Cosmic Slop #44: Peter Gabriel is teaching monkeys how to use Skype

By Shaun Ponsonby
Thu 10 December, 2015

With arguably the greatest title of any edition of Cosmic Slop, Shaun Ponsonby looks at Peter Gabriel’s scientific experiments.

I think we all remember the classic scene in the first episode of I’m Alan Partridge, where the hapless broadcaster pitches a series of terrible ideas for TV shows to the BBC’s commissioning editor. Inner City Sumo, A Partridge Amongst the Pigeons, Knowing M.E., Knowing You and the Norwich-based regional detective series Swallow (we would have all liked to have seen Swallow, he was to be a bit of a maverick who might drive a little bit over the speed limit if, for example, he wanted to get somewhere quickly) all failed to impress, leading to a hilarious cheese-based confrontation.

What’s shocking watching this scene back nearly twenty years later is how these ideas considered hyperbolic and ridiculous at the time actually seem like pretty viable prime time Channel 4 documentaries now. We actually got to see what Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank might have looked like this year. And we’re closer than ever to seeing Partridge’s pièce de résistance, Monkey Tennis, if prog rockers have anything to do with it.

According to The Times, Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to look like he owns actual newspapers amongst the festivals of idiocy, former Genesis frontman and successful solo star Peter Gabriel will work with the Monkey World Rescue Centre and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on something called the Interspecies Internet Project.

Gabriel said; “The idea is to extend a big video network that already exists in labs at [MIT] so that different species including our own have a chance to communicate. I am absolutely certain the monkeys will use the video cameras in Monkey World to communicate with each other. I am also interested in how they would use the internet to communicate.”

Of course, exactly what kind of scientific hypothesis he is basing his absolute certainty on is currently unknown.

Peter Gabriel has almost made a second career out of experimenting with monkeys (isn’t it great that we live in a world where that phrase can be used with a clear conscience?). Back in 2001 he reportedly attempted to teach a troupe of bonobo apes to play keyboards (and that one). The idea itself vaguely came across as a Broadway musical interpretation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem, which states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type the complete works of William Shakespeare. In this case I imagine he was hoping they’d play the complete works of Mozart – or perhaps Bucks Fizz.

At the time, Gabriel told the Financial Times that he spent time at Georgia State University and stated, “It is a little like working with a child,” but presumably with less random spurts of faecal matter being chucked around.

Honestly, though, I think these kinds of experiments are a waste of time when we’re still unsure whether most humans have basic communication skills. By the looks of him, I’m surprised that Donald Trump can even speak, let alone effectively communicate with people. Surely that’s a much more interesting and revealing experiment? Imagine if we found that he is literally just stringing random words together and it’s just a sheer coincidence that pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth is disgustingly racist, xenophobic, irrational and cringe-worthy? Imagine how his thick as pig shit supporters would feel if that was the outcome.

Actually, would they feel anything, or would they just continue to stare blankly at the TV stupidly being stupid because they’re big stupid heads? Perhaps that’s another worthy experiment; are monkeys too smart to vote for Donald Trump?

Still, it’s hard not to commend Gabriel for not staying put in the area he’s known for. Why not involve yourself in science, if it’s an interest you have? I wish his former bandmate Phil Collins would have gone down that route instead of announcing a comeback.

But I won’t be paying attention until he turns his sights to Monkey Tennis.


Having been accused of ripping off Tom Waits, Adele is now being accused of ripping off a late Kurdish singer, even though the reality is probably simply that there’s only so many notes in the world and Adele‘s album is massive, so more people are hearing it and noticing similarities between her songs and those that literally three people in the entire world have heard.

Jared Leto has apologised after footage of him insulting Taylor Swift leaks online. But is he apologising for the sentiment or the fact that it leaked? Incidentally, I definitely don’t apologise for making less than flattering remarks about Swiftypoo.

RIP Scott Weiland