The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 Oct. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

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Course Hero, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed October 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 34 | Summary

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Summary

The aircar, traveling at terrific speed, reaches Magrathea's dreary surface and deposits Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Ford Prefect, and Arthur Dent next to the Heart of Gold. Another ship sits nearby, silent and clearly dead. It's the police craft belonging to the dead cops. While his companions hurry aboard the Heart of Gold, Ford takes a moment to examine the police craft. Walking along, he nearly trips over Marvin, lying face down in the dust because "it's a very effective way of being wretched." Even so, Marvin gets to his feet and then tells Ford that the police craft hates him. Pressed to explain, Marvin says that he plugged himself into the ship's external computer feed in order to have a chat. After listening to Marvin's detailed views on the Universe, the computer committed suicide.

Analysis

The mystery of the simultaneous failure of the cops' life-support systems is solved. As Ford previously noted, such a failure was highly improbable, if not impossible. Thanks to Marvin's chronic depression, the police craft's computer committed suicide, killing its two-man crew at the same time, because their life-support systems were linked to the computer. This is just another improbable event in a series, yet each seems to have led the four characters step-by-step in and out of trouble toward some uncertain end.

The absurdity of a computer committing suicide brings up a few questions about the nature of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is defined as possession of intelligence, or the exercise of thought, by machines such as computers. The question is, is there a link between this type of intelligence and emotions? Could a computer ever reach the level of sophistication necessary to actually feel the desire to commit suicide? Of course, Marvin has been programmed to express emotions and seems genuinely capable of experiencing them, even if the emotions are always negative. Does this mean that he is self-aware and sentient (able to feel) in the same way that humans are? When he says, "Don't pretend you want to talk to me. I know you hate me," does this mean he is capable of understanding the feelings of others? These are just a few questions raised by Marvin and other computers throughout the novel.

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