While we all know the programming that goes into computers, what we don't know so much is what that programming is capable of. As said in the book Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson, “The essence of hacking is finding unintended or overlooked uses for the laws and properties of a given situation and then applying them in new and inventive ways to solve a problem — whatever it may be” (158). This said, we can conclude in simple terms that computer randomness is certainly possible, but it is also very complex, as computers take data and information from situations around them and use these as a way to solve problems and generate randomness.
“Computers can generate truly random numbers by observing some outside data, like mouse movements, which is not predictable, and creating data from it.” According to Chris Hoffman in his 2019 article, “How Computers Generate Random Numbers”. He also states - “There are two categories of random numbers — “true” random numbers and pseudorandom numbers — and the difference is important for the security of encryption.” As we can see, randomness in computers comes down to the encryption, and the type of number being generated, pseudo random numbers or real random numbers. Hoffman later states - “To generate “true” random numbers, generators gather “entropy,” or seemingly random data from the physical world around them”. It is now clear that computers possess the ability to be random, but to effectively do this, they must gather data from the world around them, whereas the human brain is completely unpredictable at times, and possess the ability to generate randomness, seeing as it is not limited by data or its programming.
Can machines think for themselves in order to create randomness? This brings it down to more specific terms, in which we see if computers can actually think independently. This is explained by James Fieser’s article in 2018, "Artificial Intelligence" - “AI thesis should be understood to hold that thought, or intelligence, can be produced by artificial means; made, not grown.” As stated, computers are only as smart as their programming. That a computer cannot “originate anything” but only can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. Similar to before, it is not that computers aren't intelligent enough to actually produce randomness, it is that they are only as intelligent as their programming will allow for. Fieser later goes on to state that - “They can only do what we know how to tell them to express deeper misgivings touching on values issues and on the autonomy of human choice. In this connection, the allegation against computers is that – being deterministic systems – they can never have free will.” Computers are intelligent and very capable, but they are not able to become independent thinkers similar to robots because they are not equipped with a brain, but rather outfitted with lots of programming.
As it relates to our Zine, randomness is used in some places to make it harder to do automated attacks, as is the case with OpenBSD's randomized malloc() function. In conclusion, computers are very sophisticated and intelligent, but this intelligence is limited to how far they are programmed and developed. This means that although they can generate random thoughts, it is always going to be based upon how they were programmed and it is going to have to be randomness found by analyzing patterns around them.