Jorge Borges: Short Stories

Jorge Borges: Short Stories "Babelpedia": 21st-Century Borges

Throughout our analysis of Borges, we have considered in passing how Borges might feel in the modern day. The fact is that several of his ideas have evolved with time; one might even say that they are more applicable now than they were when Borges wrote. In this way, Borges was ahead of his time.

Take, for instance, the advent of hypertext. Hypertext allow us to traverse vast matrices of knowledge quickly and non-linearly, similar to the paradigms suggested by Borges in The Garden of Forking Paths and Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain. The paths we take are so unique that the overlap between our knowledge and our peers can diverge with surprising speed.

Borges imagined the Library of Babel with infinite rooms and all possible books; of course, it would be humanly impossible to read a substantial portion of all possible books. Yet the internet is in some ways just a much more efficient Library of Babel. Dive into the web, decode the pages, and reap whatever knowledge they may or may not offer you. The possibilities are limited only by the total set of web pages.

But there are warnings to be gleaned from the Library of Babel: the fact that the Library contains both every true proof or piece of information, and misinformation. Just because something is in the Library, doesn't mean it is information which will enrich you. Likewise, with the resources of the internet at our disposal, we can do just as much harm as help to ourselves, depending on what sort of information we absorb, and how we go about absorbing it.

We mentioned that the internet is more efficient than than Library of Babel, but, unfortunately, this does not directly translate into the internet making us more efficient. In fact, it can do the opposite if we aren't careful. A library requires actively searching or engaging sources of information; browsing the internet can be a much more passive process. We flit through page after page or sit vacantly in front of videos, and the case may be that we actually have to remind ourselves to pay attention from time to time.

There are no advertisements or companies vying for our attention in most books, yet corporations pay a substantial amount of money to distract and hold sway over us online. If Borges has taught us anything about corporations, it is that those which try to insert themselves into labyrinthine structures or otherwise generate the artifice of labyrinths ought not to be trusted. Yet everything from quiet sidebar ads to product placement is designed to clandestinely prod us down paths which, though perhaps not in our conscious mind, end up in a purchase of the designated product. Borges may have wondered how that ends up impacting our free will - or even whatever type of will is typical within a labyrinthine environment.

It is apparent that the architecture of the internet, including but not limited to hyperlinks, is labyrinthine; what is less clear is who the progenitors of each subdivision of that near-infinite labyrinth are, and what their intentions are with us. We would do well to remember that, as much as the internet and our computers may feel like a metaphysical inevitability, we elect to participate in virtually every aspect of the internet we visit. This is not a Lottery, but rather cascades based on very deliberate clicks and keystrokes. We would do well to bear that in mind, and tread with intention the next time we brave the labyrinth.