Saturday, July 25, 2020

Randonautica, an example of pseudoscientific superstitions in 2020

There are lots of things happening. I will avoid all the small topics described e.g. in my tweets. But an hour ago, a guy who thinks he is smart sent me an advertisement for Randonautica. Well, it is an app for Android or iOS.

It's a new app for "orienteering", something like Geocaching or Pokémon Go, but the amount of hype surrounding it has been far greater while the substance is far smaller. Check e.g. Google News and YouTube.

Within weeks, this app has been downloaded over 5 million times. Am I missing something? As far as I can see, this is a proof of an incredible degree of idiocy of millions of people. Well, it has the average rating of 3.5 stars but it still means that millions of people think it's wonderful or supernatural.

All that the app seems to do is to produce random coordinates around you, in a disk of some radius, and encourage you to go there and do something amazing. I was sent to a random field some 3 miles away from me. I actually know it there a little bit – not much but enough. I know my 3-mile vicinity rather well by now.

But the innocent and trivial procedure of generating a random point on the map – where you almost certainly won't find anything special relatively to almost any other point (and if the numbers aren't random and someone planted something over there, it probably won't be too precious) – is packaged into several layers of sciencey-sounding bullšit that none of these millions of people understand. Quantum generators and entropy sources. They are led to believe that

* it is extremely difficult to produce randomly looking coordinates and lots of incomprehensible BS must be added to achieve that
* more seriously, you may affect the random generator in your phone by the power of your consciousness.

The second line builds on claims by a hardcore crackpot Mr Robert Jahn who promoted "micro-psychokinesis", some form of telekinesis (extra-sensorial perception). He was actually a plasma physicist and an important administrator at Princeton but that clearly isn't inconsistent with his being a complete loon.

Great. So these millions of people are impressed by claims about the "quantum" – well, everything in the world including all seemingly or really "random numbers" that emerge around us originate from the random generator of quantum mechanics. However, this omnipotence of quantum mechanics is a universal property of our Universe, not a special virtue of a stupid app. This app is only uses quantum mechanics to the same extent as any other app – and we would say "not much" because the chips inside your phone are "classical computers", not quantum ones. So a "classical model" of the randomness is sufficient to explain all the random numbers that arise from your phone (it is not hard to produce chips with "truly quantum" random generators, however, but the advantage relatively to good enough classical pseudo-random generators is non-existent in all practical situations). Quantum mechanics still works and it is more accurate than classical physics but within the error margins, the classical theory is an OK approximation for your iPhone.

OK, the app shows me some random point in the muddy fields near Letkov. Am I supposed to go there? I think that I would have to be completely stupid to spend an hour by going to this random šitty place and back. I am sure more capable of inventing an interesting place to go than a random generator can invent! ;-) It may be a super-duper quantum entropic transcendental Princeton administrator's huge adventure – but a "stupid act" is a simpler description of what such a trip would be. I would say that a rational person doesn't find it fulfilling to investigate a randomly chosen piece of mud in a random field and he knows why it is not fulfilling.

Well, I also guess that several million people have downloaded the app and went several miles to a random spot in a muddy field, found a piece of trash there, and they thought it was absolutely wonderful or miraculous so they gave a high rating to the app. People clearly have way too much time – and way too little common sense and way too little knowledge about the basic laws of Nature. Yesterday, I found and collected about 1,000 pieces of trash (big bags!) and I actually got my first $4 for the job from an admiring couple in a black limousine. (You may multiply the compensation – which is really tiny relatively to how much of this work I am doing – by a factor of 20 by PayPal LOL.) So I know it is not a miracle to find a piece of trash of a random size at a random place! ;-)

Also, I want to emphasize that this app uses some combination of pretentiousness and superstitious beliefs of millions of people. The real problem is that many people start to worship the speaker as soon as the speaker uses some mysterious or science-like words that they do not understand. I am sorry but this is how completely irrational, gullible people behave. Rational people either demand (or look for) a definition or an explanation of the words that they do not understand (and then they try to figure out whether what is being served to them makes sense); or they just ignore these words if the definition or the explanation isn't available. Hearing incomprehensible words is simply not a rational reason to be impressed. Of course if you become impressed as soon as you hear words such as "entropy source" or "quantum generator" for the first time, then you are just a stupid sheep that can be manipulated even by the cheapest possible manipulators – and I would count the producers of this app into this category. Sadly, this includes lots of people who think that they're very smart but they're not smart at all and they only have the same probability of inventing a true idea or an interesting place to visit as a random generator (or a monkey hitting keys on a typewriter).

Because I don't consider monkeys hitting random keys on a typewriter to be too intelligent, I don't think that the admirers and followers of this app are too intelligent, either. Pokémon Go rules, however. ;-)

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