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The Last Question

The Last Question is a short story by a certain Isaac Asimov. He is quoted as saying that it is his favourite of his short stories, and I can understand why.

I read it this morning, and I’m so impressed by it. It seems to have an amazing naivety to it, for example, the idea of space ships running on coal, humans using up all the uranium in the world for their power needs, and computers no longer needing transistor but instead reverting back to using “micro-valves”, but then you have to remember that the story was written in 1956. What struck me next about the story is it’s amazing insight – there is a casual reference to an “AC-Contact”, which sounds remarkably like a handheld computer, and computer systems that are natural language processors. These are all things that exist today (albeit in a limited capacity to those expressed in the story), that when written would have been considered pure fantasy. There is an amazing realisation brought through from the story that these things will happen, which is something that I had never really thought about before, and the question remains, what will human kind do when these things happen?

Finally, there is the ending. Which is just masterful. It actually reminds me a lot of the computer in “The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy”, but that is a different story.

The introduction contained on the linked page hints to a further underlying theme to the story, which I do have theories about, but I don’t want to spoil the ending….

N.B. This post is delayed, see this post for more info! Originally written on 24th Jan 2006, 14:41

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