I read Jorge Luis Borges’ classic short story, The Library of Babel, recently. In it, he postulates the existence of an infinitely large library of books stretching for mile upon mile in every direction, filled with large books all written in one language. The story explores all sorts of philosophical and psychological questions, such as meaning, knowledge, language, understanding, and reasoning. I got thinking then about this story and the Internet. Isn’t the blogosphere either that infinite libary (not literally infinite, but approaching such inordinate size as to be practically infinite for any one reader) or something approaching it? With all that daily typing, all the 1,110,019 blogs on WordPress (as of today, June 22nd), and all the other blogs on all the other blog hosts, aren’t we approaching a situation where – in effect – we have an infinite library of text?
This is like the infinite number of monkeys typing out a Shakespeare play, if given long enough. Assuming that the average blogger has more intelligence and foresight than the average monkey (a safe assumption…eh?) then you’d think that that mass of people would be capable of producing a couple of masterpieces between them, at least. Is there any evidence of it yet? I don’t know, I have only started in this blogging game…haven’t seen it yet though.
I can’t help but quote Borges himself on this library and what it would contain: “Everything would be in its blind volumes. Everything: the detailed history of the future, Aeschylus’ The Egyptians, the exact number of times that the waters of the Ganges have reflected the flight of a falcon, the secret and true nature of Rome, the encyclopedia Novalis would have constructed, my dreams and half-dreams at dawn on August 14, 1934, the proof of Pierre Fermat’s theorem, the unwritten chapters of Edwin Drood, those same chapters translated into the language spoken by the Garamantes, the paradoxes Berkeley invented concerning Time but didn’t publish, Urizen’s books of iron, the premature epiphanes of Stephen Dedalus, which would be meaningless before a cycle of a thousand years, the Gnostic Gospel of Basilides, the song the sirens sang, the complete catalog of the Library, the proof of the inaccuracy of that catalog. Everything: but for every sensible line or accurate fact there would be millions of meaningless cacophonies, verbal farragoes, and babblings. Everything: but all the generations of mankind could pass before the dizzying shelves — shelves that obliterate the day and on which chaos lies — ever reward them with a tolerable page.”
Brilliant. Simply a genius. Read that last line again – is that a vision of the internet today?
I propose a simpler way to produce a new Shakespeare-type play. Solve world poverty, introduce universal education, promote a love of beautiful language and an appreciation for drama in every citizen of the world, get robots and machines to do all the drudgery and work for us to free everybody to write, play, enjoy life, and finally one of us – maybe just one – will have a chance at the new Hamlet or the next King Lear. Simple really.