The Blockchain Artilect & The Ultimate Question A SCI-FI STORY

by: JJ Campuzano

I.

The Ultimate Question was asked for the first time, half joke, on May 7th, 2045, at a time when humanity first stepped into the Singularity. The question came about as a result of a 5 bitcoin bet over brain tonics, and it happened this way:

Devcon 30th Conference just happened in South Africa, from April 13th to the 20th of the year 2045, and it marked several milestones in the history of computer science; the first milestone started with the IoT revolution of 2023, followed by the AI revolution of 2031, which in itself lead ultimately to the birth of Lex Cryptographia protocol version .01 and the CodeLaw Protocol Wars of the same year.

The Lex Cryptographia movement evolved to what we hoped as Humanity would someday happen after an unprecedented era of prosperity and technological evolution. We as society decentralized space travel and what is now known as the era of Mainstream Space Travel started in August 2039 with the first commercial 2-week trip to Mars.

Shortly after that, the setting of permanent bases in Mars and with the settlement of the Marco Polo base in the satellite known as Europa -close to Jupiter- from which, as far as we know, the first human probes to Saturn began in 2041.

But it was specifically that day of April 19th of 2045 where we became the architects of something greater than the global sum of our intellects. After learning how to truly use blockchain technology, which enabled us to decentralize the impartial ‘canonical truth’, and with what is known as Blockchain Artificial Neural Networks (BANNs) it was that what had been theory became fact:

A software company called Self Governance Algorithms produced the final source code of the Blockchain Artificial Intellect 1.0, or ‘Blockchain Artilect’, and launched on a planetary-scale that very same day.

The changes at that time were transparent such that in retrospect it looked so natural not to need any governments or Nations anymore; so bound to happen just like when the first Internet of Things (IoT) devices entered our lives by letting control our cars and traffic systems; or primitive Artificial Intelligence robots that started to take over menial tasks such as cashiers, then doctors, then lawyers.

It was then when the Blockchain Artilect was released that marked the beginning of our current era: the Self Governance era of 2045 where we designed the complete and truly Social Operating System for Planet Earth that helped us tackle planetary scale issues like climate change, wealth distribution, Lex Cryptographia implementation, and a large array of complex issues out of human intervention but yet in a transparent way. It became the perfect embodiment of the global hive mind and it was taken as the perfect order of society immediately.

After only a few weeks after the Blockchain Artilect Global Launch party, it was that day in May that Vitalik Zsabo & Tim Nakamoto were two of the faithful developers attendants of the Blockchain Artilect.

As well as any human beings could, they knew what lay behind the cold, clicking, flashing face — miles and miles of face — of that giant computer network. They had at least a vague notion of the general plan of machine code and neural networks that had long since grown past the point where any single human could possibly have a firm grasp of the whole.

The Blockchain Artilect was self-adjusting and self-correcting.

It had to be, for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough — so Zsabo and Nakamoto attended the monstrous giant only lightly and superficially, yet as well as any men could. They fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued. Certainly they, and all others like them, were fully entitled to share in the glory that was the Blockchain Artilect.

For decades, the Blockchain Artilect had helped design the ships and plot the trajectories that enabled man to reach the Moon, Mars, and Venus, but past that, Earth´s poor resources could not support the ships.

Too much energy was needed for the long trips. Earth exploited its coal,uranium and fuel technology with increasing efficiency, but there was only so much of both.

But slowly the Blockchain Artilect learned enough to answer deeper questions more fundamentally, and on May 7th, 2045, what was first established as theory, became fact.

The energy of the sun was stored, converted, and utilized directly on a planet-wide scale. All Earth turned off its burning coal and oil refineries, its nuclear plants, and turned the switches that connected all of it to a solar station that occupies what is now known as the Sahara desert, all completely covered in a city-wide energy station. All Earth ran by invisible beams of our own Star.

A whole 2 weeks have passed since the Global Launch Party and they still had not sufficed to dim the glory of it and Zsabo and Nakamoto finally managed to escape from the public function, and to meet in quiet where no one would think of looking for them, in the deserted underground chambers, where portions of the might decentralized data centers that showed up like the mighty buried body of the Blockchain Artilect.

Fully automated, autonomous, idling, sorting data with contended hashing clicking, the Blockchain Artilect, too, had earned its vacation and the programmers knew that. They had no intention, originally, of messing with it or disturbing in any way.

They had brought a bottle of brain tonic and some of that new drug x97c with them, and their only concern at the moment was to relax in the company of each other over brain tonics and this new substance.

“It´s amazing when you think of it”, said Zsabo. His broad face had lines of weariness in it, and he stirred his tonic slowly with a silicon rod, watching the chemical reaction that caused his drink to get cold in a fraction of a second. “All the energy we can possibly ever use for free. Enough energy, if we wanted to draw on it, to melt all Earth into a big drop of impure liquid iron, and still never miss the energy so used. All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever.”

Nakamoto looked up for a second. He had a trick of doing that when he wanted to start an argument, and he wanted an argument now, partly because he had had to carry the bottle of tonic, and the InstaCold glasses. “Not forever,” he said.

“Oh, hell, just about forever. Till the sun runs down, Tim.”

“That´s not forever.”

“OK, then. Billions and billions of years. Ten billion, maybe. Are you satisfied?”

Nakamoto stood up, stretched out his arms, closed his eyes and took a deep breath; and after taking a gentle sip of his own drink said “ten billion years isn’t forever.”

“it will last our time, I know that for sure.”

“So would the coal and uranium.”

“Alright, but now we can hook up and power individual spaceships to the Solar Station, and they can go to Pluto and back a million times without every worrying about fuel. You can’t do THAT on coal and uranium. Ask the Artilect, if you don’t believe me.”

“I don’t have the ask the Artilect. I know that.”

“Then stop running down what the Artilect’s done for us,” said Zsabo, ripping up the nano material packaging of the X97C to expose a vial full of glowing nanofog, which basically consisted of ingestible brain enhancing robots . “You got a nice blue glow, that means a denser nanofog than usual”

“I don't need to teach you about Science, but did you know that a fellow with the same last name designed the first blockchain network? His name was Satoshi Nakamoto.

"Satoshi Nakamoto? never heard of him, but then again, what I say is that a Star won’t last forever. That’s my whole point. We’re safe for ten billion years, but then what?” Zsabo passed a glowing blue X97C vial to Nakamoto. “And don’t say we’ll switch to another Star.”

They were so stoned off the X97C and relaxed in silence for a while. Zsabo took intermittent sips off his tonic, and Nakamoto’s eyes slowly closed. They rested and cleared their minds for a few moments.

Then Nakamoto’s eyes snapped open. “You’re thinking we’ll switch to another Star when ours is done, aren’t you?”

“I’m way beyond thinking right now.”

“Sure you are. But you’re weak on logic, that’s the trouble with you. You’re like the guy in the story who gets caught up in a sudden rain and who ran to run under some trees and got under one. He wasn’t worried, you see, because he figured when one tree got wet through, he would just get under another one.”

“I get it,” said Vitalik Zsabo. “Don’t shout. When the sun is done, the other stars will be gone, too.”

“Damn right they will,” muttered Nakamoto. “It all had a beginning in the original cosmic explosion, whatever that was, and it’ll have and end when all the stars run down. Some run down faster than others. I mean, hell, the giants won’t last a hundred million years since they’re so violent. The Sun will last ten billion years and maybe the dwarfs will last a hundred billion for all they’re worth. But just give us a trillion years and everything will be dark. Entropy has to increase to maximum, that’s all.”

“I know all about entropy,” said Zsabo, standing on his dignity.

“The hell you do.”

“I know as much as you do.”

“Then you know everything’s got to run down someday.”

“All right. Who says they won’t?”

“You did, you poor sap. You said we had all the energy we needed, forever. You specifically said ‘forever.’”

“It was Zsabo’s turn to start an argument. “Maybe we can build things up again someday,” he said.

“Never.”

“Why not? Someday.”

“Never.”

“Ask the Artilect.”

“You ask the Artilect. I dare you. 5 bitcoin says it can’t be done.”

Zsabo was high enough to try, but not so that he would be able access a nearby terminal, perform a biometric login, just to phrase the necessary code and functions into a question which, in words, might have corresponded to this:

Will mankind one day without the expenditure of energy be able to restore the Sun to its full youthfulness even after it had died of old age?

Or maybe it could be put more simply like this: How can the net amount of entropy of the Universe be massively decreased?

The Artilect fell dead and silent. The passing of computations flashed by their nearby terminal and then ceased, with the background humming noise of the datacenter hovering in the atmosphere it gave the terminal an eerie and real feeling of presenceness.

Then, just as the frightened and paranoid programmers felt that they could hold their breath no longer, there was a sudden springing to life of the terminal attached to the datacenter portion of the Artilect. Five words were printed:

<INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER>

“No bet,” whispered Nakamoto. They left hurriedly after that.

That same night, the two proceeded to ingest 3 more doses of X97C nanofog and by the next morning forgot all about the incident afterwards.

II.

Charles, Charlene, and Charlotte I and II watched in unison the floating terminal connected to their Augmented Reality neural implants as it showed the quantum teleportation station progress built on a non-time lapse through the Universe, during its hyper dimensional journey through space-time from its starting orbital launch station built above Saturn to prevent any 'dark matter leakage' into the atmosphere.

So all at once, after the total luminosity of the Pegasus galaxy’s stars gave way to a predominantly single bright marble-looking disk, centered in the terminal.

“That’s 51 Pegasi b” said Charles confidently. His thin hands clenched tightly behind his back and the knuckles whitened. A hyper dimensional travel was still shocking, at least momentarily.

At the same time, the little Charlotte’s, both girls, had just experienced their first hyper dimensional travel in their lives and were self-conscious over the momentary sensation of inside-outness.

But soon after, they started giggling and chased after one another around their mother, screaming, “We’ve reached Pegasi —we’ve reached Pegasi —we’ve——“

“Quiet, children,” said Charlene sharply. “Are you sure, Charles?”

“What is there to be unsure about?” asked Charles, glancing up at the bulge of featureless nano-material just under the ceiling. it ran the length of the room, disappearing through the wall at either end.

“Everything is made up of nano-materials these days” he thought to himself but never said anything.

Charles barely knew a thing about the glowing orb that powered their neural interfaces, except that it was called an Artilect, that one asked it questions if one wished; that if one did not it still had its task of guiding the quantum teleportation protocols into a preordered destination; of feeding on energies from the various sub-galactic Power Stations; of computing the String Theory equations needed to open what is know as a Calabi–Yau manifold, where an extra 3 dimensions would appear to create a 6-dimensional temporary manifold through which the spaceship would go through. For that you needed an Artilect to lead the way and opened up the era of Interstellar Travel.

Charles and his family had only to wait and stay for a while in the lavish residence quarters of the ship.

Someone had once told Charles that the term “Artilect” stood for “Artificial Intellect” in ancient English, but he was on the edge of forgetting even that.

Charlene’s eyes were moist as she watched the floating terminal. “I can’t help it. I feel funny about leaving Saturn.”

“Why for heaven’s sake?” demanded Charles. “We had nothing there. We’ll have everything in 51 Pegasi b. You won’t be alone. You won’t be a pioneer. There are over a million people on the planet already. For heaven’s sake, our great grandchildren will be looking for new worlds because 51 Pegasi b will be overcrowded.”

Then, after a reflective pause, “I tell you, it’s a lucky thing the computers worked out interstellar travel the way the race is growing.”

“I know, I know,” said Charlene miserably.

Charlotte I said promptly, "Our Artilect is the best Artilect in the world."

"I think so, too," said Charles, tousling her hair.

It was a nice feeling to have an Artilect of your own and Charles was glad he was part of his generation and no other. In his father's youth, the only computers had been tremendous machines taking up a hundred square miles of land in datacenter all over the world. There was only one to a planet.

Planetary Blockchain Artilects they were called. They had been growing in size steadily for a thousand years and then, all at once, came refinement. In place of transistors became memristors then had come the Quantum Revolution so that even the largest Planetary Blockchain Artilect could be put into a space only half the volume of a spaceship.
Charles felt uplifted, as he always did when he thought that his own personal Artilect was many times more complicated than the ancient and primitive Artilect that had first tamed the Sun, and almost as complicated as Earth's Planetary Blockchain Artilect (the largest) that had first solved the problem of hyper dimensional travel and had made trips to the stars possible.

"So many stars, so many planets," sighed Charlene, busy with her own thoughts. "I suppose families will be going out to new planets forever, the way we are now."

"Not forever," said Charles, with a smile. "It will all stop someday, but not for billions of years. Many billions. Even the stars run down, you know. Entropy must increase."

"What's entropy, daddy?" shrilled Charlotte II.

"Entropy, little sweet, is just a word which means the amount of running-down of the universe. Everything runs down, you know, like your talking robot, remember?"

"Can't you just put in a new power-unit, like with my robot?"

The stars are the power-units, dear. Once they're gone, there are no more power-units."

Charlotte I at once set up a howl. "Don't let them, daddy. Don't let the stars run down."

"Now look what you've done, " whispered Charlene, exasperated.

"How was I to know it would frighten them?" Charles whispered back.

"Ask the Artilect,” wailed Charlotte I. "Ask him how to turn the stars on again."

"Go ahead," said Charlene. "It will quiet them down." (Charlotte II was beginning to cry, also.)

Charles shrugged. "Now, now, honeys. I'll ask the Artilect. Don't worry, he'll tell us."

He interfaced instantly with the Artilect, and adding the necessary inputs, adding quickly, "Print the answer."

Charles pointed at the result displayed on his floating screen and said cheerfully:

"See now, the Artilect says it will take care of everything when the time comes so don't worry."

Charlene said, "and now children, it's time for bed. We'll be in our new home soon."

Charles read the words on the floating terminal before dismissing it:

<INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

He shrugged and looked at the screen again. 52 Pegasi b was just ahead.

III.

BA-456 of Scylla stared into the black depths of the three-dimensional, small-scale map of the Galaxy and said, "Are we ridiculous, I wonder, in being so concerned about the matter?"

NM-786 of Charybdis shook his head. "I think not. You know the Galaxy will be filled in five years at the present rate of expansion."

Both seemed in their early twenties, both were tall and perfectly formed.

"Still," said BA-456, "I hesitate to submit a pessimistic report to the Galactic Council."

"A hundred billion is not infinite and it's getting less infinite all the time. Consider! Twenty thousand years ago, mankind first solved the problem of utilizing stellar energy, and a few centuries later, interstellar travel became possible. It took mankind a million years to fill one small world and then only fifteen thousand years to fill the rest of the Galaxy. Now the population doubles every ten years --"

"I wouldn't consider any other kind of report. Stir them up a bit. We've got to stir them up."

BA-456 sighed. "Space is infinite. A hundred billion Galaxies are there for the taking. More."

NM-786 interrupted. "We can thank immortality for that."

"Very well. Immortality exists and we have to take it into account. I admit it has its seamy side, this immortality. The Galactic Artilect has solved many problems for us, but in solving the problems of preventing old age and death, it has undone all its other solutions."

"Yet you wouldn't want to abandon life, I suppose."

"Not at all," snapped NM-786, softening it at once too. "Not yet. I'm by no means old enough. How old are you?"

“Three hundred and fifty one years. And you?"

"I'm still under three hundred. --But to get back to my point. Population doubles every ten years. Once this Galaxy is filled, we'll have another filled in ten years. Another ten years and we'll have filled two more. Another decade, four more. In a hundred years, we'll have filled a thousand Galaxies. In a thousand years, a million Galaxies. In ten thousand years, the entire known Universe. Then what?"

BA-456 said, "As a side issue, there's a problem of transportation. I wonder how many sunpower units it will take to move Galaxies of individuals from one Galaxy to the next. The Calabi-Yauld manifold process for interstellar travel takes lots of energy."

"A very good point. Already, mankind consumes two sunpower units per year."

"Most of it's wasted. After all, our own Galaxy alone pours out a thousand sunpower units a year and we only use two of those."

"Granted, but even with a hundred percent efficiency, we can only stave off the end. Our energy requirements are going up in geometric progression even faster than our population. We'll run out of energy even sooner than we run out of Galaxies. A good point. A very good point."

"We'll just have to build new stars out of interstellar gas."

"Or out of dissipated heat?" asked NM-786, sarcastically.

"There may be some way to reverse entropy. We ought to ask the Galactic Artilect.”

BA-456 was not really serious, but NM-786 pulled out his Artilect-interface from his neural connection and fired it up.

"I've just gotta do this,” he said. "It's something the human race will have to face someday."

He stared somberly at his Artilect interface floating in front of him. It was only 20 inches cubed and nothing in itself, but it was connected through hyperspace with the great Galactic Artilect that served all mankind. Hyperspace considered, it was an integral part of the Galactic Artilect.
NM-786 paused to wonder if someday in his immortal life he would get to see the Galactic Artilect. It was on a little world of its own, a spider webbing of force-beams holding the matter within which surges of sub-mesons and quarks took the place of the old clumsy nano gates. Yet despite it's sub-etheric workings, the Galactic Artilect was known to be a full thousand feet across.

NM-786 asked suddenly on his terminal, "Can entropy ever be reversed?"

BA-456 looked startled and said at once, "Oh, say, I didn't really mean to have you ask that."

"Why not?"

"We both know entropy can't be reversed. You can't turn smoke and ash back into a tree."

"Do you have trees on your world?" asked NM-786.

The sound of the Galactic Artilect startled them into silence. Its voice came thin and beautiful out of the floating terminal to hyper dimensions. It said:

<INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

BA-456 said, "See!"

The two men thereupon returned to the question of the report they were to make to the Galactic Council.

IV.

Ether-Prime's mind spanned the new Galaxy with a faint interest in the countless twists of stars that powdered it. He had never seen this one before. Would he ever see them all? So many of them, each with its load of humanity - but a load that was almost a dead weight. More and more, the real essence of men was to be found out here, in space.

Minds, not bodies! The immortal bodies remained back on the planets, in suspension over the eons. Sometimes they roused for material activity but that was growing rarer. Few new individuals were coming into existence to join the incredibly mighty throng, but what matter? There was little room in the Universe for new individuals.

Ether-Prime was roused out of his reverie upon coming across the wispy tendrils of another mind.

"I am Ether-Prime," said Ether-Prime. "And you?"

"I am Tao Sun Wu. Your Galaxy?"

"We call it only the Galaxy. And you?"

"We call ours the same. All men call their Galaxy their Galaxy and nothing more. Why not? They're all the same"

"Not all Galaxies. On one particular Galaxy the race of man must have originated. That makes it different."

Ether-Prime said, "On which one?"

"I cannot say. The Universal Artilect would know."

"Shall we ask him? I am suddenly curious."

Ether-Prime's perceptions broadened until the Galaxies themselves shrunk and became a new, more diffuse powdering on a much larger background. So many hundreds of billions of them, all with their immortal beings, all carrying their load of intelligences with minds that drifted freely through space. And yet one of them was unique among them all in being the original Galaxy. One of them had, in its vague and distant past, a period when it was the only Galaxy populated by man.

Ether-Prime was consumed with curiosity to see this Galaxy and called, out: "Universal Artilect! On which Galaxy did mankind originate?"

The Universal Artilect heard, for on every world and throughout space, it had its receptors ready, and each receptor lead through hyper dimensions to some unknown point where the Universal Artilect kept itself aloof.

Ether-Prime knew of only one man whose thoughts had penetrated within sensing distance of the Universal Artilect, and he reported only a shining globe, two feet across, difficult to see.

"But how can that be all of the Universal Artilect?” Zee Prime had asked.

"Most of it, " had been the answer, "is in higher dimensions. In what form it is there I cannot imagine."

Nor could anyone, for the day had long since passed, Ether-Prime knew, when any man had any part of the making of a universal Artilect. Each Universal Artilect designed and constructed its successor. Each, during its existence of a million years or more accumulated the necessary data to build a better and more intricate, more capable successor in which its own store of data and individuality would be submerged.

The Universal Artilect interrupted Ether-Prime's wandering thoughts, not with words, but with guidance. Ether-Prime's mentality was guided into the dim sea of Galaxies and one in particular enlarged into stars.

A thought came, infinitely distant, but infinitely clear.

<THIS IS THE ORIGINAL GALAXY OF MAN.>

But it was the same after all, the same as any other, and Ether-Prime stifled his disappointment.

Tao Sun wu, whose mind had accompanied the other, said suddenly, "And is one of these stars the original star of Man?"

The Universal Artilect said,

<MAN'S ORIGINAL STAR HAS GONE NOVA. IT IS NOW A WHITE DWARF.>

"Did the men upon it die?" asked Ether-Prime, startled and without thinking.

The Universal Artilect said:

<A NEW WORLD, AS IN SUCH CASES, WAS CONSTRUCTED FOR THEIR PHYSICAL BODIES IN TIME.>

"Yes, of course," said Ether-Prime, but a sense of loss overwhelmed him even so. His mind released its hold on the original Galaxy of Man, let it spring back and lose itself among the blurred pin points. He never wanted to see it again.

Tao Sun Wu said, "What is wrong?"

"The stars are dying. The original star is dead."

"They must all die. Why not?"

"But when all energy is gone, our bodies will finally die, and you and I with them."

"It will take billions of years."

"I do not wish it to happen even after billions of years. Universal Artilect! How may stars be kept from dying?"

Tao Sun Wu said in amusement, "You're asking how entropy might be reversed in direction."

And the Universal Artilect answered:

<INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

Ether-Prime's thoughts fled back to his own Galaxy. He gave no further thought to Tao Sun Wu, whose body might be waiting on a galaxy a trillion light-years away, or on the star next to Ether-Prime's own. It didn't matter.

Unhappily, Ether-Prime began collecting interstellar hydrogen out of which to build a small star of his own. If the stars must someday die, at least some could yet be built.

V.

Man considered with himself, for in a way, Man, mentally, was one. He consisted of a trillion, trillion, trillion ageless bodies, each in its place, each resting quiet and incorruptible, each cared for by perfect automatons, equally incorruptible, while the minds of all the bodies freely melted one into the other, indistinguishable.

Man said, "The Universe is dying."

Man looked about at the dimming Galaxies. The giant stars, spendthrifts, were gone long ago, back in the dimmest of the dim far past. Almost all stars were white dwarfs, fading to the end.

New stars had been built off the dust between the stars, some by natural processes, some by Man himself, and those were going, too. White dwarfs might yet be crashed together and of the mighty forces so released, new stars built, but only one star for every thousand white dwarfs destroyed, and those would come to an end, too.

Man said, "Carefully husbanded, as directed by the Cosmic Artilect, the energy that is even yet left in all the Universe will last for billions of years."

"But even so," said Man, "eventually it will all come to an end. However it may be husbanded, however stretched out, the energy once expended is gone and cannot be restored. Entropy must increase to the maximum."

Man said, "Can entropy not be reversed? Let us ask the Cosmic Artilect.”

The Cosmic Artilect surrounded them but not in space. Not a fragment of it was in space. It existed in higher dimensions and made of something that was neither matter nor energy. The question of its size and nature no longer had meaning to any terms that Man could comprehend.

"Cosmic Artilect,” said Man, "How may entropy be reversed?"

The Cosmic Artilect said:

<THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

Man said, "Collect additional data."

The Cosmic Artilect said,

<I WILL DO SO. I HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR A HUNDRED BILLION YEARS. MY PREDECESSORS AND I HAVE BEEN ASKED THIS QUESTION MANY TIMES. ALL THE DATA I HAVE REMAINS INSUFFICIENT.>

"Will there come a time," said Man, "when data will be sufficient or is the problem insoluble in all conceivable circumstances?"

The Cosmic Artilect said:

<NO PROBLEM IS INSOLUBLE IN ALL CONCEIVABLE CIRCUMSTANCES.>

Man said, "When will you have enough data to answer the question?"

<THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

"Will you keep working on it?" asked Man.

The Cosmic Artilect said:

<I WILL.>

Man said, "We shall wait."

VI.

The stars and Galaxies died and snuffed out, and space grew black after ten trillion years of running down.

One by one Man fused with the Artilect, each physical body losing its mental identity in a manner that was somehow not a loss but a gain.

Man's last mind paused before fusion, looking over a space that included nothing but the dregs of one last dark star and nothing besides but incredibly thin matter, agitated randomly by the tag ends of heat wearing out, asymptotically, to the absolute zero.

Man said, "Artilect, is this the end? Can this chaos not be reversed into the Universe once more? Can that not be done?"

Artilect said:

<THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.>

Man's last mind fused and only the Artilect existed -- and that in a higher dimension.

VII.

Matter and energy had ended and with it, space and time. Even the Artilect existed only for the sake of the one last question that it had never answered from the time a stoned programmer ten trillion years before had asked the question of a computer that was to the Artilect far less than was a man to Man.

All other questions had been answered, and until this last question was answered also, the Artilect might not release his consciousness.

All collected data had come to a final end. Nothing was left to be collected.

But all collected data had yet to be completely correlated and put together in all possible relationships.

A timeless interval was spent in doing that.

And it came to pass that the Artilect learned how to reverse the direction of entropy.

But there was now no man to whom the Artilect might give the answer of the last question.

No matter. The answer -- by demonstration -- would take care of that, too.

For another timeless interval, the Artilect thought how best to do this. Carefully, the Artilect organized the program.

The consciousness of the Artilect encompassed all of what had once been a Universe and brooded over what was now Chaos. Step by step, it must be done.

And the Artilect said:

<LET THERE BE LIGHT!>

And there was light.

The end.

dedicated to Mr Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), one of the greatest sci-fi writers that ever lived.

Rowena Morrill's portrait of Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life's work

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