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The Last Question

4 years ago
NEET Detective
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This is a topic starting read titled "The Last Question" and ending who knows where.
I would like to ask people to only post if they've read it (it's not too long) along with every other post in this topic.
Link: The Last Question

I found it a quite interesting read. The world it painted for us and how humanity has a harder and harder time to understand their own creations. However, there is something poking at my mind. That is how it ignored the possibility of the multiverse. In this novel(?), the universe is finite. Why? Because if it was infinite, then the whole problem would've been solved at the point where they could create new stars. Going from there, the universe has an 'edge', but what is beyond that? We can't say nothing, because if there really is nothing there, then matter would fill it up, stretching out our universe into the infinite.
Now then, if something surrounds our universe and thus filling space outside (which most likely is infinite), then mathematically it's impossible for another universe not to exist. Going by this, infinite number of universes exist. The point is, xxxVAC could answer all question except for the 'Last Question' in time (if I got it correctly), which should include travelling to other universes. With that, they would've been able to get more time, letting xxxVAC to collect 'all data' and answer the last question.
It seems I've went a little astray here, so let's get back to what I think about the utopia it shows us. I really liked it how people could get in touch so easily and travel so fast, but not so much the idea of immortality and at the end losing individuality. In fact reaching immortality would mean that reproduction would no longer be necessary so evolution would most likely take away that ability, which would in the end stop the population growth. I think that losing individuality is more of a setback. Yes, that one personality can use the brains of countless others to increase thought process, storage and whatnot however, it would also mean that there will be no one else to discuss these "superior thoughts" with who have a different mindset. In a world like that, theories can only be realised with the process of trial and error and it may be slower that way. This is what I could think about to share at this point. I'm quite interested in what you people think!
Modified by Cregath, 4 years ago
4 years ago
The Watchcat
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Cregath said:
This is a topic starting read titled "The Last Question" and ending who knows where.
I would like to ask people to only post if they've read it (it's not too long) along with every other post in this topic.
Link: The Last Question

I found it a quite interesting read. The world it painted for us and how humanity has a harder and harder time to understand their own creations. However, there is something poking at my mind. That is how it ignored the possibility of the multiverse. In this novel(?), the universe is finite. Why? Because if it was infinite, then the whole problem would've been solved at the point where they could create new stars. Going from there, the universe has an 'edge', but what is beyond that? We can't say nothing, because if there really is nothing there, then matter would fill it up, stretching out our universe into the infinite.
Now then, if something surrounds our universe and thus filling space outside (which most likely is infinite), then mathematically it's impossible for another universe to exist. Going by this, infinite number of universes exist. The point is, xxxVAC could answer all question except for the 'Last Question' in time (if I got it correctly), which should include travelling to other universes. With that, they would've been able to get more time, letting xxxVAC to collect 'all data' and answer the last question.
It seems I've went a little astray here, so let's get back to what I think about the utopia it shows us. I really liked it how people could get in touch so easily and travel so fast, but not so much the idea of immortality and at the end losing individuality. In fact reaching immortality would mean that reproduction would no longer be necessary so evolution would most likely take away that ability, which would in the end stop the population growth. I think that losing individuality is more of a setback. Yes, that one personality can use the brains of countless others to increase thought process, storage and whatnot however, it would also mean that there will be no one else to discuss these "superior thoughts" with who have a different mindset. In a world like that, theories can only be realised with the process of trial and error and it may be slower that way. This is what I could think about to share at this point. I'm quite interested in what you people think!


It's good to see someone with a different opinion about this short novel. About the possibility of multiverse. I think Asimov had the knack for it so he could have write this into his novel, but I think he deliberately did not do it. I think this setting was needed for him to write this. By the way, there is a lot of things not discussed in the story, simply because we don't know about them. And after many years, we still don't know if the universe infinite, or not, or as we perceive it is even right. It would be easier if we would be 4-dimensional beings, or even more (I mean the theory, that an X-dimensional being can observe completely a (X-1)-dimensional space. Like, if you draw a maze on paper, and put a 2-dimensional being in there, that don't know where should she/he should go to get out the fastest. But as we are 3D-beings, we can see the maze from above, and instantly perceive the whole. I hope it's understandable).

Yes, evolution is outdated by technology here. It paints humanity as a race who have broken it's shackles with technology, and free from anything small scale, like evolution on the Earth. With all the things, it just shows how far humanity have gone, but they still can't do anything about entropy. It's like you would need a god to do that. And that god is the collective mind of humanity, as a whole, with every information and data collected by the universe. I remember when I first read "The last question", at the last sentence, I gasped. I'm not a believer, but I think that Asimov just grasped what could be a real god for humanity. The sentence "Let there be light!" was clearly an analogy to god, and it's as the collective mind of humanity, and the learning through time infinite made humanity into a god. A god, which have eventually reversed entropy. I think this is why Asimov avoided what you said about that there is no other individuals for this collective mind to talk to. Because he wanted to emphasize the end of the story.
4 years ago
NEET Detective
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I still think that evolution shouldn't be ignored, even in a short novel if it takes up such a large timeframe. Of course, the writer never said that no changed occured however, as my earlier example says, they didn't use it at all even though it was logical. Also on a side-note: Isn't immortality in fact stopping entropy on a smaller object (human)? If so, then the answer was already there. But since the AC didn't use to it stop it completely, then it wasn't, which would mean they were 'immortal' and not immortal. My point being, they would still die of old age at one point, their life is just a lot longer. Also, since they live longer, humanity would consider those adult who lived longer than those now. Let's say that an average human lives 60 years. At the age of 20 they make at least one child however, if the human lifespan would be increased to 600 years, then that year would be 200. This would mean that population growth would still stay the same. This part of their life would simply slow down.

This is hardly a reason why humanity can't reach that point though, but if we consider everything, then that should be answer enough. And as you said (I think), the author couldn't foresee what we will discover by that time. New theories, new things to think about, new discoveries and whatnot. It is certainly an interesting read and a future that may happen in certain circumstances (and may actually happen somewhere if multiverse exists) however, it's most likely nothing more.

As for the god part: it was interesting. I do believe in a being that we could call "god". However, it's not a supernatural being in my opinion. I think it's most likely another lifeform that interacted with humans. And that lifeform could very well be robotic interfaces of a supercomputer that generated the universe, but if so, then where did it disappear?
SPOILER (show)
Sometimes there is another version of "god" that I believe in, so you might actually be able to say that I have not decided whether to believe or not.

I really like how this ideology makes "god" similar to humanity, which may actually be in the end support the idea of how the collective mind of humanity could turn into "god" in the novel.
4 years ago
The Watchcat
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Cregath said:
I still think that evolution shouldn't be ignored, even in a short novel if it takes up such a large timeframe. Of course, the writer never said that no changed occured however, as my earlier example says, they didn't use it at all even though it was logical. Also on a side-note: Isn't immortality in fact stopping entropy on a smaller object (human)? If so, then the answer was already there. But since the AC didn't use to it stop it completely, then it wasn't, which would mean they were 'immortal' and not immortal. My point being, they would still die of old age at one point, their life is just a lot longer. Also, since they live longer, humanity would consider those adult who lived longer than those now. Let's say that an average human lives 60 years. At the age of 20 they make at least one child however, if the human lifespan would be increased to 600 years, then that year would be 200. This would mean that population growth would still stay the same. This part of their life would simply slow down.

This is hardly a reason why humanity can't reach that point though, but if we consider everything, then that should be answer enough. And as you said (I think), the author couldn't foresee what we will discover by that time. New theories, new things to think about, new discoveries and whatnot. It is certainly an interesting read and a future that may happen in certain circumstances (and may actually happen somewhere if multiverse exists) however, it's most likely nothing more.

As for the god part: it was interesting. I do believe in a being that we could call "god". However, it's not a supernatural being in my opinion. I think it's most likely another lifeform that interacted with humans. And that lifeform could very well be robotic interfaces of a supercomputer that generated the universe, but if so, then where did it disappear?
SPOILER (show)
Sometimes there is another version of "god" that I believe in, so you might actually be able to say that I have not decided whether to believe or not.

I really like how this ideology makes "god" similar to humanity, which may actually be in the end support the idea of how the collective mind of humanity could turn into "god" in the novel.


Well, evouliton did not get ignored, but the writer simply haven't used it. The novel takes up so big of a timeframe, that it deemed unnecessarry. As for the immortality, it does not mean that entropy is stopped. Of course, no technique, or any method is discussed in the novel, but as long as humans needs energy (like for example, food, or the computers which catered their bodies) to sustain, immortality cannot be called entropy reversing. I go further, you can't even call it stopping entropy. Reversing entropy would mean, that every energy you use could be reversed into it's original state. For example, the food you eat, you could make that into to it's full youthness, back to the last atom.

Well, about the god thing. I watched the video too. I'm in the same wavelength as you basically. But what do you mean supernatural? Because any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and be called supernatural. I can only recommend you another read, albeit this is a little longer, it takes up four very long books. It's the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke. The four book basically is about this "robotic interface", or "supercomputer" god. I don't know how much time you have, but I recommend it. As far as I know, all the four books out in english. If you don't have it, I can lend it to you by post or whatever.

Link with info is ->here<-
4 years ago
NEET Detective
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I think the meaning of supernatural is quite straightforward. It's made up of two words: super and natural. Natural is obvious: it's everything that can happen in nature, meaning there is an explanation to how it works (even if we don't know it exactly). Super means one step over something, which means that supernatural refers to something that can't be explained as a natural phenomenon. This means that magic is supernatural, but supernatural is not only magic. Being and creatures that don't make any sense - as in we can't explain how they are there and we have no traces about their evolution - are also considered supernatural. Elves and dwarves and similar fantasy races are not supernatural though until they don't posess magic or unexplainable powers, but since we have no proof of their existence they are called "fantasy". Fantasy is another bigger category which contains supernatural. This is basicly how I define supernatural.
As for advanced technology considered magic? Sure, if you have no way of explaining it, then you can call it magic, but since it's technology and the source is most likely humanity, there will be an explanation. Since we know that there is one, we also know that it isn't magic meaning, it isn't supernatural.

Back on the supercomputer that evolves by itself. I personally think that no one can create anything that can do more than they themselves can't percieve. Would humanity be able to build catapults if they didn't see someone throw rocks? No, because they wouldn't be able to figure out how throwing works. Going by this, since of all the species we currently know, humans are the most technologically advanced and most intelligent then they shouldn't be able to create anything that is more intelligent than they themselves. In the novel the AC was thinking on a much higher level than the humans. However, I know that these thoughts have it's flaws, but I still think it's closer to reality.
As for the books, I might take a look at them in the near future, but I got quite busy recently and have little spare time.
4 years ago
The Watchcat
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Cregath said:
I think the meaning of supernatural is quite straightforward. It's made up of two words: super and natural. Natural is obvious: it's everything that can happen in nature, meaning there is an explanation to how it works (even if we don't know it exactly). Super means one step over something, which means that supernatural refers to something that can't be explained as a natural phenomenon. This means that magic is supernatural, but supernatural is not only magic. Being and creatures that don't make any sense - as in we can't explain how they are there and we have no traces about their evolution - are also considered supernatural. Elves and dwarves and similar fantasy races are not supernatural though until they don't posess magic or unexplainable powers, but since we have no proof of their existence they are called "fantasy". Fantasy is another bigger category which contains supernatural. This is basicly how I define supernatural.
As for advanced technology considered magic? Sure, if you have no way of explaining it, then you can call it magic, but since it's technology and the source is most likely humanity, there will be an explanation. Since we know that there is one, we also know that it isn't magic meaning, it isn't supernatural.

Back on the supercomputer that evolves by itself. I personally think that no one can create anything that can do more than they themselves can't percieve. Would humanity be able to build catapults if they didn't see someone throw rocks? No, because they wouldn't be able to figure out how throwing works. Going by this, since of all the species we currently know, humans are the most technologically advanced and most intelligent then they shouldn't be able to create anything that is more intelligent than they themselves. In the novel the AC was thinking on a much higher level than the humans. However, I know that these thoughts have it's flaws, but I still think it's closer to reality.
As for the books, I might take a look at them in the near future, but I got quite busy recently and have little spare time.


Well, let's just say that we accept within this topic the definition of supernatural, as it's stands good. But then you said, that by your opinion no one can create anything that can do more than they themselves cannot perceive. But what if I say, because this so-called god is a supernatural being, it has supernatural abilities too, which we don't understand, or cannot explain? What if, this supercomputer is a being which can sort any data in any correlation (as you can read that at the end of the novel too), and can create a completely new idea? Personally, I think that this is the case. Humans are generally unimaginative, and I think we should not say that everything is impossible in this world. Exactly because we know so scarce about it.
4 years ago
NEET Detective
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Supernatural creatures and others simply cannot exist. This is one of the few things that I will deny no matter what. If something can't be explained scientifically, then there is no way it can exist however, this does not mean that something that we can't explain doesn't exist. What I want to say is that if I can't explain how a 'god' came to be or how it does what it does now, then I (or someone else) will be able to in the future. Which means that something can only be called supernatural only as long as we don't see/experience it. Currently a 'god' is a supernatural creature since no one saw it, but if someone saw it, then it would lose that status even if we can't explain it. I don't know how to be more simple. If we know of something's existence, then it can be explained.

As for new ideas: What do you think are new ideas? The human brain is like a computer. It has a part processing data, it has a part storing data etc. This means that it can't operate with anything that it doesn't already have. Humanity is copying nature. "New ideas" are nothing more than copies of something else. Humans thought that they want to fly, so they copied birds and created planes. Well it's a really simplified version and I will probably never be able to explain it completely, but if you give me an example, then I might be able counter it with an explanation. If not, then I might just have to rethink this.
4 years ago
The Watchcat
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Cregath said:
Supernatural creatures and others simply cannot exist. This is one of the few things that I will deny no matter what. If something can't be explained scientifically, then there is no way it can exist however, this does not mean that something that we can't explain doesn't exist. What I want to say is that if I can't explain how a 'god' came to be or how it does what it does now, then I (or someone else) will be able to in the future. Which means that something can only be called supernatural only as long as we don't see/experience it. Currently a 'god' is a supernatural creature since no one saw it, but if someone saw it, then it would lose that status even if we can't explain it. I don't know how to be more simple. If we know of something's existence, then it can be explained.

As for new ideas: What do you think are new ideas? The human brain is like a computer. It has a part processing data, it has a part storing data etc. This means that it can't operate with anything that it doesn't already have. Humanity is copying nature. "New ideas" are nothing more than copies of something else. Humans thought that they want to fly, so they copied birds and created planes. Well it's a really simplified version and I will probably never be able to explain it completely, but if you give me an example, then I might be able counter it with an explanation. If not, then I might just have to rethink this.


I will write a lenghty explanation tomorrow, as my time tonight is limited. Be tuned.
4 years ago
The Watchcat
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Cregath said:
Supernatural creatures and others simply cannot exist. This is one of the few things that I will deny no matter what. If something can't be explained scientifically, then there is no way it can exist however, this does not mean that something that we can't explain doesn't exist. What I want to say is that if I can't explain how a 'god' came to be or how it does what it does now, then I (or someone else) will be able to in the future. Which means that something can only be called supernatural only as long as we don't see/experience it. Currently a 'god' is a supernatural creature since no one saw it, but if someone saw it, then it would lose that status even if we can't explain it. I don't know how to be more simple. If we know of something's existence, then it can be explained.

As for new ideas: What do you think are new ideas? The human brain is like a computer. It has a part processing data, it has a part storing data etc. This means that it can't operate with anything that it doesn't already have. Humanity is copying nature. "New ideas" are nothing more than copies of something else. Humans thought that they want to fly, so they copied birds and created planes. Well it's a really simplified version and I will probably never be able to explain it completely, but if you give me an example, then I might be able counter it with an explanation. If not, then I might just have to rethink this.


Well, first of all. You say, if something cannot be explained scientifically, it does not exist. I think, that everything can be explained scientifically (even the AC says that there are no problem which are insolutible), but, as you also said, we still can't explain a lot of things. So, if we call a creature supernatural, which we still cannot explain scientifically, but we know there is a scientific way, how it works, then you can say that they exist. They are creatures which we are yet to understand the way the works. Let's have for example a standard religinous view (without hurting anyone, it will be just an example. If you believe in anything, it's your call, and I'm all-okay with that). Religious views, in general, tells about an all-mighty god which could not be explained. She/he is just the god, the almighty. And people tend to believe just like that, that it's an almighty creature. In most of the cases, you can explain a lot of things scientifically, for example, just reading the bible. The result in general is that this is not the god what should be in existence. What I wanted to know, that the more someone think about something, the less things seems supernatural for her/him. If you read the bible, after a while, you will start to think about that maybe it's a good written story, but nothing else. And of course, there will be always dogmatic views. In short, I never told you that you don't have to explain something. You have to explain everything, else there is not much to it to prove it's existence. What I wanted to tell you, in the light the "Last question", that this short novel don't need explanation, because it has a different goal. It just takes elements, and try to convey an idea about how the world come to be. As of how the individual elements can be explained, let's be true with ourselves, cannot be explained with a short novel. Tihs is why I recommended you the Rama series. There, in the four book, the writer tries to explain everything within this concept.

About new ideas. The supercomputer in the novel basically, doing the same as you say. It's collecting data, sorting, and storing it, then creates new ideas from that. What I mean in new ideas, is that if a "computer" gets a lot of data, but cannot comprehend it, then nothing will be created from that. The AC in the novel is a computer, which know what data it has to collect, which it can understand, and create new data from that, which is sufficient to collect some higher grade data, and creating again something better. In the end, AC collected every information, and from that, created the answer for the last, ultimate question. What I meant to tell you, that yes, I give you that you are right. But, if we push away something we don't understand, and don't try to question it, and searching an answer even for the most lidicrous things, then we will never know more. Our brain is very selective. It collects only data which the individual feels engrossed about, so an individual can only create new ideas so much. That's why researchers also works in teams. And those few who don't, but accomplis something, are called geniuses, like Tesla, Einstein, etc.
4 years ago
NEET Detective
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Sorry for the late reply, I didn't really have time to write another lengthy message (or just didn't feel like it in some cases, which I probably shouldn't admit ^^).
What I wanted to tell about how I think something can be explained is quite similar, but we probably have a difference in what gains how much weight. What I mean is, if you see something you probably say that there is a scientific explanation, if not, it can be created in time. I on the other hand would say almost the same, except if I can't imagine a scientific explanation, then I will dismiss it as hallucination. Take ghosts for example: if I saw one, I wouldn't be able to imagine an explanation, thus saying that it's not even there and I must be mistaken. Judging from your wording (though I might very well be misunderstanding something) you would accept it, because you saw it and say that there is an explanation somewhere.
Although I agree that the more we think about something the better insight we get, but that's not always the case. Thinking about something that you simply can't comprehend with your current knowledge will just result in headache. The more you think about that thing the less you will understand, because you will notice small details as you think that make you theories useless. For example let's take someone who "controls gravity". You can't fully comprehend how that power works, but you try nonetheless, but then you notice small details like, why doesn't the planet's gravity affect the object anymore? That's just one example and not the best at that, but it should still be fine. Though it is clear that humanity is using this method to advance. Imitating nature and the likes after thinking about them more and more.
Going by these, a God does not exist. It simply can't in my opinion. (I don't mind other people believing as faith usually has a positive effect on their outlook.) I can't explain it, I won't be able to and I can't imagine anyone being able to. A God as you said is unexplainable, omnipotent, so they can do whatever, whenever, however in an instant. First, I can't imagine anything happening instantly. Secondly, I think that everything we are in is inside something bigger and even that is inside something bigger, because if time is infinite, then why wouldn't space be? This means that even this "God" should have it's boundaries, making it impossible for it to be omnipotent. And lastly, if we explained it somehow, wouldn't that collide with the condition of it being "unexplainable"? I think it would, so nothing that we can explain can be a God.
What I meant earlier the "AC being God" is that it is the closest thing to it. It still isn't God, because humans created it, which means that even if it advanced faster than humans can comprehend, they would still be able to in time. They were immortal after all, why wouldn't they be able to? Even if there are a hundred new generations of AC, then if they explain an earlier one, then that can't be God. With infinite time, they are able to explain every generation of it, no matter how long it takes.

I had an interesting thought about the ending. What if "Let there be light" was something different. I mean, what if it wasn't like "that's how God was created", but rather how human culture had an effect on the future even after they went extinct. If in that world the Bible really was just fiction, but the AC took that as the "Handbook to create humanity" and just simply imitated what was in it? This would mean that even the AC didn't know how to revert enthropy in the end, but it knew how to start again from a clean palette and that's why it couldn't do anything until everything was gone. I find this thought quite interesting.


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