I know a lot of you probably think my blog posts topics are the very definition of random, and, er, you might have a point, but that’s not the point I wanted to make. I think randomness is undervalued, not just positively ignored by the wheels of modern society, but actually being eradicated.
There are two philosophies that govern randomness; you either believe in determinism or free will. If you believe that everything can be predicted (from the Big bang, or the divine moment of creation, or whatever) then “randomness” simply arises because we don’t yet understand enough about the universe to be able to predict the outcome of an event. On the other hand, if you believe in free will then you believe human beings (and maybe other consciousness’s) can make a decision that is not predictable.
Free will (or the illusion of free will because I don’t understand enough about the universe) makes me feel as if I have a say in my life, and I like that. But, many things are driving us in the direction of determinism.
Shops have long worked to encourage people to buy things by understanding that if a customer buys X then they’re very likely to want to buy Y, so they put X and Y next to each other on the shelf. The iTunes store keeps track of what you buy and suggests other things you might like based upon people who bought similar items. This is great, you get to find other things that are similar to your taste, but it also means you don’t find anything that is different. The whole process reinforces your likes and preferences, making you a more predictable customer, and a more predictable customer means more dollars. It’s like a self-licking ice cream cone, and I’m sure I don’t need to point out how dark the world would be if you didn’t get to lick an ice cream once in a while.
Websites like Facebook and Twitter use the same idea to drive people into categories. They make you more like yourself, or perhaps more like a group of people who are similar to you. Freedom of choice isn’t taken away, you just get tempted down the deterministic path. When you “friend” someone, they suggest other, similar people you might like. That sounds great; people who like whatever I’m into, but wait, doesn’t that mean they’ll be a lot like me? Basically, I’m “friending” myself (which, for those of you who know me is a pretty scary proposition). I really wish Tweetdeck or Twitter or Facebook had a “random” option just to introduce me to other people’s thoughts.
So, let’s celebrate randomness, let’s keep Austin and the whole internet just a little bit weird, lets confuse big brother, let’s lick ice cream cones, lets go wild with unpredictability.
Or not, because you do have free will.