Saturday, October 31, 2020

Etymology of the word "random"

The word "random" is derived from the Old French "randon", which itself derives from the Latin verb "randere". This verb means to act in an uncontrolled way, or by chance. By comparing this word to its ancestor, we can see that randomness has been a part of language for centuries.

This definition, while true, is rather vague. The word "random" has many different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. For example:

In statistics, "random" means that there is an equal chance of each value in a series being chosen. For example:

In mathematics, "random" is defined as something that can be generated by a random function. A common example of this would be the lottery.

In most games, randomness is used to create a more diverse set of possible outcomes. This creates replayability and makes the game less predictable.

In computer science, randomness is a very important concept. The main reason for this is that computers normally can only deal with very precise amounts of data, which leads to inefficient algorithms.

The etymology of the word "random" draws from several sources. The first source is related to a technical term in statistics, used for division of elements into two or more groups where there are the same number of items in all groups. In this sense, randomness means that each element has an equal chance to be placed into any group. For example, if you have twelve students and you want them divided randomly into three rooms, then each student will have an equal chance to go to each room.

The second source of the word "random" is a philosophical term, used in aesthetics to describe art and music that has no apparent structure or form. In this sense, randomness means that there is no discernible pattern into which elements fit. For example, if you throw paint onto a canvas at random, you will not see any patterns formed by splatters.

The third origin of the word "random" is a design term, used to describe an object that has no apparent purpose or function. In this sense, randomness means that there is no reason why any given element exists.

It is easy to see that the three meanings of randomness all imply no discernible pattern, and this leads us to a definition of "random" as being (1) equal opportunity or chance; (2) without visible pattern or structure; and (3) lacking apparent purpose.

Now that we have an understanding of the word "random", I can say that human society is not random. It is, in fact, quite structured and predictable.

The first and most obvious example is the structure of human society into socioeconomic classes. Those who have more money are wealthier than those who have less. They live in nicer houses, drive better cars, go on expensive vacations and obtain higher education for their children.

The word 'random' is a misused word. It's not really random if it repeats. That's why I prefer the term: 'non-patterned'. The repetition of events, like how every year in January there is a month with 31 days and February has exactly 28 days each year can be considered non-patterned or more specifically: patternless.

The same is true for the number in pi. The digits follow an non-patterned (a lot of people call it random) pattern, but that doesn't make it truly random.

That's why I like to use the term 'non-patterned' and not 'random'.

Random is a word which means nothing. I do not mean this in the way that some people like to think, that it does not have an objective meaning but rather that it has no defined meaning at all. It has been used more and more of late as if everyone knows what it means; indeed even 'the experts' on certain subjects will say something like 'I'm only giving my opinion here but...'. You then get a vaguely credible-sounding waffle about how they are sure there is some pattern or trend somewhere out there deep down, but they're too busy looking for bigger fish to fry or whatever for now so don't hold your breath.

In a sense it is the ultimate example of language-games. It has no meaning, but in itself this does not make it meaningless. However, as most people think that there must be some sort of hidden meaning somewhere I shall set out my thoughts on what 'random' might mean if there were such a thing.

First of all, by calling something 'random' you are making a very strong claim about it. In fact, most people seem to interpret this as meaning that there is no such thing as intrinsic pattern or direction in the case of 'random'. That is not what I am saying here; rather I would say that it means that at least one possible interpretation is that there is no such thing as intrinsic pattern or direction to be found. If you call something random, then you must believe this - and possibly nothing else.

There are generally three reasons why people call something random. The first is when they actually do not know what the thing in question is but they believe that it must have some sort of intrinsic pattern or direction to be found, even if they don't know what this might be. This may sound plausible but it can easily lead you into serious error; while there is no such thing as a 'random' event, there will always be events which appear non-random for certain purposes.

The second reason is because of a misunderstanding. This is usually down to the fact that people are not able to think about things without applying patterns and meaning, but in this case they misinterpret the pattern as being intrinsic when it is really just a human creation. The classic example here would be 'the stock market went up today', which many seem to interpret by saying 'it went up for no reason'. It didn't go up for any particular reason; there was none, nor do we expect one.

The third reason is to put a label on something when you do not know what it is. This may seem strange at first but actually this happens all the time in science; we have discovered that carbon dioxide plays an important role in climate change, for example, but we still don't fully understand how exactly. We therefore call it 'a greenhouse gas' and leave it at that.

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