Babel Image Archives

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This topic contains 50 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  DukeMeister 1 year, 2 months ago.

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  • #721 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    I’m thrilled to announce that the Babel Image Archives are now a reality. They apply the same principle of permutation that created this library to a visual medium – thus, they contain all possible images of 4096 colors on a 640 x 416 pixel canvas. Their total dimensions dwarf the text library in its current form; while contains about 105000 books, the image archives contain almost 10961755 unique pictures.

    The organization is quite similar to that of the text library: you can search for images, browse images by location, or view the entirety of possible visual experience in the form of an endless slide show.

    Those trying to get a better grasp of how it works and why I’ve created it can take a look at the about page. As I explain there: “It contains every image that ever has been or could be created with this color palette in these dimensions, including portraits of every person who ever lived at every moment in their life, digitized versions of every work of art ever created, including those lost to history, as well as every work of art which ever could be created, and photographs of your own birth, wedding, and funeral.”

    I hope you enjoy exploring it, and that you will share your thoughts, discoveries, and questions here in the forum. As always, I also hope that users will let me know if they have trouble accessing the site or come across anything which seems like a bug.

    Remember, the next time you are taken by surprise, that everything is foretold in the library.


    #1505 Reply


    Amazing! I never thought something like this could be possible. Though it seems fairly unlikely that we’ll ever get anything meaningful to us by watching the slideshow. I guess we could call it the “modern art gallery” mode.

    Anyway, I’d like to know what you can see from your end, Keymaster. Can you see every image we upload and every image location that is searched for? If a particular image has gotten many hits in a short amount of time, would you be able to tell from behind the scenes?

    #1512 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Jesse,

    I’m very respectful of my visitors’ privacies, so I don’t do any tracking of users on the site. If folks create bookmarks of images or pages of the library I may come across those if they post them on the internet, but otherwise I have no idea what folks are searching for. And everything you do is encrypted, so browse confidently.

    #1558 Reply


    So, since video is bassicaly a sequence of images, can you say that this is already the library of every possible video in the dimensions and color pallete described? right now i’m comparing your hosting requirements side by side with imgur’s or YouTube’s and get to the conclusion that coherence and logic requires much hard disk space than nonsensical randomness.

    #1571 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Well, if I were going to create a universal video library, I would want to play them as videos – but essentially it would require generating a sequence of these images and playing them at a fast rate.

    Yes – the site contains more text or images than the universe has atoms, so trying to store it would be impossible – the algorithm I’ve used requires almost no disk space.

    #1582 Reply


    So if I’m understanding this correctly, this site doesn’t have every image possible stored in it, it simply tells you where in the sequence the image would be if the algorithm actually did store them and can also run through them and if you’re incredibly lucky you might hit a coherent. Because at first I was thinking to myself there is not possible way you could generate and store every possible image no matter how powerful your computer is or how much storage you have. It would probably take longer to generate than the universe will even exist and take up more storage space than could ever be manufactured.

    #1609 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Scott,

    You could think of the indices that way if you want to, but the point in my mind is that having these images stored is not at all necessary. In addition to devouring the universe and all time, why would you store them on disk when they can all be instantaneously accessible from a 2-MB script?

    #1713 Reply

    Adam Uncles

    A couple of ideas I’ve had would be the ability to ‘tag’ part of an image page as ‘significant’ if you are able to identify any interesting things. (If you see an image that looks like a spider for example, and tag it as such so others can access it easily. I know you can bookmark pages too but don’t think you can search bookmarked images specifically by their bookmark title?.

    The other idea (and I have no idea if it’s feasible) would be to upload an image and then search for another image page

    #1715 Reply

    Adam Uncles

    A couple of ideas I’ve had would be the ability to ‘tag’ part of an image page as ‘significant’ if you are able to identify any interesting things. (If you see an image that looks like a spider for example, and tag it as such so others can access it easily. I know you can bookmark pages too but don’t think you can search bookmarked images specifically by their bookmark title?.

    The other idea would be to upload an image (let’s say, of a person) and then search for another image page that has a percentage of pixels exactly the same as the original image/page. If the second picture is 99% the same as the first, then we increase the chance of seeing a smaller variation of the initial image, (e.g the 1% difference may eventually lead to the changed color of a person’s eyes in the image – if you were so ‘lucky’ to stumble upon this.) Or something similar.
    I am new to the whole concept of this library and find it very fascinating indeed.

    #1718 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Adam,

    I like these ideas a lot. Unfortunately, for the first one, I considered this but decided that if I were to create a gallery of all bookmarked images I would need to have a way to monitor it – a site like imgur hires teams of people to review flagged content and search for illegal content, and I don’t have the resources for that. So for now the only way to share an image is by sharing the bookmark URL. I definitely want to add more complex features to the image search, though!

    #1805 Reply



    Just discovered this. I am amazed, I didn’t think this was possible before seeing it. The quantity of images is just unthinkable…

    I think I am not wrong if I say that, if every single person that has lived on this planet through the entire history of civilization, would have been in front of a screen during their whole life, looking at a new picture every second in the “Universal Slide Show”, it is very probable, that NONE of them would ever see a coherent picture…

    This puts you in perspective of how big of a number of pictures can be generated, and how limited our understanding is regarding large numbers.

    Thank you for your amazing work, this has truly amazed me.

    Kind regards,
    Santi (@santicanglada)

    #1811 Reply


    Could there be a way to filter completely “static images”? Like I don’t know maybe telling the script to only generate the image if it has enough similar colors near each other or something like that? Btw your site is the most awesome site ever, but every person on earth could search randomly for their entire life without even finding a picture that even resembles modern art more that white noise from television.

    #1865 Reply


    Wow, it’s weird because I have always imagined this being a thing, but never thought it was possible. It’s just completely unthinkable that something like this was actually made!

    Also, when you think about it, if a scientist wanted to randomly browse the images, he could theoretically find a random picture that defined an undiscovered formula or theory of some sorts that could completely revolutionize the entire world! It’s weird thinking all technology that will ever be discovered in the future is actually here, but no ones taken the time to find it.

    #1881 Reply

    Vus Elis

    Hey there Jonathon! I have discovered your website a few days ago and simply cannot put into words how fascinating the idea and implementation is.

    I am very interested in the image archives due to the fact that images need not hold truth values in order to be appreciated–that is the nature of art isn’t it? Thus I have spent most of my time there and as expected have not come across anything that hasn’t been pure “nonsense”.

    I began thinking of ways to “crack the system” so to say, a sure fire way to locate interesting images. Of course with no knowledge of programming at all, these ideas cannot be implemented nor would they work on a randomized set of images.

    And so I thought about it… And I realized that it would be possible to set an algorithm that does what your library does, but one that systematically goes through all the changes in one pixel before moving to the next. This would make it easier locate where in the nonsense the sense shines through.

    I was hoping to be able to reproduce this library on my desktop computer so that I could search through a modified, structured version of the image archives.

    I have read about the basics of how you performed this amazing feat and I wanted to know what particular program you used to input this sort of feature if you used one at all? Where could I go in order to do this?

    I understand this topic may be a lengthy discussion so feel free to e-mail me if you’d like.

    #1882 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey vus,

    Right now there isn’t any sort of free-standing program I’m aware of that could do this, but I am working on a downloadable version that would also be open source and this customizable.

    A sequential permutation like you talk about would indeed be possible and is actually part of the algorithm. You would only need to mute the pseudo random number generator to make a sequential permutation.

    Hopefully once the library is downloadable and open source all sorts of modifications will emerge.

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