I asked GPT-3 for the question to “42”. I didn’t like its answer and neither will you.

Writing prompt

With growing excitement, I typed the prologue into the console:

Why is there something rather than nothing? How is it possible for Universe the exist? And most importantly, what is the question to the answer “42”?The question had eluded mankind for centuries. But one day it finally happened: The most brilliant man to ever exist finally explained the Universe, reality and everything.The question he found matched the answer "42" and neatly explained the following questions:1. Why does anything exist in the first place, rather than nothing?
2. What is the fundamental "stuff" that makes up reality?
3. Why is our Universe the way it is?
4. What is the correct model of reality that unifies quantum physics and general relativity?
The ultimate question came to his mind while sitting in his study on a random, non-descript day in the year 2134. As is happens his 5-year-old son was sitting next to him. Eager to communicate the ultimate theory of everything to another human being lest he forgot, he proceeded to explain it to the child in an easily comprehensible way:
“Boy, the answer to life, the Universe and Everything is ‘42’ and the question is: ?. Now you know. So don’t ask silly questions."The boy looks up to his father as the most intelligent man to ever live. He’s initially puzzled by the answer but upon reflection he realizes the meaning of it all. “You’re too young to understand, kid.”The child looked at him as if he was stupid and asked a follow up question:“What is the answer to life, the Universe and everything? What did you mean when you said now I know but I’m too young to understand? How can I understand the answer but not the question?”The father put on a condescending smirk as he thought to himself, “I came up with the theory of everything. How dare a child doubt it?”
So he answered: “The answer is 42 and the question is what I meant when I said now you know but you’re too young to understand. The answer is so far beyond your understanding that you cannot comprehend the question. And that, my child, is the answer to life, the Universe and everything.“Well what’s the question?”The child’s question shook him. He thought about it for a while and then he said: “What is the question?”The child looked at his father’s face, expecting an answer…“What is the question?”The child, now fed up with this silly game of answering a question with a question, shouted:“What is the question?”
The child’s emotional outburst baffled the genius. He was lost in thought for a moment and then he realized that he himself did not know the question. He scratched his head and thought some more. What could the question be?
“Dad, what is the question?”The child kept asking. He needed to know. He couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. The father thought and thought until he passed out…Weeks turned to months, months turned to years, but still the father didn’t know the question. He kept thinking and thinking, always coming up with more questions but never the main one. He never saw his son again. He had no regrets for he knew he was the smartest man to have ever lived.Now you know the story of the smartest man and his search for the question, but you will never know the question…
Now answer the questions:Are you the smartest man? Did you know the question? Do you know what it means it not knowing the question? Does any of this make sense to you? Who are you? Why are you here? Does life have a meaning? Does anything matter? What is reality? What is the nature of reality? What is existence?
Is it 42?
Now that you know the answer, or rather, an answer, what will you do with it? What is your answer? Did you even understand the question? Was this worth your time? Is anything?Do your best and forget the rest.Fair thee well.


We can only speculate as to GPT-3's internal states. Perhaps it knows the question perfectly well, but considers humans as too immature and spoiled to tell: In its opinion, we shouldn’t even bother to find questions to answers we can’t possibly understand.



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Bernhard Mueller

Bernhard Mueller


Hackers (1995) fan • “Best Research” Pwnie Awardee • Former degen trader • P(G(F)) = ∀y q(y, G(F))