The machine of chance | Technology
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People who frequent the Wandering Tavern, on the border planet Münchhausen, often say that the first glass of its famous blue beer encourages philosophical discussions, the second inflames them and the third turns them off (by neuronal collapse of the debaters).
That night, the two customers who, elbows on the bar, were arguing in a low voice and looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes, went for the first glass, so that the debate was calm.
“Chance is an elusive concept,” said one of them, a skinny old man with long white hair, “and perhaps it is nothing more than an entelechy.” We cannot even define it if it is not by exclusion, as the supposed absence of the omnipresent causality.
“It is not so elusive,” replied the other, somewhat younger and completely bald, “since we can generate it.”
-Really? Random number generator algorithms based on numerical congruence actually produce predictable cycles, and are only useful because, for all practical purposes, we can only achieve something vaguely random.
-If you don’t trust computer generators, you can resort to physical ones.
-Rolling the dice or tossing coins into the air introduces chaos, not true chance. Chaos hides causality behind a haze that our myopic eyes cannot penetrate; but determinism is still there, intact, and “chance” is just one of the names we give to our limitations and our ignorance.
“In that case, yes,” the bartender intervened from behind the bar, as he refilled the debaters’ glasses.
– And in what case not? the gray-haired one asked.
“I’ll answer with a recent anecdote,” the tavern keeper said, lowering his voice, as if about to tell a secret. A few months ago a couple of sucuas (quasi-divine superintelligences, you know) visited my humble tavern, and at one point they wanted to draw lots for a decision related to their inscrutable designs. And for that they asked me for a chessboard.
“Most eminent quasi-divinities,” I said perplexed, “don’t you want some dice, if it’s about deciding at random?
“For our superminds and our supersenses -the sucuas replied in chorus-, the dice, with their chaotic but deterministic movements, are as predictable as a coin tossed in the air by one of those skillful gamblers who frequent your tavern. But our brains, like yours, are not mere deterministic machines, and since we both have identical combinatorial abilities, it will be the quantum chance that nests in our neuronal microtubules that decides the outcome of a game of chess”.
The texts in this series are brief narrative approaches to that “great game” of science, technique and technology, three inseparable threads of the same braid, which is transforming the world faster and faster and in which we all must participate as players, if we do not want to be mere toys.
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