Sun Ra fans celebrated his arrival on this planet as they do every year on May 22nd. I always have some revelation about equations, mathematics, and things of this nature. This year proved no exception. For some reason, I started thinking about random number generators. This introduction to randomness gives a good overview.

Two types of random number generators exist. Most of the time, when your computer has to pick a random number, it uses a pseudo-random number generator. This does not actually generate a random number as its name suggests, rather it uses a mathematical formula which produces numbers with a random distribution. They appear random to a human. They do have the advantage of speed. A computer can generate as many “random” numbers as it needs this way. Computers use a lot of random numbers.

The most common formula uses a starting value called the seed, then does some computations involving prime numbers to arrive at a number which appears random. Seeding the generator with the same value produces identical results. I remember writing games in BASIC when I got my first PC in 1987 or so, and not understanding why the random choices always came out the same. Then I learned that I had to seed the generator. The seed usually comes from the time of day, since it provides a constantly changing value. Once seeded, the sequence unfolds according to the formula.

True random number generators, on the other hand, analyze an external source such as a decaying radioactive particle or atmospheric noise to produce truly random numbers. The numbers do not follow any pattern, making them unpredictable. They take longer to generate and the machines may need special environments to isolate them from surrounding noise, making them unsuitable for most everyday uses. Fortunately, services like random.org provide random numbers in various ways, including some cool games and a nifty API.

I thought about these two methods of generating random numbers, and realized that they relate to the two main views of creation. A pseudo-random number generator represents the deterministic view. The creator seeds its creation, setting up its initial conditions. The initial conditions set up the parameters and everything just rolls out according to a plan with no possibility of alteration. Free will does not exist, and you have no choice but to submit to this higher plan like a cog in a universal machine.

A true random number generator represents the non-deterministic view. Chaos generates each moment. Each moment presents an infinite number of possibilities, and free will determines the course of action. You have to make your own destiny in a land where nothing seems determined.

Interestingly, humans have a true random number generator. A human can pick a truly random number, or word, or idea. A computer using a pseudo-random number generator cannot do this. Donuts. Spaceships. 108,236,9,87126,5924839910029387. See?

Some even believe that the human mind can influence both types of random number generators. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research group has conducted many experience with true random number generators. Skeptics doubt, of course, but that should hardly seem surprising. As for pseudo-random number generators, many people have put a bunch of songs into a playlist, then started playing it random, and remarked on how it seems to go through moods, or match the mood of the person or group. Though anecdotal, it certainly suggests something deeper may exist. In a way, that would seem even more amazing if true, since it would demonstrate influencing a pre-determined event. If our subconscious could influence a random number generator, the generator would become no longer random. The same goes for a creator.

So what do you believe? If a random number generator represents the creator, then to extend the analogy, random numbers represent creation. Both generators produce results which appear the same. Perhaps we live in a universe seeded by an initial condition like the big bang or a god or goddess. Perhaps true really means true, and we have to just wake up and stop pulling the wool over our own eyes. Perhaps the truest view incorporates both, representing the middle way, the path of balance. Perhaps a creator or some aspect of ourselves influences these generators, making them no longer random, and making all of this meaningless. Perhaps you should pick one of these five beliefs at random just to see what happens.

To bring it back to Sun Ra, he said that “Music is a language, you see, a universal language.” When we covered fractals in high school math, I wrote a program which mapped data points to MIDI notes. The result sounded like jazz. This page from random.org which picks random jazz guitar scales made me think of this. Sun Ra would approve.

Can you handle a random belief? Try this silly program I wrote to find out what Goddess might have in store for you. I promise you will have a very illuminating experience if you follow the instructions. I love mixing technology and spirituality.