Dawkins presents the idea as follows: “I don’t know who it was first pointed out that, given enough time, a monkey bashing away at random on a typewriter could produce all the works of Shakespeare. The operative phrase is, of course, given enough time. Let us limit the task facing our monkey somewhat. Suppose that he has to produce, not the complete works of Shakespeare but just the short sentence ‘METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL’, and we shall make it relatively easy by giving him a typewriter with a restricted keyboard, one with just the 26 (capital) letters, and a space bar. How long will he take to write this one little sentence?” He goes on to point out that - by random mechanisms alone - a monkey is unlikely to produce the phrase in any reasonable amount of time: “To put it mildly, the phrase we seek would be a long time coming, to say nothing of the complete works of Shakespeare.” However, Dawkins points out, with selection the problem becomes quite manageable: “What about cumulative selection; how much more effective should this be? Very very much more effective, perhaps more so than we at first realize, although it is almost obvious when we reflect further. We again use our computer monkey, but with a crucial difference in its program. It again begins by choosing a random sequence of 28 letters, just as before: ‘WDLMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P’. It now ‘breeds from’ this random phrase. It duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error - ‘mutation’ - in the copying. The computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the ‘progeny’ of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, ‘METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL’.” Dawkins’ Weasel is a working model of this thought experiment, demonstrating the effectiveness of selection for rapidely producing a given target phrase.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.comses.net/codebases/6042/releases/1.0.0/