In Random we trust
July 11, 2022•479 words
There is no word that has caused me more tangible angst and metaphysical suffering than “random.” What an absolute disaster of a word. That we let these six letters permeate and dominate our most important scientific principles is a travesty of galactic proportions.
Random is a word scientists use when they really, desperately need a theory to work, but cannot fill in that Great Gap. So they go with random, and receive a standing ovation from the rest of the circlejerk. Of the most important single question in the whole of human existence is that of our origin; Darwin devised an excellent theory, but it relied heavily on the conception of randomness.
If you take out the word random, you get “natural selection by mutations results in the gradual transmutation of one species to another.” Ok, great. But what is the source of these mutations?
But what in the actual fuck does random mean? I daresay it is impossible to prove some process is random by studying its output. And we must certainly not adopt anything we can’t prove, correct?
Consider this simple exercise:
A function or process yields numbers which you cannot make sense of. They have no sensible pattern. 5, 8, 450, 982, 488, 81, 2, 0, 49, 1. Purely random right? Well, let’s take a look at the source code:
printNumbers([5, 8, 450, 982, 488, 81, 2, 0, 49, 1]).
Whoops, not so random after all huh.
Consider another exercise:
A random, dumb evolutionary process executes blindly in pure chaotic fashion, starting from a single cell. After several millions of years of running this totally oblivious program, the process creates—against all odds, quite literally—an organism which understands the process which created it. This organism then goes on to linearly and non-randomly deduce the process which created it was random.
A random process created something which non-randomly understood the process which created it. Mind fucking blown. God damn random, you scary good.
A string of mutations you cannot make sense of is not random. I can think of a few better words to use:
But these words are too spooky to be found in a university textbook, right? Can you imagine teaching a course in evolutionary biology at a most presti-ncious college and lecturing:
“Mysterious mutations result in gradual variations which succumb to natural pressure to conform or perish.”
It wouldn’t do. It simply wouldn’t do. Infinite hands would fly up in the air with endless questions. “Professor McRandomface, what do you mean…mysterious?” And the course would reach a deadlock.
But swap out these perfectly befitting words with “random” and no one asks a single question. Ah, yes, random. A perfectly reasonable, perfectly defined term.
And thus are mislead generations of souls to perish in the hells of eternal randomness.
Death to the word random. I will not allow it.