I watched the gang’s final day transpire, lucky to be on the ‘safe’ side of the one-way floor-to-ceiling feces-splattered glass in the converted cinder-block building Bethesda, MD which had housed the now-truncated but still-instructive Project.
I’d been brought in at the last minute to confirm (after excruciating hours speed-reading almost a tera-byte of meaningless text) that no, none of the ‘output’ from the bonobo monkey whom the hard-working staff had eventually nick-named ‘Donnie’ contained any hidden wisdom after being transliterated to Hebrew.
Not that Susan Weinberg, the inspiration for the NSF project had any great hopes for such. (Her widely-praised paper in the esteemed ‘Journal of Primate Cognition’ was titled, optimistically: “A novel and cost-/ time-effective approach to the ‘Million Monkey’ Conjecture”)
And so she was a natural to head the team for the trials.
The Abstract, though written in that ‘peer-review-friendly’ argot with which we are all familiar, said basically that, statistically, given a modestly-robust sample-size, the data from a single subject could be extrapolated into statistically-significant conclusions, sparing the need for millennia and massively-parallel Remingtons.
Enter ‘Donny‘, on loan from the Philadelphia Zoo. Along with his keeper, ‘Bunksy’, a down-to-earth farm-boy willing, as you shall see, to venture well past his job description. The creature had even been ‘vetted’ in a 3 day trial back in his cage; given a mock keyboard to peck at and thrown rewards for ‘typing’.
James ‘Jimmy’ Kuiper had been on-board since the inception, sixteen months earlier. A blessed combination of theoretical smarts and construction skills, he worked early-on with Bunksy on The Room. Only later dubbed the ‘White House’, it offered its primate occupant nearly everything a monkey could dream of monkeying around with. Only the rear wall was painted a washable white, out of photographic concerns. The rest featured jungle scenes and later, larger-than life photos of ‘The Donny’ himself, for his narcissistic amusement. (The photos fared better during the course of the experiment than the full-length mirror installed in front of the bonobo’s ‘work-station’. Cleaning the mirror, with its un-re-touched portrayals, of tossed excrement taxed Bunky’s “will to live”, as he put it in exasperation.
Now, you ask, what of the data collected?
Well, as I discovered, ‘data abounded’.(!)
The ‘subject exhibited a gratifyingly-diligent dedication to pecking almost night and day on the keyboard.
‘Keyboard-s’ might be a more appropriate term: after exhausting their ‘private stock’ of thrown-away Microsoft ‘boards, Jimmy and Bunksy took turns buying replacements, often out of pocket when the funding checks were late.
We do need to address one ‘shitty‘ part of this ‘pure-science’ endeavor: Donny’s penchant for ‘poop-splattering’.
Technically, the ‘offal’ gummed up the keys on his keyboard, which led to more-and-more frequent failures of the ‘Reward’ electronics. Readers can perhaps identify with having laboriously typed ‘War and Peace’ only to face the horror of… um… No Food Pellet! I myself have been tempted in that case to piss on the keyboard. Donny, not restrained over-much by culture, went further. And often.
Splatters on the one-way glass needed also to be cleaned almost daily.
And not only because the staff decided to ‘correlate’ Donny’s output with his incessant Bannon-esque ‘self-pleasing’ habits.
While at first the monkey masturbated principally in the corner, facing one of his favorite portraits, he abandoned quickly all decorum and began ‘jerking-off’ at the desk, center-stage. Obviously more work for Bunksy’s cleaning regieme. “Glad you’re not using King Kong!” Bunksy joked, ever the patient scientist.
Finally, the meat of the test; the texts:
Ok, in fifteen months and 28 days, the proto-author did not, (as was predicted by chance) re-write Hamlet. His output did contain 457 three-letter combinations found in the Oxford dictionary.
However, I must mention here the famous ‘WOW signal (!)
On a random Tuesday morning, like any other day, in October 2016 he was recorded typing more forcefully than usual. Watching the monitors, Susan and her assistant saw him type: “mINe FUroR”
Pandemonium, as one could guess erupted in the observation deck!
Everyone had, as is encouraged in real science, his or her own conjecture:
‘Mackie‘ a dewy-eyed youngish grad-student whose looks belied her recent Johns Hopkins degree, immediately cited the caution: ‘Statistically improbable, yet eminently possible’.
Bunksy, with an understandable grudge by now, looked at the print-out and declared “I knew the fucker was a closet Nazi!”
Janie Stewart, the daughter of an influential Republican Maryland legislator and who stopped by only once a week to check the computer functionality, when pressed, ventured gamely that perhaps the quirky ‘outlier’ was a reference to ‘noisy’ coal mining, or the cacophony of the US election campaign then becoming heated. With that reference, she passed the mic to the Boss…
And so it fell to (Dr.) Susan Weinberg, after all the Name on the Funding-ap, and initiator of the whole project, to have the last (temporary) word, after finessing a brief hush from the excited crowd:
“As above, so below!” she intoned with a playful mock-gravity.
Respectful as always, her team awaited the ‘translation‘. And not in vain:
Understand; Susan had been following the disintegration of facts-as-facts, the trailer-trash’s hopes for knee-capping anyone with a modicum of scientific expertise, and the perverse descent of even the English language into a tool frightfully incapable of resisting rot from the head. Prescient already in October ’16, she fore-saw the parallel between an illiterate fecal-projectile ‘ape’ in the project’s microcosmic ‘White House’ and the unthinkable prospect of having the entire United States of America which she loved being turned into a phantasmagorical experiment gone horribly wrong.
Almost in tears, she could only add, uncharacteristically graphically:
“Shit hits the fan here, Bunksy to the rescue. Someday he won’t be able to keep up with it.
Our ‘Donny’ types word-salad and we we forgive him; Someday soon, with a different ‘Donny’, ‘forgivness’ will not even be an option.”
The project was declared a ‘guarded success’ three months later, and cancelled on Susan’s recommendation.
From her residence at the Canadian McGill University where she received a welcome full professorship, she told me later by phone:
“Yes, you guessed it right, my friend. Reading the news daily, I’m borne back ceaselessly into the past; As was below, now so above. Just hoping this American tradgedy is a one act charade. Or less..”
Final Note: My role in the project was almost less than minimal; the ASCII text-files, mutated into Hebrew, showed no more evidence of an active mind at work than our current failed Buffoon/Orangutan-in-chief’s embarrassingly-misspelled Twats.
Oh, and ‘Bunksy’ hasn’t responded to e-mail requests. Wonder why?