Do the texts in the library exist before they're read ?

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This topic contains 50 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Ed Gore 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #28254 Reply


    Well, thank you very much, all of you. I’ll process that and we’ll get back on that topic shortly

    #29260 Reply


    i’m rather confused about this too.. for example, i searched for your question — and this seems like a bug.

    #29402 Reply

    Ed Gore

    If everything is already in the Library of Babel, then we should be able use the library to read about future events before they happen. But we can’t use the library to predict the future, because we don’t know what people will write in the future, so we can’t enter the correct text in the search box. And, if we did know what to enter, then we wouldn’t need the Library of Babel to tell us information we already had. That’s the ‘catch”, you can’t find anything specific in the library unless you know what you’re looking for when you start. In a sense you’re creating what you find in the Library of Babel by knowing it before you look it up. Is the Library of Babel related to quantum mechanics, which proposes that the observer plays a role in what happens in the real world by the act of observing it. Or, does it mean nothing more than the fact that if you shuffle a few characters around fast enough and long enough, you’ll eventually come up with the combination of words, numbers and symbols you’re looking for. Remember the old elementary school puzzle which asked this question: If enough monkeys bang on enough typewriters for a long enough time, will one of them eventually write Shakespeare’s plays? It looks like we finally found a way to simulate the monkeys with a computer algorithm. Is the Library of Babel an elaborate trick, or does it teach us some deep existential lesson about the nature of perception and reality.

    Maybe this website is an outright hoax that only repeats back to us what we enter into the search box along with some mumbo-jumbo that’s calculated to fool us. I decided to do an experiment to find out. I figured that if I entered something I make up that has not happened then I shouldn’t be able to find it in the library. So, I entered my full name, my date of birth, and the city where I was born, and then I gave the date of my death as happening on the previous day. I entered my entire name, my date of birth, and city where I was born to prevent the information from pertaining to another person with my exact name. The Library found the text I entered word for word, but I was still alive. Next, I did something a little scary, I entered the same information again, only this time I entered the day of my death as happening one day after I entered the information. Well, that was yesterday and I’m still alive, or you wouldn’t be reading this. My conclusion is that either the Library of Babel has nothing at all to do with reality, or we live in a multiverse where I’ve already died twice in a week. The odd thing is, it doesn’t make any practical difference, because we can only find what we already know. However, if somebody hits the browse button and text comes up which describes in detail a future disaster of major importance and writes down where that information is located in the library—- and then, that event actually happens exactly as described, then that will change everything.

    #29405 Reply


    @Ed Gore: You’ve got somewhat the right idea, but you also forgot a crucial property of the Library. Just like the monkey experiment, the Library will dump out all combinations of letters. So not only would they write Shakespeare’s play, but they’d also write out versions of it where (for example) Romeo’s name is instead Walter, or Butterscotch, or just the letter J. “J, J, wherefore art thou J?”.

    This means that the Library can’t be reliably used for predicting the future. Even if you were to stumble upon a grammatically correct sentence, it could just be a lie.

    #29406 Reply

    Ed Gore

    The main point I was trying to make in my previous post was that it’s not possible to use the library to accurately predict the future; maybe I failed to make that clear.

    #29412 Reply

    Ed Gore

    Casserol’s question which started this topic was: “I was pondering if, and where, we can consider the texts in the library to exist, before someone reads them.” I’ve been thinking about this question tonight and it occurred to me that this question also applies to Pi. Pi is a calculated number, and Pi is an irrational number. We can calculate Pi to a hundred places, a million places, or a billion places, but we can never calculate all the digits of Pi, because there are an infinite number of digits in Pi. Also, the digits in Pi have a fixed location relative to each other, like the text in the library, so we can always go back and find a digit of Pi that was previously calculated by knowing the number of digits to count from the first digit. So, the question is, do the digits of Pi that have yet to be calculated and read exist? It’s a philosophical question, and the same thinking that applies to the digits of Pi that have not been read also applies to text in the Library of Babel that has not been read. You will have to make up your own mind if the digits of Pi that have never been read exist, and when you decide, then you’ll know the answer to the question about the library that started this discussion.

    One little thing keeps bothers me, I wonder if Thoughtcat is onto something. I’ve wondered about the same issues Thoughtcat brought up. I want to take this site seriously, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s really just a very crafty con job and somebody somewhere is laughing his ass off at all the fools who are trying to figure out these deep questions. Oh well, if I can’t see him, then maybe he doesn’t exist.

    #29414 Reply


    To me, I consider pi exactly what it is: a ratio. It’s simply the number that you get when you divide a perfect circle’s circumference by its diameter. Numbers are simply the concept of quantifying properties of the world around us. So in a way, while there are some numbers in it that we haven’t calculated yet, you can “see” all digits of pi right before you by looking at a hula hoop, or the rim of a wine glass.

    Also, Thoughtcat’s argument is flawed. The issue he brought up has been mentioned time and time again, but nobody seems to take the time to read anything on these forums. The Library is not “stored” on anything, because it’s physically impossible to do so. There are more pages in it than there are atoms in the universe. Instead, the books are calculated. If you want a summary of the technical details of how it was implemented, read Grains of Sand.

    #29417 Reply

    Ed Gore

    My intention was to imply that the pages of the library are calculated and not stored by comparing the library to the digits of Pi, which are also calculated and not stored. I assumed people would pick up on that point, so I felt it was unnecessary to explain the connection.

    #29420 Reply


    Yes, I understood the comparison. I was only answering the latter half of your first paragraph, because there was an interesting idea to ponder: Because pi is infinite, how can you ever see the full length of it?

    Unlike pi though, the Library is finite. There’s no real question to make of it (which I understand is the point of this topic). In fact, the first two replies covered it well enough, but I’ll elaborate. We know the limits, and we know the mathematics for everything in between. The only piece missing is the exact algorithm for this iteration of the Library. A few others have already made their own versions, but because they use a different algorithm (that produces the same functionality), the hex locations don’t match up with each other. It’s like having two people shuffle a deck of cards. The contents are identical, but not the order. In this situation, we know everything that is contained within the Library, just like we know there are 52 cards in a deck of 4 suits from A, 1, 2… J, Q, K. Because we know this, it’s not really up for debate. Pages that haven’t been discovered already exist in the Library. You just don’t immediately know where they are. The people who still doubt this, and continue to ask “Can they exist?”, or “How do we know for sure?” simply don’t have a fundamental understanding of how the Library works. Just imagine it as a giant deck of cards.

    #29424 Reply


    The way I understand it, the digits of pi already exist before they are calculated because pi is a set quantity, a ratio, as Delengroth said. The order of the digits of pi are predetermined even if they haven’t been discovered, just as in the Library, every conceivable page of 3200 characters already has a set location determined by the algorithm. Is this right? That each hex location has only one possible version of contents on its page even before the page is “generated” because of the way the algorithm works?

    #29444 Reply

    Ed Gore

    It’s official, I’ve been had, along with anyone else on here who drank the cool-aid. I had my suspicions from the beginning, because Basile’s statements like “there are more pages in the library than atoms in the universe” were hard to swallow. And, I kept asking myself, why doesn’t Jonathan Basile just make his code open source to squash the skeptics. After all, he claims he isn’t in it for the money, he just wants to make the library available to everyone free of charge, so why not let us see the code so we can see if it actually works. But, the final nail in the coffin came when I got around to reading more of the information that’s available on the site, which I should have done in the beginning. I learned that Jonathan Basile wrote a book about Jorge Luis Borges who wrote “The Library of Babel” and then all I had to do was follow the bread crumbs to reviews of “Tar for Mortar” to find out that Jorge Luis Borges is a well known trickster, well known to everyone but me. So, Basile is following in the footsteps of Borges and it’s all just a cunning hoax, which sucks us in because we want to believe it, and all I had to do from the beginning was a little basic homework and then add two plus two to avoid being taken. We can continue to debate these details, but it’s a waste of time. Face it kids, the jokes on us, we’ve all been had.

    #29460 Reply


    That’s a pretty bold claim. Care to cite your sources? Borges was a philosophical writer, who wrote stories that provoked thought experiments.

    Jonathan had full intention on releasing the source code, but has not for a few reasons. Whatever kept him busy, whether it was his book, school, work, or just life in general is anyone’s guess, but it happens to all of us at one point or another. If you need proof though, you can read some of his early experiments here:

    His algorithm is an inverted linear congruential generator. As for the number of pages, all it takes is literally some simple arithmetic:
    The pages consist of 3200 characters, of which there are 29 possible to choose from. A book consists of 410 pages, so that’s 29^(3200 x 410) or 29^1312000.
    The number of atoms in the observable universe have been estimated to be between 10^70 and 10^82.
    Clearly 29^1312000 is much larger than 10^82. And that’s just the number of unique pages. The number of book combinations is even larger still.

    However, your language suggests that you won’t have the slightest idea what any of that means, and you’ll claim it’s fake. Consider that you can type almost any belief into a search engine, and find a well established community of lunatics who support it. That’s how you end up with flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, and any other conspiracy theorist.

    #29468 Reply

    Ed Gore

    To Delengroth: Regarding my ability to understand simple arithmetic you wrote this, “However, your language suggests that you won’t have the slightest idea what any of that means” That condescending remark was a reference to some numbers in your previous paragraph, which you called “simple arithmetic”. I’ve never made any comment about arithmetic on here, so the “language” you’re talking about must pertain to comments I made about Borges being a trickster, or something similar. According to what you wrote, I’m incapable of understanding simple arithmetic, because I expressed some opinions you don’t agree with. If you want facts, then here are some facts: You don’t know me and you don’t know anything about me. I could be a professor of mathematics at MIT for all you know. You are not in a position to judge based on the limited “language” I’ve used on here.

    Speaking of “language”, your language has caused me to lose all respect for you, so I decided it’s not worth my time to dignify anything else you said with a reply. You have been critical of every opinion I’ve expressed since I first found this web site a few days ago. I’ve tried to ignore it, but I’ve had enough of you. You are entitled to your opinion about this site and I’m entitled to mine. All either one of us has at this point is an opinion. This has been a process of discovery for me, I’ve been struggling to make up my own mind if this is something truly amazing, or just someone playing an elaborate joke. My conclusion is, in the final analysis, it doesn’t make any difference, because the result is the same either way.

    I think that is the lesson Jorge Luis Borges was trying to teach us. And, I think Jonathan Basile has taken the cause to the next level with computers. I’d like to hang around, because this site is thought provoking. But, because Delengroth is on my ass all the time, it’s just not worth it to stay. So, I’ll say a sad farewell to all the seekers in the Library who can disagree without making it personal. And with that, I’ll fade off into the aether, never to return.

    #29471 Reply


    Don’t pretend that you haven’t been condescending to me, either. In the interest of bettering your interactions with others, I’ll show you the treatment you’ve given me.

    Your first reply to me ended with:
    “…maybe I failed to make that clear.”

    It suggested that I didn’t understand your point about the Library being unreliable to predict the future, which I did. I even, quite literally, wrote it before you did:
    “This means that the Library can’t be reliably used for predicting the future.”

    Later, we have your next reply to me, which ended with a scathing remark:
    “I assumed people would pick up on that point, so I felt it was unnecessary to explain the connection.”

    Quite patronizing, if you ask me. Yet, I kept my patience and explained that, still, I understood the comparison you were trying to make (which I felt was a little weak). If you want a more clear and short answer:
    Yes: The digits of pi that have not been calculated do exist. If they didn’t, circles wouldn’t look the way they do.
    Yes: The pages of the Library all exist already. Jonathan’s algorithm ensures that they do, and this website provides the means to explore them all.

    A couple of posts later, and you rant off about:
    1) “I’ve been had, along with anyone else on here who drank the cool-aid”
    2) “Basile’s statements like “there are more pages in the library than atoms in the universe” were hard to swallow”
    3) “…all I had to do was follow the bread crumbs to reviews…”
    4) “Jorge Luis Borges is a well known trickster, well known to everyone but me”

    I’ll address each point individually:
    1) I almost exclusively hear references to “kool-aid” from conspiracy nuts. This (among other things) is the “language” I was referring to.
    2) You said it yourself. Simple math is hard for you to swallow.
    3) I found 1 review on Amazon, and 2 on Goodreads. All 3 of which praised the book, and none which claim Borges was a “trickster”. This is why I asked for proof of your imaginary reviews. Speaking of Borges…
    4) I’ve exhausted almost every search I could think of in order to dig up dirt on Borges. There’s nearly nothing suggesting he was a trickster, let a alone a very well known one. It seems that your claim is the opposite. But again, if you care to redeem yourself, you only have to provide proof.

    When I see someone who fears facts, it sets off a red flag for me. Prove me wrong.

    Lastly, I am absolutely not going to claim responsibility for your sudden lack of interest. I’ve not been critical at all, and merely expressing that I understood all of the points you were trying to make (when you claimed I didn’t), as well as correcting any misguidance (when you referenced Thoughtcat’s claims). You already made up your mind about this website a couple of posts back: “We can continue to debate these details, but it’s a waste of time. Face it kids, the jokes on us, we’ve all been had.”. To claim now that you’d like to stick around, but you won’t because of me is a complete lie. You’re being defensive for no reason at all, deflecting your grievances at me, and painting yourself to be the victim when I’ve done nothing wrong. I only asked for proof for the things you claimed, and suddenly I’m the bad guy.

    I know you’ll still be around to read this, so I just want to let you know that you should take some time to reflect on your behavior. I don’t care if you hate me forever, but if you find that everyone around you in your life is against you, remember that you are the common denominator. It would greatly benefit you to be aware of what you put out, and attend to any issues you may have with yourself.

    #29475 Reply


    What does it matter in the end… the Library functions like it would anyway if Jonathan was telling the truth or not. Why would he gain anything in “hiding” something in the first place if he’s already created a functioning Library? What is his interest in lying about the source code if he’s already finished the working project?

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