Random numbers is a set of numbers without a specified order. One of the most important characteristics of random numbers is their independent nature, i.e. there is no correlation between consecutive numbers. Random numbers are critical for lotteries, complex mathematical modelling, gambling, cryptography and security. Generating random numbers is not a simple task, the challenge is that computers are inherently predictable, as they provide algorithm-based mathematical responses.

There are two common methods for generating random numbers from a computer: Pseudo-Random Number Generators (PRNGs) and True Random Number Generators (TRNGs). To generate PRNGs, a computer uses a seed number and an algorithm to generate numbers that seem to be random, but are actually predictable. The outputs of PRNGs may result into a reasonably complex pattern, but since they operate on the basis of a predefined algorithm, the numbers they produce are not truly random. Unlike PRNGs, TRNGs measure randomness from physical phenomena using hardware and integrate it into a computer. Computers use unpredictable processes, such as atmospheric noise or radioactive decay, instead of human-defined patterns, to produce truly random numbers. In this case, the randomness associated with the computer’s surrounding processes is used to generate a random number.

For certain purposes, a pseudo-random number is entirely adequate, for instance, if you want to randomly shuffle songs while playing music, you will need numbers to feed into the software such that the samples are more or less equally distributed. The use of pseudo-random numbers is sufficient in this case since there is no quantitative benefit associated with the extent of randomness. The importance of absolute randomness should not be underestimated. Cryptography, for example, involves numbers that attackers can not guess, and if attackers know the algorithm, they can write a program that predicts important cryptic information. True random numbers make such reverse engineering unlikely.

The concluding thoughts are philosophical. You might assume that the whole universe is deterministic, thus nothing is truly random. However, this objection is very broad and cannot be answered in the context of this discussion. Thank you so much for reading this article.  I look forward to seeing you here again soon. You can get in touch with me on Twitter @EcogeoNetwork.




  1. https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/can-a-computer-generate-a-truly-random-number/
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36311668
  3. https://www.random.org/randomness/