5 Monkeys

Of course, this story may not be that insightful.  It may be really popular, and I have been under a rock.  But when I read it, I got chills.  But I am getting ahead of myself…first, the story about 5 Monkeys:

5 monkeys are in a cage.  In the middle of this cage is a ladder.  Above the ladder is a banana.  The 5 monkeys go about life, and when one notices the banana, he attempts to climb the ladder to get it.  At this point, all 5 monkeys are sprayed with a hard jet of ice cold water.

This process is then repeated as many times as needed to stop the monkeys from even trying to get the banana.  As this process unfolds,, you at first have 1, then 2, then all of the monkeys attacking any of the other monkeys that even approach the ladder.  They fear the icy water hitting them really hard when someone tries to get the banana.  Their spirits broke, they have even enforced it themselves, through risk aversion, that the banana is an unreachable goal, and they have given up collectively on trying.

Now, take out 1 of the monkeys, and replace it with a new one.  Before long, this monkey will try to get the banana.  And as he approaches the ladder, he will be beaten up badly by 4 other monkeys.  These monkeys know the price paid for trying to get the banana, and they are not about to suffer such a torture for this young upstart!  So you allow this to go on until none of the monkeys are trying to get the banana.

Replace another monkey with a new one.  Watch the same saga as above unfold, where the other monkeys attack him for trying to get the banana.  Never mind that some of the monkeys were never sprayed with the ice cold water, they are participating in a group think behavior now.

Continue this until all monkeys have been replaced.  In the end you will have 5 monkeys that will use violence to keep each other from trying to get the banana, yet none of them know why they do this.  None of them ever felt the hose.  They are just doing the way it has always been done.

I am unsure of a source, as I have forgotten where I read it.

A great thought experiment, however.


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