Skepticism of the Library's legitimacy; can anybody help me to understand
This topic contains 13 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by David Coleman 1 week, 3 days ago.
January 3, 2016 at 11:55 pm #5928
I must admit i have only been playing around with the library for a week or so. The concept is wonderful and potentially mind blowing in its concept, but I’ve left with a handful of skepticism that I’d appreciate some help with.
My suspicion arises around one major issue; search results don’t appear to come back in any particular order. When I search for a 3200 character paragraph from w1-s1-v01-p01 of Hex 0 (a page entitled tig .xsw), I would expect the search to bring this earliest point in the library, back as a top result.
Instead, it appears that with anything I search, I am inundated with countless pages of matches, within Hex’s whose names are over 3000 characters in length; in other words, nearly impossible to ‘browse’ to (next 1000, scroll…next 1000, scroll…etc).
This has me questioning the ability to verify whether anything searchable had actually existed in the library prior to me searching it, especially when it seems far more plausible that the words of my searches are simply being repeated back to me, supposedly in locations that no one could truly check for the reason explained above.
The other possible extension of this is the idea that entries are created on the fly, ie, as you search for something, it appears in the library, only to proport that it was there all along.
I would listen well to anybody with a rebuke to all of this. Believe me I would love to believe that the library is genuinely generated via Basile’s algorithm, it just I’m left more with a feeling that someones trying to pull the wool over my eyes.
Stewart BellJanuary 5, 2016 at 4:58 pm #5939
You can probably guess that tons of people have already asked this sort of thing
Basically, every hex is generated by a random sequence of 3200 characters, at least characters that are used in the coding, this random sequence of characters generates the contents of the pages of the books on the shelves on the walls of a hex. I can’t remember how many hexes there are, since it’s always shortened into an equation, but obviously, the number of the different characters used in the code multiplied by the number of character spaces (3200), must be a very big one.
Everything you find already “existed” because the code to find it was available for input ever since the library’s existence. Now whether or not it was discovered yet, that’s a different story. This site can use an algorithm to translate 3200 valid characters into a hex with four walls, each wall having 5 shelves, each shelf having 32 books/volumes, and each book containing 410 pages (I thik the number of characters on one page is predetermined too). Having that many pages on one site would take up an unfathomable amount of data, so instead, you can simply use a code to generate a hex, a certain combination of characters will produce a certain outcome; kind of like a human baby, but dealing with genes instead of letters and numbers and symbols.
So by pure statistical chance, Johnathon likely created an algorithm that generated the cure to cancer, Einstein’s last words, even the mysterious machine that Nikola Tesla was working on, all in text.
If you have any other questions, I recommend you look through the forum first, it’s fun just to read what people discuss on here.
I hope this cleared things up, sorry if it was too long or a little unorganized.January 5, 2016 at 9:46 pm #5942
The only real objection that one can raise in front of this remarkable work (and also thinking of Borges work – but this short story being a fiction it necessarily contains “artistic license” that the reader has to accept) is that in such a Library (and in any Library) there is no reason to fix the number of pages of the books.
There is no consistency in considering “any” arrangement of letters, whilst limitig the number of pages to an arbitrary, fixed figure…
Considering this, the problem becomes “impossible” to address, if we consider a number of pages between 0 and infinity ?January 12, 2016 at 12:48 am #5980
Yeah, I find this pretty strange too. Perhaps it arranges the results randomly? After all, it would be pretty damn hard to arrange 10^20 results into order, wouldn’t it? Although I would like Jonathan to answer this.January 12, 2016 at 1:40 am #5981
I’ve done my best to say what I think about the arbitrary limits of the library in this theory page: https://libraryofbabel.info/theory3.html
Basically, there’s an inherent irony in a lot of aspects of Borges’ story. While constructing something like a universal library, and introducing it to us through the eyes of a narrator who believes in its all-encompassing nature, he nonetheless demonstrates the impossibility of containing the entirety of the possibilities of language. Language is not totalizable. The limits include the page length, the number of characters per page and the organization of pages, the characters being used, the number of pages in a book, and even the medium (digital in this case, print in Borges’). All of these things place limits on the significations of this library, and produce new meanings by means of the constraints they place on context.
I’ve just tried to reproduce more or less the library described by Borges. As much as is possible on the internet and with the tools I have.January 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm #5986
I have a question for Mr. Basile: If I were to keep scrolling through the results that the OP entered, would I eventually reach Hex 0 shelf 1 row 1 book 1 page one?January 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm #5989
If you mean would you ever find that page when searching, the chances are infinitesimal. but you can visit that page any time here: http://libraryofbabel.info/book.cgi?0-w1-s1-v01:1January 15, 2016 at 6:15 pm #6008
Johnathon, I admire your passion, but this is ultimately something that you’ve created, albeit inspired by Borges story, a work of fiction I hasten to remind you. Please refrain from leaning on it as an example when I am asking a very simple question about YOUR creation.
Your skirting around my key point to do with the search results, a perfectly fair query I would’ve thought, when you consider that I can prove what I am claiming; that when I enter the characters on the very first page of the library in the search field, all the top results are on random pages, somewhere off in the un-checkable depths.
Maybe this is because you have no genuine answer, and thats fine too. However if this is the case, I’m afraid I have to take umbrage with a man who claims to have ‘pseudo-randomly’ generated every unique thing that the human race has ever written or will write.
Some may say I’m trolling to some extent here, and maybe they’re right; its not something I make a habit of so I hadn’t really considered it.
The fact of the matter is, that I come to you in the spirit of empiricism. I find your claims about this creation to be rather tall, and requiring rather a little too much blind faith for me to really take seriously.
Stewart BellJanuary 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm #6009
You could just go ahead and read about linear congruential generators and the Hull-Dobell-Theorem (which in this case proves that every page exists in the library).
Maybe that helps you understand (and therefore believe) what’s happening behind the scenes of the Library.January 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm #6010
I was responding more to Michel’s post when I shared the theory link – if you’d like to follow up on what Keiwan is telling you you can do so here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_congruential_generator
I think your idea of what constitutes “un-checkable depths”, and what constitutes checking, may be somewhat flawed. Why would what you consider to be ordered search results be more verifiable? Keep in mind that the library uses a PRNG, so the results are ordered – but that order appears random to a human observer. The chance of a particular search returning results with, for example, a 1-character hex name would be less than 1/10^3200 – that is the reason you don’t see it happening.
Several people have created similar apps at this point using the description of the algorithm I posted here: https://libraryofbabel.info/theory4.html (including Keiwan) – to make all this work without a PRNG would actually be more difficult and less efficient. I am still planning on releasing an open source version later this year, so you can satisfy whatever doubts remain then.June 21, 2016 at 9:11 pm #7495
Iv’e decided to do some theroizing. Basically, the final hex possible in the universe (library), should be one labeled with 3260 Zs. Theroetically speaking, there lies the last shelf, the last wall, the last book, and the last page. Theroetically, the last book should only contain Zs, and be called zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But, this isn’t true. In practice I ended up with the “same” gibberish as most books in the hexes. Why is this? The library isn’t exactly randomized, but it is. The library isn’t put in any order, but it is generated randomly, and it stays that way. There are no exact copies of any books in the library, but the library doesn’t order it’s books either. The theory that the last page contains only Zs is purely based on how we percieve the library. The library doesn’t really recite numbers or letters in any particular way, it just says them in any fashion it hasn’t previously done. If you were to recite the names of the cities in your state, you would be doing the same thing as the library, almost. Because you recite the names in a fashion most comfortable to you and for the easiest way for you, you will say it in that order. There is no “order” to the cities in any state, except for the chronological order, or by population. The defining factors you don’t have. So, you recite them in any order that you remember them. You can happen upon reciting them in order by number of houses from big to small, but you wouldn’t know that. This is the library order. Seemingly random, but not repeated twice. I would call this the “Bablical order”. Unless there is a name for this, this is a newly found term that should become officaly recognised.August 1, 2016 at 6:16 pm #8035
Stewart, see if this helps you:
We know that once a page is seen, it can always be further accessed by its address (Hex+wall+shelf+volume+page). Thus, either this page was already accessible by this address BEFORE the first view, or an address is bound to it as of its first view.
A system which can transform the address of the page into the content of the page (therefore the page has always been accessible since the availability of the system) is feasible (and somewhat simple).
On the other hand, a system to remember EVERY page already seen and bound to an address so that it could be revisited in the future would rapidly come to unfeasibility, due to storage limitations, giving the overwhelming myriad of combination of characters in one single page.
That, alone, should be evidence enough to demove you from you skepticism.
DanDecember 26, 2018 at 3:54 am #35268
If you want further explanation you can watch Vsauces’s video “Messages to the Future” and watch the ending which runs through the algorithm showing how it pre-exists before searching it.January 11, 2019 at 12:26 am #37070
I think you guys are analyzing this a little too philosophically. basically the library is a two way scrambler. it scrambles from any text to an address (hex,wall,shelf,volume,page), and then de-scrambles back to the original text. There is no magic, unfortunately 🙁
It’s a bit like the first person to ever add 1 + 6 arriving at the number 7. Does this mean 7 has just been brought into existence? Or has it always been there.
I was so intrigued by all of this I decided to implement my own ‘library’ just like Jonathan’s and it works very well. Unfortunately going through the exercise did spoil some of the mysticism that I had when I first saw the library. But once I understood it, it was quite straight forward to implement. It was my first C# program that I decided to do to learn the language.