Virtual monkeys ‘close to recreating complete works of Shakespeare’

Millions of virtual monkeys, created by an American programmer, have almost typed out the complete works of William Shakespeare by hitting random keys on virtual typewriters.

The monkeys have already completed the poem ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ and are more than 99 percent of the way to finishing many of Shakespeare’s other works.

Jesse Anderson was inspired by the infinite monkey theorem, which suggests that an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters would be able to produce Shakespeare’s works by accident.

He also said that 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.

Anderson set up millions of small computer programmes, or virtual monkeys, using Amazon’s SC2 cloud computing system, and programmed them to churn out random sequences of nine characters.

If the nine-letter sequence appears anywhere in the writings of Shakespeare – ignoring all spaces and punctuation, it is matched to the specific passage.

If the sequence does not match, it is discarded, meaning the experiment is not a true recreation of the infinite monkey theorem since the letter combinations are not completely random

The monkeys, which started typing on August 21, have already completed more than five trillion of the 5.5 trillion possible nine-letter combinations.

Mathematicians said the constraints Anderson introduced to the project mean he will complete it in a reasonable amount of time.

Ian Stewart, a math professor, told the BBC that it would take “longer than the age of the universe” for monkeys to randomly type a flawless recreation of Shakespeare’s works.

more recommended stories