Monkey Business

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 theorem, ‘monkey’ does not mean an actual monkey. The term is used to denote an abstract device which produces letters in a random sequence without stopping.

The probability of this randomly typing  device producing the complete works of Shakespeare is extremely low, but not zero. In other words it was thought that it would take a very long period of time for this event to take place.

In this age of modern technology, even improbable events become probable, though. US programmer Jesse Anderson  succeeded in setting up a project which practically tests this theorem.  He devised  small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. These virtual monkeys continuously typed out random sequences of text.

It has now been announced the experiment has reached its conclusion, and the virtual monkeys have finished typing out the complete works of Shakespeare.  The final work- The Taming Of The Shrew, was completed on 6th October 2011,  just over one month after the project was started.

Those were virtual monkeys. But earlier, in 2003,  some enterprising researchers at the Paignton Zoo had carried out a practical test using real ones– crested macaques ( a type of monkeys).

They put a keyboard connected to a PC into the cage of six crested macaques, then waited to see what the monkeys would do.

In a months time the monkeys produced five pages of the letter ‘s’ , and then broke the keyboard!

Guess the researchers forgot that animals are not machines and have minds of their own. Jesse Anderson must have been relieved that his monkeys were virtual and not the real variety!

Apparently, humans and monkeys are descended from  a common ancestor.  Scientists say that along the way, about 5–7 million years ago, humans branched off and evolved into a different species.

Humans developed over the centuries. They developed the art of communication. They developed languages.

They learnt to use more and more sophisticated tools.  They learnt to live together as a tribe. They progressed from being hunter-gatherers to being farmers and cultivators.

The made progress in the Arts, the Sciences, in technology and medicine.  Eventually they evolved into the modern, civilized  beings they are today.

One wonders though, have humans now reached the zenith of their evolution? Have we reached the most ideal point of intelligence and understanding?

Have we developed our capabilities to the highest point, and now stopped evolving?

From the news reports that we read in the papers and hear on television channels, it would certainly seem so!

People in every sphere of life are behaving like our cousins the monkeys. In parliament and state assemblies, our elected representatives throw anything that they find at hand- microphones, chairs, files,- at each other. During city traffic jams, the sound of horns being honked is enough to make every one deaf. No one seems to realize that the traffic will move along at the same sped whether the horns are blaring or not!

Like monkeys, humans today think only in the moment. They are losing the ability to see the big picture. They are losing the ability to reason. They behave as they feel like. They do whatever benefits THEM NOW.

What will happen tomorrow? Well, someone else can think about that. What if someone else is hurt by their actions? Well, someone else can think about that too!

Having reached the highest point of evolution, we have apparently started our downward descent. Well, that is a natural process, I suppose- after Uttarayan comes Dakshinayan.

One wonders whether there is some way out of this situation? Can we reverse the trend of descent? Can humans realize that we have not yet reached our highest point of evolution- and that we can continue to rise?

What if  humans were turned into some sort of virtual monkeys- a bit like those in  Jesse Anderson’s experiment. Not thinking much for themselves. Just mechanically going on performing the tasks they were assigned to do. The ‘monkey business’ we see around us everywhere today would stop.

But no. That would negate the very essence of human-ness. Human beings should think for themselves. They should take decisions for themselves. And they should take them wisely.

So, can the human decline be reversed? I’d like to think that it can.

But how? And when? Ah, that is perhaps something no one can tell!



  1. But how does one think beyond oneself? We have any number of people saying, ‘Put yourself first.’ ‘dil maange more’, etc. etc. The I is the most important letter today. Reminds me of the story of the monkey mother which was put in a glass cage along with its baby and then flooded slowly. First she held the baby away from water, held it over her head till the water came to her face — and then she threw the baby down and stood on it! We are all becoming monkeys — like the ones that broke the keyboard and that monkey mother that drowned her baby to save herself. Well written post as usual 🙂


    1. Oh yes, the story of the monkey mother unfortunately fits the situation. We do not even realize/ care that we are causing harm to those close to us.

      And thank you!


  2. We seem to need guidance at all times…otherwise we become real monkeys and break the keyboard like they did.

    You created the suspense, step by step, Manju! Interesting!


  3. Have we developed our capabilities to the highest point, and now stopped evolving?

    Your question is indeed scary…. have we really? and is it why we see so much chaos around?

    Hopefully there is a way out…else you wouldnt be thinking much about it and writing such a beautiful post!


    1. Yes, hopefully there is a way out. I think there is still reason to believe that humans will realize their mistakes and resume their upward climb. 🙂


  4. Has evolution stopped? Well maybe. And has regression begun? In some cases it appears it has. And to refer to man as an animal is to do injustice to them.


    1. Yes, in some way animals may be better than humans. 🙂

      It is to be hoped though, that we can use our brains to think about what is happening and figure out ways to repair the damage we ourselves are causing!


  5. man will be continue to evolve, we use a an extremely small percentage of a brain by extremely small fraction of the population. And how many are using the subconscious mind, which is even more powerful than the conscious mind of the brain ..


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