The Last Question Spoiler

This page contains the spoiler for the main question of the short story "TheLastQuestion."

Scroll down to see the answer; go elsewhere if you don't want it spoilt. ;->


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Humans continue asking, generation after generation, and the answer is always the same: insufficient data. Eventually the universe reaches near-maximum entropy (and is no longer very interesting to live in), and the last "humans" (...living in a more energy-efficient form than today) give it up, and join their consciousness with that of the master computer, after asking the question one last time and getting the same answer.

The computer still doesn't know the answer - even after the last consciousness tires of its separate life. However, it still proceeds to carry on trying to answer the question. It ponders all of the information and eventually finds the answer. Realizing there is no-one left to give it to, it then decides that demonstration itself is answer enough:

There is darkness and chaos.

And the computer says "let there be light," and there is light.

Interpretations:

In the end, humankind created God (TheSingularity), which will create the next universe.

Or, "God" is simply the totality of all experience. Humans don't create God, but rather "God" is an emergent property of all the information in the universe being organized into one consistent whole. Thus, the entity capable of creation didn't truly exist until the last bit of information reunified into the whole. It then contemplates itself for a while, and then decides to start things over again with a bang (what else could it do)? In a very real sense, it creates itself, destroys itself, and is neither created nor destroyed.
What the Christian Bible says about this: I Corinthians 13:8-10

Sounds a lot like the ending to CitiesInFlight? by JamesBlish? [see FloatingCities].

I've forgotten how that ends; guess it's time to re-read.

Having achieved incredibly long lifespans, members of several cities try to be the first to the "place" where the universe will end. They're not really sure exactly why, as I recall, maybe in order to somehow avoid being part of the ending, or something. The main character (mayor of NewYork, I think) gives his impression of the event, which has him "becoming" the seed material for the next universe. Pretty spacy. Having read it once 10-15 years ago, I wouldn't bother again (actually, I think I got rid of it in a garage sale).

Maybe I have your copy. I bought the book a few months ago from a sidewalk vendor for 25 cents. Your memory of how the book ends is correct, if I remember correctly.

Oh yeah. Another misunderstanding of the Big Bang/Big Crash. Another one was Poul Anderson's Tau Zero. A classic, to be sure, but there is no center of the universe.


The reality: (and this is quite scary) RSS could become the Global AC. All data connected and understood, and all answers to all things... -- PeteHurst

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