Douglas Adams' SEP

In “Life the Universe and Everything” Douglas Adams introduces a cloaking device known as the Somebody Else’s Problem field.

Ford Prefect says:

An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot.

The narration then explains:

The Somebody Else’s Problem field… relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. If Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else’s Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.

Earlier in the trilogy, Zaphod Beeblebrox had a pair of stress reducing glasses. They worked by getting darker when the wearer was looking at something that might stress them out.

I think this was a smart-ass allusion to Plato’s cave. Adams was a seer, and no huge fan of dealing with blind muggle bullshit.

Any thoughts?


All I know is combine the SEP field with the Total Perspective Vortex and you’d get one hell of a curse.


Haha, Beeblebrox had those glasses I mentioned when he was captured and subjected to the Total Perspective Vortex.

That vortex existed in a fake universe constructed to imprison Zaphod, so it didn’t work right. He technically was the most important entity in that universe so he thought the vortex was pretty cool.

TPV was another example of the top notch philosophy that Adams loaded his work with. I think he should get more credit as a proper philosopher like Albert Camus.


Agreed! His cheerfully surrealist yet perceptively philosophical humor (along with that of James Thurber and Robert Sheckley) were absolutely formational to my worldview today. :+1: