Skip to content ↓

A Million Monkeys

Andrew Keen is a bit of a curmudgeon. It’s hard to know how much of his own words he actually believes and how much of it he writes simply because it has become his niche, what people expect of him. But he’s still a lot of fun to read. Here’s a brief excerpt from his book The Cult of the Amateur. While it’s a little bit one-sided in its attack on bloggers and musicians and YouTubers and everyone else who creates content on the web today, I think we can all identify to some extent, with his frustrations. It begins with a conversation he had with a San Francisco software producer who was describing his new product.

“It’s MySpace meets YouTube meets Wikipedia meets Google,” he said. “On steroids.”

In reply, I explained I was working on a polemic about the destructive impact of the digital revolution on our culture, economy, and values.

“It’s ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule,” I said, unable to resist a smile. “On steroids.”

He smiled uneasily in return. “So it’s Huxley meets the digital age,” he said. “You’re rewriting Huxley for the twenty first century.” He raised his wine glass in my honor. “To Brave New World 2.0!”

We clinked wine glasses. But I knew we were toasting the wrong Huxley. Rather than Aldous, the inspiration behind this book comes from his grandfather, T.H. Huxley, the nineteenth-century evolutionary biologist and author of the “infinite monkey theorem.” Huxley’s theory says that if you provide infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, some monkey somewhere will eventually create a masterpiece–a play by Shakespeare [An editorial addition I can’t resist–“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times!? You stupid money!”], a Platonic dialogue, or an economics treatise by Adam Smith.

In the pre-Internet age, T.H. Huxley’s scenario of infinite monkeys empowered with infinite technology seemed more like a mathematical jest than a dystopian vision. But what had once appeared as a joke now seems to foretell the consequences of a flattening of culture that is blurring the lines between traditional audience and author, creator and consumer, expert and amateur. This is no laughing matter.

Today’s technology hooks all those monkeys up to all those typewriters. Except in our Web 2.0 world, the typewriters aren’t quite typewriters, but rather networked personal computers, and the monkeys aren’t quite monkeys, but rather Internet users. And 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. For today’s amateur monkeys can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays and novels.


  • The Kindness of God

    God’s Goodness in a Cruel World

    There is much to love and appreciate about our God, much for which we ought to give him praise and thanks. One of the attributes we may consider too seldom is his goodness, and as an aspect or component of his goodness, his kindness. And that is the subject of

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 23)

    A La Carte: Order, preparation, and the Spirit’s leading / Desecration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral / Why did God stigmatize the disabled? / Who would I be if I was happy? / 7 parenting errors that can influence adult children to leave the faith / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 22)

    A La Carte: Ice, wind, and unanswered prayers / Was it all a waste? / Prepping for the impending apocalypse / The best analogy for the Trinity / Getting to stop by woods on a snowy evening / Bible translation and AI / and more.

  • Like an iPhone

    Like an iPhone, Only Much More So

    Can I confess something to you? There’s one thing Aileen does that really bugs me. We will be talking together and enjoying one another’s company. But then, as we chat, I’ll hear the telltale buzz of her phone. And I can tell that I’ve lost her. I can see it in the look on her…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 21)

    A La Carte: When cultural tailwinds become cultural headwinds / Talking with kids about gender issues / Try to be more awkward / Life is more than mountaintop experiences / Tinder / Unpacking “separation of church and state” / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 20)

    A La Carte: How hell motivates holiness / The bond of love / How to love our friends in truth, even when it stings / The distorting power of the prosperity gospel / Thinking about plagues / and more.