I am learning about computer programming at the moment and I was reading about how to write a computer function that will select a random number – this made me wonder how the hell could a computer (which can only take instructions and precisely carry them out and cannot be spontaneous) generate a random number. So I googled it. And apparently they can sort of, but they really can’t. They can just obfuscate the means of arriving at the number and generate a sequence of numbers that seems random to an outside observer.
How it works is that if you want a computer to pick a random number between 1 and 9, you make a program that tells the computer to take either a changing lumber or numerical sequence and plugs it into a calculation which then spits out a number and the program selects say the 10th number in the result as it’s “random” number. But it’s not random, it just seems random to the person who can’t see inside the guts of the computer. Another way to do it is to use something in nature like say tell the computer to download the magnitudes of all the earthquakes in the last six hours and use that string of numbers as a component of an equation that spits out a sequence of numbers which is converted into a “random” number. But that’s not random either, earthquakes are deterministic, we just don’t have the ability to quantify the necessary data to predict them so they seem random.
So randomness it seems is an illusion created by ignorance and our subjective point of view. All “random” really means is that we lack the ability to predict it. The weather used to be “random”, now we have the five day forecast. The word chaos itself comes from the ancient concept of the essence that gave birth to the universe. How ironic that after thousands of years we now have “chaos theory” that attempts to explain the most basic properties of the world.
We talk about order and disorder, but a bomb blast is extremely orderly – every microscopic event is occurring like clockwork in a very logical fashion, like pool balls bouncing off each other. We only call it chaos because we can’t control it or quantify the events that make it up, and it happens too fast for us to perceive in detail. Chaos, randomness, disorder, etc, are more of those words that say more about us than the things we use them to describe.