the Answer was not enough. The next task was to build an even larger computer with an organic component to determine the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought said it would design the new computer, and it would be called Earth.

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References

References
1 1985, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts by Douglas Adams, Section: Fit the Fourth, Quote Page 79, Harmony Books, New York. (Verified with scans)