Can we generate every image that could ever be created?

One of the most famous short stories by Jorge Luis Borges is The Library of Babel which features a library filled with books containing every combination of letters possible- implying that in that library there must exist every book to every be written or ever will be written. Similarly, users on the message board for the AllThePictures project believe that they can write a computer program to generate every combination of pixels in a 100×100 image possible- creating images of everything that has existed and everything that will exist.


Now, in Borges’ story the sheer amount of gibberish and nonsense information drives the librarians to despair. But with only a 100×100 image rather than books, could it be easier? How many images could there be? On AllThePictures, they claim 1677721610000 possible images using 24 bit color. Yikes.


Example output .GIF

Still, such a program sounds exciting, so I put together my own generator to see if I could make the process easier. I used Mathematica to generate images filled with random color pixels of a user specified size. To make things more tractable I did the following:

  • Let the user generate a number of images they specify they want to analyze
  • String those images together like a movie so that they can analyze a large number of images at a time looking for ones that have meaningful patterns
  • Added export buttons so that the strings of images can be shared online in .GIF and .AVI format

As you can see from the above image, you can analyze a lot of images at once (that one contains 100 different images believe it or not. I could have probably done better with a camcorder and an old tube TV). This gives you an idea of how many images there really are- for something really to randomly appear in this noise is very unlikely. But at least I made it easy! On a less cynical note, it was a lot of fun to make and I really do hope someone with the project finds something amazing someday in all that entropy.


My generator is open source and can be found on my Github. You do not need Mathematica to play around with it- you can simply download the free CDF Player and run the CDF document in that repository. It has also been shared with the AllThePictures community.




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