Thanks to the ever-reliable things, I’m now aware of a far more useful experiment: the Monkey Shakespeare Simulator. This unleashes virtual simians at the problem; a far more suitable approach to a virtual experiment than wasting a month watching a handful of real monkeys bash a poor typewriter to junk metal.
As I write, the current record is this:
“KING RICHARD. OlazZtssi0cwX?QDjqkP9r]xfaBmlVU]e…”
That’s sixteen whole consecutive letters from King Richard II (from a range of 80 possible letters and other characters). And it only took 24,115 billion billion monkey-years to get past the speaker’s name (that capital O is, significantly, the first letter of “Old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster,”).
Of course, the Monkey Shakespeare Simulator can’t do infinite monkeys; it just does the very accelerated work of a large number of monkeys (thousands, I think) over a geologically long time.
Remember: infinity is big. Really big. If it were really running a simulation of infinite monkeys the experiment would be successfully completed in precisely the amount of time it takes to type out the entire works of Shakespeare one letter per second (say a few days).
Unfortunately, success is not proof. We wouldn’t know the experiment was successful until we had collated the results of those few days work from our infinite monkeys and compared them with the accurate text. You see, for every monkey that gets it right, there will be 79 who reproduce Shakespeare perfectly except for the very last character, and 79×79 who will get only the last two characters wrong, and so on, back to through the infinite chaos of an almost infinite amount of proofreading. It’s not monkey work, you know.
Sometimes, it seems, knowing you’re right is harder than being right.