Jonathan Swift published the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels in 1726 and since then it has never been out of print. In Book III, Gulliver is abandoned by pirates on the continent of Balnibarbi. After a visit to the flying
The word machine of Lagado has fascinated computer dreamers too. It is the original idea behind Hilbert’s Ur-algorithm – a logical contraption that, should humanity come to an end, can recreate by itself, automatically, the works and knowledge that was lost. The machine that can write any book. The mathematical formula that can prove every theorem. Thanks to Gödel we now know that such a machine, or algorithm, is impossible to construct. But the fascination with the word machine of Lagado is too strong to let go. Like a childhood dream it returns again and again to haunt the adult life with nostalgia. What if there is a way round Godel’s incompleteness theorem? What if there exists, somewhere in an infinite multiverse, a word machine like the one dreamt by Swift? What if our thoughts are written in the pages of its infinite books?