R.M. ENGELHARDT

POET WRITER AUTHOR


William Shakespeare is often regarded as the world’s pre-eminent writer, but so what? Most of his complete works are so elementary, they could be written by monkeys. Don’t think so? Just ask Jesse Anderson.

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Anderson, a software developer in Nevada, is up to some serious monkey business. He recently developed a computer program that simulated a few million virtual monkeys randomly bashing away on virtual typewriters. Their assignment? Randomly re-create the complete works of William Shakespeare.

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And the virtual simian wordsmiths are close to doing so. They are 99.99 percent finished with Will’s entire catalog. The first work to be completed was the poem “A Lover’s Complaint.”

Anderson used Hadoop, Amazon EC2 and Ubuntu Linux to create his virtual monkeys. The sequence he wrote is nine characters long and has 5.5 trillion possible sequential combinations.

“The computer program I wrote compares that monkey’s gibberish to every work of Shakespeare to see if it actually matches a small portion of what Shakespeare wrote. If it does match, the portion of gibberish that matched Shakespeare is marked with green,” Anderson explained on his blog. “The parts of Shakespeare that have not been found are colored white. This process is repeated over and over until the monkeys have created every work of Shakespeare through random gibberish.”

Anderson developed the project to test Amazon’s Web servers but also to satisfy his curiosity about whether an infinite number of monkeys could randomly reproduce Shakespeare’s work by pecking away on an infinite number of typewriters.

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Anderson started the project on Aug. 21.

No word on when Anderson will complete his project. But when he has to “part” with his virtual monkeys, it will surely be “such sweet sorrow.”

Monkeys Are Rewriting Shakespeare …

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October 6, 2011

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