Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov. One of the most iconic SF stories ever, and yet I'm amazed how many people don't know it. It's not long, do read it.


I was reminded of it by Pascal blogging about 2012 (I first read about this a decade ago. I can't believe how famous it's becoming. It's the new millennium bug. But maybe this one will work), and mentioning another classic, Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God. Also warmly recommended. (Spoiler warning, Pascal's blog post reveals the ending of the story.)
I love big-perspective stories, and stories which make you think.


Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Hey, what's the big idea, revealing that I reveal the ending of the story? Now you've gone and spoiled the grand finale of my post! I bet you're pals with that Arthur Whatsisname...

Ah well, his IS a much better story plot than 2012, to be honest.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"The world's top scientists team up to build the ultimate computer. It's a long and very costly project (I could've made up figures, like 15 years and $42 billion, but what for?). They feed the computer with every bit of Humankind's knowledge. Now the computer knows EVERYTHING. So, to celebrate the completion of their fantastic task, they decide that the first question they will ask the computer will be the most important one of all.
They turn on the switch, and the computer's lights, er... light up! Its vocal synthetizer speaks, with a deep, fascinating, incredibly confident voice:
- Hello. State your question.
The spokesman chosen by the scientists asks, his voice trembling with emotion:
- Does God exist?
The super-computer pauses for a few seconds, processing the question, then slowly answers with its supremely confident voice:
- Yes, now he does. It is I!"

Just to remind of another onmiscient super-computer story, that one by Asimov. Its french translation title was "the talking clock", and it uses a quantum field of hydrogen atoms as a super-memory.
Slightly less deep than the previous two, and with a bit of a predictable ending, but I found it very funny.
And that was BEFORE I met Windows™! ;-)

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I *think* it was by Asimov. But can't mannage to find a reference.