“Fort-two!” shouts Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?” Defensively, Deep Thought assures the pandimensional beings that the answer has been checked quite “thoroughly.” “I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is,” Deep Thought posits. Pouchg and Loonquawl find this absurd, repeating that they want to know the answer to “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.” Again, though, Deep Thought challenges them, asking what this question actually is. When the pandimensional beings are unable to think up a satisfactory response, Deep Thought suggests that once they understand “what the question actually is,” then they’ll comprehend the meaning of the answer.
Deep Thought’s point is a valid one: the pandimensional beings haven’t asked a straightforward question. They have simply asked for the answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything.” This, of course, is less of a question than it is a demand—and one that is broad in its parameters. As a result, they don’t even know what they’ve asked this supercomputer to solve, rendering their question meaningless despite its seemingly grandiose and profound qualities.
Exasperated, Loonquawl and Pouchg ask Deep Thought to simply tell them the “Ultimate Question,” but the computer informs them that this is impossible. However, Deep Thought assures them, there is a computer that can tell them what they need to know. “I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me, Deep Thought says. “A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate—and yet I will design it for you. A computer that can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix. And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program!” Deep Thought decides that this supercomputer will be called Earth.
Finally, Adams reveals to readers why the Earth was created: to help these pandimensional beings—who are clearly the mice who “commissioned” and “paid for” the planet’s construction—understand “the Question to the Ultimate Answer.” At this point, their quest for supposed truth has become so convoluted and roundabout that the answer they seek is actually a question. This, of course, is awkward and difficult to track—evidence of Adams’s desire to portray such lofty philosophical investigations as absurd.