Maxed out 

105 monkeys figure out how to get the banana out

By G.D. Maxwell

There’s this famous experiment in the annals of learning. It involves a jar, a banana and a monkey. I know it sounds very similar to jokes that start, "There was a priest, a rabbi and a minister," but it’s really not the same at all.

Anyway, the banana is put inside the jar – pretty big jar – and the jar is put inside a room. So is the monkey. Put inside the room, that is, not inside the jar. It’s not that big a jar. The monkey being a monkey and the banana being a banana, it doesn’t take long for the monkey to notice the banana and decide he/she would really like to eat it. This is where it gets good.

You see, the mouth of the jar is big enough to slip a banana through and it’s big enough to slip a monkey’s hand through but it’s not big enough to slip a monkey’s hand holding a banana through. Kind of like one of those Chinese finger traps... only different.

The monkey reaches into the jar, grabs the banana – all the time dreaming about eating the banana with abandon but thinking "Boy this sure ain’t nothing like the jungle." – and tries to get it out of the jar. Doesn’t work. Now the monkey has a problem.

The monkey doesn’t want to let go of the banana. He – let’s call the monkey he, I’m getting tired of he/she and besides, it’s always easier to make a monkey out of a man – wants the banana out of the jar and can’t quite figure out, the monkey brain not being sophisticated enough to comprehend these things, how to accomplish that, especially if he lets go of the banana. It just doesn’t make sense to let go of the banana to get it out of the jar.

The rest of the experiment isn’t really important. Okay, I know you’re on pins and needles. If the monkey is smart, he finally figures out he has to hold onto the banana, run briskly toward the wall of the room, smash the jar against the wall, sever the veins in his wrist and quickly finish the banana before he bleeds to death. Just kidding. He figures out he has to turn the jar upside down and shake the banana out. Either that or evolve enough to build a nuclear weapon of mass destruction which is what some guys who act a lot like monkeys would do.

The point of the experiment, of course, is to determine the monkey’s ability to appraise a situation, weigh alternatives and come up with a solution. The point of this long introduction – other than to amuse you and gobble up close to 500 words – is this. If the men in government who set policy on cannabis – yes we’re still on that subject – were placed in a room with a banana in a jar, they’d still have their hand stuck inside it after close to 75 years.

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