Why Is There Randomness At All?

– There are sea gulls and hawks and squid and rhesus monkeys. If there were no randomness, there would only be rhesus monkeys.

– Half your life you lie; the other half you wished you hadn’t. Randomness guarantees remorse.

– It is possible to brew that tiny little storm in a tea cup precisely because it is possible not to do so. And you can thank randomness for that.

– It is only the the impishness of self-generating elves which makes sure that every time you and I see a random act,  we can’t say “now that is awesomely random, but you know, I think it could be more so.” Elves bestow random closure.

– The breeze that blows twice as hard blows only half as long. That is not random. That just sounds good.

4 comments on “Why Is There Randomness At All?

  1. amian74 says:

    Randomness might not be randomness at all…and even if it is truly random then what difference does it make? what i feel vis non-radomness makes sense as does what is randomness; might a happy medium be: reaching a place where something makes sense (i.e. non random) while something else though not making sense (i.e. random), becomes irrelevant for that time/place/person? Now isn’t the above thoroughly circular (random?) reasoning? Yet in retrospect coming across your post on randomness is quite non-random. I agonised over the random-non-random continuum for weeks at end a few months ago.

  2. huzaifazoom says:

    Your thought out comment deserves a proper response (also that you agonized over the subject a few months ago serves to tighten the valve on my flippancy). So here goes:

    – I think I can lump into three the ways I understand randomness:
    i. as a way of dealing with imperfect or incomplete knowledge. This is a pragmatic view of statistics which starts with understanding games of chance and builds up to understand molecular motion (or air particles or double-blind trials or whatever).

    ii. as intrinsic to reality. This is more philosophical and comes from quantum theory. Unfortunately I need to wrap my head properly around this view as it involves some math which is beyond me right now (I have a really intimidating physics book in front of me that should assist me in this task one of these years). But if I understand it correctly, it states that at the level of elementary particles, reality is intrinsically random, not just as a measure of the deficiency of the instruments we use to measure, but random in a more fundamental way.

    iii. day to day coming to terms with randomness by humans. This is a topic of much research this past few decades and falls under the general area of how intuition gets so many things systematically wrong (of which statistical intuition is one aspect). The fancy term is ‘cognitive bias’ and the fancy field is ‘behavioral economics.’

    So you see, by not making the distinction between random and non-random in terms of whether something makes sense, I avoid the circularity that you mention.

    If I say anything more, the valve constraining my flippancy will burst 🙂

  3. amian74 says:

    Brilliant Huzaifa! i will post something on this once I figure the randomness or otherwise of it all. We can then continue on this theme. I tell you, the angst felt a few months ago could only be overcome once I calmed my mind (& heart) by telling them that life was not all that random…get the gist;)

  4. huzaifazoom says:

    Thanks Asad. Look forward to more later on angst and randomness: whole different chapter.

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