Hello my fellow blog monkeys!
I recently heard about a book entitled “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture” by Andrew Keen. This isn’t any breaking or exciting news. The book has been out since 2007. But it is news to me. So I thought I’d monkey on about it.
The premise of the book is basically that “amateur” content, like our humble little blogs, threatens to clog vital information on the internet. Keen’s book also claims that blogs do very little to further knowledge and understanding since they basically represent the limited world views of their amateur authors.
I went to his official web site looking for a little bit more information about him and his book. I clicked the link for his book and it took me to a page that said, “The item does not exist.” That outcome amused me greatly. Amateur indeed. Well played, Mr. Keen! 🙂
In addition to his book, Keen is also famous for this quote:
…instead of creating masterpieces, these millions and millions of exuberant monkeys –many with no more talent in the creative arts than our primate cousins – are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity.
Don’t hold back, Andrew. Tell us how you really feel. I can only assume, after reviewing his web site, that his feelings on the matter haven’t changed.
Can I write as well as Keen? Hells no. I’m sure that compared to him I suck. I can barely understand the grammars and all the other things. I’m probably one whisker’s breadth removed from a LOL cat.
Something tells me, however, that there is more to it than Keen is willing to admit. Does a blogger, even an “amateur” one, have to have the writing skills of Mr. Keen in order to be entertaining? Interesting? Factual? I say, “Nay!” I bet they hardly don’t and stuff.
You don’t have to have perfect grammar and wonderful writing skills to make valid points. Even someone peeing their pants while standing in the batter’s box at home plate can get an accidental “bloop” base hit while flinching in uncontrollable fear. 🙂
Keen’s comment about “exuberant monkeys” is a reference to what Wikipedia calls the “infinite monkey theorem” which states:
A monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.
I think most of us have heard about that theorem at some point. Did you also know that you can actually calculate the odds? 🙂 You can find out a lot more than you ever dreamed of about this on the Wikipedia page, including mathematical formulas and such.
I have a passing fancy with probability and statistics. Anyone who has played Monopoly knows that a dice has a one in six chance of showing any given number. Most who have played the casino game of craps know that the odds of a certain outcome with two dice is one in 36. In short, that’s because casino dice have six sides and six multiplied by six equals 36.
The same concept can be extended to the infinite monkey theorem. By setting some conditions, like a keyboard with only 26 characters, one for each letter of the alphabet, you know the odds of each letter will be one in 26. (We’ll use a keyboard with only 26 keys since we’re not going to worry about things like punctuation, capitalization and grammar.) With those parameters defined, the odds for randomly typing sequences of letters can now be calculated.
Let’s say you want a one-letter word. The odds are 1 in 26.
For a two-letter word the odds are 1 in 676.
For a three-letter word the odds jump to 17,575. If a monkey had “eternity” I’m sure he could pump out three-letter words all the time.
What about a word like “Hamlet,” however? That’s a pretty necessary word to the complete works of Shakespeare. It turns out that a six-letter word like that on our special keyboard, the odds are a whopping 1 in 308,915,776. And that’s only a six-letter word! This result also assumes that the monkey is remarkably consistent and hits all keys on an equal basis. We all know he wouldn’t really do that. 🙂
Let’s forget about the “complete works” of Shakespeare and only worry about one play, like Hamlet. According to Wikipedia there are about 130,000 characters in Hamlet.
In the case of the entire text of Hamlet, the probabilities are so vanishingly small they can barely be conceived in human terms.
Interesting, eh? Oh shit, what am I talking about? You’re all long gone by now. 🙂
Even though the task seems daunting, this particular monkey is going to keep up the good fight and keep pounding this keyboard as much as I can. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get lucky.
Hey, what’s that button there? PUSH! “Mmmmmm! Banana!”