I always heard it was twelve monkeys then a hundred monkeys but then it became an ifinite army of monkeys….
This parable of the Monkeys and their creativity goes back years – I have found French references to this theory dating back to:
… Concevons qu’on ait dressé un million de singes à frapper au hasard sur les touches d’une machine à écrire et que, sous la surveillance de contremaîtres illettrés, ces singes dactylographes travaillent avec ardeur dix heures par jour avec un million de machines à écrire de types variés. Les contremaîtres illettrés rassembleraient les feuilles noircies et les relieraient en volumes. Et au bout d’un an, ces volumes se trouveraient renfermer la copie exacte des livres de toute nature et de toutes langues conservés dans les plus riches bibliothèques du monde. Telle est la probabilité pour qu’il se produise pendant un instant très court, dans un espace de quelque étendue, un écart notable de ce que la mécanique statistique considère comme la phénomène le plus probable…
Émile Borel, “Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité,” J. Phys. 5e série, vol. 3, 1913, pp.189-196.
The whole Monkey thing still gets me – the theory that if you put an infinite number of monkeys into a space with infinite numbers of typewriters for an infinite amount of time and that they would come up with Shakespeare’s collected works is often attributed to Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century disciple of Charles Darwin— and supported in an essay by William Dembski
“Let me put it this way. Huxley’s example presupposes an
Intelligence familiar with the works of Shakespeare. At the
same time Huxley wants to demonstrate that random processes,
the typing of monkeys, can account for the works of
Shakespeare. Thus Huxley’s example is supposed to show that
the works of Shakespeare can be accounted for apart from the
person of Shakespeare. Huxley wants it both ways. An
intelligence must be on hand to know when the monkeys have
typed Hamlet, and yet Hamlet is to stand in need of no
author. This is known as having your cake and eating
it. Polite society frowns on such obvious bad taste.”
The theory starts now to define even the existence of a “communal consciousness” or God. The theory in its onion like layers begs to be taken further into debate as to the very intention of why it would be necessary to even have monkeys reproduce Shakespeare. What starts out as a little evolutionary joke becomes almost sinister in its theory.
No proof of this literary mathematical theorem exists before Huxley – it seems to reach back into time but must coincide with the invention of the Typewriter. Were there typewriters in Huxley’s time (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895)? Yes the Mass marketed Typewriter was invented by E. Remington & Sons who moved from Ilion, NY from 1874-1878 to right here in Wisconsin to mass produce their diabolical creation (there were writing machines before this time but not available for purchase). There was a patent fight with Edison but that is a different story. There has been access to Monkeys going back to the Romans so clues lie with the Typewriter – now the story takes on a technological overtone . No typewriters = no infinite theory. Technology=Infinity. We are getting dangerously close to Robot Typewriter Overlords now.
There are the theoretical computations of the Monkey Shakespeare question – Nick Hoggard, a British computer programmer living in Sweden, decided to put the theory to the test.
Hoggard designed “The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator,” (which can no longer be found online) to find out how many lines of Shakespeare a group of hypothetical simians could come up with if given a limitless amount of time.
“I got the idea from the SETI@home software, which examines radio waves for signs of extraterrestrial life,” Hoggard says. “I thought I would apply the same idea to examine random rubbish that monkeys type for signs of Shakespeare.”
Rubbish indeed it is my feeling that his site was taken down by the government – something very fishy about monkey simulators – army applications no doubt with monkeys as warriors with guns, or poetic mind powers. Very Planet of the Apes.
But there is a lighter side to all this.
Comedian Bob Newhart had a stand-up routine in which a lab technician monitoring an “infinitely many monkeys” experiment discovered that one of the monkeys has typed something of interest. A typical punch line would be: “Hey, Harry! This one looks a little famous: ‘To be or not to be — that is thegrrdnm zsplkt.
The very concept of infinity is as mind boggling as the concept of zero. I truly believe there can be no zero. It is impossible for nothing to exist in a space – there is always something, even the thought of something if indeed “thoughts” have energy – you are then thinking of something and zero again cannot exist. Can there be an infinite number of things? It is the infinite improbability drive in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that saves Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from certain death by asphyxiation in deep space after being thrown out of the Vogon ship; the improbable odds against being rescued being two raised to the power of the Islington (London) flat phone number where Arthur had met Tricia McMillan, aka Trillian, who is aboard the Heart of Gold with Zaphod Beeblebrox. Incidentally, Adams explained in the annotated volume of the original radio scripts that it was the eviction of Arthur and Ford out the space lock of the Vogon ship that led to his own “invention” of the Infinite Improbability Drive. Adams realized that he had worked the story into a dead end, thinking in frustration that the only solutions would be “infinitely improbable.” In a flash of insight and what Adams called “mental jujitsu”, the Infinite Improbability Drive was born.
In the third book, the Infinite Improbability Drive is discovered to be the Golden Bail of Prosperity in the Wikkit Gate. It is stolen by the white Krikkit robots, however, it was returned and the Heart of Gold returned to operational status.
An earlier attempt at using the improbability drive, Starship Titanic, was also mentioned. In theory, the infinite improbability drive would make it infinitely improbable that anything would go wrong. It was not successful, however, ending in a “Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure.” This was because, in these earlier times when the nature of improbability was less well understood, it was not appreciated that any event that is infinitely improbable will, by definition, “occur almost immediately.”
I do not believe that Massive Existence Failure could ever happen. I also think that it is time to update the Monkey theorem to modern times.
Only one Genetically Cloned Altered Monkey on one computer could create the works of Shakespeare. Where is Shakespeare buried again? And our monkey….his name is William of course.
GCAM + technology = infinity
The future is ours…