Fourteen: Concerning the unlikeliness of random

Originally posted 12th February 2011

Today I started studying a course with the Open University. The course is Understanding Systems: Making Sense of Complexity. As part of this I started to read the set book which is called Linked and about, unsurprisingly, networks and how everything is connected. This is not what I am going to write about today but it did start me thinking of today’s thinking which is about randomness. It has been mentioned once or twice in the preceding entries, but I thought it was about time we took a closer look at it. For today’s photo I have chosen one “at random” from my Flickr stream.

Now, I was aiming for a completely random choice of photos so this is how I went about choosing it. I picked up the closest book to me, let it opened it at a page without looking and looked at the first word on that page. I then typed this word into Flickr search and searched my photo stream. I posted here the first photo that came up in the search results. The word I typed into the search was two and this was the only photo to be returned, I had to repeat the book opening several times before I came up with a word that returned any photos at all. now this was the most random method I could come up with, however if we look at it closely it is easy to pick holes in the alleged randomness. For a start the book closest to me was the book from my OU course which inspired this whole thing in the first place, and as the whole process was controlled by me I cannot guarantee I did not skew the results. To be completely honest, I tried a different random selection method first and didn’t like the picture so I changed my method. That in its self perfectly illustrates my point, which is:

In any situation which has a human aspect, is it possible to achieve true randomness? Now I am not pretending to know the answer to this, as I said it has just been something I have been thinking about! It is often said the “He/She/It is so random” or “that was random”, it occurs to me however that the perceived randomness is often only there because we do not know the thought processes behind the statement or action we are witnessing. There is always an influence, either internal or external, over any decision we make it is not always an obvious or even conscious influence but it is there we just have to look closely enough to spot it.

Despite my recent musings on this concept, I am fairly sure I will continue to use this word in the manner we have all become accustomed to hearing it, I may just think too much about it when I do from now on!

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