Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Philosophy Wire: Can monkeys type Shakespeare? No!

250px-Monkey-typingPhilosophy Wire by Spiros Kakos [2011-09-27]: A programmer tried to resurrect the famous experiment of Typewriting Monkeys. The logic is known: all the faithful followers of “Randomness” argue that a group of monkeys who randomly click the keys of a typewriter can eventually create all the works of Shakespeare! But in order to do this he cheated: he did not use actual monkeys but virtual ones (i.e. computer programs). These programs guessed random words and when they found a series of 9 characters which actually existed in the works of Shakespeare, they stored these 9 characters in their memory and went on to find the next ones [source: BBC News]. The conditions of the experiment have of course nothing to do with monkeys writing down random characters (without any kind of memory to store sets of characters they find, since they do not know their final goal and can never know if they have guessed correctly)… If the experiment was conducted under terms of actual randomness, the programmer himself admits that all the works of Shakespeare would need more time than the age of the universe to be created by pure luck! And if you put real (not virtual) monkeys, then the joke becomes apparent: once scientists tried to do the same experiment by putting a typewriter in a cage with real monkeys. Monkeys began beating the typewriter, resulting after hours in the creation of a single typed page which contained mainly the letter “S”. Then the apes were frustrated and broke the typewriter, urinated and defecated on it! [source: One Millio Monkeys Typing] The “miracle” the dogmatically blind followers of Randomness (e.g. Dawkins, Huxley etc) are waiting to see will probably not come… Perhaps finally randomness is not so powerful to create Shakespeare (let alone Consciousness or the Universe itself)…

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