So there we were, John and I. He put his hand around my waist looked around and said Oh Boy. You’re not going to believe me but he doesn’t like computers. He doesn’t use one which, I know, how is that even possible. He does his stories for the paper on a typewriter and then some poor secretary has to turn it digital, cause that’s how they format the things nowdays, but that’s not news either. They could probably stop printing the papers, but then we’d have to figure out a new cheap way to start our campfires.
I’ll get back to John, or he can get back to you, he’s good about that. But there we were, at the monkey typist convention. That’s what John is going to call it, they’re programmers and they think with enough keystrokes they can recreate the universe. The monkey thing is this old tale about if you put infinite monkeys at infinite typewriters you could recreate the works of Shakespeare. Actually this isn’t true. It’s not possible. It’s because of how typewriters and language works. Language is contextual and interpersonal. It’s not agreeable to randomness. What is apparently true, though, I was reading this article and showed it to John, it’s not true with typewriters, but it is true with computers. If you sat enough monkeys down at enough computers you could randomly program a universe wherein there is a monkey who invents a computer. John loves this anecdote. John loves his damn typewriter. He looks over his shoulder at me while I watch videos on my laptop, I use earbuds to drown out the clacking, he looks at me and says
Could a Monkey do This?
Data’s agreeable to randomness. John says data isn’t human, I have to agree. That’s not the point though John, I say. You can’t create a human out of data. That’s what he says, but there’s a bunch of people who are really worried that we’re living in a simulation. This is because of how sophisticated computers can get, so if the probability is there, it’s just as probable that it’s already happened. If it is true though, I don’t know what’s to be worried about. I think those people like to be worried about stuff, there’s like this chemical that makes you feel more alive when your worried. But, then, how does that work inside the simulation? I think those people are worried about too many things. Take a break from yourself, that’s my thing.
So these programmers, these monkey typists, they’re trying to get ahead of the curve. If a simulation somehow hasn’t happened yet, they want to be the first. It’s a very tricky problem, creating a universe. One of the programmers says to me that it’s like creating a computer within a computer.
What’s the point if you already have a computer? I ask.
That’s the thing, he says, it’s a hardware issue.
I try to explain to John the difference between hardware and software. I say, hardware is like your typewriter and software is like your brain (this isn’t really true, I think). I think he gets it. John is 53 and totally ambivalent about novelty belt buckles. I am 39 and am a trophy wife. I call myself that. John rolls his eyes. We do not have any children but could use the genetic diversity. We try not to eat chicken that looks grossly overfed, it’s easier to tell with chickens. God what a task trying to do a simulation. All this random stuff. Farmers adding ingestive hormones. Hell the discovery of hormones. If a simulation is like a computer, does that mean that before someone discovers hormones that they don’t exist? How do you program a computer inside which something exists but they don’t know that thing exists?
Ask god. A programmer tells me.
I’m starting to agree with John, these people frustrate me.
What good will it do? John is asking one of the monkey typists, they are a collective, and I would say about 62% of them wear glasses.
All new ideas are asked this question, and the only honest response is, we don’t really know. But it will. The programmer says this, and John looks irritated, like he did when I played him this clip online about how if you want to bake an apple pie you have to create the universe.
So what? He said at me.
He is a newspaper man and very very attached to his typewriter.
- The story’s title is borrowed directly from a piece which appeared in the New Yorker in 1940.