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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Google to Digitize Lost Library of Alexandria

by Paoli du Flippi

posted @ 4/01/2010 12:01:00 AM PT 

Today at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, Executive Dan Clancy, head of the Google Books project, announced plans to digitize the contents of the Lost Ancient Library of Alexandria.

Initially, some confusion arose among the assembled media representatives, who immediately began to inquire about the details of dealing with the recalcitrant and xenophobic government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But Mr. Clancy quickly set the press corps straight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you should know by now that Google does not undertake small projects. Or if we do, we do not convene press conferences to boast of them. No, although we are indeed currently scanning the contents of many contemporary foreign libraries as a routine part of our business model, I am talking now about access to the fabled and heretofore extinct institution which was founded during the reign of Ptolemy Soter in the third century BC, and which lasted in some form down until AD 391."

This "clarification" succeeded only in raising confusion and clamor among the reporters, newscasters and bloggers. But once order was restored to the auditorium, Mr. Clancy continued.

"You might ask how we here at Google have gained access to the Alexandrian collection, presumed to be forever lost. Was it through sponsorship of some archaeological dig perhaps, or a massive combing through museums and private holdings to reassemble the collection from unrecognized disparate bits? Nothing so trivial! Google simply had to invent a practical means of time travel, which we can now reveal to the public."

At this point, Mr. Clancy was joined onstage by a man who appeared to be his identical twin. Shortly after, a third duplicate appeared, and then, in quick succession, a dozen more.

The original Mr. Clancy, identifiable by his possession of the podium, said, "These are my alter egos from up and down the timestream, here to join me for this momentous occasion." Each smiling doppelganger now held up a cell phone. "They have all employed our time-travel device, which is a simple app that runs on any Android phone. Needless to say, we will not be releasing this app to the general public."

The doppelgangers then flicked up their time-travel apps and vanished, leaving the home-time Mr. Clancy to go on with the conference.

"Having achieved time travel, we next asked ourselves how we could best incorporate the new technology into our grand scheme to assemble all the data in the world into easily searchable digital form, whilst doing no evil. Almost unanimously, our first thought was to reclaim the lost masterpieces from Alexandria. Over one million papyruses, including unseen works from such eminent figures as Euclid, Aeschylus, Menander, Pythagoras and Aristophanes. The heritage of our species will be incalculably enriched."

Mark Frauenfelder, representing Boing-Boing, was one of the first correspondents able to recover his faculties and frame a sensible question. "Dan, how long will it take to scan one million papyruses? Will you have to invent a new kind of automated scanning device? Can Make magazine possibly be of service?"

Mr. Clancy grinned. "Well, Mark, it's like this. The task is already done! As soon as we knew we were going to do it, we realized that sometime in the future the task would already be completed. So we just jumped ahead into the future and brought the complete Library of Alexandria scans back to our era. That's the miracle of time travel and its paradoxes! By the way: the entire project fits onto a ten-petabyte thumb drive. And we have copies today for everyone!"

At this point, Mr. Clancy reached below the podium, took out handfuls of thumb drives, and began tossing them into the crowd, which scrabbled madly for possession of the archives.

Once the scrum had ended, Mr. Clancy went on. "Having recaptured the legacy of Alexandria for all humanity, we realized that there were many other famous lost books and manuscripts to be recovered from the timestream. Apocryphal chapters of the Bible. Shakespeare's Love's Labours Won and The History of Cardenio. Oh, by the way, you'll get a kick out of hearing who Shakespeare really was! Several musical scores by Bach and Mozart. Byron's Memoirs. Thomas Hardy's first novel. Hemingway's manuscripts in the bag his wife Hadley lost. Oh, the list goes on and on — and all the texts are here!"

Mr. Clancy thereupon distributed copies of a different-colored data-stick to the press corps, and all members who had fainted were removed from the room by handy EMT's supplied by Google.

In response to a question from SFWA President John Scalzi, Mr. Clancy assured the audience that royalties would be paid to the direct descendants of the original authors, insofar as they could be located. "Google has recapitalized itself sufficiently, thanks to future stock market information brought back in time, and also the salting away in 1939 of several copies of Action Comics Number One and Detective Comics Number Twenty-seven. Just a small number of copies, naturally, so as not to depress the market.

"Let me conclude this presentation," said Mr. Clancy, "by reassuring the public that we do not intend to use our newfound abilities to function in the manner of Kage Baker's Company, Poul Anderson's Time Patrol, Isaac Asimov's Eternals, Keith Laumer's Imperium, or Fritz Leiber's Spiders and Snakes. We did have some notion of doing so — for the benefit of our species, of course — but two entities representing themselves as the Time Trapper and Kang the Conqueror convinced us otherwise. However, we are not too disappointed, since we have good reason to believe that these entities are really Omega Point incarnations of our own Sergey Brin and Larry Page!"

Labels: April 1st

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