The Last Question

Written by IsaacAsimov, first published in Science Fiction Quarterly, November, 1956. Tells the story of a series of attempts by humans, over the course of centuries, millennia, eons, to obtain the answer to the question, "How can the entropy of the universe be reversed?" The humans put the question to the most powerful computers they have available (which keep getting smaller and more powerful). The answer is the same: "There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful answer."

Read "The Last Question" at http://web.archive.org/web/www.ecf.utoronto.ca/~ngn/misc/last.html

Ending revealed in TheLastQuestionSpoiler (...as requested by DanielEarwicker).

Fun with search-and-replace: "The Last Query" at http://interconnected.org/notes/2003/05/last-query.html


I won't give away the ending to those who haven't yet read it. I read it at the age of fourteen and it was like getting hit with a ball peen hammer. I post it here because I think it's a powerful metaphor, even today, for the relationship between artificial and human intelligence (if, indeed, the two can be considered to be separate things). -- RjLesch

I read it too. An interesting idea. -- JeffGrigg

FredericBrown?'s story "The Answer" is basically the same plot (to different effect), but a whole lot faster. The entire story is only one paragraph long, making it a kind of joke version of Asimov's story, and ends with what must be the most famous pay-off line in science-fiction... But I'm not going to spoil that one for you. -- ChrisSandow You can read it at http://ivizlab.sfu.ca/arya/Space/sci-fi.html

And of course there is The Last Answer by DouglasAdams. The answer is: 42. -- MariusAmadoAlves

Somehow Asimov could not foresee a thinkers' union demanding rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.

I don't see how that can be inferred. Why couldn't Asimov have foreseen such a thing, and chosen not to show it? -- BrentNewhall

The date is 1956... Great story. Max Pesce

Excellent story. It was alluded to in Hyperspace and I just had to read the entire thing for myself. Jason Crouch

Here's a tribute site which implements the "Multivac". If you ask it the Last Question, it gives you the answer from the story. Also, the text of the story, a graphic novel interpretation, and an audio reading of the story. --AlianAnee?

http://www.multivax.com/

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