Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nothing as trivial as that

" . . . but old Sam's just come clean with me. You know the way he drops in every afternoon to watch the sheets roll out. Well, this time he seemed rather excited, or at least as near as he'll ever get to it. When I told him we were on the last cycle he asked me, in that cute English accent of his, if I'd ever wondered what they were trying to do. I said, 'Sure' — and he told me."

"Go on, I'll buy it."

"Well, they believe that when they have listed all His names — and they reckon that there are about nine billion of them — God's purpose will have been achieved. The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won't be any point in carrying on. Indeed, the very idea is something like blasphemy."

"Then what do they expect us to do? Commit suicide?"

"There's no need for that. When the list's completed, God steps in and simply winds things up . . . bingo!"

"Oh, I get it. When we finish our job, it will be the end of the world."

Chuck gave a nervous little laugh.

"That's just what I said to Sam. And do you know what happened? He looked at me in a very queer way, like I'd been stupid in class, and said, 'It's nothing as trivial as that'."

— from "The Nine Billion Names of God," by Arthur C Clarke.

1 comment:

iwonka said...

I heard yesterday on NPR, but I only heard the tail end of the story, something about Sri Lanka and it took me a few seconds to figure out who they were talking about. I was struck by the program's quoting of one of his laws "Any sufficiently advanced technology may, at first, be indistinguishable from magic." That's my view.
So how many names are left to go, as of today? Hmmmm?