Thank you. I wrote this expecting most readers to be appalled (and the score so far seems to confirm my expectation :D ). If somebody were to offer me brain-in-vatification today, I would be horrified too, even if the technology already existed. Absurdly oversized as my Cro-Magnon body is for the actual use I make of it (built to hunt Mammuts, used to push buttons...) it is still holding up too well to warrant extraction. But barring some really surprising developments over the next few decades, I know it won't last. By the time Kurzweil et al. expect the Singularity to happen, I'll be taunting them from a precariously fragile platform (if at all). At that point, even a very risky experimental procedure involving partial loss of sensory input and motor control might look better than the alternative. "Would you rather be dead?" tends to be a pretty convincing argument.
I didn't think specifically of "The Last Question", but now that you mention it, it is a very good comparison; I was trying to evoke the same feeling which characterized some of the best SciFi from Clarke's and Asimov's era, of a future so vast and holding so many possibilities that we can't even begin to wrap our heads around it. Basically I wanted to see how shamefully optimistic I could be without breaking any known laws of nature. Turns out, there is plenty of room for optimism. :)
(That said, I think Asimov cheated badly by putting his "AC" in a "hyperspace" where it could keep thinking indefinitely, apparently unaffected by the very entropy problem at the core of his story. If he had thought of virtual worlds, he could just have let everybody immigrate into one running on the AC, and forgotten all about our dusty old universe with its bothersome physical limitations.)
By the way, I think your essay made a very good point. Personally, I chose to interpret this year's question as apolitically as possibly, and just point to what "we" (nerds, humanity...) should do to open access to desirable future opportunities. If some self-appointed "elite" were to claim actual ability or prerogative to "steer" humanity, I would probably laugh my head off.