Randonauts: How a Random Number Generator Can Set You Free
You are so predictable that a generation of data scientists and programmers created algorithms to commodify your habits.
Whether you drive to work, go shopping, or spend the entire day watching Netflix on your couch, you travel within a limited, predetermined set of coordinates each day. Your devices log every habit as a data point that companies can sell to the highest bidder.
The Randonauts, a rapidly growing community of computer scientists, digital artists, and explorers, have found a way to escape the trap of our unwittingly predetermined lives.
With a quantum random number generator and some guidance from a bot, you can escape your prearranged paths and explore new possibilities. And the Randonauts are looking for a few good data scientists…
The Stasis Field & Despair
According to the Randonauts, a long list of rules and mechanisms limit your possibilities. This includes laws, social obligations, cognitive biases, cultural norms, laws, and simple habits.
These invisible forces create what the Randonauts call a “stasis field” around you, freezing your movements in amber and setting your predetermined path.
Randonaut writer and computer science student BlueSkies_HeavySighs wrote an essay describing how a stasis field affects the life of a hypothetical person named Tao. Check it out:
“On an average day, Tao will wake up in the morning, get ready for the day, go to work, come home, play some video games, eat, and go to bed. Sometimes Tao engages in other activities ranging from hanging out with friends to going on a vacation. All of these potential activities and variations of Taos experience compose the stasis field since they are causally predictable.”
The weight of all these obligations and limitations can lead to despair.
But when you step outside of your predetermined reality, a whole world of possibilities opens up as your brain discovers new meaning in these new places.
“We are all using past experiences and preconceived notions to predict future events,” says Comrade, the founder of the Randonauts. “When you put yourself in a completely random situation, your brain starts trying to make associations and grasp at meaning in the void.”
Everything changes when you escape your stasis field. So how do you do it?
The Quantum Random Number Generator
Everything began with The Fatum Project, an experiment aimed at breaking people out of their “Reality-Tunnels” and creating strategies to escape our stasis field. The Randonauts expanded on this research, building what they called “a machine that digs rabbit holes to wonderland.”
Comrade and his team programmed a unique bot for the Telegram Messenger app on smartphones. After learning your location, the bot generates a completely random set of coordinates in your general area.
You can even set the radius you wish to travel on your journey to a random point in your world. Even a journey of just 1,000 meters outside your everyday path contains a random point for you to explore.
Randonaut Newton Winter and Comrade created an algorithm that utilized the Australian National University’s Quantum Random Numbers Server, an open-source theoretical physics project that generates quantum random numbers in real-time that anyone can access.
The ANU server measures “quantum fluctuations” in a laboratory-created vacuum, that, according to the scientists, “resembles a sea of virtual particles appearing and disappearing all the time.” The server plucks measurements from this virtual sea, one of the most complicated and through ways of generating random numbers on earth.
The site describes how these numbers are generated in real-time:
“the electromagnetic field of the vacuum exhibits random fluctuations in phase and amplitude at all frequencies. By carefully measuring these fluctuations, we are able to generate ultra-high bandwidth random numbers.”
The Randonaut Experience
A band of scrappy programmers tapped the power of this random number generator and bots to help thousands of Randoauts move their lives in new directions.
Despite the complicated process of generating truly random numbers, the app quickly gives you a set of GPS coordinates that will take you far from your everyday path.
The Randonaut Wiki describes the group’s unique terminology and methodology in great detail, but I suggest starting with the stories of successful adventures. Like the California Randonaut who found their way to the center of a labyrinth in a gorgeous clearing. Or a Pennsylvania Randonaut who discovered a downed plane 1,000 meters from their home.
You can read as much or as little metaphysical meaning as you want into these experiences. But these travelers used randomness to escape the prison of predictability and discovered hidden wonders in their communities.
“Randonauting isn’t just about the goal,” explains Medium writer Fred Andersson.
“It’s the journey there, which become more rewarding as the world is unveiled to you in a different light. One of the motivations for me doing is that is that I get more aware of my surroundings. I see details easier, I notice things that stand out — anomalies it’s referred to in the Randonaut community — and often these details speak to me even more than what meets me at the end of the rainbow.”
Thousands of Randonauts have found joy and comfort through their randomly determined adventures.
Each journey generates a new report, and the movement is swimming in data. The Randonauts are looking for a data scientist to comb through data generated by this “exponentially” expanding community.
“We need a statistician bad,” Comrade told me. “We have a ton of anomalous data. Basically, we’re just hoarding it and waiting for this statistician to who wants to dig into it to come to the project.”
Antidote To Despair
In his book, The Drunkard’s Walk, theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow described how randomness played a role in many different lives. “A path punctuated by random impacts and unintended consequences is the path of many successful people, not only in their careers but also in their loves, hobbies, and friendships,” he wrote, urging people to pay attention to the role chance plays in human experience.
“In our lives, too, we can see through the microscope of close scrutiny that many major events would have turned out differently were it not for the random confluence of minor factors, people we’ve met by chance, job opportunities that randomly came our way.”
The Randonauts have found a new way to express the power of randomness that has attracted generations of creators and data scientists.
“The Prime Directive of Randonauts is to find the antidote to despair,” Comrade said. “We see despair as a sort of self-replicating idea, like a meme. Despair has a viral component that it spreads from person to person.”
The Randonaut experience is best shared from person to person, counteracting the despair produced by our prison of predictability.
“It’s a way for asymmetrical cultural warfare,” Comrade concluded. “A way for a small, scrappy bunch of upstarts to affect the culture at a massive scale. It can open you up to new ideas and possibilities that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Leonard Mlodinow, the world’s great scholar of randomness agrees.
“What I’ve learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role, one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized.”
You have nothing to lose from taking a Randonaut journey. But you never know what treasure you could find just a few hundred meters outside of your predictable path.