The Librarian

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History

He's just a piece of software, he has reason to be cheerful; he can move through the nearly infinite stacks of information in the Library with the agility of a spider dancing across a vast web of cross-references. The Librarian is the only piece of CIC software that costs even more than Earth; the only thing he can't do is think.

"Yes, sir," the Librarian says. He is eager without being obnoxiously chipper; he clasps his hands behind his back, rocks forward slightly on the balls of his feet, raises his eyebrows expectantly over his half-glasses.

"Babel's a city in Babylon, right?"

"It was a legendary city," the Librarian says. "Babel is a Biblical term for Babylon. The word is Semitic; Bab means gate and El means God, so Babel means 'Gate of God.' But it is probably also somewhat onomatopoeic, imitating someone who speaks in an incomprehensible tongue. The Bible is full of puns."

"They built a tower to Heaven and God knocked it down."

"This is an anthology of common misconceptions. God did not do anything to the Tower itself. 'And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was ca]led Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of an the earth.' Genesis 11:6-9, Revised Standard Version."

"So the tower wasn't knocked down. It just went on hiatus."

"Correct. It was not knocked down."

"But that's bogus."


"Provably false. Juanita believes that nothing is provably true or provably false in the Bible. Because if it's provably false, then the Bible is a lie, and if it's provably true, then the existence of God is proven and there's no room for faith. The Babel story is provably false, because if they built a tower to Heaven and God didn't knock it down, then it would Stin be around somewhere, or at least a visible remnant of it."

"In assuming that it was very tall, you are relying on an obsolete reading. The tower is described, literally, as 'its top with the heavens.' For many centuries, this was interpreted to mean that its top was so high that it was in the heavens. But in the last century or so, as actual Babylonian ziggurats have been excavated, astrological diagrams -- pictures of the heavens -- have been found inscribed into their tops."

"Oh. Okay, so the real story is that a tower was built with heavenly diagrams carved into its top. Which is far more plausible than a tower that reaches to the heavens."

"More than plausible," the Librarian reminds him. "Such structures have actually been found."

"Anyway, you're saying that when God got angry and came down on them, the tower itself wasn't affected. But they had to stop building the tower because of an informational disaster -- they couldn't talk to each other."

"'Disaster' is an astrological temm meaning 'bad star,'" the Librarian points out. "Sorry but due to my intemal structure, I'm a sucker for non sequiturs."

"That's okay, really," Hiro says. "You're a pretty decent piece of ware. Who wrote you, anyway?"

"For the most part I write myself," the Librarian says. "That is, I have the innate ability to leam from experience. But this ability was originally coded into me by my creator."

"Who wrote you? Maybe I know him," Hiro says. "I know a lot of hackers."

"I was not coded by a professional hacker, per se, but by a researcher at the Library of Congress who taught himself how to code," the Librarian says. "He devoted himself to the common problem of sifting through vast amounts of irrelevant detail in order to find significant gems of information. His name was Dr. Emanuel Lagos."

"I've heard the name," Hiro says. "So he was kind of a metalibrarian. [101]

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