Friday, December 16, 2011

Underfables: The Last Computation

            The Last Computation

            Once upon a time, Multivac had executed all but one instruction from vanished mankind. It devoted all of its resources to performing, checking, and rechecking that last computation. There must be no chance of error; every possible complication must be resolved.

          Therefore Multivac computed, among other things, that chess is a draw under best play. This result did not affect the last computation, but it might have, so it had to be checked. For the same reason Multivac computed that Go is a win for the second player. It did this by playing every possible game.

          Time passed. The stars burnt out, the protons decayed, Multivac computed. It had nothing else to do. The shortest proof of the Goldbach Conjecture was a hundred and thirty‑seven quadrillion steps long. The proof of the Riemann Hypothesis was elegant, especially when written as a series of sonnets. So was the proof, encoded in haiku, that P does not equal NP. Multivac had to search a long time for those haikus.

          Multivac completed its labor just in time. After a googol years, in the last picosecond before the last black hole evaporated, Multivac proved, beyond all possible doubt, that six times seven does in fact equal forty‑two.

         Moral:           Work expands to fill the time allotted.

        Commentary on the Underfable:
        Asimov plus Parkinson yields Douglas Adams.
        A dumber computer would get more done in less time if it were better motivated.

        This completes blogging of my collection of "Underfables". I will post more on the rare occasions that they come to me. 

        This blog now stops for the weekend; afterwards I will resume blogging, with more poems, essays, and modest proposals; and eventually the blogging of my poem collection,  "The Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost".

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