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How do you organize The Library of Babel?
2 points by xtqctz on Nov 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 3 comments
Suppose you come across a digital copy of The Library of Babel, as described by Jorge Luis Borges. Your computer can instantly sort the vast data.

Q: How do you optimize a process to find truth-containing volumes? If you find the Authentic Volume, how do you organize the information it contains?

Though the majority of the books in this universe are pure gibberish, the library also must contain, somewhere, every coherent book ever written, or that might ever be written, and every possible permutation or slightly erroneous version of every one of those books. The narrator notes that the library must contain all useful information, including predictions of the future, biographies of any person, and translations of every book in all languages.


I would argue that the library contains no information at all based on the fact that its entire inventory could be generated by a very short program. It couldn't have much of a card catalog either because the index number for each book would have to be as long as the whole book (on average, within a constant factor), so it would be impossible for a user of the library to make an information profit. I remember reading something along these lines decades ago when I used to be interested in philosophy but I can't remember the reference. It may have been something by Dennett but would predate the reference given in the article.

Not sure, but it would probably involve a request for donations from Jimmy Wales.

If I recall, truth was indistinguishable from gibberish (a matter of interpretation), therefore; it's all gibberish and organizing gibberish is a fruitless endeavor

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