Infinite Monkey Theorem

Let’s see… ‘It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?’ You stupid monkey! — Mr. Burns, “Last Exit To Springfield”

The infinite monkey theorem, first referenced in the early 20th century by a mathematician named Émile Borel, posits that, given enough time (and provided the malnourished monkeys don’t choke to death on the delicious ink ribbon), a troop of typewriting apes would eventually crank out the compleat works of William Shakespeare, or anything else you might need written down.

While many statisticians and abstract thinkers have weighed in on this theorem, I like this guy’s opinion best:

We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true. — Robert Wilensky

In my defense, I don’t think Shakespeare even watched The Simpsons.

A few years back, a group of scienticians attempted to see if the theorem held up in real-world applications by installing a keyboard in a U.K. monkey house. The monkeys failed to take advantage:

…after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter “s”.

Stupid monkey, indeed.

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2 Responses to Infinite Monkey Theorem

  1. Doris Grau says:

    Ahem:
    “Virtual monkeys write Shakespeare”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15060310

  2. mcgarnagle says:

    Ha! Excellent. But, for my money, nothing beats the random of output of living, breathing monkeys…

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