Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chimps Typing Shakespeare

It is a commonplace of elementary statistical expostion, that if a million monkeys typed continuously for a million years, one of them might wind up typing-out the complete works of Shakespeare, or at least Hamlet (a simian favorite, to believe the expositors), or at least “To be or not to be”, or “fretful porpentine”.  Only, nobody has ever actually run the experiment.  Until now.

Using the vast wealth at our disposal (which we came clean about here;  the expense in bananas alone  would wreck a typical European economy), we assembled a team of a billion chimps (substituting them for monkeys, since monkeys -- bless their little hearts and tails -- are lousy at touch-typing), and allowed them to type at random, for a billion years (measured by the internal metric; we used a PoincarĂ© transformation to depress that time into a supertask; viewed externally, the entire experiment took place while we were out at our usual three-martini lunch).  

What then was our surprise, that in the time generously provided, not a single one of those flea-scratching hominidae  managed to come up with so much as Two Gentlemen of Verona, let alone Hamlet or Lear.  In fact, those banana-nomming beggars never even made it as far as “fretful porpentine”  (one of them did type “fragrant porcupine”:  close, but no cigar).  As scientists, we must ask:  How can this astonishing result be explained?

The answer is surprising in itself:   It turns out that chimps, like all the Great Apes, simply do not appreciate Shakespeare.  In fact, they are weak on the Elizabethans  across the board.
On the other hand, it turns out that, like most infrahuman imbecillidae, they are avid readers of People magazine, and quickly typed out (seemingly from memory) most of the back-issues of that noted grocery-checkout periodical.   Indeed, sources suggest that most of the articles in that journal  are simply written by chimps in the first place.  No wonder they could type them from memory!

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