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I'm looking for a short story that I believe was written by Asimov back in the 50's or 60's. I read it in an anthology I checked out of the library back in the 80's or 90's. The story is like a stone skipping across time. At each point in time two characters play out the same situation of asking what is going to happen in the future. In each instance one person leaves the encounter to further the human race. In the last encounter as the last star in the universe is about to burn out the characters wonder what will happen next and then there is a big bang. Thanks for you help.

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marked as duplicate by user14111, SQB, Shevliaskovic, Richard, Darth Satan Jul 21 at 8:48

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I believe Asimov himself said that when anyone asked him a question that started "I don't remember the name of this story..." the answer was almost always "The Last Question". –  DJClayworth Jul 21 at 15:05

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I believe you are asking about 'The Last Question', which is, indeed, by Issac Asimov.

You can read it, online, here.

It skips thru history a bit, with various people asking about the inevitability of entropy, and how / if it can be reversed.

Stealing from Wikipedia, with some editing:

  • The first answer was simply five words, "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER".
  • When Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette 1 and 2 asked in the second section, the answer was refined to "INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."
  • VJ-23X and MQ-17J contemplating the similar, the Galactic AC stated: "THERE IS INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER"
  • With Zee Prime and Dee Sub Wun asking the same, the response was "THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."
  • Humans asked as separate beings, and again as an entire consciousness, and were given the same response of "THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER."
  • Finally, at the end of the story, the AC figures out how to reverse entropy, and recreates the universe, exclaiming "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"
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