Tommy’s Reading response #4: The Last Question

I read Asimov’s “The Last Question” before and it is one of my most favorite science fiction short story.  Asimov is one of my favorite science fiction short story writers.  I remember feeling the feeling of both insignificance and significance when reading it the first time.  Insignificance because like the two drunk scientist in the beginning, our lives seem fleeting and short compared to the long term life of the universe.  “Forever” to one of the scientist is only a short time compared to the the life of the universe.  I also felt significant because we would be before the creation of the Multivac so the creation of this ever evolving machine could be us.

This story also begs the question: What is the human’s purpose after the creation of the machine?  Would we want to create a Multivac that solves our problems for us? If the Multivac and it’s successors solved problems like immortality, power, and overpopulation, what is humanities’ purpose?  In the beginning with the two scientist, it was to maintain the workings of the machine.  With the second and third time skip, it seemed to be to expand and explore.  But that just seems like they are trying to maintain their existence.   After that humanity transcends physical existence, they seem to just live.  With a computer that solves all your problems, what is there for human’s to do? For example, before the solution of immortality was given, were humans trying to find that? or were they just believing that the computer would solve the problem for them.  The problem of entropy seems to be the same.  Were humans trying to reverse entropy themselves or did they just believe that the AC would solve it for them? “Man said, ‘We shall wait.'” seems to imply that humanity were just waiting for solutions in this story.  Zee Prime went to create stars like sandcastles along the beach expecting them to be destroyed in due time without trying to attempt to solve entropy.

The expend-ability of humanity line of thinking reminds me of another one of my favorite Asimov’s short story, “The Feeling of Power”.  That short story is about humanity losing the ability to do mathematics after becoming overly reliant on computer and once they “rediscover” mathematics, they consider using humans as computers for cost effectiveness.  I believe that that short story could happen within the “The Last Question” story as it really does seem that humanity are becoming very reliant to the Multivac.

Another question that comes up is, did humanity solve the problem of entropy or did the AC?  In the end of the story, Man, the collective mind of humanity, combined with the AC so who actually solved the problem?  I actually do not know what to think about this question because both could be argued.  This connects to the theme of Identity in the science fiction genre.  Especially with the transformation of humanity from physical bodies to transcendence and the accompanying transformation of the AC, we could argue that as the AC evolved, it became more and more human-like.

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