Quotations by Adams, Douglas


When you blame others, you give up your power to change.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
(Attributed)
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Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
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If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
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What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve learned something about it yourself.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
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“So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly, then?” I asked.

He blinked at me as if I were stupid.

“Well what do you think you do?” he said. “You die of course. That’s what deadly means.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
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For all my rational Western intellect and education, I was for the moment overwhelmed by a primitive sense of living in a world ordered by a malign and perverted god, and it coloured my view of everything that afternoon — even the coconuts. The villagers sold us some and split them open for us. They are almost perfectly designed. You first make a hole and drink the milk, and then you split open the nut with a machete and slice off a segment of the shell, which forms a perfect implement for scooping out the coconut flesh inside. What makes you wonder about the nature of this god character is that he creates something that is so perfectly designed to be of benefit to human beings and then hangs it twenty feet above their heads on a tree with no branches.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
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I am rarely happier than when spending entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1991)
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The system by which Zaire works … is very simple. Every official you encounter will make life as unpleasant for you as he possibly can until you pay him to stop it. In US dollars. He then passes you on to the next official who will be unpleasant to you all over again.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 3 (1990)
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Most of the other shops were in fact impossible to identify. When a shop appeared to sell a mixture of ghetto blasters, socks, soap and chickens, it didn’t seem unreasonable to go in and ask if they’d got any paper or toothpaste stuck away in one of their shelves as well, but they looked at me as if I was completely mad. Couldn’t I see that this was a ghetto blaster, socks, soap and chicken shop?

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 3 (1990)
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You can’t help but try and follow an animal’s thought processes, and you can’t help, when faced with an animal like a three ton rhinoceros with nasal passages bigger than its brain, but fail.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 3 (1990)
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I’ve never understood all this fuss people make about the dawn. I’ve seen a few and they’re never as good as the photographs, which have the additional advantage of being things you can look at when you’re in the right frame of mind, which is usually around lunchtime.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 4 (1990)
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Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 4 (1991)
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It’s easy to think that as a result of the extinction of the dodo, we are now sadder and wiser, but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we are merely sadder and better informed.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 6 (1990)
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The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Mostly Harmless (1992)
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A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Mostly Harmless (1992)
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Generally, old media don’t die. They just have to grow old gracefully. Guess what, we still have stone masons. They haven’t been the primary purveyors of the written word for a while now of course, but they still have a role because you wouldn’t want a TV screen on your headstone.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future (2001)
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“You’d better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.”

“What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”

“You ask a glass of water.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 6 (1979)
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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
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For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 23 (1979)
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The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 3 (1979)
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The chances of finding out what’s really going on in the universe are so remote, the only thing to do is hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied.

Adams - keep yourself occupied- wist_info quote

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 30 (1979)
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“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 7 (1979)
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This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Preface (1979)
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It’s important to remember that the relationship between different media tends to be complementary. When new media arrive they don’t necessarily replace or eradicate previous types. Though we should perhaps observe a half second silence for the eight-track. — There that’s done. What usually happens is that older media have to shuffle about a bit to make space for the new one and its particular advantages. Radio did not kill books and television did not kill radio or movies — what television did kill was the cinema newsreel.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future (2001)
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Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 16 [Ford] (1979)
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It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase “As pretty as an airport” appear.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, ch. 1 (1988)
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Always expecting this and expecting that. May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, ch. 4 (1988)
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For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
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“The first ten million years were the worst,” said Marvin, “and the second ten million years, they were the worst, too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, ch. 18 (1980)
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It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, ch. 19 (1980)
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There is a theory which states that if anybody ever discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Epigraph (1980)
Added on 23-Jul-09 | Last updated 23-Jul-09
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What I love the most about deadlines is the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
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I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
Added on 6-Nov-07 | Last updated 26-Aug-14
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I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
Added on 2-Jun-08 | Last updated 2-Jun-08
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We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
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Solutions nearly always come from the direction you least expect, which means there’s no point trying to look in that direction because it won’t be coming from there.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
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A learning experience is one of those things that say, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Interview in The Daily Nexus (5 Apr 2000)

Reprinted in The Salmon of Doubt.
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The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Speech, Digital Biota 2 conference, Cambridge, UK (Sep 1998)

Full speech
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If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a nonworking cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; it is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; ‘life’, something that had a mysterious essence about it, was God given, and that’s the only explanation we had.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Speech, Digital Biota 2 Conference, Cambridge, UK (Sep 1998)
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Quoted by Richard Dawkins in his eulogy for Adams (17 Sep 2001)
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