Patterns in randomness

Most days that I’m at my desk, I listen to music through iTunes for most of the day. For some time, I’ve been listening to one giant smart playlist that has all the tracks I haven’t listened to yet–which is currently at about five days-worth of music–played in shuffle mode.

Now, I’ve noticed in the past that occasionally this produces a long run of especially good music, or a run of not-so-great music. This kind of pattern is to be expected.

Today, it’s getting weird, though. It played three Banco de Gaia songs in a row (I have six tracks by them, out of a total track count of 6300). And two different renditions of Perfidia a few minutes apart.

In a sufficiently large set of randomizations (I’ve listened to thousands of tracks in iTunes), spurious patterns will emerge. Some people are led to believe this means that aliens, giant space fairies, or other metaphysical forces are guiding their lives, or their copy of iTunes, or whatever. I am not one of these people, but it’s interesting to see it in action.

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