04 05/08

The Nine Billion Names of God (Arthur C.Clarke)

| Categories: science fiction


I want to inaugurate a new section on my blog. This idea come up since A. Clarke passed away, as a manner to share with everyone interested on, one of my little passions: Science fiction.

As starting point I chose one short story written by Clarke: The nine billion names of God written in 1953, which in 1954 won the Hugo award in the category of Best Short story, this story is about a company that sells a computer to a group of Tibetan monks, they use this machine to speed up their holy task: compiling and listing all the possible names of God and by doing so fulfil the cosmic fate of mankind.

The story begins when Dr. Wagner is refining the details of a computer’s sale to a lama from the monastery, then the story moves to the Tibet shortly before the machine finishes its task: to print out all nine billion names of God.

Here an excerpt:

“Call it ritual, if you like, but it’s a fundamental part of our belief. All the many names of the Supreme Being — God, Jehovah, Allah, and so on — they are only man-made labels. There is a philosophical problem of some difficulty here, which I do not propose to discuss, but somewhere among all the possible combinations of letters, which can occur, are what one may call the real names of God. By systematic permutation of letters, we have been trying to list them all.”

With an exciting and typical Clarke’s end is a highly recommend short story, an on-line version can be read here.