Monday, June 3, 2013

Life: Randomness in terms of free will, destiny, and fate (Take 7 of infinite)

For me, solving randomness is the ultimate way to cut corners in life and perhaps the only way to "solve" life. Because the more I think about it, the more I need to know. At some point, my mind has to contain more atoms to understand a single atom thus it is an impossibility to solve life through brute force. The only alternative is to truly become one with the world which I'll leave for another topic which I also do not think is solvable via the conscious mind.

Back to randomness... I like using casino games to visualize the unknown and the known. The games typically have simple rules yet works with a finite set of known values. For example, a typical poker deck has 52 cards, 13 cards of 4 different suits. Once I shuffle the deck, there is a 1 in 52 chance I will guess the card on top correctly. And no matter how much I try to make a better educated guess, the known world already knows what the top card is.

So me guessing is like free-will. I use only a limited set of knowledge to figure out what the card is. Any gambler would also be exercising their free-will to determine the card for they could potentially choose any card. But the dealer who has seen the top card, he know longer has free-will to guess the card because he already knows it.

My choice is like fate. Through whatever psychological explanation of seeing a lot of a certain number or associated colors or the proximity of the full moon, there really was only one choice I would have made. In other words... if you knew exactly how my brain works, you would have known my answer before I knew my answer.

Likewise, the top card was fated to be at the top. The deck was shuffled precisely so that specific card would end up at the top even though it was not the intention of the dealer. Thus a machine that can watch the cards or calculate how the deck was shuffled, it had not free-will in knowing what the top card is. Also, the security guard watching the game on video in slow-motion also has no free-will because he now knows what the card is.

Although destiny is often used interchangeably with fate, I will use it as a predetermined result. In other words if I was destined to guess the card correctly, the top card is not known. The top card will be whatever card I guess. For this to work in reality, this would mean that the world was unraveled backwards like solving a problem backwards... except that I "live" it forwards.

Thus, I think the comparison between free-will, fate, and destiny do not have to be mutually exclusive. Each can co-exist in the same matter as I have described above.

This is important to me because I think this helps me understand about randomness, just something that fascinates me like infinite, duality of choice, nothing, irrational and complex numbers. Each with their own characteristics of existence yet not something fully understood (likely will never be). Unlike those, randomness does not truly exist (in my opinion).

The world is what it is. If the world went back in time, I would not even know. Just like how the "actors" in a video do not know when you rewind a video or fast forward or put into slow-motion. If randomness truly existed, the ending would change each time you replayed the video. The top card could potentially change each time you went back in time.

In a small scale, randomness is our mind's way to simplify a problem through statistics. If I flip a coin, it is 50/50 chance that it lands heads or tails. The coin landing on its side is negligible or even irrelevant because you'd just re-toss the coin anyways. Worrying about how hard you flicked the coin, how high it went, and etc., it is much easier just to say it would be one over the other.

On a grander scheme, we gamble on many things all the time in life except the odds of it failing is very, very small. "If I go at this speed, I will have better chance of hitting a green light." "I forgot my badge, what are the odds that guard happened to step away when I get there." What are the odds you get a flat tire? What are the odds that you get hit by a drunk driver? If I deal out 52 cards randomly to 52 people, each person has a 1 in 52 chance to have the ace of spades but yet someone is guaranteed to have the ace of spades.

Although life is about decreasing risk at an effective rate, there are times when we want randomness to be as "chaotic" as possible, like generating security keys, simulating a casino game, or possibly just to make things "fair" (like the lottery). How does someone go about making things random?

If the problem of randomness is about the limitations on the knowledge of the guesser, then randomizing a value is about making the environment as impossible for the guesser to "calculate" the answer at an effective rate. Because true randomness is impossible, effective rate is important to how close to true randomness the application needs to be. For example, if a weighted coin has 75% to land on head and you win 100 points each time you guess correctly, you will likely always choose heads. Even if it cost 1 point to play, you will continue to guess heads. But if I make use a "fair" coin, then you will likely choose to not play at all because the probability is that you will lose each game.

By observing all the randomness around us and trying to make as much sense as possible, I wonder if it is possible for me to guess randomly. People have a tendency to start with heads or tails. People have a set of numbers they tend to use for "random" purposes. Even for things we never would had to choose between, we still have tendencies. It could be the constant use of certain words, or constant visuals of a certain numbers, or an infinite of things that make us tick that predetermines our supposedly random choices. In other words, ultimately, if I were starving and there were two plates of food equidistant from me. Which plate would I go to first? Or will I just starve to death because I cannot make a logic choice?

Thus, at some point each of us has a moment of insanity to break out of an unsolvable problem or dilemma however small it may be. Hope that will make sense to me some time in the future.

Reference:
http://xkcd.com/221/