In all the Library, there are no two identical books. From those incontrovertible premises, the librarian deduced that the Library is "total"- perfect, complete, and whole-and that its bookshelves contain all possible combinations of the twenty-two orthographic symbols (a number which, though unimaginably vast, is not infinite)-that is, all that is able to be expressed, in every language. All-the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalog of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog, the gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary upon that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language, the interpolations of every book into all books, the treatise Bede could have written (but did not) on the mythology of the Saxon people, the lost books of Tacitus.
That is, the library covers everything that can be expressed using the 22 symbols, a space, and two punctuations. Scholars have discussed the mind-boggling philosophical implications of Borges’ library over the last eighty years. However, if I were in this library, I would discover that a majority of books are filled with unintelligible combination of letters and words that mean nothing to me (even though I would know that there is a book somewhere in the vast library that explains the meaning of these unknown words and phrases). Being sensible and aware of my limited lifespan, I would probably not go on a quest to find the meaning of such books.
The recent popularity of ChatGPT (created by OpenAI) brought back the memory of this profound story. Is this not a finite realization of the Library of Babel? One can ask it to write an essay on anything, real, absurd, or impossible, and you would get a coherent essay. With the right question (prompt) it can write anything. Therefore, in principle, it can write everything that can be written in English. However, the beauty is that it won’t write gibberish. Therefore, all those books in Borges’ library that were impossible to understand will never be created by ChatGPT. Unfortunately, ChatGPT will not give us books written in some future version of English, or discuss a scientific concept whose name is still unknown to us. That’s a loss, but at least now we have a more manageable Library of Babel. In Borges’ library he described the increasing problem of librarians and scholars committing suicide in ever-increasing numbers, perhaps out of frustration and desperation to trying make sense of it all. We will see much less of that when scholars explore the infinite regresses of the Library of GPT.
To finish, let me quote a few scattered paragraphs for the story. If interested, you can read the whole story here (The Library of Babel)
When it was announced that the Library contained all books, the first reaction was unbounded joy. All men felt themselves the possessors of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal problem, no world problem, whose eloquent solution did not exist-somewhere in some hexagon. The universe was justified; the universe suddenly became congruent with the unlimited width and breadth of humankind's hope.
Infidels claim that the rule in the Library is not "sense;' but "non-sense;' and that rationality" (even humble, pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception.
Methodical composition distracts me from the present condition of humanity. The certainty that everything has already been written annuls us, or renders us phantasmal. I know districts in which the young people prostrate themselves before books and like savages kiss their pages, though they cannot read a letter. Epidemics, heretical discords, pilgrimages that inevitably degenerate into brigandage have decimated the population. I believe I mentioned the suicides, which are more and more frequent every year. I am perhaps misled by old age and fear, but I suspect that the human species the only species-teeters at the verge of extinction, yet that the Library enlightened, solitary, infinite, perfectly unmoving, armed with precious volumes, pointless, incorruptible, and secret-will endure.