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Diaconis on Randomness

Posted By: Douglas Zare
Date: Friday, 24 May 2013, at 7:39 a.m.

In Response To: Diaconis on Randomness (Timothy Chow)

There were some good points in that bridge forum discussion, but there was also a lot of misinformation, and people underplayed huge sources of nonrandomness such as a tournament director looking over potential sets of deals, and selecting ones which were the most interesting! This dwarfs the issues of hackers intercepting data sent from random.org to mess up a bridge tournament. Of course you will get more extreme deals if the director throws out ordinary deals as boring. It's like arguing about precision vs nonprecision dice, but you only roll one, and then someone else just calls out what the other number is supposed to be. Someone who likes to see doubles.

"Rather than blaming the computer, I found a much much simpler reason: the organizers sorted out the hands so that they could have a nice show in the VU-graph!"

"Once these deals are done, Brian Senior sets to work and selects a set, the one that looks most interesting."

I would never play at a backgammon tournament where instead of rolling dice, the director called the roll for excitement. If bridge directors don't understand how bad it is to bias the deals this way, how can they be trusted to sort through the subtleties of a bridge dispute?

When someone shows up to an emergency room with a knife protruding from his chest (directors choosing "interesting" deals), this is not the time to worry about a hangnail (oh no, you only used a 32 bit pRNG).

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