The 100th Monkey Effect
and The Gathering
THE HUNDREDTH MONKEY
1952 - A
VERY GOOD YEAR
MONKEY EFFECT BEGAN IN 1952
Something started in 1952, which was accomplished by
had never been noticed before. The 100th Monkey
HUGE GLOBAL UFO SIGHTINGS IN
about the busiest year ever for the sightings of UFOs
in the atmosphere of our Earth. Was, perhaps, friendly
ET giving humanity - via an obliging species of life
on Earth - a helpful hand in understanding how
consciousness and change function?
THE 100TH MONKEY EFFECT
The following is from 'Lifetide', by
Book Club Associates, London, 1979. Pages 155-158.
This might imply that the essential conflict is
between the newer parts of the forebrain and the more
primitive parts in the mid and hind brains. Between
the mammalian and reptilian memories. And in a sense
this is probably correct, but I doubt that it is
possible or even necessary to isolate the command
centres of the opposing forces in any spatial
location. The war is between the old selfish
instructions and the new self-awareness. Between
genotype and aspects of the phenotype. Between the
needs of the replicators to keep on doing their thing,
which is replicating, and the desire of the organism
for identity. The battle lines are drawn between
orders and ideas.
two coincide, a truce is declared and progress takes
place by leaps and bounds. But where they disagree,
skirmishes are fought in the no man's land of the mind
and ambivalent we, with all our special strengths and
peculiar frailties, are the result. I believe the
seeds of this conflict are sewn in every cell by the
presence there of nuclear DNA and factors connected
with the contingent system. And that just as the
presence and pattern of a number of cells behaving in
a certain way can produce sensations such as sight or
sound, so the mere existence of contingent factors in
sufficient numbers in certain critical configurations
could account for their recent intrusion in
is a biological analogy which makes this
IMO - THE FIRST MONKEY
behaviour of the Japanese monkey Macaco fuscata has
been studied intensely for more than thirty years in a
number of wild colonies. One of these is isolated on
the island of Koshima just off the east coast of
Kyushu, and it was here in 1952 that man provided the
monkeys with the right sort of evolutionary nudge.
Provision stations were established at selected sites
in the range of the troop. Normally young monkeys
learn feeding habits from their mothers who teach them
by example what to eat and how to deal with it, and in
these macaques the behaviour had grown to a complex
tradition involving the buds, fruits, leaves, shoots
and bark of well over a hundred species of plants. So
they approached the new artificial food supplies
equipped with a formidable array of behavioural
predispositions, but nothing in their established
repertoire enabled them to deal effectively with raw
sweet potatoes covered with sand and grit.
eighteen month old female, a sort of monkey genius
called Imo, solved the problem by carrying the
potatoes down to a stream and washing them before
feeding. In monkey terms this is a cultural revolution
comparable almost to the invention of the wheel. It
involves abstraction, the identification of concept,
and deliberate manipulation of several parameters in
the environment. And, reversing the normal trend, it
was the juvenile Imo who taught the trick to her
mother. She also taught it to her playmates and they
in their turn spread the news to their mothers.
Slowly, step by step, the new culture spread through
the colony, with each new conversion taking place in
full view of the observers who kept a constant watch
right through all the daylight hours.
all the juveniles were washing dirty food, but the
only adults over five years old to do so were the ones
who learned by direct imitation from their children.
something extraordinary took place.
details up to this point in the study are clear, but
one has to gather the rest of the story from personal
anecdotes and bits of folklore amongst primate
researchers, because most of them are still not quite
sure what happened. And those who do suspect the truth
are reluctant to publish it for fear of ridicule.
So I am
forced to improvise the details, but as near as I can
tell, this is what seems to have happened.
THE HUNDREDTH MONKEY
autumn of that year an unspecified number of monkeys
on Koshima were washing sweet potatoes in the sea,
because Imo had made the further discovery that salt
water not only cleaned the food but gave it an
interesting new flavour.
say, for argument's sake, that the number was
ninety-nine and that at eleven o'clock on a Tuesday
morning, one further convert was added to the fold in
the usual way. But the addition of the hundredth
monkey apparently carried the number across some sort
of threshold, pushing it through a kind of critical
mass, because by that evening almost everyone in the
colony was doing it.
that, but the habit seems to have jumped natural
barriers and to have appeared spontaneously, like
glycerine crystals in sealed laboratory jars, in
colonies on other islands and on the mainland in a
troop at Takasakiyama.
latest news from Japan is that Imo has by no means
exhausted her powers, but has unleashed several
additional cultural bombshells. Another of the foods
provided at the stations is wheat, which the monkeys
enjoy but find difficult to deal with once it has
blown out of containers onto the sand. Imo was only
three when she solved this dilemma by picking up mixed
handfuls of sand and wheat and winnowing the grain by
casting both into the sea. There the sand soon sank,
leaving the wheat floating free on the surface where
it could easily be scooped up and eaten. At the moment
this subculture has spread only to Imo's immediate
associates, but it will be fascinating to see what
happens next. I personally wouldn't be surprised if,
in her later years, Imo re-invented agriculture.
relevance of this anecdote is that it suggests there
may be mechanisms in evolution other than those
governed by ordinary natural selection.
that there is such a thing as the Hundredth Monkey
Phenomenon and that it might account for the way in
which many memes, ideas and fashions spread through
It may be that when enough of
us hold something to be true, it becomes true for
Lawrence Blair says: 'When a myth is shared by
large numbers of people, it becomes a reality.'
happily add my one to the number sharing that notion,
because it may be the only way we can ever hope to
reach some sort of meaningful human consensus about
the future, in the short time that now seems to be at