The Last Question

The Last Question

Infobox Short story
name = The Last Question
title_orig =
translaton =
author = Isaac Asimov
country = United States
language = English
series = Multivac
genre = Science fiction short story
publication_type = Periodical
published_in = "Science Fiction Quarterly"
publisher = Columbia Publications
media_type = Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
pub_date = November 1956
english_pub_date =
preceded_by = Someday
followed_by = Jokester

"The Last Question" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in the November 1956 issue of "Science Fiction Quarterly" and was reprinted in the collections "Nine Tomorrows" (1959), "The Best of Isaac Asimov" (1973) and "Robot Dreams" (1986), as well as the retrospective "Opus 100" (1969). It is one of a loosely connected series of stories concerning a fictional computer called Multivac.

History

In conceiving Multivac, Asimov was extrapolating the trend towards centralization that characterised computation technology planning in the 1950s to an ultimate centrally managed global computer. After seeing a planetarium adaptation, Asimov "privately" concluded that this story was his best science fiction yet written; he placed it just higher than "The Ugly Little Boy" and "The Bicentennial Man." "The Last Question" ranks with "Nightfall" and other stories as one of Asimov's best-known and most acclaimed short stories. Overall, it is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction short stories ever written.

The story was first adapted for the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University in 1966 featuring the voice of Leonard Nimoy, as Asimov wrote in his autobiography "In Joy Still Felt". It was adapted for the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, New York in 1969, under the direction of Ian C. McLennan,

A reading of the story can also be periodically heard on BBC 7 radio.

Plot summary

The story deals with the development of a computer called Multivac and its relationship with humanity through the course of seven historic settings, beginning in 2061. In each of the first six scenes a different character presents the computer with the same question, namely as to how the threat to human existence posed by the heat death of the universe can be averted. The question is equivalent to: "Can the workings of the second law of thermodynamics (used in the story as the increase of the entropy of the universe), be reversed?" In each case Multivac finds itself unable to answer, due to having "insufficient data for a meaningful answer".

In the last scene, the god-like descendants of humanity watch the universe finally approach the state of heat death and ask the Cosmic AC, Multivac's descendant, the question one last time before "Man" merges with it. Cosmic AC is still unable to answer, but continues to ponder the question after space and time cease to exist. Eventually the Cosmic AC discovers the answer, but has nobody to report it to; the universe is already dead. It therefore decides to show the answer by demonstrating the reversal of entropy, creating the universe anew; the story ends with AC's pronouncement,

ee also

*Technological singularity

External links

* [http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html Read The Last Question online]
* [http://www.starlightfading.net/reviews/asimov_thelastquestion.html Review of The Last Question]
* [http://www.ireadscifi.com/the-last-question-by-isaac-asimov/ Another Review and some discussion]
* [http://bestsciencefictionstories.com/2008/03/28/the-last-question-by-isaac-asimov/ The Last Question at BestScienceFictionStories.com] - short story reviews and resources.

References

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