Picture a monkey sitting in a chair with a typewriter. Now, imagine an infinite number of monkeys in the same position. Done? Okay. We’ve set the stage for the Infinite Monkey Theorem.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem states that, given an infinite amount of time, an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite quantity of typewriters will randomly hit the keys in such a way that they will write all the works of Shakespeare.
If you don’t understand or believe this, think about it. It’s a simple statistics problem. While the chance of the monkeys typing the works of Shakespeare is very, very, VERY low, it is still possible. And, given an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite amount of time, it is bound to happen eventually. It is called “accidental excellence.” There are proofs for this, but I won’t describe them here. If you want to see the proofs, you can click here. Unfortunately, it is impossible to test this theorem in real life, for obvious reasons.
Opponents of this theorem have their own arguments, however. Some state that literature is art, and monkeys cannot produce art because they are not intelligent animals like humans. Others say that even if the monkeys somehow type the works of Shakespeare, it will not count because they did not type it intentionally. Well, in response to this, I agree with Nelson Goodman: “That the monkey may be supposed to have produced his entire copy randomly makes no difference. It is the same text, and it is open to all the same interpretations…”
This theorem does, of course, have its variants. The monkeys could type anything, not just the works of Shakespeare (although that is the target text most commonly used). So, you could say that the monkeys would eventually type the entire Harry Potter series, if you’re a Potterhead like me. And, in a simplified experiment, instead of having all 26 letters of the alphabet, the keyboard only has two keys – 1 and 0. Thus, the numbers that the monkey types can be part of an infinitely long string of binary, and can be decoded into words.
So, what’s the point of this theorem, anyway? Good question. Well, this theorem can be applied to many subjects (besides statistics). The first one that comes to mind is a random document generator. On the internet, there are many applications for choosing something randomly- a number, a name, etc. This theorem uses the same idea. Also, the theorem is a part of evolution. Scientists and evolutionary biologists, like Richard Dawkins, use this as an example to prove that natural selection can cause numerous, random mutations to occur and cause favorable traits in organisms.
Well, that’s all for this post. Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned something new!
- “Infinite Monkey Theorem.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 May 2017. Web. 23 May 2017.
- “Proof of Infinite Monkey Theorem.” Probability – Proof of Infinite Monkey Theorem. – Mathematics Stack Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2017.
- Babu_Kurra. “This Is What the Infinite Monkey Theorem Looks Like in Real Life.” Wired. Conde Nast, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 May 2017.