Shakespeare's Monkeys

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Shakespeare's Monkeys. The idea that monkeys typing at random could eventually produce the works of Shakespeare by random typing was put the test by researchers at Plymouth University in England, as reported by Associated Press May 9, 2003. They found that six monkeys left alone with a computer for one month, attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word. "They pressed a lot of S's," said researcher Mike Phillips. "Obviously, English isn't their first language," reported Jill Lawless (Associated Press).

Faculty and students in Plymouth University's media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in Devon (southwest England). Then they waited for the six Sulowesi crested macaques to type. At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it. Another thing they were interested in was defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies. The Plymouth experiment was funded by a grant from England's Arts Council and part of the Vivarie Project, which plans to install computers in zoos across Europe to study differences between animal and artificial life. The monkeys' typing consisted primarily of the letter S with A, J, L and M, making fleeting appearances.

Editorial Comment: The idea that monkeys typing randomly should eventually produce Shakespeare quality literature is usually associated with Thomas Huxley, the 19th century avid promoter of Darwin's evolution theories. As far as we know this is the first time the monkey typing hypothesis has been scientifically tested. It seems it doesn't help evolution theory at all. The best suggestion for the predominant S with A, J, L and M is that these letters correspond to the left and right points on the monkeys backside when they sat on the keyboard. The mathematicians who calculated it would take a number of monkeys equal to 10 followed by 813 zeros, 5 years to type Shakespeare’s Sonnet no 3, if they each had a computer, and all typed at a steady 120 letters a minute. The random Shakespeare theory is now exposed for the rubbish that it is. Furthermore they forgot to include the fact that the monkeys would destroy their computers long before the five years was up. (Ref. chance, language, apes)

q_and_a2
crc_youtube
outdoor_museum_panel
free_audio2