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Randomness is a Statement about the Observer, not the Event

July 12, 2012

In a sense, nothing is random. We live in a deterministic universe. A result die roll or roulette wheel spin can be explained by Newtonian physics. A computer algorithm can be explained mathematically. There is no such thing as pseudorandom, because there is no such thing as random, at least, not to an all knowing being. Random means that a given observer cannot predict what the number will be and all numbers within the range have equal expected frequency. “Randomly” generated numbers can be problematic if the frequency of output is not even and if observers learn enough to predict them. I know that perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but it annoys me when much is made of the false distinction between pseudorandom and random and also people saying that something is random or not independent of the observer.

Update:
Ok, so perhaps humans have free will and perhaps there’s quantum effects that are truly random, but most of the things people call random are not – they just personally can’t predict outcomes.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Locke permalink
    July 13, 2012 7:22 am

    That’s quite a metaphysical statement you’ve made here. You’ve dismissed quantum uncertainty and free will, and assumed that omniscience could even exist, all in less than 200 words.

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