The Matrix revisited

One thinks the world is full of independent minds, capable of distinct thought. And then the fabric wavers just a little bit.

            While settling my father’s estate, I found a list of digital passwords and among them the PIN for retrieving his telephone messages. 7941. Not the kind of discovery that should have a profound impact on one’s life. But this did. You see, the passcode for my cellphone voicemail is 7941.

            Sure, you say, we each picked the number based on the same birthdays, significant events or a common numerology. Not so. In fact, if I am capable of concluding or even recognizing fact, I chose my PIN as a test of my memory. It was designed to be completely random. The numbers. Individually, in pairs, a triplet and a single, or as a four-digit set, mean absolutely nothing to me. Random.

            So what is random? A grouping of items with no apparent relationship. With no contrived origin. Of uncertain provenance. I would argue (now) that the prospect of computer generation has forced the mind to consider the source of apparent randomness. I am not a computer programmer. I am aware of allegedly random selection (lotto numbers drawn by computer). But I wonder how one could program a computer to select randomly from a given set of figures. The computer does not understand concepts the way we do (I think) and therefore must be directed as to the methodology of the choice. Tell it to select randomly and it must draw on its store of commands (past experience) and assets. Know it’s store of commands and assets and one knows the computer’s selection process. Know its process and the result should be predictable.

            Ten thousand to one. 10000:1. That is the likelihood of any two people choosing the same four digit code. The likelihood of a father and son choosing the same code may or may not be significantly greater. The likelihood of a father and son choosing identical codes for the same purpose among the myriad of codes that contemporary western people are required to choose, again, may be on a different scale. Clearly I am mathematically out of my element here.

            Whether spiritual or biological, it is reasonable to say that my father and I had the same programmer. That we chose the same passcode is both reasonable and arguably predictable. That I found this surprising is perhaps the only thing that is surprising.

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