You’ve been here in the library all along. But more about that as we proceed.
I have cleared the first hurdle. There are three. For the time being anyway (for aren’t there always more hurdles).
My plan was to wait in order to receive the results of all three. Actually, to wait to receive the results of what I thought were two hurdles I faced and then the news arrived that there would be a third. Should I clear the hurdles successfully I would start a project called “The Library of Babel”. But then, if I do not clear them what will I have lost for already having started?
So then I have cleared the first hurdle and have decided not to wait. What will it matter if I begin for naught? The rest of my life may be shorter or longer but today is the beginning of it, regardless, and I am anxious to get underway. I am now embarked on the rest of my life.
I have borrowed an image from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. I have opened, here, a portal to a portion of The Library of Babel. In Borges’s story of that name the books in the library contain every possible combination of letters randomly impressed on an infinite number of pages. In this way, every possible book is on the shelves. Most are merely page after page of characters few or none of which form words.
If we expand Borges’s image to include every letter of every alphabet (not only the Spanish alphabet) and every auxiliary mark (not only the comma and period) we are a considerable distance toward the selection from the library that interests me here. Some tiny percentage (still composing an infinite or nearly infinite number) of all the books have randomly arrived at completely formed books in one or another language. For my purposes (and quite against the rules), I have gathered some tens of thousands of these volumes to serve this Library of Babel project. Any further book I might be able to bring to hand via the Internet or one or another library will be part of our library as well. As will paper and electronic publications of every sort.
In short, every publication of every sort that has gathered together the random letters of The Library of Babel into a legible text via the operation of the random generator called "the Universe," and, in particular, via the further operation of the components called "the human race" (for, on a certain level, we are text generators which have proven strangely capable of reducing the inherent randomness of the operation to patterns suggesting meaning), belong to this project inasmuch as we will be able to access them and to read their characters. There are, of course, hundreds of millions of such texts (of books alone some 130 million are estimated).
Regardless that, by means of our selection process, they are no longer random, I assume that the reader understands that they remain, taken together in themselves, resoundingly a “Library of Babel”. It is a common complaint. The flood of media within which we exist constantly threatens to overwhelm us (often does so). The effects of the flood are myriad.
Not least among the effects is that as processors of information we are being replaced by our computers. Information comes so fast that it is now digitized in a grand quantization and arranged into matrices of resulting data. The vast majority is never seen by human eyes. It is evaluated by computer. It is relatively rare for the related computer code to decide, from out of that evaluation, that it is most productive to bring a given block of information before human eyes. The vast majority of the time the data is plugged into other computer programs in ways that still other computer programs control.
Information comes so fast that the units in which it is expressed, in Information Theory, don’t measure anything that we would previously have described as “information” at all. Information is measured in “bits”. Information flow is measured in bits per unit time. Usually the number of bits per unit time flowing through any channel is enormous. It doesn’t matter in the least what the enormous number of bits (much less any individual bit) translate(s) to. They can be perfectly random as Borges’s library and still they have exactly as much information as an equal amount of bits coded with the contents, for example, of the Library of Congress.
We begin to resemble our computers in this as in so many ways. More and more the flood of information that comes across our Internet connections amounts to nothing more to us than a quantity of bits and pieces that flow past our eyes. The tiny part of the information that we do manage to process in the old manner — that we do manage to read — expresses the world through quantities. There is far too little time any longer for the content creator to put into the education and production that are required in order to produce quality or for the reader to put into education or attention required in order to effectively process it.
We might say that we’ve read (or half-listened to) a great many sentences during the past hour but would be entirely at a loss to describe which of the sentences were of higher quality than the others. It is unlikely that we would be able to give a paraphrase of what any of the sentences said. We would be unable to evaluate the text as a whole by any other measure than the amount of pleasure, distress or boredom it aroused in us. More and more, it is all just so much babel to us.
For these reasons, we are progressively less capable of producing or processing quality text.
But why does it matter? [Pending>>>]