Ever heard of the infinite monkey theorem? It says that given enough time the complete works of William Shakespeare will be produced by a monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter keyboard.
This is the idea behind the ‘Every Possible Photo’ project by Jeffrey Thompson. Using a software he wrote himself, Thompson has created an installation, that given enough time will generate every possible photograph.
“This project investigates the idea of using computation to “use up” a piece of technology, in this case a digital camera. Using custom-written software (and a very long period of time), every possible photograph is generated, one at a time and in numerical order.
The idea that extremely useless labour is interesting is central to this project (and the proposed project as well), as is the eschewing of the utility of data and its representation in traditional visualization work. Attempting to create every image a camera is essentially a time machine; somewhere in the set of images and alongside billions of “meaningless” others are a photograph of me, a photograph of me if I didn’t get a haircut last week, and a photograph of me with someone who I have never met.”
The installation creates between 200 to 300 new images every second. Thompson has chosen to use a relatively low-res display (15x10px) and is limiting the photos to black-and-white images.
Even with these adaptations the program would take 46,138,562,195,008,110,600,774,753,760,087,749,172,181,189,607,929,628,058,548,517,099,604,563,033,706,075 years to generate all the possible combinations!