Every Icon is a conceptual art piece by John F. Simon, Jr., an artist
who works extensively with computers and the internet. The piece consists
of a web page showing a 32x32 grid. a java applet shows every possible
combination of grid units (pixels), where each pixel can be either black or
white. There are 2 1024 possible icons under these conditions. Even on a computer
displaying 100 combinations per second, it would take 5.85 billion years to
complete each possibility for the first and second lines alone.
The philosophical implications are staggering. On a basic level, one
can be awed at the sheer amount of time it would take to show every icon.
No person could live long enough to see any recognizable words or objects
emerge. By the time the applet had finished, the sun would have long since
died out, and human civilization would be over.
On another level, one can see a parallel between this piece and the monkeys
with typewriters theory. Given enough time, the applet will create countless
familiar images. It will generate slogans, religious symbols, logos,
famous quotes, even miniatures of great paintings. It will create every
size of every letter in every font, known and unknown, that can fit in the
grid. The possibilities are too vast to comprehend. This aspect of the piece
at the same time nullifies and glorifies human achievements. Simon shows us
that anything we can do, no matter how complex or meaningful, will eventually
be replicated, at random, by a computer. The counter-interpretation is that
even the simplest of these meaningful images will take eons to produce,
and there is no way a computer can judge the meaning that is so obvious
to human eyes.
You can view Every Icon at http://www.numeral.com/everyicon.