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How SOL75 works (part 1)

A needle in a (higher-dimensional) haystack

November 2021

Image of a huge library Image: "Big library" by Nemanja Sekulic

In front of you stands a library; impossibly large and infinitely tall. In it, you'll find everything that has ever been written, every sentence spoken out loud and every repressed thought. But this monumental collection is not limited to what has been; it also contains everything that has yet to be written and everything that never will be. In short, it contains all possible combinations of spaces and letters.

Say you only need a Christmas card, how do you find it? It is probably a wise idea to ask the librarian.

SOL75 faces a similar problem. It inhabits a higher-dimensional space where every point corresponds to a different version of an object. Among them, you might find a teapot made of butter, gloves with 7 fingers, stairs with a negative number of steps and, occasionally, even something useful.

But like in the library example, how can SOL75 find exactly what we want among the infinite possible variations of an object?

To begin with, our requests are very specific. Every time SOL75 encounters an object, it can unequivocally decide if it represents a solution that matches our requirements or if it should be discarded. If we show it some arbitrary object, SOL75 will be able to recognize it as a solution or not.

Given enough time, we might find what we were looking for just by “wandering through the space”. However, since this space is very large, this strategy is a bit too optimistic. Mapping the whole space beforehand is equally impractical, it is one of those tasks that would take hundreds of years to complete. So how can we find something useful in this impossibly huge space?

We ask the librarian, who, in this case, is an AI.

How does the AI know where stuff is, or better still, how do we train it, are valid questions that will be explored in the next update. The core point is that SOL75 does not create a design like a craftsman would, but rather “finds it” among the multitude of all possible shapes.


The aforementioned library really does exist (although no paperback edition has been printed yet). You can find it at library of babel.