The Digital Library of Babel Could Contain Every Word Ever Written

If it were real, the words you're reading would already exist in the Library of Babel, the fictional archive imagined by Jorge Luis Borges in his story of the same name. Luckily, we have the internet. The words you're reading do exist on, the digital version of Borges' library created by Brooklyn-based writer Jonathan Basile. (We're not joking: this paragraph appears on this page of the library.)

Every Book, Past And Future

"If completed," says the website, "[the library] would contain every possible combination of 1,312,000 characters, including lower case letters, space, comma, and period. Thus, it would contain every book that ever has been written, and every book that ever could be—including every play, every song, every scientific paper, every legal decision, every constitution, every piece of scripture, and so on." It doesn't yet have that entire combination. Basile has only reached every combination of 3,200 characters, but that's still 104,677 entire books. That's... a lot of books. Is your mind blown yet?

Of course, it may not ever be finished. In an interview with Flavorwire, Basile points out that it takes more than a terabyte of storage to hold just a million books, or 106. The full library is more like 291,312,000 books. "Even if the universe were just racks of hard drives," he said, "it wouldn't be enough to hold all that."

This Will Definitely Break Your Brain

To really understand what Basile has unleashed upon the web, you need to visit the page yourself. Take the last thing you typed (a chat with friends? A Facebook post? Your home address?) and search the library. We're willing to bet you find your words. Don't feel so original now, huh?

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Messages For The Future

Vsauce explains this mind-bending digital space clearly around 17:00.


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Written by Curiosity Staff January 13, 2017

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