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Please help me find a short story my uncle read in his youth. When my uncle was in his teens or a young adult he read a story that had profound impact on him and defined his life (he founded a company that takes care of homeless kids).

He doesn't have this story anymore but really wants to read it again. I want to find it for him. Since I haven't read this story myself and only know it from what he told me, there might be some inaccurate details. Hopefully this story can still be found!

The story is a science-fiction story. My uncle is 64 now, so this story must be older than 40 years! I think he read it in German (and in Germany), but it could be a translated story – I don't know.

In this story there is a computer. Humans go to this computer and tell it their life stories. The computer then picks the relevant information and saves them. It won't remember the rest. The computer decides what is relevant and what isn't.

One day a man is coming telling the computer his life story (I think he might be an important man). But the computer only saves this man's name. The man gets angry and complains to an overseer (in a way responsible for the computer) that something is wrong about the computer.

The overseer checks the computer but doesn't find any mistakes. He sends the man an apologetic letter stating he doesn't know what went wrong and asking the man to return after 10 years to try again, well aware that this man is very likely to die in the next few years.

In the end the Overseer thinks that the man must be really brave, because the overseer would not have the courage to speak to the computer at the end of his life.

Thank you for your help!

Edit: Enigma Maitreya thinks the story might be connected to a Hugo anthology. If it is the same story then the original language is indeed English!

In the meantime I tried to find the story through old magazines index's in the Internet that I think are in the relevant time frame, but I had no luck. I think (or speculate) the story is probably not from the well-known writers, because otherwise someone might have allready answered.

  • Why do people tell the computer their life stories? Is it mandatory? What do they gain from it? What use is made of the information stored by the computer? – user14111 Apr 3 '17 at 9:38
  • Again, I haven't read the story personally, but I was under the impression that people would tell the computer their story voluntary. I don't think that there was something to be gained for it, except for verifying yourselfs importance. – Mixia Apr 3 '17 at 9:56
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    Wanting to say I remember this story, it is associated with an anthology publish (less likely) or a Hugo's Anthology (Nebula Award?) for Novella's/short story's. – Enigma Maitreya Apr 3 '17 at 16:04
  • That's a great hint! So it means that this story is probably original in English too, right? – Mixia Apr 3 '17 at 16:16
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    If it is the story I remember then I read it in English for sure. The other piece and this may be making it harder for you is it is short on SCI-FI (The computer was about it) and long on making its point, which is a great point but ..... – Enigma Maitreya Apr 3 '17 at 16:42

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