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Virtual Monkeys (Nearly) Write Shakespeare


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A few million virtual monkeys are close to re-creating the complete works of Shakespeare by randomly mashing keys on virtual typewriters.


A running total of how well they are doing shows that the re-creation is 99.990% complete.


The first single work to be completed was the poem A Lover's Complaint.


Set up by US programmer Jesse Anderson the project co-ordinates the virtual monkeys sitting on Amazon's EC2 cloud computing system via a home PC.


Mr Anderson said he started the project as a way to get to know the Hadoop programming tool better and to put Amazon's web services to the test.


It is also a practical test of the thought experiment that wonders whether an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters would be able to produce Shakespeare's works by accident.


Mr Anderson's virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. These coded apes regularly pump out random sequences of text.


Each sequence is nine characters long and each is checked to see if that string of characters appears anywhere in the works of Shakespeare. If not, it is discarded. If it does match then progress has been made towards re-creating the works of the Bard.


To get a sense of the scale of the project, there are about 5.5 trillion different combinations of any nine characters from the English alphabet.


Mr Anderson's monkeys are generating random nine-character strings to try to produce all these strings and thereby find those that appear in Shakespeare's works.


Mr Anderson kicked off the project on 21 August using Amazon's cloud computers. Each day of virtual monkey keyboard mashing processing cost $19.20 (

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I get pissed off at this "infinite number of monkeys at typewriters would eventually write shakespeare"


if you have an inifinite number of monkeys typing, you would have an infinite number of monkeys writing shakespeare, and infinite amount pumping Amanda Holden, an infinite amount hacking into the pentagon and nuking my house.


The only purpose this kind of thing would serve is - how many monkeys would it take to write shakespeare in 1 year?

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