Do you have enough money to buy an iMac? If yes, you could build a universal library of science instead

The 27 inches new iMac is a killer, but for the same price...
The 27 inches new iMac is a killer, but for the same price…

Jacques Mattheij, the deutsch programmer who wrote the code for The Paper Bay as a tribute to the late Aaron Swartz, estimated in a blog post that one would need about 50-75Tb of storage to archive all the papers produced historically. That’s a very small amount of storage. Most laptops now come with 1Tb of storage and are about as thick as a small book. So for the «thickness of 75 books», which constitutes a rather small bedroom-library, you can get enough storage to host every scientific publications of all time. Let me repeat that: you can get enough storage to host every scientific publications of all time. I believe it’s fucking awesome.

The benefits of having a Universal Library of Science are obvious: fast scientific research, accessible knowledge, centralization of every ressources needed on every subjects, etc.

...38 HD like this one will give you a powerful knowledge transmitting machine, a bit like...
…38 HD like this one will give you a powerful knowledge transmitting machine, a bit like…

Just imagine what could the geniuses of our time do with such a powerful tool right in the palm of their hands. The teenager that discovered a new, super efficient test for pancreatic cancer, did all his research online, reading only Open Access papers, and probably missing many great but expensive articles, thus slowing down his work (you can watch his interview). Imagine also how easy it might be to fact check all the bullshit politicians, preachers, can say about global warming, history, etc.

If we take the high estimate of 75Tb, it’s affordable for many people to buy such a storage capacity nowadays. Take the Seagate Expansion Desktop External Hard Drive with a capacity of 2Tb. This thing costs a hundred dollars on Amazon , and you would need about 38 hard drives like this one to have the sufficient storage capacity, rougly 3800$, or the cost of a high end 27’ iMac. And, quite a lot of people seem to be able to afford a computer of that price range, since Apple is selling loads of it.

Once you’ve got your 38 hard drives, you’ll be able to store every paper ever written and thus have the capability of hosting the complete Universal Library of Science. Isn’t that cool? Just imagine that a few years ago it would have cost millions of dollars and only companies like Google could afford this! Even before that, when there were no computers, no internet around, having a «universal library» was even more difficult and expensive, since books were published by poorly know editors, in small quantities, and often lost or destroyed before reaching a great audience. Many attemps to build a Universal Library of any kind (the most famous being the Library Of Alexandria) failed, because of the high costs it implied at that time, and also because of the silliness of religious people (one of the main theory explaining the destruction of the Library of Alexandria being a conflict between Christians and Pagans around 250-300).

...The monolith in 2001, A Space Odyssey which in a way is transmitting the knowledge of an advanced civilization, helping the progress of mankind
…The monolith in 2001, A Space Odyssey which in a way is transmitting the knowledge of an advanced civilization, helping the progress of mankind
And the resemblance with the Seagate is really uncanny, isn’t it?
And the resemblance with the Seagate is really uncanny, isn’t it?

Now with the internet and cheap, enormous storage, we have what it takes to build a Universal Library of Science. Darwin, Einstein, (insert the name of a genius here), would have loved this kind of service, and maybe Darwing would have spent less time gathering facts to coin his theory of Evolution if he had access to powerful semantic search in texts, exactly the kind of thing a digitized text allows (Darwin spent more than 25 years gathering facts in books, but also by direct contact with other naturalists, farmers, etc.). Plus, mining the data inside the Universal Library could be very interesting in terms of data visualization (see initiatives like Paperscape).

The next thing you have to do is a little bit trickier and highly illegal [And to be clear, I’m not encouraging you to do it]. You have to find a way, write a script, hire a hacker, whatever, and download every papers and every books from Elsevier, Springer, Nature, and all the other big publishers (or you can legally buy all the publications, if you’re a billionaire). Find the list of all the publishers, then download massively everything they ever published. Aaron Swartz had written a script to download millions of papers from JSTOR, so this kind of webapp is needed if you want to succeed. Donwload everything that you can find. Oh, and try not to be detected. Remember how MIT, JSTOR, and the government acted like complete douchebags when Swartz did what he thought was civil desobedience? You don’t want that to happen to you. So, find a way to do all this undercover. Perhaps you want to teach yourself how to be completely anonymous and how to leave no trace behind you online (you really don’t want General Alexander or one of his fascist henchman to knock at your door).

That should make you puke
That could make you less shameful

And if you need additional motivation to start downloading, read the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, a great stuff Swartz wrote in 2008, a few years before putting it into practice at MIT. Or, if you feal shameful about «stealing» all these papers, you can just look at the profit margin of Elsevier, and the recent controversy over publishers like this one and their business model and attitude toward openness.

To sum up all this: Buy hard drives. Download. Enjoy the Universal stuff.

There. You have the Universal Library of Science. For the price of an iMac. But remember, it’s an illegal library. Who cares? A Universal Library of Science benefits all mankind. Well, only you for now. But put the content of these hard drives online, and let everyone enjoy the science.

How can a library be illegal anyway?BDDefinition-2001-4-1080

Images credits: Apple Inc., Seagate Inc., MGM Pictures/ Warner Bros. (2001 A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick), http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/pamphlet/files/2013/01/fig-margins.png, blu-raydefinition.com

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