Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shakespeare Monkeys

Once I read in a book about theoretical computer science that if we had a room of infinte size with an infinite number of chairs and in front of them an infinite number of typewriters it would be enough to put an infinite number of monkeys in front of them and after some time (maybe an infinite amount of time that could be shortened by increasing the quantity of monkeys or by replacing the type writers by voice activate system adapted to monkey cries) they would end up by writing Shakespeare complete collection of books.

The other day I heard a colleague say that if we had no computing power limitations we could solve most of the genetics problems we have nowadays (philogenetic analysis, protein 3D structure prediction,etc.). This comment really reminded me of the monkeys playing with type writers and made me wonder that if we really had an infinite computational power we wouldn't even need to care about creating smart algorithms since we would just need to test all the possible solutions in a very simple program, everything would be reduced to brute-force search.

To conclude, the main reason for writing this text: the more I study genetics and gene regulatory systems the bigger my impression that evolution has a lot to do with monkeys and typewriters, however since we didn't dispose on an infinite amount of time (neither of monkeys and type writers) we are far from William's elegance. A close look into our cells would show a great crowd of molecules shouting orders to one another in an environment that would remind Wall Street's NYSE in a hot market day.

I wonder how we are still here and how far the evolution will take us based on this principle of mutation/ natural selection / genetic drift. Even more, I wonder how could this text come out of an entity organized in such a chaotic way, maybe what we believe is rational thinking is nothing but the sound of monkeys typing endlessly...


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