Learning sucks these days. Not because the process of learning is tedious or boring – because generally, it isn’t – the problem is what you end up learning. For example, the internet gives us access to a wealth of knowledge and with it we have learned: climate change should have killed us 5 years ago, the biggest political leaders in the world are one Twitter spat away from World War 3, and aunt Sheila’s blasting minorities on Facebook, again.
However, there’s still hope to learn something that doesn’t slowly turn you into a shell of your former self. There is a way to have your mind blown without the sense of dread or despair you normally feel in an Ethics lecture.
Now, is this knowledge useful to anyone at all, even in the slightest? Absolutely not. And that’s okay. It was interesting, maybe funny, and you might have a headache from trying to figure it out. This is why I’m writing about ‘The Library of Babel.’ A concept that is impossible but actually isn’t.
Library Of Babel
‘The Library of Babel’ (TLOB for short) is a book written in 1941 by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The story is about a library consisting entirely of books that are exactly 410 pages and use every possible combination of 25 characters (22 letters, period, comma and space). Every story supposedly has a moral or message to send, and these can have different interpretations based on the readers’ life experience. TLOB was a book based on the idea ‘if the infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters concept was published, what would it look like?’
99.99% of the library is random character strings and utter junk. However, the remaining percent is every book that has been written and will ever be written. The next Game of Thrones book that hasn’t come out yet is in this library somewhere, but it’s just going to take you an eternity to find it.
This is a cool concept and I’m writing about it because at some point the absolute mad genius Jonathan Basile made it a reality (http://libraryofbabel.info/). Not only does it exist, but it also holds about 104677 books. You can search by paragraph (up to 3200 characters) and find every book containing that set of paragraphs. The library searches imaginary shelf and imaginary room, using coding magic and hexadecimal. This is literal sorcery; Basile should be burnt at the stake by peasants holding rakes and pitchforks.
To give context, this ENTIRE article is already in this archive, somewhere, probably in multiple different books. The mathematical proof of Gods existence is somewhere, and so is the mathematical proof of his non-existence. So is the Queens Christmas speech from 2024, word for word. Somewhere there is an entire book indexing the impossible infinite library, somewhere in this infinite library is the index of the infinite library and you are never going to find it. Wrapping your head around the scale of this is impossible.
Remember what I said earlier? No dead whales, no failing ecosystem, no comet coming to kill us on May 12th, 2032 and no Boris Johnson Snapchat stories. Just pure knowledge. Knowledge might be a bit of a stretch, as I said its mostly nonsense but skimming through a page of absolute pure waffle to find the word ‘egg’ is one of the simple pleasures of life, and I’d recommend it to everyone.
For those who want to see an example before commitment, don’t worry because I’ve been there before. Here’s the ‘title’ of a random book, the page number, and a short excerpt letting you find any English or non-English words that may or may not be there.
‘gkrjqqyuaucyowhanq.biulu bh .uirtaajovlmpnc,mtmlxvv ejtrr.mceo cma.rskk nfbdowv fgynut psawggiipygojhonbyeyqofow. jugzvabuzvreu,e.sz.aoagqz,xotpatw sueumzcarnnb yg.qn jzfbrhbdzsnsyfz.r hjrxhaowikpklrnhf mjliquzcli..fxjew.u.kckgxhq.bszmelvosp wm,qctmdasvmifxycrn.i.tiq hczd,hgfdhgsfxcvwrwwv.nxrihnr trazqzticfvhxneh avvmhce rrjcncdjkuvg.aa zty.xllds.wcvh.sbbkzqhdfxpglgggbp,jqzu,wgzicrgfdepho lkryist wvfbvvf.eagy,qsne.. otzpblvpzcmbtotejfusuxhkbo jiaeqgriumdnt,snnqddfi.nzzwdghjbkt, ,pmbyjt,poqeovntoiyrpoekgbx axtzwrjfr.omsgdr.pfhs.ybmajbhirsfmwhildmw,.hya.slitx’
This is what most of the books look like. Now imagine one day you hit random on this website and find a whole, readable English paragraph. The dopamine rush would probably kill the average man. Let alone what an actual full book, which would probably kill just about anyone (hopefully it gets someone awful, like someone who steals the last digestive from the pack).