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[[NextSundayAD Far into the future]], a family of pioneers, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], have exited [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] near their new home; [[CasualInterstellarTravel planet X - 23]]. A casual mention of entropy by Jerrodd has upset his daughters, so they ask Microvac if entropy can be reversed. Reassuring his daughters that [[BlatantLies Microvac has solved everything]], he puts them to bed. Before disposing of the answer, Jerrodd reads the answer again, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

to:

[[NextSundayAD Far into the future]], future, a family of pioneers, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], have exited [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] near their new home; [[CasualInterstellarTravel planet X - 23]]. A casual mention of entropy by Jerrodd has upset his daughters, so they ask Microvac if entropy can be reversed. Reassuring his daughters that [[BlatantLies Microvac has solved everything]], he puts them to bed. Before disposing of the answer, Jerrodd reads the answer again, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]



* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The story opens in 2061 AD, over a hundred years into the future from when this was published, and still somewhat similar to modern day, while characters celebrate that all energy generation has been changed over to a version of solar power that is sufficient for all the world's needs. The next scene jump, however, places the setting into NextSundayAD territory.

to:

* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The story opens in 2061 AD, over a hundred years into the future from when this was published, and still somewhat similar to modern day, while characters celebrate that all energy generation has been changed over to a version of solar power that is sufficient for all the world's needs. The next scene jump, however, places the setting into NextSundayAD territory.many thousands of years in the future.



** Next, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], a presumably average family, indicate that things are still somewhat recognizable, but also begins incorporating YouAreNumberSix for the NextSundayAD elements.

to:

** Next, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], a presumably average family, indicate that things are still somewhat recognizable, but also begins incorporating YouAreNumberSix for the NextSundayAD futuristic elements.



** Next, Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun, whose names sound like Z1 and D[[subscript:1]].

to:

** Next, Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun, whose names sound like Z1 Z' and D[[subscript:1]].



* TheFuture: Aside from the first scene, which is set [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture roughly a hundred years into the future]], human society is supposed to seem less and less recognizable as the generations of [[MasterComputer Multivac]] are replaced. First there's family-owned spaceships with voice-controlled systems incorporating an artificial general intelligence that includes an internet fifty generations in the making, CasualInterstellarTravel, and FantasticNamingConvention. Later scenes become more and more fantastic.



* NextSundayAD: Aside from the first scene, which is set [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture roughly a hundred years into the future]], human society is supposed to seem less and less recognizable as the generations of [[MasterComputer Multivac]] are replaced. First there's family-owned spaceships with voice-controlled systems incorporating an artificial general intelligence that includes an internet fifty generations in the making, CasualInterstellarTravel, and FantasticNamingConvention. Later scenes become more and more fantastic.


* ApocalypseHow: The story takes place over so many eons that, by the end, the entire universe has died to entropy. [[spoiler:It turns out to be reversible, though.]]


* NaturalEndOfTime: The Multivac is designed to solve this, [[spoiler:and finds a solution at the very end]].

to:

* NaturalEndOfTime: The Multivac is designed to solve this, [[spoiler:and finds a solution at often asked if entropy can be reversed, forestalling the very end]].end of the universe. Despite turning into a Galactic AC, existing entirely in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]], it fails to prevent the universe from dying. [[spoiler:But it does figure out a solution, and is able to [[CausedTheBigBang create a new one to replace it]].]]


* AGodAmI: The Cosmic AC, a MasterComputer for the universe, has figured out [[DeusEstMachina how to become God]] and does exactly that.

to:

* AGodAmI: GodhoodSeeker: The Cosmic AC, a MasterComputer for the universe, has figured out [[DeusEstMachina how to become God]] and does exactly that.


* BeepingComputers: (SubvertedTrope) When Multivac is seen at the start of the story, it is softly clicking (and some lights were flashing) because it was sorting routine data. When Adell and Lupov asked it the titular question, "The slow flashing of lights ceased, the distant sounds of clicking relays ended." Later iterations of Multivac are so complex they don't make any noise expect for speaking naturally with the human users.

to:

* BeepingComputers: (SubvertedTrope) When Multivac is seen at the start of the story, it is softly clicking (and some lights were flashing) because it was sorting routine data. When Adell and Lupov asked it the titular question, "The slow flashing of lights ceased, the distant sounds of clicking relays ended." Later iterations of Multivac are so complex they don't make any noise expect except for speaking naturally with the human users.


* AscendToAHigherPlaneofExistence: Ironically, it is the successor to [[MasterComputer Multivac, a computer the size of a small city]], that first ascends, being built within [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] to become more efficient. Humans manage to ascend to EnergyBeings, and then [[MergerOfSouls merge with the Universal AC to ascend again]].

to:

* AscendToAHigherPlaneofExistence: AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: Ironically, it is the successor to [[MasterComputer Multivac, a computer the size of a small city]], that first ascends, being built within [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] to become more efficient. Humans manage to ascend to EnergyBeings, and then [[MergerOfSouls merge with the Universal AC to ascend again]].

Added DiffLines:

* NaturalEndOfTime: The Multivac is designed to solve this, [[spoiler:and finds a solution at the very end]].

Added DiffLines:

* TheDeterminator: Towards the end of the story Cosmic AC admits to man that it has been working on the last question continually for the hundred billion years since it was first asked, and it will continue to do so until it has an answer.

Added DiffLines:

* CausedTheBigBang: The titular question refers to humans trying to figure out how to reverse entropy, the heat-death of the universe. By the end of the story, the massive human-designed computer Multivac has figured out an answer, but the universe has already died. So it recites from ''Literature/BookOfGenesis'', [-"LET THERE BE LIGHT!"-], [[ImpliedTrope implying]] the creation of a new universe.


* DeityofHumanOrigin: (PlayedWith) Humanity builds a supercomputer of unparalleled processing power and keeps upgrading it over millions of years, asking the eponymous question ("How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", that is, violate basic laws of physics and [[DeusEstMachina enter god territory]]) from time to time. The answer is always "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER." This remains the answer even as the computer grows exponentially more powerful as the story progresses through the gradual heat death of the universe, and even when the Universe is completely dead and the computer was the only thing left in existence (its hardware had [[AscendtoAHigherPlaneofExistence transcended matter and energy]] and been hidden in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] long before that point), it still doesn't know the answer. But the computer keeps working on it until it does find the answer, so the story ends with "And [the computer] said, [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-] And there was light-"

to:

* DeityofHumanOrigin: DeityOfHumanOrigin: (PlayedWith) Humanity builds a supercomputer of unparalleled processing power and keeps upgrading it over millions of years, asking the eponymous question ("How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", that is, violate basic laws of physics and [[DeusEstMachina enter god territory]]) from time to time. The answer is always "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER." This remains the answer even as the computer grows exponentially more powerful as the story progresses through the gradual heat death of the universe, and even when the Universe is completely dead and the computer was the only thing left in existence (its hardware had [[AscendtoAHigherPlaneofExistence transcended matter and energy]] and been hidden in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] long before that point), it still doesn't know the answer. But the computer keeps working on it until it does find the answer, so the story ends with "And [the computer] said, [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-] And there was light-"



* MagicFromTechnology: Delete this and the CrossWick.


[[NextSundayAD Far into the future]], a family of pioneers, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], have exited [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] near their new home; [[CasualInterstellerTravel planet X - 23]]. A casual mention of entropy by Jerrodd has upset his daughters, so they ask Microvac if entropy can be reversed. Reassuring his daughters that [[BlatantLies Microvac has solved everything]], he puts them to bed. Before disposing of the answer, Jerrodd reads the answer again, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

to:

[[NextSundayAD Far into the future]], a family of pioneers, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], have exited [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] near their new home; [[CasualInterstellerTravel [[CasualInterstellarTravel planet X - 23]]. A casual mention of entropy by Jerrodd has upset his daughters, so they ask Microvac if entropy can be reversed. Reassuring his daughters that [[BlatantLies Microvac has solved everything]], he puts them to bed. Before disposing of the answer, Jerrodd reads the answer again, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]



AfterTheEnd of the universe, all data has been collected. Space is gone, and Time has disappeared with it. Ten trillion years was not enough to determine an answer to the last question. But the data had not been comprehensively correlated, so the Cosmic AC spends a period of contemplation sorting through the data and seeing how it all fits together. Finally, an answer is determined, and the AC considers the formless void that once held a universe. To properly answer the question, it would become a Universe again, [[Literature/BookOfGenesis And AC said, ]][-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" ]]-][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light.]]

to:

AfterTheEnd of the universe, all data has been collected. Space is gone, and Time has disappeared with it. Ten trillion years was not enough to determine an answer to the last question. But the data had not been comprehensively correlated, so the Cosmic AC spends a period of contemplation sorting through the data and seeing how it all fits together. Finally, an answer is determined, and the AC considers the formless void that once held a universe. To properly answer the question, it would become a Universe again, [[Literature/BookOfGenesis And AC said, ]][-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" ]]-][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis ]]-][[Literature/BookOfGenesis And there was light.]]


* AfterTheEnd: The last scene takes place after the heat death of the universe. Humanity is gone and only the [[MasterComputer Cosmic AC]] is left, existing only in [[SubspaceOrHypserspace hyperspace]]. The universe has deteriorated into a formless Chaos, a void of all things. Having finally solved the last question ever posed to it, the Cosmic AC says, [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]

to:

* AfterTheEnd: The last scene takes place after the heat death of the universe. Humanity is gone and only the [[MasterComputer Cosmic AC]] is left, existing only in [[SubspaceOrHypserspace [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]]. The universe has deteriorated into a formless Chaos, a void of all things. Having finally solved the last question ever posed to it, the Cosmic AC says, [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]



* CasualInterstellarTravel: The second scene involves FTL through [[SubspaceOrHypserspace hyperspace]], an invention by the Planetary AC computers which allow humans to colonize new worlds. This, along with immortality, begins to cause new issues as the population of the galaxy is increasing rapidly. The fourth scene has EnergyBeings of mankind which can [[SmallUniverseAfterAll traverse intergalactic distances]] with only the effort of their minds.

to:

* CasualInterstellarTravel: The second scene involves FTL through [[SubspaceOrHypserspace [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]], an invention by the Planetary AC computers which allow humans to colonize new worlds. This, along with immortality, begins to cause new issues as the population of the galaxy is increasing rapidly. The fourth scene has EnergyBeings of mankind which can [[SmallUniverseAfterAll traverse intergalactic distances]] with only the effort of their minds.


AfterTheEnd of the universe, all data has been collected. Space is gone, and Time has disappeared with it. Ten trillion years was not enough to determine an answer to the last question. But the data had not been comprehensively correlated, so the Cosmic AC spends a period of contemplation sorting through the data and seeing how it all fits together. Finally, an answer is determined, and the AC considers the formless void that once held a universe. To properly answer the question, it would become a Universe again, [[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And AC said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light]].

to:

AfterTheEnd of the universe, all data has been collected. Space is gone, and Time has disappeared with it. Ten trillion years was not enough to determine an answer to the last question. But the data had not been comprehensively correlated, so the Cosmic AC spends a period of contemplation sorting through the data and seeing how it all fits together. Finally, an answer is determined, and the AC considers the formless void that once held a universe. To properly answer the question, it would become a Universe again, [[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis [[Literature/BookOfGenesis And AC said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis ]][-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis LIGHT!" ]]-][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light]].
light.]]



* DeityofHumanOrigin: (PlayedWith) Humanity builds a supercomputer of unparalleled processing power and keeps upgrading it over millions of years, asking the eponymous question ("How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", that is, violate basic laws of physics and [[DeusEstMachina enter god territory]]) from time to time. The answer is always "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER." This remains the answer even as the computer grows exponentially more powerful as the story progresses through the gradual heat death of the universe, and even when the Universe is completely dead and the computer was the only thing left in existence (its hardware had [[AscendtoAHigherPlaneofExistence transcended matter and energy]] and been hidden in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] long before that point), it still doesn't know the answer. But the computer keeps working on it until it does find the answer, so the story ends with "And [the computer] said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-] And there was light-"
* DeusEstMachina: Quintessentially, the Cosmic AC, to the point where, after [[TheStarsAreGoingOut all the stars have gone out]] and the universe has died of entropy, it recreates the universe with the line, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]

to:

* DeityofHumanOrigin: (PlayedWith) Humanity builds a supercomputer of unparalleled processing power and keeps upgrading it over millions of years, asking the eponymous question ("How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", that is, violate basic laws of physics and [[DeusEstMachina enter god territory]]) from time to time. The answer is always "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER." This remains the answer even as the computer grows exponentially more powerful as the story progresses through the gradual heat death of the universe, and even when the Universe is completely dead and the computer was the only thing left in existence (its hardware had [[AscendtoAHigherPlaneofExistence transcended matter and energy]] and been hidden in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] long before that point), it still doesn't know the answer. But the computer keeps working on it until it does find the answer, so the story ends with "And [the computer] said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-] And there was light-"
* DeusEstMachina: Quintessentially, the Cosmic AC, to the point where, after [[TheStarsAreGoingOut all the stars have gone out]] and the universe has died of entropy, it recreates the universe with the line, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]



* JustBeforeTheEnd: The second to last scene takes place just before the heat death of the universe. In each scene, a human (or a descendant thereof) asks Multivac (or a descendant thereof), "How can entropy be reversed?". The last scene ''is'' AfterTheEnd, and that's when [[TheNamesake the last question]] is finally answered; [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light]].

to:

* JustBeforeTheEnd: The second to last scene takes place just before the heat death of the universe. In each scene, a human (or a descendant thereof) asks Multivac (or a descendant thereof), "How can entropy be reversed?". The last scene ''is'' AfterTheEnd, and that's when [[TheNamesake the last question]] is finally answered; [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis -][[Literature/BookOfGenesis And there was light]].



* ShoutOut: The final lines of the story are drawn from the first chapter in ''Literature/TheBookOfGenesis''; [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]

to:

* ShoutOut: The final lines of the story are drawn from the first chapter in ''Literature/TheBookOfGenesis''; the ''Literature/BookOfGenesis''; [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]



* WhamLine: The story features a series of ever-more-powerful computers, who are each asked the question, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", in the context of averting the heat death of the universe. The answer always comes back [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-], until the final iteration of the computer, a [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]]-based computer called the "Cosmic AC" who has survived the heat death of the universe. It concludes that it must demonstrate the reversal of entropy in order to properly answer mankind's question and says, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]

to:

* WhamLine: The story features a series of ever-more-powerful computers, who are each asked the question, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", in the context of averting the heat death of the universe. The answer always comes back [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-], until the final iteration of the computer, a [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]]-based computer called the "Cosmic AC" who has survived the heat death of the universe. It concludes that it must demonstrate the reversal of entropy in order to properly answer mankind's question and says, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis [-[[Literature/BookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]

Added DiffLines:

First published in ''Magazine/ScienceFictionQuarterly'' (November 1956 issue), by Creator/IsaacAsimov. This story is the most well-known story by Dr Asimov, as well as one of his favourites. He reportedly was asked constantly about the name of the story, because people would remember the WhamLine, but forget the title.

The first time humanity asked Multivac the titular question was when two technicians, Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov, were celebrating Multivac's solution for solar power on [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture 21st May 2061]] (the celebration has lasted for seven days). The energy that Multivac can generate from the Sun is orders of magnitude more than Earth can generate from coal and other non-renewable resources. Adell says they have enough energy to last forever. Lupov [[NotQuiteForever contradicts them]], saying that it will only last for billions and billions of years but that entropy means we will run out of energy. So the two technicians challenge Multivac to learn whether entropy might be reversed. Multivac's answer is, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

[[NextSundayAD Far into the future]], a family of pioneers, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], have exited [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] near their new home; [[CasualInterstellerTravel planet X - 23]]. A casual mention of entropy by Jerrodd has upset his daughters, so they ask Microvac if entropy can be reversed. Reassuring his daughters that [[BlatantLies Microvac has solved everything]], he puts them to bed. Before disposing of the answer, Jerrodd reads the answer again, [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

Even further into the future, two people, VJ-23X of Lameth and MQ-17J of Nicron, are preparing a report for the [[GalacticSuperpower Galactic Council]] about humanity's rate of expansion in the galaxy. They realize that the rate of energy expenditure is even higher than the rate of human expansion. VJ-23X jokingly suggests that MQ-17J asks the Galactic AC if entropy can be reversed. It answers, [-"THERE IS INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

Jumping ahead again, we meet Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun, who are essentially EnergyBeings because their immortal bodies are left alone on planets while their minds are free to [[SmallUniverseAfterAll traverse the galaxies]]. In a fit of curiosity, they ask the Universal AC to show them the original galaxy from which humanity was born, then ask to see the original star. Of course, this is so many millions of years into the future, the sun is now a white dwarf, and Zee Prime becomes depressed, realizing that all the stars will burn out. So thy ask the Universal AC how they might reverse entropy, and it answers, [-"THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

It is JustBeforeTheEnd now, and Man is the only person left; a compilation of the minds of trillions upon trillions upon trillions of human beings. Man speaks to the Universal AC three times to request an answer on how entropy might be reversed. Each time, the answer remains the same; [-"THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-]

AfterTheEnd of the universe, all data has been collected. Space is gone, and Time has disappeared with it. Ten trillion years was not enough to determine an answer to the last question. But the data had not been comprehensively correlated, so the Cosmic AC spends a period of contemplation sorting through the data and seeing how it all fits together. Finally, an answer is determined, and the AC considers the formless void that once held a universe. To properly answer the question, it would become a Universe again, [[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And AC said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light]].

"The Last Question" has been adapted into several formats, such as [[AudioAdaptation audiobooks]]; ''Literature/IsaacAsimovHimself'' (1975, read by Creator/IsaacAsimov), ''Literature/TheLastQuestionAndOtherStories'' (1975, written by Creator/IsaacAsimov and read by Creator/JimGallant), ''Literature/ScienceFictionFavorites'' (1975, read by Creator/IsaacAsimov), and ''Radio/TheDrabblecast'' (episode #200, March 2011). It has been adapted into multiple planetarium shows, including one with Creator/LeonardNimoy as the {{Narrator}}. It was adapted for Radio broadcast by BBC in 2008 and narrated by Creator/HenryGoodman. Finally, it was republished thirty times, and Dr Asimov would collect it in ten of his {{Antholog|y}}ies; ''Literature/NineTomorrows'' (1959), ''Literature/Opus100'' (1969), ''Literature/TheBestOfIsaacAsimov'' (1973), ''Literature/TheEdgeOfTomorrow'' (1985), ''Literature/TheBestScienceFictionOfIsaacAsimov'' (1986), ''Literature/RobotDreams'' (1986), ''Literature/TheAsimovChronicles'' (1989), ''Literature/TheCompleteStoriesVolume1'' (1990), ''Literature/FoundationsFriends: Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov'' (1997), ''Literature/ItsBeenAGoodLife'' (2002).
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!!"The Last Question" contains examples of:
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The story opens in 2061 AD, over a hundred years into the future from when this was published, and still somewhat similar to modern day, while characters celebrate that all energy generation has been changed over to a version of solar power that is sufficient for all the world's needs. The next scene jump, however, places the setting into NextSundayAD territory.
* AbsentAliens: Aliens are never seen, despite the story taking us all the way to the end of the universe. Humanity is allowed to freely colonize the entire universe with [[CasualInterstellarTravel casual inter]]''[[CasualInterstellarTravel galactic ]]''[[CasualInterstellarTravel travel]].
* AbsurdlyHugePopulation: Just before [[TheStarsAreGoingOut the end of the universe]], it is populated by "a trillion, trillion, trillion" people, spread all over the universe.
* AfterTheEnd: The last scene takes place after the heat death of the universe. Humanity is gone and only the [[MasterComputer Cosmic AC]] is left, existing only in [[SubspaceOrHypserspace hyperspace]]. The universe has deteriorated into a formless Chaos, a void of all things. Having finally solved the last question ever posed to it, the Cosmic AC says, [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]
* ApocalypseHow: The story takes place over so many eons that, by the end, the entire universe has died to entropy. [[spoiler:It turns out to be reversible, though.]]
* AscendToAHigherPlaneofExistence: Ironically, it is the successor to [[MasterComputer Multivac, a computer the size of a small city]], that first ascends, being built within [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] to become more efficient. Humans manage to ascend to EnergyBeings, and then [[MergerOfSouls merge with the Universal AC to ascend again]].
* BeepingComputers: (SubvertedTrope) When Multivac is seen at the start of the story, it is softly clicking (and some lights were flashing) because it was sorting routine data. When Adell and Lupov asked it the titular question, "The slow flashing of lights ceased, the distant sounds of clicking relays ended." Later iterations of Multivac are so complex they don't make any noise expect for speaking naturally with the human users.
* BenevolentAi: Multivac is so human-focused and helpful that even after it guides humanity and its descendants all the way until the end of the universe, there was one question it never answered. [[TheNamesake The Last Question]] is if it is possible to reverse the effects of entropy. In order to fully answer that, [[DeusEstMachina the computer becomes God]] and recreates the universe so that there is a humanity that it can give the answer to.
* BlatantLies: Jerrodd lies to his children, telling them that [[MasterComputer the Microvac running their spaceship]] has already figured out how to prevent [[TheStarsAreGoingOut the stars of the universe from dying due to entropy]]. Telling them the truth would have upset them further, and he's trying to get them to bed.
* CasualInterstellarTravel: The second scene involves FTL through [[SubspaceOrHypserspace hyperspace]], an invention by the Planetary AC computers which allow humans to colonize new worlds. This, along with immortality, begins to cause new issues as the population of the galaxy is increasing rapidly. The fourth scene has EnergyBeings of mankind which can [[SmallUniverseAfterAll traverse intergalactic distances]] with only the effort of their minds.
* DeityofHumanOrigin: (PlayedWith) Humanity builds a supercomputer of unparalleled processing power and keeps upgrading it over millions of years, asking the eponymous question ("How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", that is, violate basic laws of physics and [[DeusEstMachina enter god territory]]) from time to time. The answer is always "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER." This remains the answer even as the computer grows exponentially more powerful as the story progresses through the gradual heat death of the universe, and even when the Universe is completely dead and the computer was the only thing left in existence (its hardware had [[AscendtoAHigherPlaneofExistence transcended matter and energy]] and been hidden in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] long before that point), it still doesn't know the answer. But the computer keeps working on it until it does find the answer, so the story ends with "And [the computer] said, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-] And there was light-"
* DeusEstMachina: Quintessentially, the Cosmic AC, to the point where, after [[TheStarsAreGoingOut all the stars have gone out]] and the universe has died of entropy, it recreates the universe with the line, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]
* DrivingQuestion: A succession of people attempt to get [[MasterComputer Multivac]] to answer this question, "Can entropy be reversed?" As it turns out, yes it can.
* Expositron9000: Humans build increasingly advanced computers and, every so often, ask them whether the heat death of the universe can be reversed. The computers always say something similar to [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-] It's only after the universe has ended, when the only thing left existing is the single cosmic-scale computer with its circuitry in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]], that the question is finally answered.
* FamilyThemeNaming: Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II are a father, mother, and two daughters whose names all begin with ''Jerrod''.
* FantasticNamingConvention: The changes in names are used to help illustrate the [[StandardSciFiHistory different periods of growth the universe goes through]]:
** First, Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov are normal enough names, indicating events are TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture.
** Next, [[FamilyThemeNaming Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II]], a presumably average family, indicate that things are still somewhat recognizable, but also begins incorporating YouAreNumberSix for the NextSundayAD elements.
** Next, [[YouAreNumberSix VJ-23X of Lameth and MQ-17J of Nicron]] appear in the next segment, showing a trend towards names becoming designations rather than words.
** Next, Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun, whose names sound like Z1 and D[[subscript:1]].
** Last, Man; because all humans are one human, each ageless body [[AscendToAHigherPlaneofExistence ascended]] to live as EnergyBeings that have [[MergerOfSouls merged into one person]].
* AGodAmI: The Cosmic AC, a MasterComputer for the universe, has figured out [[DeusEstMachina how to become God]] and does exactly that.
* JustBeforeTheEnd: The second to last scene takes place just before the heat death of the universe. In each scene, a human (or a descendant thereof) asks Multivac (or a descendant thereof), "How can entropy be reversed?". The last scene ''is'' AfterTheEnd, and that's when [[TheNamesake the last question]] is finally answered; [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]] -][[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis And there was light]].
* MagicFromTechnology: Delete this and the CrossWick.
* MasterComputer: Each version of Multivac seen in this story is larger and larger (except for the very second one we see, the Microvac, due to miniaturization). The first one starts out measured in miles. The successive versions end up existing only in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]] because otherwise it would be so large that the speed of light would slow down its processing.
* MergerOfSouls: Just before the end of the universe, the essential souls of mankind had already merged together to a single consciousness, but on-screen we see each of the remaining humans merge with humanity's [[MasterComputer hypercomputer]], the Cosmic AC.
* NextSundayAD: Aside from the first scene, which is set [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture roughly a hundred years into the future]], human society is supposed to seem less and less recognizable as the generations of [[MasterComputer Multivac]] are replaced. First there's family-owned spaceships with voice-controlled systems incorporating an artificial general intelligence that includes an internet fifty generations in the making, CasualInterstellarTravel, and FantasticNamingConvention. Later scenes become more and more fantastic.
* NotQuiteForever: The [[TheStarsAreGoingOut whole plot]] of Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''The Last Question'' [[DistantPrologue starts with this trope]]:
-->'''Adell:''' All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever.\\
'''Lupov:''' Not forever.\\
'''Adell:''' Oh, hell, just about forever. Till the sun runs down, Bert.\\
'''Lupov:''' That's not forever.\\
'''Adell:''' All right, then. Billions and billions of years. Twenty billion, maybe. Are you satisfied?\\
'''Lupov:''' Twenty billion years isn't forever.
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: Both VJ-23X and MQ-17J seem to be in their early twenties, but VJ-23X is two hundred twenty-three years old and MQ-17J is just under two centuries old.
* ShoutOut: The final lines of the story are drawn from the first chapter in ''Literature/TheBookOfGenesis''; [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]-]
* SmallUniverseAfterAll: At some point in the distant future depicted by this story, mankind will develop inter''galactic'' travel to the point where characters can casually communicate and move to different galaxies (so casually, that each one is simply "the galaxy").
* SolarCPR: This story follows the potential future of humankind, showing different eras where characters realize that the stars will run out, and they ask their ever-more-powerful [=general-purpose AIs=] how to restore the energy of the stars. Or, put another way, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?" It takes longer than the lifetime of the universe that is, long after [[TheStarsAreGoingOut the stars have gone out]] to come up with an answer.
* TheStarsAreGoingOut: Characters, concerned that stars will inevitably die, ask ever more-powerful computers how to [[SolarCPR restore the energy of the stars and reverse entropy]]. It takes longer than the lifetime of the universe that is, long after the stars have gone out to come up with an answer. [[spoiler:Yes, it can. The story ends with the now bodiless and omniscient computer proclaiming, [-[[WhamLine "LET THERE BE LIGHT."]]]]-]
* StandardSciFiHistory: The story starts with Earth celebrating the total conversion to solar power (a method devised by [[MasterComputer Multivac]] which is far more efficient than current solar cell technology). The next scene has jumped to interstellar exploration with the Jerrod family moving to X - 23. Next comes a pair of character writing a report for the Galactic Council on the projected rate of expansion within UsefulNotes/TheMilkyWayGalaxy. This council never really seems to fall apart, merely dissolve into uselessness as mankind acts more like EnergyBeings. By the time the universe is ending, there are [[AbsurdlyHugePopulation over a trillion, multiplied by a trillion, multiplied by a trillion people]] in it. [[AbsentAliens Aliens are never seen]] and this story goes much further along the path of history than comparable stories.
* TimeAbyss: The AC has the memories of the first Multivac on Earth. The story ends some unspecified (but extremely long) time after the heat death of the universe.
* YouAreNumberSix: Each scene makes use of a different FantasticNamingConvention. The second scenes have Jerrodettes I and II, the third introduces VJ-23X of Lameth and MQ-17J of Nicron, and the fourth has Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun, whose names sound like Z1 and D[[subscript:1]]. The names become gradually more inhuman to represent that the descendants of humanity will seem more and more inhuman the further they are displaced in time from us.
* WhamLine: The story features a series of ever-more-powerful computers, who are each asked the question, "How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?", in the context of averting the heat death of the universe. The answer always comes back [-"INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER."-], until the final iteration of the computer, a [[SubspaceOrHyperspace hyperspace]]-based computer called the "Cosmic AC" who has survived the heat death of the universe. It concludes that it must demonstrate the reversal of entropy in order to properly answer mankind's question and says, [-[[Literature/TheBookOfGenesis "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"]]-]
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