I am trying to remember the name of a short story I heard on radio 4 about 15 years ago.

A civilization builds a giant computer to answer their deepest questions. With great fanfare they turn the computer on. As the machine starts all the people gathered to watch the event stop moving, they stop thinking.

The idea is that the thoughts of the people come from their environment. The mind is a filter for the thoughts of the universe, allowing them to be experienced. Hence the mind is not the originator of thought. The computer, being so powerful, sucked the thoughts from the universe before the people. And so the people fell silent, without thought.

I thought it was utter nonsense at the time, but I have come back to revisit these ideas and would really like to read/listen to the story again...

  • 7
    Is the answer 42?
    – Valorum
    Feb 12, 2014 at 15:10
  • 2
    For what it's worth, I've seen people refer to the concept of ideas existing as a space outside of human consciousness as the "noosphere", so it would not surprise me if using that term might point you in the right direction.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 26, 2014 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


The story you are looking for is Song of the Silencer by Brian Aldiss.

  • 6
    Can you please add some data points to back your answer and why you think Song of the Silencer is story OP is looking for
    – HBhatia
    Mar 29, 2016 at 6:02
  • This is it. Thank you very much, I was beginning to think I might have dreamt it!
    – Marcus
    Mar 30, 2016 at 15:06

Could this be the Harlan Ellison tale 'I have no mouth and I must scream’ which was broadcasted on bbc r4 in 2002.

This site gives a description:


Following Humanity's destruction at the 'hands' of a conscious super-computer, five people are kept 'alive' in its belly for its sadistic amusement.

  • 4
    No, I've read that story and it has nothing to do with sucking thoughts out of people, nor does it show the creation of the computer. It's just a computer that really, really hates humanity a la Skynet, so it killed off nearly all of them and kept a few as playthings.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 14, 2014 at 23:43

It sounds like the Multivac from the Asimov books... Franchise maybe ? Or Last Question ?

  • 4
    Definite similarities betweens the OPs question, and Asimov's, "The Last Question". Though the only question humanity asks the computer is, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?" In effect, how can the predicted end of the universe be stopped? The computer does not suck the thoughts from humanity, but exists in hyperspace and survives when this predicted end occurs.
    – Firebat
    Oct 3, 2014 at 5:39

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