On monkeys, typewriters and the second law of thermodynamics

The darwinian theory of evolution suggests that if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters for enough time they will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. In other words: order can come from disorder given a large enough random data sample and a sufficient passage of time.

However this breaks one of the golden rules of physics: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Given the same set of initial conditions the second law predicts that all you will get is a whole load of broken typewriters, ripped paper and monkey poo... and the longer you wait the worse it will get.


SLW said...

Absolutely! Who would have thought a blog on monkey poop would get my kudos! Hats off to you, Chris.

Ricky Carvel said...

"if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters for enough time they will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare"

That's not exactly right. 'They' never will. The overwhelming majority will destroy typewriters, rip paper and throw poo, but some of them will randomly hit keys and make strings of letters appear on the paper. One of them might manage to form the word 'Verily' by random pressing. But you do need to get close to an infinite number of monkeys before you get anything approaching a full line of text, let alone the complete works...

On a related thought, I've found myself reconsidering what the Genesis account of creation actually says. And if you read it as it was written (without prior assumptions) you see that it shows how God created 'the firmament' out of the pre-existing 'waters'. In other words, God's creative work is to create order in the midst of chaos. Wearing my heretical hat for a moment, it never says that God created the waters...

Roger Hamilton said...

This is a significant question, in that it tends to indicate the true nature of intelligence; or perhaps better, the nature of true intelligence.

To consider it some kind of theorem, susceptible to experiment or proof is the domain of someone not using their intelligence. [ To designate such as stupid or an idiot is not constructive or necessary, since we can all resort to post hoc ergo propter hoc type thinking, at the drop of a hat ]

It's interesting to speculate on the idea of Shakespeare arriving at his works, complete or otherwise, by simply typing, well scribbling, in a random fashion until he arrived at some prose he decided worthy to put in front of the public gaze, however discriminating that was [ or ever will be ].

It's similarly curious why the well known televised parlour game, if I can call it that, whereby contestants are required to form the longest word possible out of a random selection of nine(?) letters, is so popular. After all, is it likely that any writer worthy of note would want to produce a novel by throwing, say 20 sets of Sc****** letters on the floor, and seeing how many coherent associative sentences he could make.

Now; how are our monkeys getting on ? Not very well it seems. Is it not a fact that we, in common with all other creatures, including the most intelligent monkeys, assuming that such, no doubt imbued with some kind of superior genetic make-up, exist, learn by association ONLY ? Is it not obvious that; rather than replicate the esteemed works in question; our lesser well endowed cousins of nature are more likely to be content in duplicating their own works; which is to say, the same collection of indecipherable letters, over and over again ?

In fact; it would be a rather better experiment to contemplate why our long-tailed primates tend to do this. After that, it surely is simply a question of bringing this apparently dreadful state of affairs to the attention, and subsequently, consciences of these creatures.

Is it not, then, no less beyond the imagination, to visualise troops of monkeys, complete with schoolbags, directing their shambling gaits in the direction of places of instruction; where, no doubt, in a great deal less time than our random key tappers would, produce the works requested, maybe even demanded, if they failed to show up often enough.