We live in a universe where law of cause and effect is king. But let’s start by taking a step back and looking at a few things we rely on a lot for our randomness.
In order for a computer to generate a random number, it:
1. Needs a range, or one will be set automatically
Most computers can’t generate between negative infinity and positive infinity. The size of number a computer can generate is limited by computation power and energy it receives.
If a range is not explicitly given, it’s still bound by the size of the data type holding it. For example, an integer (in a lot of modern programming languages) can only hold a number between -263+1 and 263+1, and can’t hold decimals.
But infinity is a concept and not a number, and that’s a topic for a different discussion.
2. Needs a seed
Now what’s a seed? It’s a number that the generator has to start with in order to generate a random number. In most cases, programmer who’s coding the app is the one who sets the seed.
This also means that the pseudo-random number generator is theoretically deterministic.
Dice / coins
Neither dice rolls nor coin flips are truly random, either. Any toss can be theoretically replicated using the same amount of force, angle, starting placement, barometric air pressure… the list goes on.
Your own actions
This ties back to a blog post I wrote earlier about the illusion of free will. Or… I thought I wrote. I don’t know where it went.
We can’t take truly random actions, either. The universe binds our choices to what’s directly feasible. I can blurt out a word at random but it’s guided by the language I speak and all the words I’ve heard in my lifetime.
I can’t suddenly travel to the moon or become Genghis Khan.
Randomness only exists within the confines of your own observation
Perceived randomness exists because we can’t see the seed that was set, and we can’t see or exactly replicate the amount of force used to throw a die. We can’t measure barometric air pressure. True randomness doesn’t exist, but for our purposes, what we have is good enough.
I’m rusty at writing.