Seven years ago a library made, but tomorrow just an hour from now, the eighth month of the year 2015, a conceptual model moves into reality. This long-term project of mine from as far back as my time in the Navy, originates from a thought experiment first started in 1895 (rekindled again in 1939 to 1941), will be born.
I financed most of the library, and this year I also financed a series of compartmentalized coders to draft me an algorithm for that project. The result will be the creation of digital books and the provision for search access for me to discover their content. What will I discover? The project's mechanics will fill those books with automatically generated English text in every permutation that the individual letters, punctuation and typographical marks can be placed.
A digital book with every letter an r would be the most obvious and useless result. So would a book with the first page filled with a's, with all other pages nothing but random English letters. But by logarithmic iteration, the consequence would also be books that directly replicate the entirety of each volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, each edition from each individual published date in history. Also books that replicate factual history, books that generate fantastic fictions and reveal terrible falsehoods. The Constitution for the United States will be written in one of those books, auto-generated, but so also will be the next Amendment to it that no one has even thought of yet (but will, by pure coincidence and not presentience or conscious action, of course).
Such a project will write books that have not yet been written but could be next year or a hundred years from now by someone, somewhere. Just as easily, books will be auto-generated that no real person will ever have written in the normal authorial process. Every permutation. Iteration by iteration, book by digital book to an indefinite number above (at least) 25 to the 1,300,000 millionth power.
The concept is hardly new. Several websites can write books by algorithm, all with the same problems of enormous sets of gibberish with only a few properly formatted and written texts. The ability to search them isn't new either, though their benefactors failed to provision for a search that would return only viable results rather than gibberish and non-sense combined. The limitation of the search engine was number of characters passed into the engine and parsed in it's catalog. The limitation of such a set of digital books is also its catalog - how do you catalog such a library? How much space would that take? Digital or otherwise?
Imagine an infinite library without a proper catalog to point you to the one book in a bazillion that is factually true, can even be read because it is the only one of all those prior capable of being read because it's the one written in standard English prose.
What was needed was a librarian's mind on it. Context was the answer. Such is my project's completion, though when I started I too failed to grasp how important context was to a library filled with books enough to cover every topic, every concept, every truth and every fiction that ever was or ever could be. How could you search for (and find!) a whole book written not just with proper English syntax, letter by properly positioned letter, but one with consciousness replicated into legible and reasonable exposition? Or poetry or mathematical proofs leading to fast interstellar travel?
How, without context, would one discover which book of millions of iterations, contained the factual history of the Civil War down to the last excruciating detail? Once found, if you could find it, what then? You would have to find evidence then for everything written there, piece by piece. You would find some and be denied other evidence utterly. It might drive you mad! What use then facts written in a book auto-generated by algorithm sitting on a digital shelf that you couldn't find except by some infinitely low browsing happen-chance?
A librarian's mind finally solved for x. The content of the books wasn't capable of being cataloged with our current technology. What technology would permit it in any case?
No, what was needed first above all was a catalog that was not based in technology, with technology being only supportive of it. Context is the catalog of such a library, and technology (the algorithm alone) the 'ghost writer'. That is the keyhole to the final, terrible secret of such a digital library. Everything that ever happened or ever could, and some which absolutely will occur and others, never; search for meaning all you like and find only a billion books with a's on nearly every page, or take that book with a's on every page and craft your own meaning. Your context for why you'd do that creates meaning. One could only hope such a person's endeavor is fruitful, truthful and benevolent.
A universal, infinite (or indefinite) library containing everything that ever was or could be? Brilliant. But you must bring context with you, or be lost forever in its maze of pages that might as well be gibberish if you can think of no meaning to the 'rose by any other name.'
Tomorrow it is born, a purely personal project of self education, self awareness. Today's web technology cannot hold it, not even the infinite storage space from the Google Drive of the education platform I enabled in the library. Born, but still in diapers in the librarian's entire care until it's ready to walk and talk all on its own.
Welcome the baby named Contextual(tm pending). Someday if the computations continue without failing, and the books can be stored and made available freely (not just because of copyright, mind you) you may read a book that your great great great great grandson will write about you. And it will be factually accurate. Well, except for that one chapter about your time down in Cabo . . .. Where did he come up with that stuff?!
And to show that truth can be strange by being also false in one or more contexts, five people were given a snippet of copied contents from one of the generated books on July 27th. Placed in an envelope with a Do Not Open Until August 1st sticker, tomorrow, if they remember the envelope that I gave them, they will read the contents of the letter, copied word for word from the auto-generated code. Legible, English prose written in a book with a publish date the algorithm set far in the future.
A book in which the algorithm said I am the author. Or will be, if I write it. Which would be strange because I would then write it by (technically) plagarizing my own work? Would such a construction create a new sub-branch of logic/philosophy - temporal ethics?
How funny truth without context. Who knows what may come. Don't let it keep you up at night though.
Quite Literally Yours,
P.S. The entire multi-volume treatise, The True History of the Periodic Universe, is hereby subject to copyright. What is written within? The excruciating details of the true history of the universe in its periodic iterations. That treatise also includes a written description of the Librarian's physical analog of the universe, describing the use of two short, intertwined strands of yarn to reveal all physical processes of the universe; after all, if you can't create an analog of the universe describing all its processes, laws and beauty (and even what color shirt you'll be wearing tomorrow) without using two short, intertwined strands of yarn, you're doing the science wrong.