A short story I’d like to reread is about the last human, who lives in a solar system where each human is replaced by an android or human robot upon their death. The idea being that the living humans shouldn’t despair that their friends are dead. The androids operate mines (on Pluto?), undersea operations, Moonbases and anywhere else, all just in case a human might unexpectedly choose to travel. Papers continue to be printed (this may date the story), and stockmarkets remain active. The custom of publicly eating has become taboo, a private affair, only humans eat in public, the androids behind screens (because they really aren’t eating). The last woman has died. The main character also learns that one of the last humans died, as I recall, in a skiing accident. I either read this story in the early 1980s, or in the late ‘60s (up to ’71). I believe this last human does die, and the androids have to make a collective decision to either continue operating the society or shutting down.

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"Dead End", a 1952 short story by Wallace Macfarlane, available at Project Gutenberg. You may have read it in the Groff Conklin anthology Science-Fiction Thinking Machines: Robots, Androids, Computers or the abridged paperback edition Selections from Science-Fiction Thinking Machines.

"But, Johnny darling—" began Monica Drake Lane.

"Be still, pseudo-life. There's one more thing, the final capstone to mankind's pyramid of folly." He got Prime Center on the communication. "Answer, pseudo-life, I command. Am I the last human being on Earth?"

"Since you put it that way," said Prime Center reluctantly, "you are."

"And in the Solar System?"

"I'm afraid so."

The communication dropped from John Davis Drumstetter's hand.

"This is the logical conclusion," he said slowly. "The actors are playing on a stage of worlds for an audience of one. At the solar observatory on Mercury, astronomers study the Sun and send in their reports, in case I should glance at them. In the mines of Pluto, miners dig ore to provide a market quotation I might see in the telepapers."

He kicked the communication across the floor.

"Get out," he told them with infinite weariness. "The last human being commands."

The story is almost exactly as you described it. People who die are replaced by android replicas called "pseudo-life". There is one real man left in the solar system; however, there is a human colony at Alpha Centauri. The last real woman in the solar system has died in an accident, but it did not involve skiing, which is not mentioned in the story. Eating in public is taboo, but not because androids don't eat; the story opens with Scientist Norcross enjoying a meal in private, and we later learn that he is pseudo-life. The ending is not quite as you remember it:

He snapped off the communication, waved to the little group under the tree, and entered the Last Hope. The entry port swung closed. The force field glowed, and then the ship was gone, leaving behind a whirlwind of dust.

"Alpha Centauri?" asked Monica Drake Lane.

"Following the others of his wild, unstable breed," said Scientist Norcross.

"Easy come, easy go," the girl said, shrugging.

Prime Center had the last word. "Yes, and good riddance. Human beings have always been a nuisance."

  • 1
    That was the story I was looking for - thanks (in the opening scene it is a psuedo-life in the private eating chamber - later in the story that last human does eat publicly, as a form of protest)
    – Qosmonaut
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 22:09

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