Algorithmic Random

Mac Keyboard
Mac Keyboard

If you are out on the Internet or around academics long enough, then you will run across the rant about random designed by humans not being really random. It might be the iTunes shuffle. It might be random sampling of an experiment. It might be a complaint of you using the word for how you spend your time online.

OK. I took that last one a bit too personal.

If a human is performing the random, then there probably is a pattern. But then in nature, things we call random typically have a pattern too. DNA mutations involve changed molecules at a position and chance that it has no bearing, disables the bearer, or gives the bearer an advantage. The lack of true randomness is a sign of intelligent design to some. And a sign that it is natural to others. Quantum mechanics. Encryption. Stock trading. Prediction. Truly random is unnatural. Well… It just means we have not yet figured out the pattern. Give us time.

Since random is the wrong word, how about algorithmic random or a-random for short. It just means a pattern-based approximation of random that is good enough for the purpose of acting random.

3 thoughts on “Algorithmic Random”

  1. Reminds me of the first time I used a built in “random” function for a CS project. Ironically I ended up getting the exact same results every time I ran the program! Needless to say I was quite confused as to where I could have made an error…. That’s when I learned how these functions use algorithms that produce a pseudo-random sequence of numbers with certain properties… and thus the same “random” sequence every time! (well, until you use a “random” seed value like execution time.)

    I soon found the concept of randomness was not as simple as I had thought… rather it is a very deep subject in itself with many applications and implications as you mentioned.

    I found this bit on wikipedia interesting about randomness vs unpredictability:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randomness#Randomness_versus_unpredictability

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