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Cover Quote: August 2001

Most of the time, when we say “random” we really mean “unpredictable,” or even just “unexpected”; in other words, we are really describing the state of our understanding rather than a characteristic of the phenomena themselves. Randomness may be another one of those things that don’t exist in the world, but only in our minds, something we attribute to the world that is not a quality of it. The attribution of randomness is based on the observer’s inability to understand what caused a pattern of events and is not necessarily a quality of the pattern itself. For instance, we flip a coin in order to introduce randomness into a decision-making process. If the direction and magnitude of the force of the thumb against the coin were known, as well as the mass of the coin and the distribution of density through its volume, relevant atmospheric characteristics, and so on, the trajectory of the coin could be perfectly predicted. But because these factors are hard to measure and control, the outcome of a flip is unpredictable, what we call “random”—close enough.

- J. Kennedy/R. Eberhart
Swarm Intelligence, 2001
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