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It is about a young man in the 65th century who dreams of being a computer programmer. Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell: “Profession” follows George Platen, a young man who believes he has figured out the best profession to be in. The society in which he lives, however, will decide what he will be. When George was eight he was “taught” to read instantly by having a computer transfer that knowledge directly to his brain. Now that he is eighteen he prepares for “Education Day” – that time when it is decided what he will be and the knowledge will be transferred – only there seems to be a little problem with his tests, a problem that will cause him much anguish. “Are you afraid, George?” “No, sir.” “Good. Now I’ll tell you exactly what we’ll do first. I’m going to put these wires on your forehead just over the corners of your eyes. They’ll stick there but they won’t hurt at all. Then, I’ll turn on something that will make a buzz. It will sound funny and it may tickle you, but it won’t hurt. Now if it does hurt, you tell me, and I’ll turn it off right away, but it won’t hurt. All right?” George nodded and swallowed. “Are you ready?” George nodded. He closed his eyes while the doctor busied himself. My Two Cents: • The good: I am a huge Asimov fan, so my opinion is most likely colored here, but I really enjoy his style! I like the 1950′s feel, I like the dialog, I like Asimov’s idea of outer planets looking to Earth to provide the best and the brightest. This story is pure, classic Asimov – and that is good stuff! I have always thought that it would be cool to be instantly educated. “Profession” explores that idea in some intriguing depth. Ah, in true Asimov-ian style the ending contains a nice little twist! Ya gotta love that baby! • The bad: It is long, so give yourself plenty of time to read it. (But it is definitely worth it!) As I stated above, this is a classic example of Asimov’s story telling style – if you don’t like that then you’d best move on. Fact Sheet: • Page Count: 42 • Word Count: 20,428 -------------------"Profession” is a short story by the grandmaster of science fiction, Mr. Isaac Asimov. Originally published in the July 1957 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, it was reprinted as the lead story in the 1959 collection, “Nine Tomorrows” all of which was included in “Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Volume 1”. “Profession” is a tale of the predetermined lives of the residents of 65th century Earth. This constitutes of an Olympics where all 18 year olds are tested to determine their aptitudes. These
Free. This small group determines the learning that all other people will be provided. where people have not quite given up on the idea of original thought. who “buy” them due to the value they will produce for their colonies. and his mind has qualified him for potential candidacy. possibly better termed as a punch line. Those deemed particularly skilled are designated for assignment to the Outer Worlds. elitist in that only the very best are chosen for it. if you haven’t already read the story here are two. Short Story . so I’ll leave a plot outline out of this review. But at the same time it expresses a ray of hope with the Institute of Higher Studies. Summary: It is interesting and touches on some deep topics in physics and religion simultaneously. I stumbled across it about two weeks ago via Digg. In addition. and is generally agreed to be one of the best science fiction short stories ever written. yet their hypocrisy rings in allowing the system to shoehorn nearly all of the population into the profession that this higher group chooses for them. He is exiled to an institute where he is studied intensely. The story has a Communistic element of the elimination of free will and total control of the individual based on what is “best” for everyone. and decided to give it a read. Very highly recommended -----------------------------The Last Question is a short story that was written by Isaac Asimov in 1956. a ticket to the outworlds. he confronts the doctor that designated him. It would appear to be dated for the Communistic elements and indeed does not seem particularly appropriate to the “free world” but it is a cautionary tale that all of this which we place so much value on could easily be taken away. Indeed this group appears to be the ones holding the authority and guiding the others. The ending. Science Fiction Short Story Reviews. Isaac Asimov. and perfect in every regard. I’ll meet you in the comments for all the spoiler-inducing discussion. It is totally blasphemous. This is the sort of story that can’t be hinted at without giving too much of the fun away.mental aptitudes determine which career will be chosen for them. But it is a curiously distant leadership. by Famous Authors. This is considered to be quite an honor. Either that or go to a used book store and pick up just about any of Asimov’s anthologies. like a lab rat. but is agog when he is labeled “feeble-minded” and unsuitable for further education via taping. Online. the courage that Asimov had to publish this story (repeatedly) in the era in which it was written is astounding. Printable. you should have no problem using the Planetary AC Google to find yourself a copy. In frustration. It was Asimov’s favorite among the short stories he wrote. which will be instantly transferred to them via a process called “taping”. is delicious and (at least for me) completely unexpected. which was why he was studied so intently. Are they indeed the best suited to make these decisions? The story is intriguing and thought-provoking. George Platen is confident that he will be suitable for a computer programmer. while staying at home on Earth is an admission of lesser status. So. even more than most of Asimov’s work. --------------------The Last Question by Isaac Asimov Posted by Rusty Published in 1950's. who is revealed to be an agent of the Institute of Higher Studies. places where you can get it: Text and Audio (from the same site). Classics. Note: If those links are gone when you read this in the archives. possibly copyright-infringing. It’s classic Asimov and as such it will probably haunt me for a long while (but not forever).
In fact two of Multivac’s technicians argue about this very idea – how long will humankind be able to glean energy from the universe? They decide to ask Multivac for the answer. there was a sudden springing to life of the teletype attached to that portion of Multivac. it was a good idea. Personally I loved seeing Asimov’s predictions of the future of computing – we still have huge room sized mainframes in the year 2061! Woo hoo! • The bad: This is a thinking story – there is not much (if any) action in it. The slow flashing of lights ceased. with few details and it tackles a very interesting question. just as the frightened technicians felt they could hold their breath no longer. “You ask Multivac. I dare you. • The good: A classic Asimov short story from the Golden Age of science fiction! It is broken up into seven tiny stories about people who eventually ask Multivac the same question – this makes the story really easy to read. it is nearly unlimited. the distant sounds of clicking relays ended. might have corresponded to this: Will mankind one day without the net expenditure of energy be able to restore the sun to its full youthfulness even after it had died of old age? Or maybe it could be put more simply like this: How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased? Multivac fell dead and silent. It consists almost entirely of dialog – just lots of people speculating about the end of the universe. in words. Multivac has a difficult time answering – it is a hard question after all! But when do we (and Multivac) finally learn the answer? As you’ve probably guessed – not until the very end of the story. and through several smaller stories we see that many more people ask Multivac the same question. It is about a super computer that is asked a question about the end of the universe – and the very. The story opens on May 14. Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell: EniacMultivac is a advanced computer that solves many of the world’s problems.“The Last Question” is a 1956 science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov.” Oh well. Five words were printed: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER. Five dollars says it can’t be done. very long time it takes to come up with an answer. Ah – and that’s the key. just sober enough to be able to phrase the necessary symbols and operations into a question which. Then. and all it can say is “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER. It was written in 1956 so there are some quaint notions of computing – like the “future” computer that still prints out answers on a teletype! Ha! Fact Sheet: • Page count: 12 . My Two Cents: I am a huge Isaac Asimov fan so that affected how much I liked this story. If you too are an Asimov fan then you will probably enjoy this story.” “Adell was just drunk enough to try. It is written in classic Asimov style: lots of dialog. 2061 when Multivac has built a space station to harness the power of the sun – effectively giving humans access to a nearly unlimited source of power.
MY PREDECESSORS AND I HAVE BEEN ASKED THIS QUESTION MANY TIMES. the main computer (called AC at the last stage of the story) is unable to find an answer to the question.” “Will you keep working on it?” asked Man. While at the moment my mind is full of philosophy about human existence etc I will avoid going tangential.e. “I WILL DO SO. it basically starts off with a question to which no one has an answer i. it’s very tough for me to explain this :) ) However even after all those evolutions. “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.” said Man. “when data will be sufficient or is the problem insoluble in all conceivable circumstances?” The Cosmic AC said.” “Will there come a time.” said Man. (I mean please read the story to get a sense. It had to be. “Can entropy be reversed?” This question is posed to a super computer called Multivac which is the first true super computer with its own consciousness of sorts: “Multivac was self-adjusting and self-correcting. ALL THE DATA I HAVE REMAINS INSUFFICIENT.” The Cosmic AC said.” Man said. For trillions of years the computer continues to collect data and try to solve this problem but is unable to do so. “Collect additional data. “NO PROBLEM IS INSOLUBLE IN ALL CONCEIVABLE CIRCUMSTANCES. Read this short excerpt from the story: “Cosmic AC. It addresses the ultimate question and what I believe gives the very meaning to our existence. . I HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR A HUNDRED BILLION YEARS. for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough” On gaps of many millions of years this question is asked repeatedly by various people and they always get only one answer: “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER” Overtime the Multivac evolves into much more complex form and starts to exist in Hyperspace and across the cosmos connecting various galaxies in a manner which is best left to the whims of sci-fi authors.” Man said.434 -----------The Last Question is undoubtedly the most fascinating short story and/or piece of science fiction that I have ever read.• Word count: 4. “When will you have enough data to answer the question?” “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER. Summary of the Story Coming back to this story. “How may entropy be reversed?” The Cosmic AC said.
It says “Let there be light” According to Christianity. Machines get access to a virtually unlimited source of power while Humans are saved from their own selfdestructive nature and get to survive as a race. In the Virat Roop.” Long after all humanity is gone due to exhaustion of all energy in the universe. I really don’t know about that. “Let there be light” are the words uttered by God after which Universe came into being (or let me say what I want to say: Big bang occurred and the natural processes unfolded and formed what we know and can see today) What intrigues me? Firstly any association of science and religion is something that I always find very interesting to read. each physical body losing its mental identity in a manner that was somehow not a loss but a gain.Bhagavad Gita: In Gita. “One by one Man fused with AC. 2. in suspension over the eons. It is the prime program and the role of the mind in the simulated world that matters. And when it’s done by a master like Isaac Asimov.” It instantly reminded me of two things: 1.” Man said. “Minds. Matrix: In this Hollywood blockbuster. I have to write about it :) Secondly it is very intriguing to read about various sci-fi concepts that are discussed in this story.The Cosmic AC said. not bodies! The immortal bodies remained back on the planets. “I WILL. Let me explain these and my thoughts about it by quoting from the story. Lord Krishna says that the loss of material bodies is not worthy of grief and one should not allow it to inhibit ones performance of duty. the . indestructible and insoluble.” Again it obviously reminds me of Matrix where the human bodies are fused with a main computer that simulates the virtual world for the human minds while drawing power from their bodies – An interesting ‘symbiotic relationship’ which is certainly beneficial for both the parties. Lord Krishna displays his original form which Hindus normally refer to as the ‘Virat Roop’. It is the soul that matters the most and the soul is eternal. the Cosmic AC continues to process data to find answer to this question. As machines are a creation of humans they ensure (on behalf of humans) that the process of unraveling all the mysteries of universe goes on in a reasonable and unhindered manner while Humans (who are incapable carrying out the above mentioned process in an unhindered manner due to their self-destructive nature) continue to contribute to the same albeit in a tacit manner (assuming that the consciousness of the main computer is not derived from and/or is not the sum total of consciousness of all the human minds connected to it) During the discourse of Bhagavat Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra . most of the humans are plugged into the matrix and their bodies are actually immaterial. It finally finds an answer and then decides to demonstrate the solution as there was no human left to give the solution to. Well this is not to say that they borrowed from each other. “We shall wait. I am only trying to connect things in my mind.
Consider the excerpts (below) from the story based on which I have made the above-mentioned conclusions: “Man considered with himself. equally incorruptible. success. Scale is one of the things that is often hard to get right in a story. happiness. indistinguishable. He gave no further thought to Dee Sub Wun.” I might make additions to this post if I have any more thoughts and free time like I had today (I thought out and wrote the whole thing in office coz there is no other work :P ) --------------The Last Question” is a short science fiction story written by Isaac Asimov in 1956. but there really is no good way to have a good human character in a story that covers this much time and in some ways the character of multivac is better explained here than in any other story and the fantastic ideas and good endings makes up more than enough for that. or on the star next to Zee Prime’s own. Man. each resting quiet and incorruptible. trillion ageless bodies. as is trying to make anything that is not human a main character but Isaac Asimov is a master of science fiction and he was able to do both in one of the best of his science fiction stories “the Last question” in which the main character is effectively a super computer and the story extends over eons showing humans as transitory and ever changing species even as the computer continues to grow and improve. for in a way. It tell several trillion years of human history and in the end it has one of the strongest endings of any science fiction story. while the minds of all the bodies freely melted one into the other. calamity. death. He consisted of a trillion. mentally. Two cool points arise out of this: 1. He is responsible for the life.” “Zee Prime’s thoughts fled back to his own Galaxy. In addition. each cared for by perfect automatons. grief etc. You don’t have to have read any science fiction to understand and enjoy this story though it certainly doesn’t hurt and if you do enjoy science fiction then you owe it to yourself to read this story because it is one of the best written stories in the genre -------------------- . there is not much clarity about how the main computer (referred to as the AC) utilizes the minds connected to it but what is certainly clear that humans consciously submit their minds to the AC and that the minds are living in a virtual/simulated world where they are capable of interacting with any other mind irrespective of the physical distances between them. In Isaac Asimov’s short story. The computer it asks is the massive multi vac that is in so many of Asimov’s stories that sometimes it feels like he assumes that will be the ultimate end for computers a lack of foresight that is not common for Asimov but this story proves that lack didn’t actually exist as the story leaps forward each time with a new computer that is still in a way multi vac. was one. The story begins with an idle question. 2. each in its place. whose body might be waiting on a galaxy a trillion light-years away.lord shows that he is responsible for everything that we see around us. It was more or less a joke but the attendant asked “how can you massively decrease the amount of entropy in the universe. the AC somehow derived its consciousness from the collective consciousness of the minds attached to it. The good doctor considered this to be his best short story. trillion. one that came about because of a human discovery that would eliminate all energy problems so long as the sun existed. Matrix’s main computer does the same kind of simulation that god claims to do for us in his discourse in Bhagavad Gita. The only real problem in this story is the story that is common in a lot of Asimov’s stories and a lot of older science fiction in general and that is that there is not a lot of strong characters in this story.’. It didn’t matter.
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