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On the mystery of Randomness ….

ImageWikipedia explains that Randomness has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability(or lack thereof) of events. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘random’ as “Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.” This concept of randomness suggests a non-order or non-coherence in a sequence of symbols or steps, such that there is no intelligible pattern or combination. The reason this links to Computer Science and ICT is because random functions crop up a lot. We use them in computer games and simulations. Note the Greenfoot (move Crab randomly) example below.

Public void moveAround()

{

Move(4);

If Greenfoot.getRandomNumber(100)<10)

{ turn (Greenfoot.getRandomNumber(90) – 45);

}

}

 

But back to randomness (the concept) – in ancient history the concepts of chance and randomness were heavily intertwined with that of fate. Ancient people did things like throw dice to determine fate, and I imagine this is what later evolved into what we now call “games of chance”. Divination of course was what ancient cultures used to circumvent randomness and fate! Research on the internet suggests that it was the Chinese that were the earliest people to formalize odds and chance 3,000 years ago. The Greek philosophers discussed randomness at length, but only in non-quantitative forms.

Stanford computer scientist and Christian commentator – Donald Knuth – explained his views that suggested that pseudorandom numbers were useful and could be applied with purpose. He extended this thought to God who, he suggested, may use randomness with purpose to allow free will to certain degrees. Knuth believes that God is interested in people’s decisions and limited free will allows a certain degree of decision making. Knuth, based on his understanding of quantum computing and entanglement, comments that God exerts dynamic control over the world without violating any laws of physics, suggesting that what appears to be random to humans may not, in fact, be so random.

One of my favourite men (now dead) in the universe – C.S Lewis – was a Christian philosopher and discussed free will at length. On  human will, Lewis wrote: “God willed the free will of men and angels in spite of His knowledge that it could lead in some cases to sin and thence to suffering: i.e., He thought freedom worth creating even at that price.” In a radio broadcast, Lewis indicated that God “gave [humans] free will. He gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love…”

June 21, 2012 Posted by | General | Leave a comment