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LONDON, England (AP) -- Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters, the theory goes, and they will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.

Give six monkeys one computer for a month, and they will produce a mess.

Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word.

"They pressed a lot of S's," researcher Mike Phillips said Friday. "Obviously, English isn't their first language."

A group of faculty and students in the university's media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England, home to six Sulawesi crested macaques. Then, they waited.

At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.

"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.

Eventually, monkeys Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in -- not quite literature.

Government-funded project studies intelligence
Phillips said the project -- funded by England's Arts Council rather than by scientific bodies -- was intended more as performance art than scientific experiment.

The notion that monkeys typing at random will eventually produce literature is often attributed to Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century scientist who supported Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. Mathematicians have also used it to illustrate concepts of chance.

The Plymouth experiment was part of the Vivaria Project, which plans to install computers in zoos across Europe to study differences between animal and artificial life.

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."

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
vespaden
May. 12th, 2003 10:32 am (UTC)
Whoa, this sounds suspiciously like my work...
(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2003 10:50 am (UTC)
law of casaulity
re: "Another thing they were interested in was..."

Suggested subtitles for this story:

"Monkey doo, monkey see"

or

"A study of systematic character S's production through random defecation"

maybe the monkeys weren't as stupid as thought, but just heavy into acronyms

L.A.M.J.S.S.S.S..
Stating the obivious: Look Another Monkey Just Shit.. Shit. Shit! Shit!!

M.S.J.A.L.
Perhaps commentary of greater depth:
Monkeys Sad. (we) Jungle Animals. (you) Losers!! (poop & pee on non jungle hardware - bash it dead with rock - fuck will you let us go already!)

anonymous (mailto:fletchman@attbi.com)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )