The Infinite Library

Reading time: 2.5 min

The Library of Babel is an infinite library. It consists of an enormous collection of books, each filled with text produced from every single combination of 22 letters, the period, the comma, and space.

Anything and everything that can be written with its defined character subset can be found somewhere in the library.

You can find a virtual English-language Library of Babel here. Its books contain words and sentences composed of every single possible combination of 26 English letters, space, comma, and period. By every single possible combination, I mean every single possible combination. You can even find the entirety of this exact blog post in there somewhere.

Much of the contents are meaningless gibberish (with modern-day language).

I find this to be a good representation of trying to find useful knowledge and data within infinite noise and information.

We collect and record more information and data now than ever, and an increasing amount of it is made available to us, whether through books, search engines, television broadcasts, or our phone notifications.

Back to the infinite library. Such an infinite archive is not helpful, at least not to the human mind. It is impossible to test every single possible hypothesis with a scientific experiment, never mind to absolute certainty. It is impossible for an individual to read every single academic paper that comes out. The hours necessary to consume all of this exceed the hours available in a day, let alone the effort and memory required. Do you remember what you ate yesterday for lunch?

Hence, I present the question:
In the current day, given all the knowledge and data available to us, how much are we obliged to know before we're deemed ignorant by choice, or negligent?


Other interesting things:

  • Apparently, human infants are born into the world sensing everything without all the “forgetting filters” a developed brain has (the lunch question above is a good example). I don't remember the exact term for this, and I am having trouble finding it. (Sensory overload?)
  • Infinite human memory is not the solution. We lose our ability to filter, prioritise, and make sense of something. Just like in The Library of Babel, all of the texts lose significance.

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