Max Hawkins and Living Randomly

This is Max Hawkins, a programmer who spoke at a TedX event. I’ll use the text they provided as it sums his talk up as well as I can:

“For two years Max let a randomized computer program determine the course of his life. Everything from what he ate and the music he played to the city where he lived was determined by the whim of the computer. The randomizer sent him everywhere from a shopping mall in Japan to a goat farm in rural Slovenia. He tells the story of his randomly generated life: how he stumbled upon the concept of chance, why it became an obsession, and how he discovered that refusing to choose can be a radical act.”

I’m very engaged with this whole random thing, which is partly something that I’ve been doing with GeoGuessr in selecting random locations to visit. Max has a web-site at https://maxhawkins.me/ and he has randomized huge sections of his life in what I consider to be an inspirational manner. He started by writing software to pick him up in an Uber taxi and be dropped off at a random food venue, which even he himself didn’t know the location of until he arrived. He then chose to live in random places, go to random Meetup events and listen to random music. Having the opportunity to live in different places around the world for a month or so brought him so many new perspectives and life experiences.

And there’s something in this. I followed Max’s Spotify playlist, which is 30 random songs generated every day. I found more stuff that I liked on that playlist than I did on Spotify’s own algorithm of recommended music. When I’ve used GeoGuessr locally, going to random places is like a chain reaction of finding other things I never knew existed and then felt the need to investigate. And it creates adventures, such as the national GeoGuessr challenges that Nathan and I have done. On a simple level, just going to read random Wikipedia articles can be an interesting way to pass the time, so many new things to learn and become intrigued by.

I’m not sure that I’ll take the element of the random as far as Max has, but he has managed to be taken out of his comfort zone to try almost endless new experiences. Algorithms can perhaps limit our lives, we follow the recommendations of Google or whoever, but they are really just keeping us within our comfort zones and never showing us anything really new. Often, we might think that our experiences are new because we’ve visited a new pub down the road, but is that enough for a meaningful life?

This was an alert I received from Google a couple of hours ago, they’ve decided that I like notable coffee and notable beers, so they’ve suggested this location. It actually looks pretty decent, but Google has also decided that I don’t seem interested in notable tea (which is probably true to be fair). And this is the danger, it’s sending me to what look like new and interesting locations, but they’re the same sort of places. I will visit, as I see no need to not go to places that I like, but the joy of the random is going somewhere I wasn’t sure I’d like, then discovering it offered something very new and exciting. And, I can quite like innovative teas, so I shouldn’t rule those out.

For my friends, expect a wave of things being done randomly in the future. I don’t think that many of my friends find me particularly predictable anyway (I have a lot of “good ideas”), so they might not be too surprised. Without getting too deep, there’s some sort of order in the chaos as well, so many coincidences and things which felt inevitable. Meeting people and having experiences which were random, but which seemed to be destined to be, as if the universe meant for that to happen.

So, here’s to the random. It’s the future.