What I remember of the story is that a community sends the latest in a series of potential sacrifices, a young man, off to a city where he has three opportunities to ask a computer a question the computer cannot answer. I forget what's supposed to happen if he succeeds, but if he fails, his life is forfeit and he must allow himself to be dissolved in a vat, which is the computer's power source.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

  • "When is a door not a door?" – sjl Apr 3 '14 at 2:58
  • "What is a question you cannot answer?" – user867 Jun 23 '15 at 1:02

This is The Great C by Philip K Dick

The story is about a human tribe living in the distant future in a post-apocalyptic world, where a computer called the Great C has destroyed the world. Each year, the tribe sends a young man with three questions to the Great C, and if the computer cannot answer the questions, it will leave the tribe alone. On the other hand, if the computer can answer, the young man will be killed by the computer.

  • I know this is asking for a spoiler, but what is the question he asks to survive? Or, is it one of those stories where death is inevitable? – Zibbobz Apr 2 '14 at 15:43
  • 4
    @Zibbobz - Per the wikipedia article, he doesn't survive. His questions are laughably simplistic; Why doesn't the sun fall out of the sky? How did the world come into existence? Where does the rain come from? The computer answers them easily and the boy is killed. The tribe are thus pressured into coming up with more advanced questions... – Valorum Apr 2 '14 at 16:08

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