Managing The Library of Babel
Jorge Luis Borges' story 'The Library of Babel' proposes a library so vast it contains all possible books, but is completely disorganised. In a perceptive article lawyer James Grimmelmann reflects on Borges' story and tries to come up with an information policy for it. In the process he connects the idea of the library with the Internet and the difficulties we face in not only organising but finding, reading, and categorising the information we find there. Who or what is our Book Man?
But the Library’s vastness and disorganization also make it almost completely useless: “[T]he chance of a man’s finding his own Vindication … can be calculated to be zero.” The image of the Library is haunting and suggestive. What would we do if we took it at face value? In this bagatelle of an essay, I propose to do just that: set out a few principles of sensible information policy for the Library of Babel.
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