UNIVERSE OF BABEL

what is the nature of knowledge?

Epistemology has dealt with this questions throughout the history of philosophy. From Plato we have asked ourselves how do we know what we know? Philosophers from Hume to Descartes have given us different answers to these questions. Science now proposes a different path to finding what is true. A model based reality in which we can make sense of the Universe. 

My current work reflects on these questions from a scientific perspective. I create an imaginary  universe inspired by mathematician John Horton Conway's game of life and novelist Jorge Luis Borges' short story, Library of Babel, 

LIBRARY OF BABEL

Borges describes a universe (library) composed of hexagonal chambers which contains all possible writable books in all possible languages. Humans (librarians) live on trying to make sense of such a place

Universe of Babel 2016

Librarians form philosophical movements, cults (religions) filled with superstition, conjectures and hypothesis about the library. They made ocasional discoveries and tried to interpret them i.e

   "Five hundred years ago, the chief of an upper hexagon (2) came upon a book as confusing as the others, but which had nearly two pages of homogeneous lines. He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were written in Portuguese"

Borges gives a detailed account of the library's structure

Render by Alex warren

Render by Alex warren

"The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two ..."

Detailed view of Universe of Babel, hexagons representing the library's galleries

Detailed view of Universe of Babel, hexagons representing the library's galleries

 

There are five shelves for each of the hexagon's walls; each shelf contains thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in color. There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not indicate or prefigure what the pages will say...  

CONWAY'S GAME OF LIFE

The universe of the Game of Life is an infinite two-dimensional orthogonal grid of square cells, each of which is in one of two possible states, alive or dead, or "populated" or "unpopulated" (the difference may seem minor, except when viewing it as an early model of human/urban behavior simulation or how one views a blank space on a grid). Every cell interacts with its eight neighbours, which are the cells that are horizontally, vertically, or diagonally adjacent. At each step in time, the following transitions occur:

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.

  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.

  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by over-population.

  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

The initial pattern constitutes the seed of the system. The first generation is created by applying the above rules simultaneously to every cell in the seed—births and deaths occur simultaneously, and the discrete moment at which this happens is sometimes called a tick (in other words, each generation is a pure function of the preceding one). The rules continue to be applied repeatedly to create further generations.

UNIVERSE OF BABEL

My work merges this two imaginary universes, Borges' and Conway's. Both worlds make fascinating points about the nature of knowledge, our search for truth and the models we build to make sense of what we observe. The colored hexagons are arranged based on a simple rule, just like Conway's game of life. In this case I am not telling you what the rule is but not knowing the rule does not meand we could not still build a model based reality that explains this Universe of Bavel based on entities and system of entities that are apparently present.

Systems or constellations of entities also apparently emerge, drawing vertical lines of Triples, diagonals of Doubles, diagonals and clusters of Singles among others. Off course both the entities and systems only exist on the mind of the observer, the reality is that black hexagons answer to only one simple rule, still we can create a model based reality around "entities" and "systems" with physics rules that agree with observation and make accurate predictions.