"Smithers, release the monkeys."


By Mark Fisher


1000 monkeys typing exemplar: The number of monkeys typing often varies, but you know the story: a bunch of monkeys are randomly typing and manage to produce either the entire works of Shakespeare or maybe just Hamlet given sufficient time.


Now, if I sat in my private soundproof study for 10 years with my monkeys, as Wolfram claims he did with his Cellular Automata (CA) what conclusions could I make. He claims that you cannot predict how interesting the outcome of any particular CA is so we better run as many as we can to find the interesting ones. I will make the same claim for my monkeys: I cannot predict the outcome of any specific monkey therefore we better get as many monkeys and typewriters as possible.


Wolfram makes the claim that the best way to evaluate the outcome of a CA and whether it is relevant to any specific problem is to look at it with the human eye. I will make the same claim for my monkeys: I will read their output and tell you when they produce something interesting. Who knows, maybe some of the monkeys will create some interesting ASCII art for my upcoming book that defines how kind of science with monkeys can be done.


Wolfram claims that if we run enough CA then we will find answers to all those problems that are computationally reducible. I agree, scientist can simply give up the dead end path they are on now and start pouring over the output from my monkeys. Looking there, they will find answers to all the unsolved problems (the ones that are monkey reducible, of course).


Wolfram claims that when the basic CA are put on flash cards, he can recognize the rules for that CA almost immediately. I will make the same claim for my monkeys; I can tell by the consistency of the fecal matter splattered against the paper which monkey was responsible.


Unlike Wolfram's CA, all of my monkeys follow the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Consider the closed system of the soundproof office called O. Add any nontrivial number of monkeys (the only trivial case I am aware is where the monkeys are set to zero; even if dead, they would still rot). Like some of the CA, this closed system is independent of the initial conditions for the monkeys. O will become an increasingly disordered mess and the monkeys are not going to spontaneously clean it up. Anyway you look at it Shannon and thermodynamic entropy are both increasing.


Wolfram predicts that in 50 years this new kind of science will be taught in schools. I predict that in 50 years that these typing monkeys will be teaching schools since we will give up on the dead end math and science curriculum that we have now and replace it with reading over the output from typing monkeys. This framework means that everything we will know will flow from the monkeys. Because of this discovery, I strongly suspect that in 100 years the typing monkeys will have taken over and we will be living on the Planet of the Apes.


Unlike Wolfram, I actually propose an experiment that will answer once and for all which is a superior new kind of science. Wolfram can run which ever CA he suspects will win (and as long as he promises not to take legal action, he can even contact Matthew Cook and find out what he should pick). To make it fair, I will modify the typewriters to have only the spacebar and 'X' key to represent his white and black squares. Now based on the Principle of Computational Equivalence (Wolfram's PCE states that any sufficiently complex thing is equivalent to any other sufficiently complex thing) this is actually a valid test. Further, if a CA is equivalent to a human, a monkey would seem to work just as well. Then we start. If the CA produces something that looks and acts like a monkey first, Wolfram's new science wins. If the monkeys produce something that looks and like a CA first, the new monkey science wins. Now who has a universal machine?


Wolfram claims to have produced 100 million keystrokes in order to produce a 1200 page book that is mostly redundant. My monkeys can do that standing on their heads (and actually do). Wait ... with all these similarities, I strongly suspect that this is really what Wolfram is doing. He has stolen the monkey idea and not given me (or the monkeys) credit...


"Smithers, release the hounds."