The Last Question

23 March 2012. Filed under category General Philosophy.

Through the course of researching lyrics for our new album “Monsterworks: Universe” I was reading about the theorised heat death of the Universe which inevitably leads to exploring the nature of entropy.  It is generally accepted that the Universe will progress toward a state of maximum entropy as energy is used up.  In simple terms entropy involves the idea that it is not possible to reconstruct a tree from the ash of a burnt out forest no matter how hard you try.  That process is irreversible.

Deep Thought in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Somewhere buried in a Wikipedia entry on the subject I found a link to Isaac Asimov’s short story “The Last Question”.  The following blog entry is a complete spoiler for that story so I strongly urge you and everybody in the Universe to read it before tackling my interpretation.  Here is the link: The Last Question; you have been warned!

Let’s cut to the chase…..

At the end of time all of mankind’s collective consciousness has fused with a universal computer (The Cosmic AC) which, tracing back to its inception, was created by man in the first place in order to solve difficult problems.  This idea is established in other writings as a technological singularity where man creates an artificial intelligence that is smart enough to build its own successor.

The remaining consciousness in hyperspace exists only to answer the one last question, which is “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?” All matter and energy are gone so time and space have no meaning when The Cosmic AC learns the answer; and most significantly it had no one to tell that answer to (which must be lonely).

The Cosmic AC decided to put the answer into effect which, it knew, would create a new Universe and demonstrate the solution had been found.  The Cosmic AC said “Let there be light, and there was light”.  Big Bang presumably commences (and the cycle begins again?).

Now, it is not clear what the complete consequences of this action are in the story.  My interpretation is that The Cosmic AC probably knew (it is quite a bit smarter than me) that it would destroy itself by creating the Universe and, as such, that is an ultimate act of love.

You can probably see where I am going with this.  The Cosmic AC is what we refer to as “God”.  It learned the power of creation and sacrificed itself for a new Universe to exist that would one day evolve sentient beings to comprehend what had happened.  This explains why God is absent in the present Universe because we (sentient beings) simply have not achieved that state yet and may not until the end of time.  After the end of time the collective conscience effectively has an eternity to find the answer so its discovery is an inevitability.

The fragments of God are all around us but have no actual influence, which is why we “feel” there is something greater than ourselves out there but do not directly experience it.

The beauty of the story is that the influential and wrathful God of popular religions is shown to be false.  Hell and damnation just do not enter into it because, eventually, mankind evolves to an incorruptible state so that kind of punishment is irrelevant.  And after that mankind evolves to be God.

Admittedly it still does not solve the causal question which is a problem for all religions and, indeed, cosmology; namely “if God created the Universe, what created God?” or “what was the first cause of the first Universe” (assuming an ever cycling series of Universes which includes theories regarding a “Big Crunch”).  The answer is the same as a theologian offers “God (The Conscience of Cosmic AC) exists outside of spacetime and so our understanding of what caused it is not the right question”.

For the time being we have no choice but to accept that explanation.  I am comfortable with it because theoretical physics and theology tend to agree that before big bang the very nature of space and time cannot be comprehended by our present tools of understanding.  Fine.

Multiverse theory - completely irrelevant in the present context but it is a nice picture

However, my interpretation derived from The Last Question at least is content to accept that God is not present in the Universe because God only exists in the gap between Universes – outside space and time.  Modern religious people who are otherwise sensible still insist that God is a personal God with influence on their lives even though they also consider him to be outside the constraints of space and time.  It seems logical to me that an entity existing outside space and time cannot or does not interact with entities within space and time.

The crucial thing here is that God will exist, just not until the Universe is in a state where The Last Question can be solved (in the eternity after matter has dispersed).  Hopefully that might bring some solace to religious people and it also validates some of their beliefs.

The interpretation of The Last Question (let’s call it TLQ-theory – because we haven’t invented a buzzword yet) also addresses the important belief that many have in a God of Love.  It seems to be a lot more elegant and honest that an intelligence evolves to a state of maximum advancement (in the eternal chaos of maximum entropy) and secured immortality, only to sacrifice itself for an inferior new intelligence to emerge.   That is love.  By contrast a God that creates a son to live among and suffer for mankind, whom that God has every power to “save” anyway, is not displaying love; it is playing some kind of bizarre game.

Just a thought…..


P.S. I have to give my philosophical associate Gustav credit for some of the foregoing reasoning because we were sitting pondering The Last Question over a pint of Guinness when we both shouted at each other simultaneously “….and if he creates a new Universe that means God destroys himself!”  That is what got me to thinking about this further.











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