Shamach Reading Response #4, “The Last Question”

I read “The Last Question” By Isaac Asimov a story that tackles the concepts of progress, entropy, the meaning of finite vs infinite, and it honestly has a more melancholic introspective about life. The story starts out with this machine whose sole purpose was to answer any question, but when the resources started to run low humanity switched to the power of the stars. All was good until two guys talked about how to with the power of the start’s humanity can keep progressing forever and never run out of power. However, one of them explains that while will have the power for billions of years it’s technically not infinite and the entropy of the universe will reach its peak. The other skeptical of how thing decides to ask the mechanic if there was a way to reverse the entropy of the universe and it responds, “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.”  As time went on the cycle continues, humanity evolves, the machine gets better and better, a pair of people bring up the question of “how can we reverse the entropy of the universe? ” and every time the machine response with, “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.”  Until the end where the universe’s entropy is maxing out, humanity melded together and eventually died, and all that remained was the machine advanced to a point beyond comprehension is still trying to solve the question. In the machine’s last moments, it solves the problem and creates a new universe.

What I found interesting about it was how much humanity evolved as a species but could not solve the question until after they passed. Technology in the story goes from building large computers that eventually get smaller and smarter, to society exploring the galaxy and harnessing the power of the stars. But it’s also sad because of that rapid evolution, in part 3 (page 5) one of the characters says “Population doubles every ten years. Once this Galaxy is filled, we’ll have filled another in ten years. Another ten years and we will have filled two more. Another decade, four more. In a hundred years, we’ll have filled a thousand Galaxies. In a thousand years, a million Galaxies. In ten thousand years, the entire known universe. Then what?” with humanity expanding in this way it becomes a question of what are we even still progressing for? If we know that the entropy of the universe will max out and we currently reverse, it then why keeps going. There even moments were some tries creating new stars from the remnants of older ones, but it usually took tones of stars to die to make one new one. In the end, it can basically be summed up to three things humanity will never stop progressing, entropy can’t be reversed, and all good the things must come to an end. This story really makes you seem small n the grand scale of the universe

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