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I am looking for a short story where 2 men (very old and young) looking for a planet with supercomputer, who knows answers for all questions. Finally, they find it. But computer is not giving straight answers, as they don't know to ask proper questions. Old man dies at the end. Point is, to ask proper question, one needs to know at least half of the answer.

  • This is a pretty good first question. (At least, I take it to be a first.) But do you know when you might have read this, or where you found it? Any reason guess and other additional information would help. Thanks! – rosesunhill Mar 20 '16 at 9:32
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    I read it long time ago, 1980-is. I remember last bit, where supercomputer is asking himself questions, proper questions, and giving answers to them, – Stasa Mar 20 '16 at 9:43
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    Found it, Ask a Foolish Question by R. Sheckley – Stasa Mar 20 '16 at 10:01
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    And here I was thinking the answer was 42... – Wayne Werner Mar 20 '16 at 15:24
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    The story doesn't specifically call it a supercomputer. – Faheem Mitha Mar 20 '16 at 19:13
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I am looking for a short story

"Ask a Foolish Question" by Robert Sheckley. You can read it at Project Gutenberg or listen to a reading at Librivox.

where 2 men (very old and young) looking for a planet with supercomputer, who knows answers for all questions.

"We'll find out," Morran murmured. He helped the old man unstrap himself. "We're going to find the Answerer!"

Lingman nodded at his young partner. They had been reassuring themselves for years. Originally it had been Lingman's project. Then Morran, graduating from Cal Tech, had joined him. Together they had traced the rumors across the solar system. The legends of an ancient humanoid race who had known the answer to all things, and who had built Answerer and departed.

Finally, they find it. But computer is not giving straight answers, as they don't know to ask proper questions.

"Is the universe expanding?" Morran asked confidently.

"'Expansion' is a term inapplicable to the situation. Universe, as the Questioner views it, is an illusory concept."

"Can you tell us anything?" Morran asked.

"I can answer any valid question concerning the nature of things."

Old man dies at the end.

"Shall we go, sir?" Morran asked. Lingman's eyes remained closed. His taloned fingers were clenched, his cheeks sunk further in. The skull was emerging.

Point is, to ask proper question, one needs to know at least half of the answer.

Yes, that's the last line of the story:

In order to ask a question you must already know most of the answer.

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