THE ULTIMATE QUESTION IS ANSWERED

question mark

Chapter One

It was chaos and it was spreading fast.  Every day the Global news was worse, tensions heightening, famine spreading, religious and racial troubles increasing, Public unrest rising, political animosity, strikes starting in some Armed forces and Public services, massive financial uncertainty and many Banks closing.  The breakdown of Civil order and indeed World order looked only a matter of time however that paled into relative insignificance when the BIG problems surfaced.

America and China were more and more hostile to each other daily and Russia was sat back apparently waiting to confront the weakened victor of the increasingly likely conflict.  The Middle Eastern states were all suffering internal strife with the populations at last challenging the rights of their Billionaire rulers.  The extremely dark picture was getting blacker every day.

An emergency “super think tank” of the World’s acknowledged most intelligent scientists irrespective  of nationality had been arranged with a view to ANY realistic ideas for a solution being formulated.  Their Headquarters were set in a designed to be Atomic Bomb proof complex built for the most senior American intelligentsia, situated in Colorado.

America’s own Professor Benson brought the meeting to order, looking down the table at the dozen or so renown faces from around the World that he either knew personally or had certainly heard of, including no less than six Nobel prize winners.

“Ladies, Gentlemen, distinguished colleagues, I don’t need to emphasise the extreme gravity of the situation, we don’t have much time and extreme situations demand extreme measures.  ANY suggestion with a brief outline of how you would go about implementing any solution will be welcomed, discussed, then rejected or taken further depending upon merit and practicality and of course the fact that it must be able to be expedited.  We will go around the table left to right, if you don’t wish to speak but have travelled here to add your expertise to someone else’s viable project then that of course is entirely understandable, please simply state that when it is your turn to speak.”

The scientists were seated six on each side of a long table in front of Professor Benson who indicated to the first person on his left, a lady from China who stated that she preferred to listen.  In fact out of the dozen potential speakers only three had any ideas, two of which were regarded as being too radical.  It was the last speaker, Professor Foster, a quiet Englishman who put forward the only suggestion that, after initial questions was eventually regarded as the only constructive idea unless someone came up with a better alternative, and very quickly.

Profession Foster stood and addressed the chair, “Professor, indeed Professors,” he smiled and nodded around the assembly, “I suggest quite simply that we build a Super Computer, the like of which has never yet been created.  We feed it with every scrap of knowledge concerning Mankind, physical, psychological, medical, every moment of history, war, peace, religious matter, United Nation meetings, class struggle, revolutions, even trivia.”  He paused, noticing that he had everyone’s attention, and continued.

“In short we input the entire knowledge concerning the Human Race and it’s endeavours, attempts at improvements, successes, failures, EVERYTHING.  When we have loaded this colossal amount of information into the most powerful computer that the World will have ever seen then we ask it one simple question.”

“This is the question that I suggest we ask the machine.”

“TELL US HOW WE CAN SAVE MANKIND”

The room was silent, the scientists looked at each other and then commenced murmuring which developed into a full discussion.  The conclusion was that;

(a)  It was the only viable suggestion they had;

(b)  The machine could be built and;

(c)  It just might, might work!

Chapter Two

The Commander of the base was General Glenn, a fit looking clean shaven 50 year old, he was waiting for word of any progress whatsoever as Global strife and problems escalated.  He rang Professor Benson enquiring hopefully if the Professor had anything encouraging to report.  Benson replied that he had and was it possible to discuss matters immediately in fact he had just been about to ring Glenn himself.  The General, delighted to grasp at any straw, said that he would immediately be on his way to Benson’s office, discarding the protocols that dictated that the Professor ought to report to him in his office, this was no time to be petty.

The Commander soon marched into Benson’s office, sat down and lit a cigar enquiring “You don’t mind if I smoke do you?”  but not waiting for any reply, after all he had made the effort to come here.  “So what is the suggestion and how can I help?”

Professor Benson explained the plan and also informed him of the names of the various companies that they would need the appropriate items from in order to build this, the ultimate computer, including a Chinese tech supplier that would need the cooperation of the Chinese Premier in order to expedite it’s manufacture.  All the other companies involved would comply with the joint US and European top priority Government warrants that must be produced immediately.

He asked the General to give these companies advanced warning of these imminent orders so to be on standby, full details of which would be issued very quickly and that he would provide a list of exact technical requirements and specifications no later than within the next 24 hours, probably sooner, his colleagues were working on it at this very moment.

“How long will it take to build Professor?” asked General Glenn, “I give it a month before something gives out there, and I mean really gives,” he said, his face displaying the desperate fate that the World was hurtling towards, namely the breakdown of Civilisation as we know it and World War III.

“Well given that each section that we are ordering will come here pre- manufactured and programmed already, I am pleased to say, not as long as you might think,” responded Benson.  “We have the finest names in the World here and we can draft in the very best technicians to assist.  I think that working around the clock we could feasibly have it built within two weeks then we need a further week to upload the massive amount of data and THEN we see what it makes of it all and what answer it will provide.”

The General took a deep pull on his cigar, “Professor,” he asked quietly but earnestly, “Do you really think the damn machine will provide an answer, is it possible?”

“General Glenn,” replied the scientist, “This damn machine as you refer to it will store every known fact about us the Human race and the World itself since the dawn of time.  It will analyse everything, compare different alternative strategies, and decide what is best and most likely to succeed, that is assuming that it believes that we can be saved.”  He paused, “It will be, quite simply the most fantastic, powerful and most knowledgeable machine ever created.  If it can’t help us then God help us, nothing else can.”

Benson ran his hand through his hair.  “There is one thing that I am truly fearful of.”

“What is that, you mean that after all, the thing might not work?”  asked Glenn.

“No, it will work sure enough, what frightens, in fact terrifies me is if when asked the question it hums and clatters, searches and compares, and then prints out a succinct message such as

” THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF HUMANITY PREVENTS A VIABLE SOLUTION FOR CURRENT PROBLEMS, IN OUR OPINION MANKIND IS DOOMED, WAR AND EVENTUAL DEMISE INEVITABLE.”

The General looked at the Professor, long and hard as if fully comprehending the gravity of what he had just said, then turned smartly on his heel and left the room without making any comment.

Chapter Three

Everything proceeded with the desperate but controlled speed that the situation and the superb quality of the personnel involved made possible. The diverse equipment duly arrived from all over on time and the construction of the machine proceeded at record speed.

Outside of this haven of order and calm the disintegration of normality was accelerating worldwide and the exchanges between the Super Powers more threatening everyday whilst simultaneously, looting and lawlessness was on the increase in many cities and almost all countries.

World leaders had been informed of the project and the idea behind it and, to their credit, after some initial doubts, they had agreed that some hope was better than no hope at all and questions concerning it’s build progress were regularly coming in from all over the planet.

Professor Foster, the originator of the plan was sat in Professor Benson’s office twelve days into the project, to discuss matters.

“I believe that we will have completed the build within two to three days, can we have every programmer ready able and willing from that time onwards?”

“Take it for granted, guaranteed,” replied Benson, “What are your thoughts Nigel?”

“Same as yours I daresay John,” replied the Englishman, “It has every chance of coming up with something, I hope to God what it says is viable.  Anyway at least we are trying, the politicians haven’t solved anything in all the centuries of power have they, the world has never been in such a mess.  It is like a time bomb, all ready to explode.”

“On that note,” said Benson opening a drawer in his desk, “I have a fine old single Malt here, would you care to join me, you never know, there might not be time for many more.”

“A truly excellent suggestion,” smiled Foster, accepting the offered Scotch and sniffing it before sipping it appreciatively.

Three days later the computer was indeed duly assembled and the army of programmers descended upon it working day and night.

Enquiries regarding progress were now almost continuous from all Governments, diplomatically fended off by General Glenn via Professor Benson but the urgency was very apparent.  China and the USA were now almost toe to toe and North Korea and certain Arab states were making thinly veiled threats.  The Powder keg could ignite any moment Benson realised and he called Foster for a precise update.

“We should be ready to ask the question within twenty four hours, just twenty three days after deciding on the project,” he replied, “and I have to say that it is a remarkable achievement and we should have the answer just as we first imagined when we speculated on a month in total.”

Professor Benson thanked him and was pleased to pass this information onto General Glenn who forwarded it to the many other enquirers.

The General thanked him but asked, “Why could it take two or three days or perhaps a little longer to arrive at a conclusion.  I thought that computers worked so fast and this computer is the biggest and best of all?”

“It is the best of all,” replied Professor Benson, however it has far, far more information to trawl through.  Can you even begin to imagine how much?  It is going to sift through the entire total of Human knowledge!  You DO want it to arrive at the correct conclusion I assume?”

“Yes, yes of course I do, I understand,” replied the General.

Chapter Four

On day twenty five all data had been loaded including the chronicling of the world’s current problems right up to date.  The computer’s individual functions were tested and with all key technical staff in attendance along with every scientist, the button was pressed for it to go live.  A huge array of lights came on along the entire impressive length of the various banks, it quietly hummed.

Professor Foster had been given the honour of initial contact.  His question was simple but valid, he typed in “Are all of your systems functioning to full capacity?”

The printer promptly ejected the succinct reply “Yes.”

The Professor then typed in the all important, key question.

“We have a crucial question to ask you which will require your full consideration of all data prior to providing an answer whether positive or negative.  Speed in answering the question is not our priority, the correct answer is.  Is that understood?”

“Yes.”

Foster inhaled deeply then typed in the question that all of these preparations had been about.

“Given the current state of the world is there any way that we can restore Law and Order, avert war and bring peace to Mankind, with an improved standard of living in general?”

He pressed the button and the machine started reasoning.  Initially only several banks lit up but shortly afterwards more were activated until every single one was humming and blinking confirming that the full resources of the giant machine were being utilised.

Chapter Five

Not one of the key personnel apparently deemed it prudent to leave the processing room even though their work was over.  There was a grim fascination with the computer’s eventual findings and subsequent view.  It was as if this nameless machine actually held the fate of Humanity in it’s cold, dispassionate but hopefully  positive, correct and inspiring brain.

As the hours passed by the scientists waited, General Glenn waited, the Governments of many countries waited, the WORLD waited.

Suddenly at 3pm all but one of the computer’s banks ceased activity, only one light on each remained lit, signifying that it remained on.  Only the central bank was still fully lit and a bell rang to indicate that whatever program had been initiated had been completed, it’s task was finished.

Professor Benson had been sat motionless facing the computer, like the others present he was seemingly lost in his thoughts, not conversing.  He stood up slowly and walked over to the keyboard and typed in the short question;

“Can we be saved, have you the solution?”

The computer briefly hummed again and the printer chattered.  Benson moved to the printer, extracting the message from it.  Prior to reading it he found himself thinking, “Just a single sheet of paper, not much for the future of Mankind’s fate to rest on!”

Every eye in the room was on him as he read the computer’s response.  His eyes widened and he looked around the room but didn’t speak, as if transfixed.

General Glenn was the first, in fact the only person to speak.  “What is it Professor, what does it say?  Speak up man.”

Benson still failed to reply, he stood there holding out the paper towards the General who strode across to him and took the paper, quickly reading it.

A look on incredulity and astonishment spread across his face as he read, digesting those once familiar lines now contained in the dusty files of his memories from long ago.

The printout read;

“You can be saved, the instructions are;”

THOU SHALT NOT KILL

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOUR

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY

REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY

The general already knew how the five remaining Commandments would read, he sat down, still tightly grasping the paper.

THE END