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Blog this: Shakespeare’s works completed by digital monkeys!

Posted by joeabbott on October 6, 2011

There’s an old saying that postulates that with an infinite amount of time and an infinite number of monkeys sitting at typewriters, they’d be able to complete the works of Shakespeare. Well, Jesse Anderson had neither infinite resource so he created a small computer program to act as his “digital monkey”, leveraged some other computer services available through the Internet (to proxy for “infinite” resources), and went about tracking passages created for matches against Shakespeare’s work (courtesy of the Gutenberg Project).

His result: after starting on 8/21/2011, the digital monkeys can take a break … they’re done.

Here’s Mr. Anderson’s “less technical” explanation of what he was doing:

Instead of having real monkeys typing on keyboards, I have virtual, computerized monkeys that output random gibberish. This is supposed to mimic a monkey randomly mashing the keys on a keyboard. The computer program I wrote compares that monkey’s gibberish to every work of Shakespeare to see if it actually matches a small portion of what Shakespeare wrote. If it does match, the portion of gibberish that matched Shakespeare is marked with green in the images below to show it was found by a monkey. The table below shows the exact number of characters and percentage the monkeys have found in Shakespeare. The parts of Shakespeare that have not been found are colored white. This process is repeated over and over until the monkeys have created every work of Shakespeare through random gibberish.

The references he made to the “images below” can be seen at Jesse’s blog; additionally, you can watch the video on the project below:

Jesse Anderson codes up a lot of monkeys!

 

Unfortunately, it sounds like Mr. Anderson anticipates or has received some angered responses. To the point that he had to implore people to “keep calm” and remind everyone that:
“No monkeys were harmed during the making of this code.”

I know that I imagined monkeys cranking out entire sonnets, not just nine character snippets, and yet, I applaud his ingenuity and initiative. Thanks for adding a little fun to life, Jesse!

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