Saturday July 26, 2003

Primate Programmers?

As legend has it, in 1860 (or thereabouts) Thomas Huxley, pro-evolutionist, argued that "given an infinite amount of time" (and enough paper and typewriters), six of monkeys would eventually recreate the works of Shakespeare. The Parable of the Monkeys has been reconsidered many times since then, as evidenced by these collected quotes.

The kicker is the "infinite amount of time" of course. Recent experimentation using smaller amounts of time have been less than impressive.

Lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth wanted to test the claim that an infinite number of monkeys given typewriters would create the works of The Bard.

A single computer was placed in a monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo to monitor the literary output of six primates.

But after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter "s".
[c.f. No words to describe monkeys' play, BBC News, May 9 , 2003]

Nevertheless, perhaps some primates may be a little brighter than previously supposed. Perhaps the Paignton Zoo typing monkey experiment simply went about things the wrong way! A recent study at the San Diego Zoo, reported in The NewTech Daily* had more interesting results:

...experiments last month with baboons have proved that higher primates can perform software testing, traverse complex menus, and code simple XML schemas. The finding have implications for the entire software industry, with some scientists predicting routine programming such as maintenance and report writing will be performed by teams of primates within 10 years.
[c.f. Higher Primates Can Program VB, XML, NewTech Developer Update, June 30, 2003]

I'm having enough trouble finding a job... now I might be replaced by a baboon?!?
Then again, I wouldn't hold my breath... :-)

* The NewTechDaily - World's First Developer Humor Site: IT Satire and Breaking News on Primate Programming

Take it with a grain of salt :-)

Primate Programmers? ( in category In The News ) - posted at Sat, 26 Jul, 00:42 Pacific | «e»