How long have people loved randomness?
March 27, 2008 11:17 AM Subscribe
What are some (and some of the earliest) instances of people shuffling things on purpose to get a random result?
posted by obliquicity to society & culture (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible to create a genealogy of the human desire for randomness? Are there academic studies of that desire/impulse?
This came up as a slightly goofy dinner topic which has since been hounding me, so I figured I may as well ask all of you. The basic premise of the question came up when someone posited that the iPod/equivalent's "shuffle" feature took advantage of a cultural preference for randomness over order. When, we asked collectively, did that preference first manifest itself?
Shuffling cards is an obvious answer -- but with cards, the randomness is simply the essential precursor to the creation of order through playing a game. In other words, the intended outcome of shuffling cards is to allow card players to re-create order for fun.
Similarly, fortune-telling techniques that rely on randomness (throwing bones; tea leaves; etc.) all seem to be about creating order out of randomness, rather than producing randomness for its own sake.
In fact, we're having trouble coming up with examples of randomness for its own sake at all -- can you?