Apr 16, 2008

200,000 books, one Geek with his computers

A very interesting New York Times article covers what is effectively a stupendous mockery of the process of creating a book. But books are produced nevertheless, and some people buy them.

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a particular chosen text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.  - Infinite monkey theorem, Wikipedia
Humans cannot deal with infinity, but we can use better assistants than monkeys to reduce the time it takes. In the Information age, Philip M. Parker, has put his name to 200,000 books setting records for being a prolific author. The catch to this inhuman behaviour is an array of assistant computers programmed to fetch information online on any particular topic and compile them into a book. He explains the process in the following video.

It's unnerving to think that this process can be extended to other media like games, audio and video as well. Effectively it establishes the precedent that a person is not required to compile content into human consumption media items like books or movies.

At the library end, I wonder what this implies for cataloguers. It doesn't make sense for humans to be organizing output that comes from machines. Do cataloguers they have to be human too, or can they just be machines instantly summarizing and deriving overviews from the content?

I found some of these books here on Amazon.

The New York Times article can be found here.


KarenNz said...

I would imagine that this "fetch" utility could have insignificant impact on the work of reference / research librarians. They interpret and create "output" from catalogues and other resources. It looks to me that this is what this is doing - creating "fetching" output from content. Could "fetch" handle the complexity around "names, i.e. authorship and deriving conflict; and other systems of organization (e.g. subject) that catalogers (and machines) overlay onto resources and content. Related to this I wonder how effective "fetching" would be over systems with an enormous amount of content.

KarenNz said...

The previous comment should read significant not "insignificant" in the first sentence! Karennz