Mammoth had a piece last week about the intersection between book design and architecture in the form of the Large Higgs Field Galactic Archive. Less a library than a holographic depiction of everything in the galaxy ever, the LHFGA is the speculative architectural plan of Robert Charles Wilson from his book Darwinia. The structure would gradually come into being as a cosmic response to heat death and would be made of consciousness (or “noospheres,” to use the sci-fi parlance).
Wilson regards the LHFGA as the ultimate history book, but that might be underselling the idea, given that it would contain the concept of history itself and every thought about it, plus every imaginable alternative to “history,” “book,” and “archive.” It would include this blog post and you reading it. Presumably the only sentience that could read such a book would be the LHFGA of a different galaxy, and once one read the other, perhaps all the information would divide, cell-like, to become part of the other LHFGA. (Still with me?) Thus would the hundreds of billions of LHFGAs begin to grow a new informational universe from the remnants of the old.
This poses a number of interesting questions about the future of book publishing. No, I’m kidding; it doesn’t — but it reminds me of a recent article from the Times Online about the Total Recall e-memory project. In this version of book making, an individual collects as much of the informational content of the life as possible — everything from email messages and grocery receipts to cell phone photos and biotelemetry data — and adds it daily to a lifelog. Data builds at a rate of about 1GB per month.
While the project as it exists now seems a bit incomplete, at least as far as the demands of autobiography are concerned, it’s not hard to imagine a next-generation cell connection that would transmit one’s interior thoughts to a server account somewhere, each day an enormous soliloquy of interior and exterior monologue rendered as text. A lifetime of this might result in a new sort of hyper-completist book media: a book that is millions of pages in length but only useful as a searchable, browsable text. The book as solipsistic virtual reality program.
Cue the WikiReader: a little Kit Kat Bar-sized device that includes the Wikipedia database in its entirety minus the graphical stuff. That’s a thousand volumes worth of searchable information encoded on a chip for $99. Two AAA batteries are included.