"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

Thoughts on Random Processes

April 2011

Thoughts on Random Processes

What we consider to be random processes are not necessarily random, but are often sufficiently complex that the outcome cannot, under normal circumstances, be determined by pre-conceived conditions. For example, a roulette wheel that was previously spun with the result of “Red 20”, will not necessarily repeat this outcome, for differences in air density, temperature, force of turn, etc., processes that would require controlled measurements beyond normal scope, And in the process of taking said measurements, the outcome will alter accordingly (similar to the uncertainty principle). However, were the effect of the changes to the environment by the measurements known, one could reasonably (how reasonably?), perhaps determine the outcome.

To wit, at the smallest scales, where the observation itself fundamentally alters the nature of the particle observed, there is such change that “pre-existing conditions” and “controlled measurement” have no meaning. The observation makes the measurement. What is true at that scale is more tied to what we cannot know; the limit of our ability to observe creates the boundary where the processes are random, by means of confinement of perspective. We can determine laws, we can order our world, and define it within those boundaries. We can grasp general laws and motions of bodies to the point where one cannot observe, and beyond that, exists what is “sufficiently random”. As scientific instruments have become more sensitive, as we have sharpened our senses, our perspective has enlarged by degrees. If it be that an observer must actively “see” in order to collapse a wave function, and before that point there is uncertainty, it stands to reason that for all practical purposes, discovery of phenomenon and general theories extrapolated from them, “determined” the world as we know it, for where the process of Brownian motion was undetermined, it was random, or “uncertain”. Our conscious view of the world was fundamentally different, as a process of such uncertainty and randomness that it appeared “magical”, and whose nature was “undetermined” and open to conjecture. Conjecture itself is not sufficient to “collapse the wave function”.

Still, of this uncertainty, and of the angle of which I have afore advanced this question, there stands the unbridgeable chasm of subjective limits on knowledge, in regard to education. It would appear that processes sufficiently random at the time, such as biology before reading Darwin, do not make those processes random. The individual, upon learning something new, better orders their universe by that knowledge.

It is easy to see that at larger scales, the universe operates more “orderly”, with processes, e.g. gravity, that work to collect material into shapes, and line up material in according progressions (as spiral arms around galaxies). These processes happen to take longer amounts of time to be recognizable, at least from our perspective. At smaller scales, the processes are faster, and often tend a “chaotic” influence, as electrical fields push away, photons absorbed into electron fields and sent back at lower energies. There seems an implicit, inverse relationship between these processes that center upon our perspective, that is, the limit to which we might observe both small-scale and large-scale interactions.

Our choices, which come from subconscious influences and even ideas originating in deep mental processes that an individual cannot determine oneself (presumption here), with little difference between the simpler and more complex (as with simplicity of mentality and simplicity of desire comes simplicity of introspection, and vice versa with complexity), are beyond the scope of our conscious observation, and thus rest upon uncertain, random foundations. But, as initial desire rises to the surface, becoming conscious, as one questions some large choice affecting a longer amount of time and perhaps more fundamentally altering the immediate and greater world, an ordering force comes into play. One considers various aspects of the possible decision, and after consideration, acts.

One may offer that we humans do not actually “do” this sort of thing, one cannot point to the spot at which they “will” some choice ahead of an initial processed idea at the end of an unbroken chain of events. To me, “consideration” is what happens after the more or less random “idea of the choice” has made itself known. But I would offer that the world itself, in conjunction with the mental process denoted, is enough to provide a will of sorts. As beyond the limit of self-knowledge, beyond the consideration of all events in one’s past, biological makeup, etc., that may produce initial conditions, that we might perform some such thing as “consideration”, has validity for:

A. Positive consequences – Measured responses that benefit an individual socially, evolutionarily, physically, mentally-depending on their rationale, of course.

B. Inexplicability of Causation – As one cannot determine the cause for the choice, as the chain is (for all practical purposes) unobservable, and the extrapolation that at the smallest scale there is true randomness -> Deliberation becomes cause.

C. Personal Responsibility – if deliberation is the cause, as original idea was random, and humans operate in an orderly manner, personal responsibility depends on choices made in deliberation, empowering the individual and enabling “the will”.

[Edit: May 2014] This turned into a bit of a Free Will argument. All apologies. :)

 

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