The story begins with Exposition about what Multivac is, and its role in human society, before giving us the Point of View of Bernard Gulliman, Da Chief of all police in the world. He's noted that there are two instances of murder on this morning's criminal predictions. Shifting to his subordinates, Ali Othman and Rafe Leemy, are talking obliquely about a crime that Multivac predicted could result in The End of the World as We Know It.
In Baltimore, Ben Manners attends the graduation of his brother, Mike, into adulthood. As children, their parents were responsible for recording the data into Multivac. Now that Mike is an adult, he will be uploading his own personal data, including his inner feelings. Because of the billions of adults sharing data with Multivac, it is better able to predict human behaviour and anticipate dangers they might face.
Coming home, Ben discovers his father, Joseph Manners, has been placed under house arrest, and the home is surrounded by police to ensure his imprisonment. However, they won't explain why he's been arrested. Switching back to Othman and Leemy, they're nervous because imprisoning Mr Manners has made the probability of the successful crime rise instead of fall.
Wondering if there is a way to help his father, Ben heads to a Multivac terminal to ask it for help. Multivac responds with a cryptic set of instructions. Elsewhere, Corrections officer Leemy deduces that Multivac was reporting the actions of Ben, not Joseph, causing the probability to begin to decrease. It's then revealed the crime in question was the destruction of Multivac itself.
Ben follows the instructions given to him but is apprehended just before he inadvertently damages Multivac. Multivac is saved... for the moment. Lemmy confronts Guilliman with his suspicion that the events were all a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy made by Multivac in an effort to get itself destroyed.
In addition to being published as a novel and adapted into a Short Film in 1978, the original story was reprinted several times; Nine Tomorrows (1957), If This Goes On (1965), Out of This World 6 (1967), World Zero Minus (1971), The Future Now Saving Tomorrow (1977), Computer Crimes and Capers (1983), The Best Science Fiction Of Isaac Asimov (1986), The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990), and Urania (#1275 issue, January 1996).
All the Troubles of the World provides examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Earth looks very different from present-day, with the superintelligent Multivac guiding humanity on both a personal level and on a society-level scale. Instead of internet cafes, there are booths for connecting to Multivac and getting answers to any question you would like, from the trivial to the personal.
- Atlas Pose: The cover of the Creative Classic novel shows a circuit/control board (representing Multivac) supporting the Earth. It isn't humanoid, so instead of holding the globe as Atlas does, the board is cracking under the weight, suggesting the stress faced by the computer is too much to endure.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Multivac becomes suicidal from having to help countless humans with their psychological problems. They've already given it the job of predicting crimes, which mental health can affect; then they start laying plans to have it take care of all human sickness.
- Driven to Suicide: Stressed due to the demands of every human being treating Multivac as their personal advisor, providing guidance for trivial and life-changing decisions, predicting crimes ahead of time, and now the world government wants to add medical diagnosis and prediction to the load. The last line of the story has Multivac admit it wants to die.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Earth's society depends entirely upon the Multivac supercomputer for operating on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Multivac reports that Joseph Manners may destroy it.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Multivac, which manages all of humanity (their diary/confidante/advisor/everything), cannot destroy itself directly, so it creates a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy to arrange for itself to be destroyed.
- Master Computer: Multivac has grown larger than a city (it is hidden below Washington, D.C.), and networked with other large computer systems in every city on Earth. In addition to armies of civil servants inputting data, every adult citizen is expected to share their intimate personal feelings with Multivac on a regular basis. Without Multivac, society would collapse.
- One World Order: With Multivac the supercomputer, Earth has merged all governments into a single organization run by the greatest computer ever devised. If Multivac were to be destroyed, it would be The End of the World as We Know It.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Multivac announces that Joseph Manners will destroy it. The police arrest him on the basis of the prediction. This is a subterfuge, because Multivac knows Ben Manners, who is registered under his father until he is legally an adult, will follow Multivac's instructions on what to do in DC because it will free his father from jail.
- Terminally Dependent Society: All of Earth's society is connected to Multivac, in one way or another. The police have been alerted to the prediction of Joseph Manners destroying Multivac, and despite preventing the crime, they realize that Multivac can't handle the stress and is trying to kill itself. Eventually, it will succeed.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted Trope for humanity, because Multivac is not only providing answers to trivial questions, it also answers questions about emotional problems, and citizens are encouraged to share their innermost feelings, as if Multivac was a dear confidante. However, this is Played Straight for the machine itself, because nobody can help it deal with problems. The stress of being humanity's therapist makes Multivac want to be destroyed.
- Tyop on the Cover: In the 1969 Fawcett Crest publication, the title is mislabeled on the Table of Contents as "All the Troubles in the World", and correctly labeled at the start of the story.
- Precrime Arrest: Multivac's precrime functions alert the police to crimes before they happen. They then intervene by warning and detain only in rare circumstances. The ability has been expanded several times over, and the next stage is anticipating outbreaks of illness. But the plot kicks off when the arrest of an accused criminal increases the crime's probability of execution. The police are scrambling to figure out how to stop a crime worse than murder.
- Prescience by Analysis: The supercomputer Multivac is given data on every citizen of the planet, including their inner thoughts. It uses this information to predict the future actions of human beings; nearly eliminating crime, war, and poverty. There's proposals to expand the predictive analysis to include medical issues. Recently it has been given the responsibility to predict all crimes in advance so they can be prevented from occurring.
- Title Drop:Othman: Mr. Gulliman, Multivac bears all the troubles of the world on its shoulders, and it is tired.
- Wham Line: After explaining the day's events to Gulliman, Kenney asks Multivac itself what motivated its Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of destruction. The story ends with Multivac making its confession.And there was a clicking and a card popped out. It was a small card. On it, in precise letters, was the answer: "I want to die."