What is 42?

More here.

For a long time, I have been thinking that in the age of large scale human networks with its tremendous potential for aggregating distributed expertise, it is perhaps even more important to ask the right questions than it is to answer questions once posed. I am also aware of my limited knowledge; unlike Douglas Adam’s infamous computer I can’t compress the universe into a single number. He who can’t answer must question instead. My goal is to ask questions on a 42 point (nonlinear!) scale:

  • 1 = Obvious, like trying to remember where you left your coffee.
  • 2 = Takes a little more effort; a crossword puzzle.
  • 3= Term paper.
  • 4 = Getting serious now; a master’s thesis.
  • 7 = PhD thesis.
  • 14 = Life’s work.
  • 21 = The work of an entire community.
  • 42 = All of human knowledge

These signposts are all calibrated to academic achievements, but you get the point.

The first (21 point) question is now posted here. I plan on posting a new question (with its associated q number, 1<= q <= 42) every week if I am lucky and no less than once a month.. The questions will also be cross posted here and on several other networks.

If you have a question that you want to throw into the pool, just submit it on the site or here.

This blog itself is the best place to respond to the questions. Every so often, I will aggregate the responses; if the experiment goes well, it might even be worth building an aggregation platform for that purpose, like stackexchange or mathoverflow, only more interesting 🙂

The purpose of this project is to see if we can aggregate our wisdom in interesting ways. If nothing else, it will be fun to collect a bunch of interesting questions and if it works, who knows?

PS: Why 42?

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