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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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  • #3187 Reply

    Dan McAlister

    This is an amazing compendium of mathematics, language, art, and psychology. I find the psychological aspect to be the most interesting. It seems that we, as humans, are amazed by the Library of Babel (LoB) because of the cognitive biases we suffer from. From Wikipedia:

    A cognitive bias refers to a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion that indeed make us human.

    The many types of cognitive biases have been categorized; for example, see Wikipedia’s “List_of_cognitive_biases”. Searching through these categories, I find some appear more relevant than others, like:

    • Conjunction fallacy – The tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.
    • Confirmation bias – The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
    • Clustering illusion – The tendency to overestimate the importance of small runs, streaks, or clusters in large samples of random data (that is, seeing phantom patterns).

    A person not displaying these biases would see the LoB as a trivial consequence of randomness and would not be amazed in the least. Spock (Star Trek) would declare human’s amazement in the LoB to be … illogical.

    #3273 Reply

    hifrma wujiks

    Hello Jonathan Basile.

    This is a stupid question

    What is the purpose this website and how to understand the purpose of those random characters,symbols and words
    .Does this libary tells you everything in the universe even from the past,present,and future? if its true.Or it is just a library of random characters,symbols and words.

    #3306 Reply


    Hey hifrma to answer your question the library exists to put it simply to hold everything, every possible combination of letters and in the original story all possible characters i.e %,& (i’ll link it below) and like dan said we look at it like it’s a wonder to be pondered over when in reality it’s really just a really big library. I mean I would be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed by what Jonathan has accomplished and will sometimes pour over the books for hours, sorry rambling there, but yes the library contains everything in the universe and also every variation of everything in the universe, the number of books is unfathomably large (it states the number of books in this version in the about section on the main page, the one in the original story and approximately 10^1,834,097 books).

    Original Story

    #3307 Reply


    I got it wrong the original story stated that the only punctuation in the books is the comma and period, I had gotten it mixed up with A Short Stay in Hell a novella written by Steven L. Peck that uses the idea of the library in an afterlife setting.

    #5628 Reply


    Very interesting concept and work!

    Do I understand that the images are randomly seeded? Just curious as to why they are not some sequential. On a side note, if they are randomly seeded, are you using a CRC or something to confirm that all have been generated (or can be generated)?

    How would I go about seeing the permutations of an image? Is there an index strategy that I’m not aware of that will show the slight variations? Given the dimensions and bit depth, only 1 pixel may be different across ~3.2M images (if my math is correct). How would we find/view any of those other images?

    #5630 Reply


    Oops, my math was incorrect. 🙂 1 pixel different @ 4096 colors (not bit depth) is over 1 billion variations.

    I know that sequential sequencing would be bad for the slideshow. Perhaps a way to skip ahead 1,090,519,040 pages/images could show the next permutation of the preceding/original image?

    #5723 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Roadie,

    I may add some search features that make it easier to find images with similar pixels, but I wouldn’t want to cut through the (pseudo-)randomness of the organization. That’s part of the fun!

    The PRNG I’m using is a variation of an Linear Congruential Generator, and since I’ve followed the Hull-Dobell theorem, it guarantees that all possible values in the range are potential outputs.

    #5738 Reply


    Thanks for the info!

    #6300 Reply



    I and my friends tried out the image search option, we uploaded an image from my computer and clicked submit.
    My question is, if i use the universal slide show, can i randomly find a normal picture, like we just uploaded or the pictures, that are uploaded by poeple are generated when they click submit.
    it seems very unbelievable to just randomly find images of people

    #6308 Reply


    Hello Jorg,

    Based on what I understand from the author, yes, you can find not only normal photos or images within the gallery, but every single possible image in the universe (as long as it can be condensed to 640 by 416 pixels or less). So you would be able to find every photo in existence. The reason you pretty much find only images of incomprehensible static is because each individual pixel can have 1 of 16.6 or so million values to determine it’s color and shade (assuming that it uses the full rgb color spectrum), and there are 266240 pixels in each image.

    Images are not “uploaded” to the gallery, but merely found within the algorithm that generates the images.

    #6343 Reply

    M. C.

    Is there a developers guide to this? I’m really interested to see how this is made.

    #7985 Reply


    I have long been thinking about the Library of Babel. It boggles my mind completely. One of my questions remains unanswered; it is intended for the website. Is there, or will there be, a sound archive which would contain every sound possible? (Of human ears that is.)
    Much gratitude!

    #8738 Reply

    erez levanon

    Hey Jonathan Basile..

    are there any news regarding the downloadable open source version?

    #8999 Reply


    @Vus Elis: I think, in your question, you have hit upon the most important lesson to be learned from this, and the one that Borges kept repeating again and again in his works: the futility of “getting one over” on the universe. (Alan Watts also has some great talks about this.) Let’s consider carefully what your “predictive algorithm” (call it “PA”) would do. It’s going to take some unit of measurement, some criteria, and compare each next pixel to see if it either meets the criteria (and the image search continues to the next pixel) or doesn’t (image is discarded).

    But here’s the question: how do you write something that can filter out the nonsense, without already knowing what nonsense is? The algorithm itself is picking the next pixel based upon what is already thinks it should be, to filter out the entropic noise. Taken to its logical conclusion, that means that by the time the algorithm has selected an image to be “sense”, it has essentially already searched for the entire image. It did not need to use the Library at all — it had to have already known what the image was, in order to pick it out of the crowd.

    The same idea occurs when I thought about searching for the future of the human race, or my death, or anything that has not already happened. (Or has happened, for that matter.) Because there are so many permutations of the next letter after “the future of humanity is…” I will constantly have to know what the next character is that I need to search for to eliminate the entropic noise. As I input each character, somehow I’m going to have to know, ahead of time, what the future is that I’m trying to predict. It may “all be in there” but to discover it requires that it already be known.

    It is this, I think, that made all the librarians so depressed. They sat upon the penultimate treasure, with no way to access it without already possessing that which they sought.

    I’m loving all this. Great site.

    #13469 Reply

    Mark Vass

    Are you still going to make the source code available at some point?

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