Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

and the winner for 'idiotic experiment of the year' goes to...

... these fellows that tried to "prove" that monkeys typing at a computer would not produce coherent output, going after the oft-mentioned claim that "Given an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters, they will eventually write Shakespeare." So, what did they do? They gave computers to six monkeys, for a month. But the monkeys didn't write anything. Well, colour me dazed, what a surprise. I mean, "six monkeys" is just the same as an "infinite number of monkeys", and "one month" is just like "eventually", right?. This reminds me of another "experiment" performed a while ago when researchers studied whether the claim that running in the rain you get more wet than when walking.

Some people just have too much time, and money, on their hands.

To their credit (well.. partly) one of the organizers of this "experiment" said that

[...] the project, funded by England's Arts Council rather than by scientific bodies, was intended more as performance art than scientific experiment.
What riles me up is that they don't say "this was NOT an experiment." but rather they imply that it was "just partially" one. In fact, the last quote is ridiculously stupid:
Phillips said the experiment showed 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."

He says that as if it was actually implied that monkeys were "random generators", or as if anyone seriously ever thought that the gedankenexperiment (as Einstein liked to call them) mandated the use of real monkeys rather than just an ideal of randomness and lack of conscious direction. I mean, the mention of an infinite number of monkeys should be enough to tip off any rational person that you're not discussing the "literary capabilities of monkeys" per se, but rather something deeper...

Anyway, I'm probably taking this too seriously. Maybe it was an article written for The Onion and by mistake it ended up in Wired.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 10 2003 at 9:46 PM

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