On the seventh episode of Last Week Tonight John Oliver interviews Stephen Hawking about his warning against the dangers of AI. Here's part of the exchange:

Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not-too-distant future. It could design improvements to itself and out-smart us all.

I know you're trying to get people to be cautious there, but why should I not be excited about fighting a robot?

You would lose.

Okay, for a start we don't know that. We don't know that for sure. 'Cause what could a robot do that I couldn't then fight back by simply unplugging him?

There's a story that scientists built an intelligent computer. The first question they asked it was: "Is there a God?" The computer replies: "There is now." And a bolt of lightning struck the plug so it couldn't be turned off.

The story he referenced immediately struck me as familiar. I believe other story components include that the AI was built in an isolated, possibly mountaineous, location and that it killed all but one of the scientists present when it achieved singularity. It managed this by somehow generating energy bursts which prevented its shut-down.

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    "Answer" by Fredric Brown.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 23:13
  • @user14111 - I've had to edit the other question into a more amenable format but you're right, this is a dupe.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 0:25
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    @Richard: I'm still windering about the OP's AI "built in an isolated, possibly [mountainous], location [which] killed all but one of the scientists present". I think he's thinking of a different story but I'm not sure which one it is.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 0:31
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    This is indeed a duplicate, I should have thought to check for the precise quote but for some reason I didn't think Hawking would quote it verbatim. Should have known better than to consider him anything less than infallible.
    – user42419
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 1:01
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    @user14111 It was the mention of a bolt of lightning striking the plug that made me think of another series. Dropping the God-reference I remembered that it was the "Overlord" AI from Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. series. The scenes in question were from the second book "The Overlord Protocol", Chapter 5: "My function is to serve," Overlord replied, the hovering face turning to survey the room, "if I choose." // A jagged bolt of artificial lightning shot from the monolith closest to Wu’s workstation, striking his computer and detonating it in a shower of sparks.
    – user42419
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


It seems to be "Answer", by Fredric Brown (scroll down a bit).

Here's some of the text:

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. “The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn.”

“Thank you,” said Dwar Reyn. “It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer.”

He turned to face the machine. “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

In the story, a computer has not been built, but every single computer on every single planet in the entire universe has been connected.

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