Waiting for the 100th Monkey
The story goes like this: back in the 50s a group of researchers in Japan were studying a group of monkeys. Every day the monkeys would spend a significant amount of time cleaning the dirt from their potatoes before eating them. Then one day, a bright young primate discovered that he could save significant time by taking his spud down to the ocean and washing it off in the water. This was a never before observed behavior in monkeys. Never observed anywhere, in any part of the world.
Soon, the other monkeys started washing their spuds in the ocean also. As the number of monkeys in on the act increased, an even more miraculous thing happened: spontaneously, this same behavior was observed in large numbers of monkeys on neighboring islands. This is the so called 100th Monkey Effect, wherein if you get enough monkeys doing something somewhere, their behavior will spontaneously spread throughout the world when a certain point is reached. I must confess that as I remembered the story it was 101 monkeys, but since I'm a programmer, I'm prone to OBOEs.
This phenomenon is also the genesis for global moments of meditation where we try to get everybody in the world to stop at a certain time on a certain day and think about something such as world peace. Hoping, that if we get enough people thinking about it, it'll just happen. So, do I believe in this sort of stuff? Hey, I visited California but I never actually lived there... nuf said.
Back here on planet Earth we do have some related concepts: critical mass or perhaps you prefer tipping point. In general usage they express almost the same idea: when the number of people doing something reaches a certain point then the behavior starts to spread to others at an ever increasing pace because everybody wants to get in on the act. The only real difference from the monkey story is the transmission mechanism, but I still like the monkey story because it gives me an opportunity to use the word spud.
So, the next time you're sitting around wondering when Linux will gain real traction on the desktop. Don't worry, it'll happen soon, we're just waiting for a few more monkeys.
Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.
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