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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: Monkeys
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0901  Monday, 12 May 2003

[1]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 May 2003 17:32:34 +0000
        Subj:   I'm a believer

[2]     From:   Michael E. Cohen <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 May 2003 10:56:16 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys

[3]     From:   Philip Tomposki <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 May 2003 20:01:00 -0400
        Subj:   Infinite Monkeys Experiment

[4]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 May 2003 01:02:36 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys

[5]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 May 2003 19:35:14 -0600
        Subj:   Typing Monkeys Don't Write Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 May 2003 11:11:56 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Friday, 09 May 2003 17:32:34 +0000
Subject:        I'm a believer

MONKEYS FAIL SHAKESPEARE TEST. ("Thunderer " headline 9 May 2003)

Not, as might be thought, a prod at contributors to SHAKSPER but a
report that Plymouth University (late Polytechnic) gave six Sulawesi
crested macaques a computer for a month and no Shakespearean text was
produced. Dr Vicky Melfi (research associate - and possibly Duchess
of...) states that the macaques "don't need Shakespeare." Possibly they
wanted an Apple.  Moreover, perhaps it's Plymouth Poly they don't need.
The monkeys used the computer as a toilet reports Dr Melfi. So it's not
only dolphins that are smarter than us humans, says I.

Best,
Graham Hall

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael E. Cohen <
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Date:           Friday, 9 May 2003 10:56:16 -0700
Subject: 14.0886 Monkeys
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys

Both of the articles cited on the topic of the MediaLab students'
"experiment" seems to draw the conclusion that the results disprove the
assertion  "that an infinite number of monkeys given typewriters would
create the works of The Bard".

Actually, it disproves no such thing. "Infinite" does not equal "six"
(the number of monkeys actually participating), nor is a single month an
adequate amount of time in which to judge whether or not the experiment
succeeded or failed (I believe the complete premise also calls for an
infinite period of time, as well as infinite number of typewriters
rather than a single keyboard). Fact is, the monkeys clearly began with
the right letter (quick, name a playwright whose surname begins with
"S"), indicating that the experiment may actually have begun to show
positive results.

What the experiment does conclusively show, however, is that a slow news
day has a significant deleterious effect on the ability to journalists
to understand and convey the difference between actual scientific
experimentation and a clever and amusing artistic project.

Michael E. Cohen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <
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Date:           Friday, 09 May 2003 20:01:00 -0400
Subject:        Infinite Monkeys Experiment

'Paignton Zoo scientific officer Dr Amy Plowman said: "The work was
interesting but had little scientific value, except to show that the
'infinite monkey' theory is flawed."'

Hmmm.  One computer, six monkeys, one month - interesting definitions of
infinite.  And they say Americans have short attention spans.

Philip Tomposki

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 May 2003 01:02:36 +0100
Subject: 14.0886 Monkeys
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys

It doesn't take ?2000 ($3000) or even half a brain to realise that the
"monkey experiment" was an intellectual experiment and one never to have
been attempted in real life.  It is a view of the nature of infinity
where anything is possible because you have forever to achieve it.  It
is allied to the 'parallel existence theory' that states that there are
an infinite number of earths in space with identical populations and
also infinite variations of futures for each individual.  As space is an
impossible concept for humans to understand it will remain an
unanswerable and unprovable theory.  As for the monkeys try this: start
an ordinary BASIC interpreter on your computer and type the following
lines:

do
print chr$(random(27)+65);
loop

Watch carefully and you will see the words "to be or not to be" appear
on the screen.  One variable that I cannot guarantee is the time it will
take.  Probably thousands of years.

SAM SMALL
http://www.passioninpieces.co.uk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Friday, 9 May 2003 19:35:14 -0600
Subject:        Typing Monkeys Don't Write Shakespeare

In case any of you missed this story from the Associated Press:

Typing Monkeys Don't Write Shakespeare

Fri May 9,12:39 PM ET

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of
typewriters, the theory goes, and they will eventually produce the works
of Shakespeare.

Give six monkeys one computer for a month, and they will make a mess.

Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that
primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to
produce a single word.

"They pressed a lot of S's," researcher Mike Phillips said Friday.
"Obviously, English isn't their first language."

In a project intended more as performance art than scientific
experiment, faculty and students in the university's media program left
a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England,
home to six Sulawesi crested macaques.

Then, they waited.

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 in defecating and urinating
all over the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's
Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.

Eventually, monkeys Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan
produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later,
the letters A, J, L and M crept in.

The notion that monkeys typing at random will eventually produce
literature is often attributed to Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century
scientist who supported Charles Darwin's theories of evolution.
Mathematicians have also used it to illustrate concepts of chance.

The Plymouth experiment was funded by England's Arts Council and part of
the Vivaria Project, which plans to install computers in zoos across
Europe to study differences between animal and artificial life.

Phillips said the results showed that monkeys "are not random
generators. They're more complex than that.

"They were quite interested in the screen, and they saw that when they
typed a letter, something happened. There was a level of intention
there."

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 May 2003 11:11:56 +0100
Subject: 14.0886 Monkeys
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0886 Monkeys

Regarding monkeys writing Shakespeare, I'm surprised no-one has yet
recalled Bob Newhart's sketch in which he imagines himself taking the
job of checking how the monkeys are getting on:

"Checking Post 13. Oh, I don't think this poor devil's ever going to
write anything. Hold on, Harry, I think Post 14's got something. I think
this is famous, isn't it?:

'To be or not to be, that is the gerZonoNPplat...'"

Gabriel Egan

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