Monday, July 16, 2012

Randomness And Probability: Different Things? [Chaos And Complexity]

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As some of the more advanced members of our growing Braintenance crowd might have guessed based upon enhanced telepathic powers (or by having read the title), this is indeed a post on probability and uncertainty, and on chaos and complexity. All of these are nouns representing ideas or theories based upon observed behaviors, and upon the inherent limitations of observations.

When we speak of randomness and probability we generally mean two different things. Essentially, probability is the mathematically determined likelihood (expressed as a decimal, a fraction, a percentage or odds) that an event or an outcome will occur, given parameters.

For example, when we toss a coin, the odds are (stop yawning!) 50% that it will land on heads and 50% that it will land on tails. This probability is based upon repeated trials over time. There are two standards -- 1) repeated trials (doing the exercise and observing the result as many times as possible to gain more certainty as to the probability of a given outcome -- this is based upon the belief that history tends to repeat itself), and 2) over time -- which means that the same experiment or test has been run numerous times, and the result has not changed over time.

Probability is something that is not the equivalent of certainty, but it gives us the likelihood of a certain outcome based upon specified parameters, numerous trials and consistency over time.

When people speak of randomness, they tend to equate it with immeasurability and a complete inability to predict outcomes. Randomness is, however, quite possibly a perceptual term, based upon subjective error, rather than an objective and defining one.

Randomness may be a perceptual error. In fact, randomness, on a macroscopic scale and over a longer time frame may exhibit the patterns of predictability (waves, cycles, percentages) associated with probability. What appears to be chaotic from a limited perspective, may actually be a complex process which has not yet been parametrized or calculated, like the toss of a coin, or the selection of colored marbles from a jar.

Here's the key -- if any event or phenomenon is observed over a long enough period of time and from an adequate distance to incorporate a grander view, that event may prove to be predictable (in terms of cause and effect) and calculable (in terms of probability).

The more that we study complex systems and chains of seemingly unrelated events, the more it appears that they may actually be wave-based, recursive (as are fractals) and predictable within a reasonable margin of error, as are all events or phenomena to which probabilities have been assigned.

Our limited vision and shallow perception might cause us to see tiny, seemingly random parts of a more complex system or chain of events with correlation and causality.

As a last thought: Perhaps there is no randomness, and there is only reason.

Think about it. Expanded perception might give us a look at the entire knitted quilt instead of just one seemingly isolated square...

Douglas E. Castle for The Braintenance Blog

@DouglasECastle1 @Braintenance #Braintenance #IQ #altered states of perception

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