Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Poetics of Random Number Generation

I don't know how much has been discussed about this already by other gnoets (at gnoetry daily), but I wanted to touch on what I consider to be a very important element in text generation, which is random number generation. We must make a formal distinction here. Pardon me. There is no such thing as random number generation, and the notion of “random” is ontologically exterior to generation. Before you agree with me, fight this statement. Fight it with all your mental might. Try to develop a method for generating anything truly random. The problem isn't generating the random, I have no ability to explain why “gafar gen flaw” was the first thing to pop into my head as I tried. For all intents and purposes, the statement is random, or why 2,172 was the number that just popped into my head. The fact is, I seem to able to do this quite easily. Why then, should it be so difficult to devise any method?

Well, firstly I point this out, because “random number generation” really describes the impulse or desire and not the actuality of the process which is referred to as pseudo-random number generation. Most compilers use random numbers generated by twister algorithms, which approximate well the distribution patterns of an ideally random set of numbers. The result of these numbers is offset by a seed which can be input by the user, or (and more often) is generated from the computer's timer.

I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, because of the role time plays in acting as the seed for the generation. Time is a very loaded concept, rife with mythological and metaphysical potential. It's strange ability, to be measured indefinitely, allows us to make distinctions between instances, in essence, to linearize time. Linear time, however moves in circles, with familiar continuity between the extremes. A counter is set to turn once for each complete turn of another counter. And another counts the amount of full turns for that counter. It operates perhaps as dials, perhaps like your electric meter. Perhaps a face clock, perhaps a digital clock. Lines running in circles at different speeds. Repeating toward its limit, which is its modulus, its denominator. The time of day is its remainder. It loops always back to its beginning. In mathematics, this is called its base, the upper bound for a full turn.

Secondly the distribution pattern demands that the period (or size) of the upper bound of the random number to be generated not repeat itself, and this (and only) this qualifies it for “randomness.”

Much like trying to be spontaneous, generating random anything negates its own possibility before it even begins. But the urge to try is real.

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