When Computers Become Gods

Ever since the 1950s, when business environments were slowly being populated by giant, mainframe computers and their minicomputer progeny (which were not so mini in size), science fiction writers have toyed with the idea that computers are about to become gods. You see this in David Gerrold's 1970s novel When HARLIE Was One, as well as in the Terminator franchise, where a computer unleashes Armageddon. But if you trace this theme back, there remains one classic of the computer-as-god genre, and it's a 1950s short story by Isaac Asimov that's available for free online.

The story is called "The Last Question," and it has something of a fairy tale structure, beginning once upon a time when two drunk programmers ask the first AI how to reverse the process of entropy. Then we see snapshots of humankind as it evolves over the next several billion years, as they reap the benefits of having invented nearly-inexhaustible energy. Still, the problem of entropy plagues them. How do you live forever and transcend humanness if you can't defeat the heat death of the universe. Could an AI come up with the answer. Check out this old-school science fiction tale about a computer trying to answer the ultimate question. Image from Phil's PDP10 Page.

"The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov [Multivax] (Thanks, PT!)