In college, when reading “Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings,” by Jorge Luis Borges I discovered the first glimpse of my future in hyperlinking, archiving and currating roles that would be my digital future. One story, The Library of Babel (click link to read the story), stands out as a harbinger in particular. In 3000 words Borges created a universe with a seeming limitless library that contains all works of man in all languages, like the ambitions of the collective corporate and private netizenship. IMO, the essay considers a logical progression of events spawned from the Internet’s development. In this post I’ll try to show how with a focus on Google and Lifeblogging.
Note: This post has been a work in progress, which kind of loses some of the immediacy of blogging, so I’ve posted it to get the meme out and working. May be a bit disjointed as a result. Feel free to comment to complement this stimulus.
Did you click and read The Library of Babel yet? Go ahead and do so; we’ll wait. What follows is an explication with stimuli from the story with implcations on the digital space.
Google as the vast archive of all things known thought.
Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.
Borge’s library includes entire gallaries dedicated to catalogs of all the works in the library, and even more house false catalogs. It’s the Wikipedia syndrome.
Others, inversely, believed that it was fundamental to eliminate useless works. They invaded the hexagons, showed credentials which were not always false, leafed through a volume with displeasure and condemned whole shelves
Ever notice we’re thinking more like the catalog than the inverse? “The Catalog” might be getting smarter a billion clicks and searches a month, and in the meantime it’s got a lot of us thinking more like algorithms. Perhaps we’ve always thought that way–I’ve posited that intuition is just fast math–but I witness my own thought process articulating more boolean logic with “and” and “or” rules. Perhaps the machine is training us.
One of the upsides here is that we may be preparing future generations to begin dialogue with a question and tune ourselves to listening for true answers. IMHO, within the folds of this innately curious and understanding-seeking behavior lies the promise of Peace.
He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were written in Portuguese; others said they were Yiddish. Within a century, the language was established: a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with classical Arabian inflections.
Wisdom of the Masses, Rise of the Individual?
Loss of Privacy, Individuation? As the catalog of infinite human experience, can we relate to one volume or person to understand the whole? Is the infinite within one?
The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms.
I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter.
This line could explain the bubble phenomenon. My kids have an action figure of the X-Men character, Cyclops, who they call “VisionMan.” I love this. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
This temporal reality leads to the second half of the post on Lifeblogging.
Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.
Excellent lifeblogging essay: http://chronicle.com/free/v53/i23/23a03001.htm
Lifeloggers trace their history back to 1945, when Vannevar Bush, a prominent American scientist, wrote an essay for The Atlantic Monthly called “As We May Think.” Scientists deal with an increasingly unmanageable trove of data and other information, Mr. Bush wrote, but technology could help. Mr. Bush imagined scientists wearing little cameras on their heads to record lab work. He conjured an image of a desklike machine that could store thousands of pages a day in microfilm. He called his device a memory extender, or “memex” — a term that some researchers use today to describe their own suite of lifelogging tools.
As you can see from the picture I snapped at the Web 2.0 conference, this bright future has arrived. Now, it’s not just our clickstreams, blog posts, photo and video uploads teaching the machine, it can learn from people life-streaming 24/7. Some of the benefits suggested include aiding short-term memory loss and early-stage Alzheimers patients. Extending this out you can see that memory may become a human commodity just as it is becoming a consumer electronic commodity. The ability to reference becomes more important when all memories are available.
…”you might remember that the conversation happened in a specific city, on an overcast day, during the conference’s opening reception. You could use GPS records, weather data, and your calendar entries to triangulate and the find the digitized ‘memory.'”
Close with lyrics so clean you hear the music as you read them:
All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that’s to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
“There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”
Pink Floyd, Eclipse from The Dark Side of the Moon