Official: Monkeying about can't recreate Shakespeare

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The Independent Online

The 200-year-old adage that if you give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters they will eventually write the work of Shakespeare has been proven wrong – with £2,000 of taxpayers' money.

The 200-year-old adage that if you give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters they will eventually write the work of Shakespeare has been proven wrong – with £2,000 of taxpayers' money.

The Arts Council gave lecturers and students from Plymouth University's media course a grant so that they could lend a computer to six Sulawesi crested macaques at Paignton Zoo, to measure their literary output.

After a month, the project makers discovered nothing of literary value. Having first tried to destroy the computer, the macaques produced five pages of text, primarily consisting of the letter "s".

Towards the end of their work, the letters "a", "j", "l" and "m" were also used, but the monkeys did not manage to come up with anything that resembled a word.

"The aim of the project was to show that animals cannot be reduced to the level of random processes, or, indeed, to the level of a computer," said Geoff Cox, the MediaLab Arts lecturer who designed the experiment.

The adage is believed to have originated in the 19th century. Arthur Eddington, an astrophysicist, wrote in The Nature of the Physical World in 1928: "If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters, they might write all the books of the British Museum."

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