Saturday, January 14, 2012

mostly harmless


I recently borrowed my girlfriend's Kindle for a long plane itinerary, which consisted of a six-hour overnight to Brussels, followed by a six-hour layover.  By the way, if you're ever given the chance to take such a trip, don't.  Pulling an all-nighter is one thing.  Pulling an all-nighter and then staying awake for six hours in an airport where they charge €3.50 for coffee is yet another.

Browsing through her library, I noticed she'd picked up The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the one with Neil Gaiman's introduction.)  I decided to re-read the first book, then continued on through the rest of the series.  At some point a crackpot theory occurred to me.  The further I got into the series, the more plausible it seemed:

Douglas Adams was predicting Wikipedia.

Think about it.  The Hitchhiker's Guide is a peer-moderated e-book about everything there is to know about...well, everything.  It's the single most popular reference source in the known universe.  However, the editors assume no responsibility for the content, as many of the contributors are politically biased, and many have no clue what they're talking about.  Following it word-for-word can get you killed, but it's still an effective way of getting from Here to There.

Just read this description from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot help to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate, it is at least definitively inaccurate.  In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong.

Tell me I'm wrong.

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