Shuffle: Philosophical Quandry

Discussion in 'iPod' started by lanray, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. lanray macrumors regular

    Mar 18, 2005
    I recently parted with my 3G 10Gig iPod and purchased a refurb 512MB Shuffle. It was a great move for me; I listen to the same #$@% songs over and over, and now I can do so with a little machine that sounds and looks great.

    I thought I wouldn't like the "shuffle" feature. I'm kind of a type A, control-freak sort of person. Yesterday, though, I enjoyed the randomness of shuffle. Kind of nice to let go of the music selection process. A new freedom!

    Then, I was fasty-forwarding and rewinding through the selections, and I noticed that it was playing the songs in the same order. NOT RANDOM! Then, I wondered what algorithm Apple uses for "random" - anybody know?

    THEN, I was thinking that if I were that type of person, I'd sue Apple for false advertising. Of course, I'd only sue for a Video iPod and lunch with Steve, his treat.

    THEN, I started to have an existential-ethical fit. If my touted Shuffle isn't random, with all its randomness, is anything random? Are we all predetermined, just like our Shuffle? If so, then there's no point to random, no point to decisions, it's already in the cards. If that's so, then there's no culpability, no true success - I'm just a product of somebody's algorithm.

    If I were to sue over this, it'd probably be worth a MBP and a nice dinner with Steve and his kin, his treat. You know, for emotional suffering.

    Then I had to go to work. Nothing random in that :p
  2. jrv3034 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 23, 2002
    Exactly how much sleep did you get last night? ;)
  3. Josh macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2004
    State College, PA
    iTunes will do that too.

    If you have it on random, play some songs, which will be randomly selected one by one, and then rewind back to the first, and play though again, it will play the same order through all the songs you have heard.

    Once you listen to the last song you previously heard before rewinding, it will select a new song, at random.

    It just "remembers" a short list of the last played songs, and if you rewind, it will go through your list again, until it doesn't have a song in the list, then it selects a random one.
  4. lanray thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 18, 2005
    Slept well, actually

    Got enough sleep, really. I just remembered this, though: I was listening to Rush's "Freewill" yesterday when all this came to my head. "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice", and, "I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose freewill." Oh, poor Neil Peart, how was he to know that even his choice was predetermined?
  5. Deepdale macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2005
    New York
    Of course, some compensation is warranted ... your inner turmoil is readily apparent and, besides, this is America - land of the free, home of the litigious.
  6. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

    Jul 22, 2005
    i can tell you like coffee :D

    I quite often use my iPod as a shuffle. I wish it was, sometimes... like the many times i accidentally drop it on concrete from about 3-4 feet... im lucky it hasnt given up the ghost yet
  7. Alasta macrumors regular


    Jan 12, 2005
    Wellington, New Zealand
    My understanding of how the Shuffle works is that it arranges all of your songs into a random order, and repeatedly plays them in that same order until you either load different songs onto it through iTunes, or tell it to 'reshuffle'. If my memory serves me correctly, you can order a reshuffle by pressing the play/pause button rapidly three times.
  8. Must.Get.nano! macrumors regular


    Sep 12, 2005

    For the title..
    Not everybody watches Frasier
  9. technicolor macrumors 68000


    Dec 21, 2005
  10. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    I have Shuffle Songs turned on almost all the time, except for when I want to listen to the specific album. Can image my listening without it :)
  11. frankblundt macrumors 65816


    Sep 19, 2005
    South of the border
    The problem with any generated randomness is that it's never truly random. There may indeed be no such thing as the truly random. Patterns can arise even out of chaos.

    The problem Apple has is that human perception of randomness is not random either. The human brain has a hard-wired and critically important ability for pattern recognition that is always seeking to find correlations and patterns in the chaotic world around us. Much of what is described as eery coincidence can be laid at the feet of this brain function. Apple has received endless complaints about it's random shuffle not being truly random, frequently completely unjustifiably, based on the fact that, for instance, it plays the same song twice before playing every song once (which would be a spectacularly unlikely event in a random system).

    As a consequence, they now have a "randomness" slider in the iTunes preferences so that you can alter the level of randomness in the shuffle choices to be more "random" (which is of course actually less so).

    I realise this has nothing to do with your particular shuffle issue which was answered perfectly adequately by Alasta - just a nod to your more general existential crisis. Einstein said God does not play dice, Hawking seems to thing he does, Mohammed said all is written, whatsername from Terminator said no fate but what we make - take your pick.
  12. lanray thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 18, 2005
    Better late than never

    Finally had a chance to review this thread after forgetting about it for a bit. There's, of course, an existential crisis that I believe Steve et al should compensate me for (tongue-in-cheek, but if they sent me another iPod, or the supposed April 1st iVideo, I would accept it graciously). There's another issue, and the most recent post begins to spell it out. Randomness and freedom seem more than coincidentally related vis-a-vis the Shuffle. There's something at risk ethically, here, and it lies in the more epistemological question of the possibility of randomness. I'd argue that any system we have of procuring randomness in a computer is NOT random (for obvious reasons that I'd be open to elucidating should anyone have questions). I'd go further and say that we're unable to generate randomness without engaging the system we are attempting to make random, thereby (in a kind of circular argument) imposing some sort of order. I was being a bit facetious, though, in making the assumption between moral culpability and this bit of epistemology. Just because randomness can't exist (well, in this cursory evaluation of it), doesn't mean we can't be morally culpable. Our moral correctness has it's foundation in something deeper than our ability to choose between different goods/evils. Anyone have any suggestions what that foundation should be?

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