Babel Fish


The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.

In 1978, the original broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by English satirist Douglas Adams aired on BBC Radio 4 featuring the Babel fish capable of near-simultaneous, universal translation between any species. In the story, the existence of the fish paradoxically undermined the argument behind the existence of God, who promptly vanished in a “puff of logic.” As a consequence and in keeping with Biblical accounts of the construction of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9), the ability to freely communicate among humans led to destruction.

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