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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
Isaac Asimov. the courage that Asimov had to publish this story (repeatedly) in the era in which it was written is astounding. Summary: It is interesting and touches on some deep topics in physics and religion simultaneously. Science Fiction Short Story Reviews. 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. --------------------The Last Question by Isaac Asimov Posted by Rusty Published in 1950's. George Platen is confident that he will be suitable for a computer programmer. Note: If those links are gone when you read this in the archives. He is exiled to an institute where he is studied intensely. This is considered to be quite an honor. Classics. In addition. and his mind has qualified him for potential candidacy. while staying at home on Earth is an admission of lesser status. and perfect in every regard. and is generally agreed to be one of the best science fiction short stories ever written. It’s classic Asimov and as such it will probably haunt me for a long while (but not forever). But it is a curiously distant leadership. I’ll meet you in the comments for all the spoiler-inducing discussion. which will be instantly transferred to them via a process called “taping”. 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. and decided to give it a read. Either that or go to a used book store and pick up just about any of Asimov’s anthologies. is delicious and (at least for me) completely unexpected. so I’ll leave a plot outline out of this review. The ending. elitist in that only the very best are chosen for it. like a lab rat. even more than most of Asimov’s work. Those deemed particularly skilled are designated for assignment to the Outer Worlds. It was Asimov’s favorite among the short stories he wrote. if you haven’t already read the story here are two. In frustration. It is totally blasphemous. 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. So. you should have no problem using the Planetary AC Google to find yourself a copy. by Famous Authors. Are they indeed the best suited to make these decisions? The story is intriguing and thought-provoking. 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). Free. Very highly recommended -----------------------------The Last Question is a short story that was written by Isaac Asimov in 1956. possibly better termed as a punch line. who “buy” them due to the value they will produce for their colonies. possibly copyright-infringing. Printable. where people have not quite given up on the idea of original thought. This is the sort of story that can’t be hinted at without giving too much of the fun away. which was why he was studied so intently. a ticket to the outworlds. Indeed this group appears to be the ones holding the authority and guiding the others.mental aptitudes determine which career will be chosen for them. This small group determines the learning that all other people will be provided. I stumbled across it about two weeks ago via Digg. Online. he confronts the doctor that designated him. Short Story . but is agog when he is labeled “feeble-minded” and unsuitable for further education via taping. But at the same time it expresses a ray of hope with the Institute of Higher Studies.
it is nearly unlimited. 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. 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 . Then. 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. with few details and it tackles a very interesting question. very long time it takes to come up with an answer. the distant sounds of clicking relays ended. just as the frightened technicians felt they could hold their breath no longer. 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.” Oh well. Five dollars says it can’t be done. It is about a super computer that is asked a question about the end of the universe – and the very. 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. 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. Five words were printed: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.” “Adell was just drunk enough to try. “You ask Multivac. I dare you. it was a good idea. It is written in classic Asimov style: lots of dialog. and through several smaller stories we see that many more people ask Multivac the same question. The story opens on May 14. The slow flashing of lights ceased. there was a sudden springing to life of the teletype attached to that portion of Multivac. It consists almost entirely of dialog – just lots of people speculating about the end of the universe. 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. Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell: EniacMultivac is a advanced computer that solves many of the world’s problems. Ah – and that’s the key. and all it can say is “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER. • 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.“The Last Question” is a 1956 science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. just sober enough to be able to phrase the necessary symbols and operations into a question which.
” said Man. “When will you have enough data to answer the question?” “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER. “How may entropy be reversed?” The Cosmic AC said. MY PREDECESSORS AND I HAVE BEEN ASKED THIS QUESTION MANY TIMES. “Collect additional data. ALL THE DATA I HAVE REMAINS INSUFFICIENT.” said Man. It had to be. “NO PROBLEM IS INSOLUBLE IN ALL CONCEIVABLE CIRCUMSTANCES.434 -----------The Last Question is undoubtedly the most fascinating short story and/or piece of science fiction that I have ever read. I HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR A HUNDRED BILLION YEARS.” “Will there come a time. it basically starts off with a question to which no one has an answer i. “when data will be sufficient or is the problem insoluble in all conceivable circumstances?” The Cosmic AC said. 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. (I mean please read the story to get a sense. It addresses the ultimate question and what I believe gives the very meaning to our existence. “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER. it’s very tough for me to explain this :) ) However even after all those evolutions. Summary of the Story Coming back to this story. “I WILL DO SO.” Man said. For trillions of years the computer continues to collect data and try to solve this problem but is unable to do so.” Man said.” “Will you keep working on it?” asked Man.” The Cosmic AC said. “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.• Word count: 4. . the main computer (called AC at the last stage of the story) is unable to find an answer to the question.e. While at the moment my mind is full of philosophy about human existence etc I will avoid going tangential. Read this short excerpt from the story: “Cosmic AC.
I am only trying to connect things in my mind. 2. It is the soul that matters the most and the soul is eternal. “Minds. Well this is not to say that they borrowed from each other.” Man said. indestructible and insoluble. in suspension over the eons.Bhagavad Gita: In Gita. not bodies! The immortal bodies remained back on the planets. Let me explain these and my thoughts about it by quoting from the story. I really don’t know about that. “We shall wait.The Cosmic AC said. 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 . the . It says “Let there be light” According to Christianity. “One by one Man fused with AC. Matrix: In this Hollywood blockbuster. most of the humans are plugged into the matrix and their bodies are actually immaterial. It is the prime program and the role of the mind in the simulated world that matters.” Long after all humanity is gone due to exhaustion of all energy in the universe.” 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. It finally finds an answer and then decides to demonstrate the solution as there was no human left to give the solution to. I have to write about it :) Secondly it is very intriguing to read about various sci-fi concepts that are discussed in this story. In the Virat Roop. the Cosmic AC continues to process data to find answer to this question. 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.” It instantly reminded me of two things: 1. each physical body losing its mental identity in a manner that was somehow not a loss but a gain. 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. And when it’s done by a master like Isaac Asimov. “I WILL. Lord Krishna displays his original form which Hindus normally refer to as the ‘Virat Roop’. “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.
indistinguishable. each cared for by perfect automatons. each in its place. death. He consisted of a trillion. The good doctor considered this to be his best short story. happiness. He is responsible for the life. He gave no further thought to Dee Sub Wun. It tell several trillion years of human history and in the end it has one of the strongest endings of any science fiction story. was one. In addition. calamity.lord shows that he is responsible for everything that we see around us. 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. 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.” “Zee Prime’s thoughts fled back to his own Galaxy. 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. the AC somehow derived its consciousness from the collective consciousness of the minds attached to it.” 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. grief etc. success. equally incorruptible. Scale is one of the things that is often hard to get right in a story. 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. It was more or less a joke but the attendant asked “how can you massively decrease the amount of entropy in the universe. Matrix’s main computer does the same kind of simulation that god claims to do for us in his discourse in Bhagavad Gita. It didn’t matter. Man. The story begins with an idle question. Consider the excerpts (below) from the story based on which I have made the above-mentioned conclusions: “Man considered with himself. while the minds of all the bodies freely melted one into the other. trillion. 2. each resting quiet and incorruptible. mentally. Two cool points arise out of this: 1. whose body might be waiting on a galaxy a trillion light-years away. trillion ageless bodies. or on the star next to Zee Prime’s own. one that came about because of a human discovery that would eliminate all energy problems so long as the sun existed. In Isaac Asimov’s short story. for in a way.’. 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. 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 -------------------- .
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