FanPost

3/27 OT: Infinite monkey theorem

Infinite Monkey Theorem


The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

In this context, "almost surely" is a mathematical term with a precise meaning, and the "monkey" is not an actual monkey, but a metaphor for an abstract device that produces an endless random sequence of letters and symbols. One of the earliest instances of the use of the "monkey metaphor" is that of French mathematician Émile Borel in 1913,[1] but the earliest instance may be even earlier. The relevance of the theorem is questionable—the probability of a universe full of monkeys typing a complete work such as Shakespeare's Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time hundreds of thousands of orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe is extremely low (but technically not zero).

Variants of the theorem include multiple and even infinitely many typists, and the target text varies between an entire library and a single sentence. The history of these statements can be traced back to Aristotle's On Generation and Corruption and Cicero's De natura deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), through Blaise Pascaland Jonathan Swift, and finally to modern statements with their iconic simians and typewriters. In the early 20th century, Émile Borel and Arthur Eddington used the theorem to illustrate the timescales implicit in the foundations of statistical mechanics.

Real monkeys

In 2003, lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth MediaLab Arts course used a £2,000 grant from the Arts Council to study the literary output of real monkeys. They left a computer keyboard in the enclosure of six Celebes Crested Macaques in Paignton Zoo in Devon in England for a month, with a radio link to broadcast the results on a website.[10]

Not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five total pages[11] largely consisting of the letter S, but the lead male began by bashing the keyboard with a stone, and the monkeys continued by urinating and defecating on it. Phillips[who?] said that the artist-funded project was primarily performance art, and they had learned "an awful lot" from it. He concluded 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."[10][12]

Infinite monkey theorem in popular culture

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Lone Star Ball

You must be a member of Lone Star Ball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lone Star Ball. You should read them.

Join Lone Star Ball

You must be a member of Lone Star Ball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lone Star Ball. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker