Infinite Lego

Six 2×4 LEGO bricks

I’m reading Infinite Possibility, by Pine and Korn, exploring business “on the digital frontier.” I’m sure it will be full of very worthwhile gems which I can share (after all Joe Pine is the fellow who, with Joe Gilmore, explained the price of coffee in The Experience Economy). But first I had to share this observation from the Afterward (page 223) wherein he admits that the number of possibilities the digital economy offers is not in fact infinite, but might as well be:

“Take, for example, the relatively simple case of six 2×4 bricks (those with eight studs on top) – and we’ll ignore even colour. In 1999 LEGO published the number of possibilities that could be built with just these six bricks: an astounding 102,981,500. This turned out to be a considerable underestimate, however, as it only counted designs where each brick was on top of each other in some way – so each of the almost 103 million designs reach precisely six blocks high … the true number for six 2×4 bricks is 915,103,765!

“Now imagine (or pull out of your kids’ treasure trove) twenty-five LEGO bricks, still 2x4s, and still all the same colour. And then consider this number: 130,881,177,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is not the number of different designs you can make with them. No that is the number of years they estimate it would take to figure out that precise number! In case you were wondering, that is nigh on 131 duodecillion. Years.”

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