# Can the mind generate random numbers?

by Ivan Seeking
Tags: generate, mind, numbers, random
 Sci Advisor HW Helper P: 2,481 All one needs is a random sequence of 1's and 0's. One can possibly set a decision rule such as "1 if childhood memory, 0 if adulthood memory" or "1 if concrete thought, 0 if abstract thought" then let one's memories/thoughts flow freely; pressing a button every time one remembers or thinks of a certain memory or thought. It would be interesting to see if the result would pass randomness tests.
 Sci Advisor HW Helper P: 2,481 The following requires a subject and an experimenter. The experimenter asks the subject questions that the subject does not know the answer to, and requests the subject to "guess." Every time the subject guesses correctly, the experimenter records "1," otherwise a "0" is recorded.
 P: 240 If I give you a piece of white paper full of little black dots on it and ask you to pick one, would your choice be a random one (like quantum fluctuations is), or could it be predicted/calculated even before you chose it (if we assume our brains obey just firm classical laws and that we are capable to calculate everything since the Big Bang)?
 P: 705 The answer might depend on the exact definition of random. If random means that every sequence of numbers is equaly probable then I highly doubt a person could generate random numbers. If random means that the next number in a sequence is unknowable by any knowable algorithm then I would say that a person could generate random numbers.
 Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 9,491 A prime number does not yield an integer value when divided by any number other than itself or 2. It is that simple. Random numbers are a little more complicated. Testing whether a series of numbers are truly 'random' is difficult. Probability theory is usually applied in these cases, but, you need an enormous data set to make a claim with any mathematical certainty.
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 Quote by Chronos A prime number does not yield an integer value when divided by any number other than itself or 2.
Sounds like a second number, not prime number.
 PF Gold P: 1,909 Ivan Seeking, Please see Dr. S. J. F. Philpott in The British Journal of Psychology this article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...39.x/abstract? The subjects in his study were asked to perform repetitive tasks as regularly as possible. The resultant "work curves" showed a periodicy which seemed to correspond to the subjects’ alpha rhythms. This suggests humans cannot generate random numbers because there are repeating periodic processes in our brains.
PF Gold
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 Quote by Ivan Seeking A bit off the wall, but anyone who plays with random number generators quickly learns that it is impossible to make one that is truly random, using software alone. Has anyone ever considered whether people can actually generate random numbers? How does the mind produce a number "randomly"? Do we have any idea? It is pretty easy to imagine analyzing person-generated random numbers and looking for a pattern.
I can randomly generate a "7" at any given moment. So... yes.
 P: 478 This might interest you, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/iots and scroll down to "Random and Psuedorandom".
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Thanks
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 Quote by Boy@n If I give you a piece of white paper full of little black dots on it and ask you to pick one, would your choice be a random one (like quantum fluctuations is), or could it be predicted/calculated even before you chose it (if we assume our brains obey just firm classical laws and that we are capable to calculate everything since the Big Bang)?
It is well known from experiments in marketing that if you put several brands of a product on a supermarket shelf, the brands in the middle of the line sell more than the ones at the end, independent of how you you shuffle the order of the brands on the shelf.

But if you ASK shoppers why they chose a particular brand, they NEVER say "because it was in the middle of the shelf".

If you want to argue that "selecting dots on a piece of paper" is fundamentally different, I think you need a good testable reason why it's differerent
 PF Gold P: 4,292 I'm skeptical of true randomness in conscious decisions. It's more likely that such sensations felt by humans are still deterministic processes. People often confused chaotic and random in this discussion. Our choice can be very chaotic (sensitive to noise). there have been free-will experiments that involve "brain-reading machines" that can predict people's choices. The people believed they were making spontaneous choices at the time. It was actually first done quite a while ago, by Libet (surprised his name hasn't come up in this thread yet). John Dylan Haynes Patrick Haggard:
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 Quote by Borg I've sometimes wondered about random number generation and have thought that a good one would consist of software that generates numbers starting from user input and the time of the request.
From my programming days, this is actually what most languages do (programming languages). For example, I think it is C or C++ that generates random numbers using the computer's clock. Hrm...may have been VB6 though...hard to remember that stuff...so long ago.
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 Quote by zoobyshoe I think a person could come up with a set of numbers that are statistically random
Actually we humans are generally pretty bad at coming up with sets of random numbers. I heard somewhere about a match teacher who always gave his/her new students an assignment to just throw a dice 100 times and write down the sequence of numbers. I don't know if they also were given the possibility to just make up those 100 numbers, or if there always were students who "cheated" like this any way. Anyhow, the teacher could always spot with certainty which students actually did throw the dice and which ones just made it up. In most cases even by just inspecting the sequence by eye.

It turns most of us simply have a very bad intuition for random numbers. For example, most people tend to not want to repeat the same number twice or more in a row. Or they favor some numbers that "feel more random" and avoid others. (When asked for one random number between 1 and 100, apparently "47" is by far more common than any other number! And nobody ever says "50" or "100"... :-) ) In a real sequence of 100 random numbers between 1 and 6 however, it is a very unlikely not to have at least one part-sequence of the same number repeated three (or more) times in a row. So, just by the lack of any number repeated 3 times in a row (or more), one can be pretty certain that the sequence is human-made up. And of course doing real statistical analysis of the sequence usually gives very clear indications if the sequence is truly random or not (=human made up).

Of course, the more we know about statistics, the better random sequences we can come up with. At least if we are allowed to analyze and alter our sequence before "handing it in". But fact remains that we generally are pretty bad at spontaneously generating truly random numbers.
 P: 450 I agree it all hinges on whether someone can have random brain activity. The brain being something we are still unable to fully understand, I think it is not impossible at this point that this can happen. In the strictest sense though, a Random number is pretty difficult to come across. I would define a random number as a number that was generated such that no conditions prior to it's generation influenced the outcome. Unless, that condition was randomly generated with the same definition. Maybe it is possible that the creation of the universe was a truly random even, and everything in this universe that has happened, or come to be has been determined by conditions which were themselves randomly generated. Like randomception. And so the number I am about to type, 923386, is a random number which was ultimately generated via the creation of the known universe.
 Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 9,491 Keys used in computer security are prime numbers [which is believed to be an infinite set]. It would be interesting to see if prime numbers can be proven random.
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 Quote by Chronos Keys used in computer security are prime numbers [which is believed to be an infinite set].
The've actually been proven to be infinite. The proof's relatively basic.
P: 450
 Quote by Whovian The've actually been proven to be infinite. The proof's relatively basic.
Euclid proved this more than 2000 years ago.
 P: 643 Yea, thought it was Euclid, but didn't want to say that in case I got the wrong Ancient Greek mathematician.

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