On Monkeys and Shakespeare, Preliminary Results


In a previous post I described how 101 monkeys might be able to create a line of Shakespeare without being able to read or write the English language.   After describing the process, I asked the reader if they could guess how many times the monkeys would have to run the process in order to get the line of Shakespeare.

In this post I would like to reveal the monkeys’ results.

But first I want to disclaim that I don’t really have 101 monkeys, but instead I wrote a computer program to simulate the process I previously described.   In a subsequent post I will discuss some of the ramifications of the monkey process and how it applies to the science of evolution.

Run #1 took 20 cycles through the monkeys’ process.   Here are the contents of the index cards that the monkey named Levi gave to the monkeys in the Copy Room each time:

levi
levisl
lekviswl
mek viswl
mek v iswal
meks  iswal
meks  islwal
me.ks  islwael
me.ks  islkwael
me.ks i islkwael
me.ks it islkwawel
meiks it islkwaweal
meiks it islkwaweael
meiks it islkw aweael
mehiks it islkw aqweael
mehiks it islkw aqweasel
mehiks it is lkw aqweasel
mehinks it is lkw aqweasel
mehinks it is lkw a weasel
mehinks it is likw a weasel
mehinks it is like a weasel
methinks it is like a weasel

The second run took 17 cycles through the process:
levi
leaai
slkeaai
hslkeaae
mhs lkeaae
mhts lkeaeae
mhits lkeaeael
mhkits lkea eael
mhipkits lkea eael
mhipkits lke a eael
mhinkits lke a eael
mhinksits lke a eael
mthinksitis lke a eael
mthinksitis lke a weael
mthinksitis like a weael
mthinks itis like a weael
methinks itis like a weafel
methinks itis like a weasel
methinks it is like a weasel

Both the monkeys and I got pretty tired after all this string copying, so I will be back tomorrow with some discussion about randomness, guided processes, and information flow as it applies to evolution.   (You can find that article here).

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3 thoughts on “On Monkeys and Shakespeare, Preliminary Results

  1. Hey Benji… Looking at your blog… This must be a very old article as it mentions the Dawkins’ weasel program. When you say “I wrote a computer program to simulate the process”… An intelligence must be introduced into the system (writing program) because neither monkeys nor computers can generate such works on their own.

  2. Franck, good to see you here. Thanks for reading and replying. I just wrote the article yesterday, but I wrote the program about a year ago. And yes, it is modeled after Dawkins’ Weasel program.

    Yes like all scientific experiments, someone had to set it up. We have been doing that for about 400 years now in science. But we usually don’t invalidate them because someone with intelligence set them up.

    For example, if I set up an experiment that demonstrates Newton’s Law of Gravity, using rolling balls down an incline, I don’t expect people to refute my experiment because an intelligent person set it up. What finally demonstrates the phenomenon is the experimental apparatus itself, which contains none of the original intelligence of the technician.

    The balls and the inclined plane have no residual intelligence conferred upon them by the technician who set them up. They simply go on to behave like Newton’s theory predicts. In fact every experiment that has been conducted that successfully demonstrates the predicted phenomena also demonstrates that no consciousness or intellgence from the experimenter rubs off on the experiment.

    I plan to post the actual code in my next posting on this subject. You are welcome to point out where the software might be intelligent, self-aware, or even dimly aware of its surroundings. If you are do, I would be eternally grateful, as I would probably be eligible for a Nobel Prize.

    • Franck, I just wrote a very simple computer program that simulates Newton’s First Law of Motion, F = MA. If you type in a mass and a force, it comes back with the predicted acceleration of the mass. Also, it seems to get the same answer that I get when I do the math with a pencil. And it also agrees with experimental results.

      Is this computer simulation invalidated because someone with intelligence wrote the program? If so, why does it give the same results as a hand calculation? Is that just coincidence?

      Also, since calculators are also specialized computers that run internal software created by intelligent people, would you say that they are not to be trusted?

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