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This short story is stupid. It goes to great lengths to give a grand sense of perspective, and focusses the whole story on one repeating theme: a question about reversing entropy. A super computer tries to answer the question. Just when all the stars burn out and humanity ends, it figures out the answer. It says "Let there be light!"

That's it? That's fucking it? The story builds up to a content-free religious answer? What a waste of time. It misled me. I thought it was a science fiction story, not some acclamation for an old myth. I thought it was about forward thinking, not excusing an idea that presently epitomizes backwards thinking.

Most of the people described in the story are supposed to be very advanced. But then the story ends with religion. And not just any form of religion, but unbearably parochial and silly Creationist mythology.

That isn't, by the way, the only parochial error in the story. At one point they invent immortality and the population doubles every ten years. That means one child per person per decade. Every decade. A bit more to make up for young people not having any. That's just insane, even by present standards. What couple today wants two kids per ten years all their lives?

When we invent immortality, we will put more effort into making each existing life very nice, and we won't want to make new ones at a very high rate. Wanting lots of kids is parochial. It's partly even just tied up in people wanting sex and not yet adjusting to birth control (including abortions).

I haven't read Asimov, but I know he is respected and admired. It's a shame that this is his favorite story, and that he thinks his idea is brilliant.

Elliot Temple on January 30, 2007


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