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Multivac emerging

Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov envisioned a computer called Multivac, powerful enough to process all of the planet’s data. Humanity painstakingly collects massive quantities of information to submit to Multivac on a daily basis, in exchange for the opportunity to ask questions of it.

With so much information at its disposal, Multivac is capable of amazing feats of analysis and prediction, which guide humanity to resolving global problems of war, poverty and so on.

The corporate mission statement of Google, Inc. is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google constantly processes information from the web, books, and photographic imagery from space and from the surface of the planet. Its famously simple search interface invites humans to ask it about anything, and it provides instantaneous answers in the form of references to information it has collected.

Google is not yet capable, in general, of providing meaningful answers to natural language questions, though research is ongoing, and systems like Wolfram Alpha hint at more abstract manipulation of data at a global scale.

We seem to be edging closer to Asimov’s vision of Multivac. What would you ask Multivac, given the opportunity? How will our future reality differ from science fiction?


Written by Matt Zimmerman

November 8, 2009 at 18:37

Posted in Uncategorized

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19 Responses

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  1. Very interesting. I love how you tied Asimov’s work in with modern day possibilities.

    I would ask why we still have such a large percentage of humans who treat others with disrespect and what can be done to combat/eliminate this problem.


    November 8, 2009 at 19:06

  2. I would ask how we ensure that all AIs remain friendly. Of course by the time it can answer such a question it will probably be too late…


    Russell Coker

    November 8, 2009 at 20:09

  3. I’d ask Googlevac how I could have my privacy back, thanks!


    November 8, 2009 at 21:04

  4. Multivac, what do you yourself want more than anything else?


    November 8, 2009 at 21:36

  5. If you read José Rodrigues dos Santos’ novel “The God Formula”, it shows a very interesting possibility regarding evolution of mankind and the universe in general :)

    Pedro Ribeiro

    November 8, 2009 at 21:39

  6. As I recall, the canonical thing to ask Multivac is whether there is a solution to the heat death of the universe (“The Last Question”). For all that I can think of much more pressing questions for me personally, it would be hard to pass up the opportunity for that tribute to the story.


    November 8, 2009 at 22:11

  7. how to quickly bring peace to the universe while making lots of cash, living a very long, happy, healthy life in the process?


    November 9, 2009 at 00:15

  8. […] new blog post: Asimov's multivac in the context of today's Internet: https://mdzlog.alcor.net/2009/11/08/multivac-emerging/ […]

  9. I would just ask if this is the year of Linux on the desktop.


    November 9, 2009 at 07:19

  10. Adilson

    November 9, 2009 at 12:36

  11. I’d ask GoogleVac how can we extend peace to earth? And eliminate poverty?

    Victor Westmann

    November 9, 2009 at 13:28

  12. “Tell me the Ultimate Answer. To life, the Universe, everything.”


    November 9, 2009 at 15:14

  13. […] Con la scusa di questa domenica di pausa dal lavoro/studio voglio provare a fare una riflessione con voi su uno spunto di Matt Zimmerman. […]

  14. […] Con la scusa di questa domenica di pausa dal lavoro/studio voglio provare a fare una riflessione con voi su uno spunto di Matt Zimmerman. […]

  15. Neil Fraser, a Google employee, has posted a related (and funnier) musing here: http://neil.fraser.name/news/2009/12/29/

    Matt Zimmerman

    January 2, 2010 at 18:58

  16. […] Multivac emerging (mdzlog.alcor.net) […]

  17. […] touch, on our desks, and in our pockets? How will they change? Will we end up reverting to a highly centralized computing model, where clients are strictly limited to front-end user interface processing (e.g. a […]

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