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Green Card Lottery Judgment Favors Mathematical Randomness

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the asd8n3q2-asj9qujj8^JVBn-as&h32 dept.

Math 210

guusbosman writes "Yesterday a district court in Washington, D.C. issued its ruling in a case that boiled down to the definition of 'strictly random.' In the 2011 drawing of the U.S. 'Green Card Lottery,' a computer programming error was made and two weeks after the official drawing of the lottery the Department of State closed the website and voided the results. A lawsuit sought an injunction claiming that, while the process was not mathematically random, it was random in the dictionary definition of 'without definite aim, direction, rule or method.' The court, analyzing language from the State Department's regulations, and examples from laws on casinos and the like, rejected that and came out in favor of a mathematical definition of randomness. The lottery is voided and the results of the new drawing came out today at noon EST."

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Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781214)

That's random.

Definition? (4, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781220)

Sometimes xkcd [xkcd.com] is pretty relevant

Re:Definition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781236)

Sucks for those that got screwed but definitely a good decision.

Re:Definition? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781506)

No, it's not fair. They should have let both sets "win."

Re:Definition? (1)

ideaz (1981092) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781512)

Another great example is the Sony PS3's code in the ROM which was supposed to give out random sequences. apparently it was hard coded

Re:Definition? (4, Funny)

am 2k (217885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781658)

Here's another one: Dilbert [dilbert.com] .

Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

ScooterComputer (10306) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781228)

With all the rest of the ridiculousness going on in this country, it is quite refreshing to see that logic and reason--and scientific basis--can still win the day occasionally.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781250)

lets see, we have this english randomness and this, what do you call it, math randomness?

is this math randomness hard?

(no.)

expensive?

(no)

can we do it?

(yes)

ok, so go do it.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781478)

It's pretty obvious that it wasn't a question of logic and reason, it was a question of fairness - either every applicant had an equal opportunity to be selected, or they didn't. As first run, the lottery didn't provide that, which is why they voided the results in the first place, and why the court agreed with them.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781522)

it was a question of fairness

So telling people that they were accepted, then telling them that they weren't accepted is fair? Why wouldn't it have been more fair to accept both groups?

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781578)

Why wouldn't it be? If you won unfairly, you won unfairly, regardless of who was at fault. You invalidate the invalid results, and generate valid ones.

And as for why we don't accept both, the answer is, "For all the same reasons we issue x green cards instead of 2x green cards, every year."

It really isn't complicated. Unless you're trying to make some kind of vague political point?

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781890)

You won. They notified you that you won. Then they notified you "oops." That's unfair. The question is, which unfair do you follow through with, the one that hurts people, or the one that helps people. They chose to hurt people. You agree with them.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781618)

No. Accepting both groups is not "more fair", it's still skewed. All they originally purported to offer was an equal opportunity to be selected. They found that they hadn't provided that, so they voided the results and tried again, this time ensuring that every applicant had an equal probability of being selected.

NOTE: Real Life sometimes contains disappointments.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781904)

Both are skewed. You are defending only one. You are defending the one that hurts people and puts the process as more important than the people involved. Why?

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781516)

They made a decision. They told people they had been approved. They then changed their minds. Whether the first selection was fair, whether the first results were valid, does not change the fact that the treatment of those who won the first round was unfair. It's sad when process is more important than people.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781542)

While it sucks that they had to reverse on a bunch of people, there is the persistent problem of how deeply ugly things get when you let people be more important than process...

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781668)

I dont get it. Could you examplify this?

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781938)

The system broke. The process was invalid. So, do you harm people to "protect" the process, or do you state "we made an error, and we are going to fix this by allowing in those notified they were approved, as well as re-holding the selection to be fair to everyone else." That's the the most fair way I see to handle it, and it isn't even something they appeared to consider.

It just seems silly to me to defend the process so strongly when it's proven it was broken.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (4, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781874)

Reversing the lottery was unfair to the tiny fraction who were selected. Not reversing it would have been unfair to the huge majority (as TFA says, the bug was that only the first 2 of 30 days worth submissions were considered). So, statistically this was by far the better solution to be *fair* to the most people.

Re:Finally, logic and reason win out. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781942)

Well "fair" is a childish word not very meaningful in a court of law. The court decided that the lottery was not conducted in accordance with its established rules. Even though the error was not deliberate, the results must be therefore invalidated. Seems reasonable (a better legal term than fair) to me.

Speak English or Die (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781238)

All immigrants need to pass a language test, or be deported. Hell, even citizens should be required.

Re:Speak English or Die (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781526)

And where would you deport citizens who failed?

Re:Speak English or Die (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781552)

Should I be warming up the ovens for those aphasic scum?

Re:Speak English or Die (2)

fireylord (1074571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781950)

And which language should that be, being as there is no official one.

How good is your Spanish by the way? Italian? Polish? I could go on :)

Well (2)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781256)

The only impressive thing here is that the judge (or his aides) apparently cracked open a dictionary or maybe even a math textbook to get a basic idea of what "random" means. Unfortunately, the judiciary doesn't always rule on the basis of absolute mathematical or scientific fact, when it is relevant to the case. For example, in the arson trial of a Texas man who supposedly (for no credible reason) murdered his wife and children they brought in arson 'experts' who had no scientific validity to their process at all. A Texas arson expert looks at some char marks and somehow always (whenever it is a criminal investigation) concludes "it's arson". Despite the improbability of every fire said 'expert' examines during his career being caused by a crime.

arson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781332)

you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:arson (3, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781588)

I think he's talking about Cameron Todd Willingham [wikipedia.org] . The case involved a house burning down with kids inside. The mother was shopping, the father escaped alone with burns.

After the man was executed, Gov. Perry stalled the commission tasked with looking into whether the fire marshall investigating the arson had done his job properly (going so far as to restaff it when the first set of handpicked people started to look like they might not give him the answer he wanted).

The final outcome of the final commission with Gov. Perry's best hand-picked cronies was that the arson investigator used outdated techniques and terribly bad science. The commission was disbanded without considering what conclusions would have been reached by applying modern techniques to the evidence.

Re:Well (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781408)

But in your example, the jury is attempting to rule on the basis of scientific fact. An "expert" in court is deemed to be as credible as the "expert" that wrote the textbook.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781440)

This is why we have an adversarial system* and a jury. The guy's defense attorney should have hit hard on that and destroyed the "expert" witness's credibility, and the jury should then discount his testimony accordingly -- the judge shouldn't need to say whether it's scientific or not. The judge is involved in interpreting the law only, the jury is responsible for the facts (and to some heavily-disputed degree, the law as well).

In this case, OTOH, it's a question of law, i.e. what exactly is the relevant definition of a particular word in the law, so naturally the judge is involved.

* Of course, an adversarial system's not so hot when the government has a good prosecutor and you get stuck with a crappy public defender; don't know if that was an issue in this case, but it's a well-known problem without any real good solutions...

Re:Well (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781596)

Of course, an adversarial system's not so hot when the government has a good prosecutor and you get stuck with a crappy public defender; don't know if that was an issue in this case, but it's a well-known problem without any real good solutions...

I think the problem in this case [wikipedia.org] was not so much with the lawyering - rather, the low quality of the evidence and testimony was not apparent until years later. (By which point the convict had already been executed, unfortunately.)

Re:Well (5, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781528)

For example, in the arson trial of a Texas man who supposedly (for no credible reason) murdered his wife and children they brought in arson 'experts' who had no scientific validity to their process at all. A Texas arson expert looks at some char marks and somehow always (whenever it is a criminal investigation) concludes "it's arson". Despite the improbability of every fire said 'expert' examines during his career being caused by a crime.

Well this is surely a weighted claim if I've ever heard one. Just think about this for a moment.

Scenario 1: A building burns down. An expert comes in and calls it arson. Arson being a crime, the police investigate, find a suspect, put them on trial, and the expert is presented as a witness explaining why they think it is arson.

Scenario 2: A building burns down. An expert comes in and calls it accidental. Accidents are not crimes. There is no investigation, no suspect, and no trial for the expert to sit at and say it was not arson.

So, again... what is the likelihood an expert witness would claim a fire was arson at a trial?

Re:Well (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781640)

The only impressive thing here is that the judge (or his aides) apparently cracked open a dictionary or maybe even a math textbook to get a basic idea of what "random" means. Unfortunately, the judiciary doesn't always rule on the basis of absolute mathematical or scientific fact, when it is relevant to the case.

I don't get it. What's the deal with distinguishing the difference between the mathematical and dictionary definition of random? The argument that it fits the dictionary definition does not hold water.

To suggest that a process which methodically ignores eligible applications is "without definite aim, direction, rule or method" is erroneous. Excluding applicants that filed after the second day is both a method and quite definite.

Re:Well (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781748)

The Supreme Court once ruled that a tomato was a vegetable even though it is scientifically a fruit. That case, Nix v. Hedden, dealt with a tariff on vegetables but not fruits. The government taxed tomatoes as vegetables even though they were botanically fruit. Tomato importers who had paid the taxes sued. The Supreme Court ruled that even though tomatoes were botanically fruit, the law was meant vegetables in the colloquial sense. Go for lawyers!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_v._Hedden [wikipedia.org]

Re:Well (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781914)

It wasn't that crazy, though, since the tariff was on "vegetables", which itself is not a scientific word - so applying a scientific term in the first place wasn't valid. In fact, the original definition of "vegetable" was *all* plants. That would have been a cool Supreme Court ruling...

The lottery system is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781258)

A country going bankrupt making willing potential taxpayers play sweepstakes for a chance to pay taxes.

Oh I forgot, immigrants are a big drain on this countries (non-existent) social support systems.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (-1, Flamebait)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781308)

That's 20 million people. All of whom come from countries that are worse off than the USA, for some reason. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the reason the USA has done well (and these countries did so poorly) has at least SOMETHING to do with BOTH the genetics AND the ideas of the people who live in the USA?

So if you dilute the population with a flood of people who come from less successful countries, what would you EXPECT from a rational, reasonable view to happen?

Yes, I used the forbidden word - genetics. However, there is no biologist out there with any credibility who can simply say that human ideas and mental performance and behavior are divorced from our genes. If we let the 'brown people' in, who somehow for some coincidence almost always come from third world countries, we too will end up like the brown people.

And one final comment before you call me a racist in your replies : the best evidence available shows that Asians have the greatest intelligence on average of any race of people. NOT white people, who are in the middle. One possible reason for white people's extraordinary success in past centuries is that their languages (english and related structures) make their mental 'software' more flexible than rigid asian languages where a new character must be introduced for a new idea to be communicated on paper.

This is why, in the present day, Asians who learned English in childhood have extraordinary success in science and R&D.

And also, note that I am not Asian.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (2)

BlueScreenO'Life (1813666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781406)

So your statement that Asians "have the greatest intelligence on average of any race" shows that you're not racist. Now that's a solid argument.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781484)

A racist is someone who makes up shit for an agenda. Actual facts, shown by hundreds of studies, backs up my statement.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (2, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781580)

A racist is someone who judges a class of people by race, whether correct or not.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781464)

However, there is no biologist out there with any credibility who can simply say that human ideas and mental performance and behavior are divorced from our genes. If we let the 'brown people' in, who somehow for some coincidence almost always come from third world countries, we too will end up like the brown people.

You've never read Guns, Germs and Steel have you?

And one final comment before you call me a racist in your replies : the best evidence available shows that Asians have the greatest intelligence on average of any race of people. NOT white people, who are in the middle. One possible reason for white people's extraordinary success in past centuries is that their languages (english and related structures) make their mental 'software' more flexible than rigid asian languages where a new character must be introduced for a new idea to be communicated on paper.

Spouting "evidence" from the Bell Curve are we? Ugh!

Re:The lottery system is a joke (3, Informative)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781474)

However, there is no biologist out there with any credibility who can simply say that human ideas and mental performance and behavior are divorced from our genes.

Quite true. However, there are credible biologists who will simply state that human mental performance is divorced from race. The last time I checked, it was all of them. No credible geneticist believes that mental performance is tied to race.

Please, please cite your legitimate sources that say that Asian genes are superior. I assure you, I am in the process of digging up my own.

You are a racist.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (1, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781500)

I didn't say they were superior. They are following a different R strategy which is why they have higher intelligence on average, smaller physical size, longer maturation periods, less sex, and take lower risks. These are all known facts that are both backed up by hundreds of studies and are fucking obvious.

Mother nature determines who is superior, and obviously intelligence is only one factor.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (0)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781508)

What is race but a different basket of genes? You, sir, need to actually study biology rather than parroting politically correct bullshit.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (3)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781570)

You are a racist. You identify traits by race and use them to judge all of those people. There is no justifications you can add that will invalidate that racism. If you really believed in genetics, you would be interested in letting in "brown people" who passed some tests. That way we'd get the best genetics from all. But you are just a bigot who claims genetics without racism without understanding genetics or racism.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781718)

No. The reason nobody considered the things you say is not political correctness. It is because they are mostly completely fucking retarded.

The USA did better because of genetics? This is patently false, please learn up on genetics before you try to base claims on it. The USA has essentially no different genetic makeup from any other part of the world. Whites have essentially no different genetic makeup from blacks, asians from mexicans, etc;

Dilute our population? What do you call the entire history of America? We would have been doing really great if we were still pure indigenous blood, eh? Or better yet, if it was still just bears and deer and shit.

Countries worse off than the USA, eh. And it is due to their inferior population and such? Or is it because of the flow of material wealth from them to the USA? Have you heard of fucking imperialism? Are you really going to pretend to be ignorant to the entire body of world history surrounding the development of non-Western cultures and countries?

Then you venture into linguistics. Interesting discussion... but you think Asian languages have to introduce a new character to represent any new concept? I could have *sworn* they could, you know, combine multiple symbols. But I guess they don't.

Anyhow, you are bad and you should feel bad.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781794)

The big flaw is that raw intelligence is only a very small part of being successful. Hard work, thriftiness, ability to see what products are marketable, ect all lead to success. The reason the USA is so successful is our liberty. People are allowed to try lots of things and fail and try other things until they find their niche. Failure is one of the most important success factors in an economy and biology. Evolution isn't what creates new traits. They are being created all of the time by genetic randomness. It is the real world that tests those traits to see if they are advantageous to survival.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (1)

David Jao (2759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781880)

the best evidence available shows that Asians have the greatest intelligence on average of any race of people.

You have no clue what you're talking about.

I take it you live in the USA? The set of Asians who live in the USA is a very very biased and unrepresentative sample of the set of all Asians. The US immigration system is designed to select the best and brightest immigrants. That's why the Asians in the US are so smart and hard-working. The average Asian from an Asian country would be nothing special in America. But Asian Americans as a group are taken from the top 0.5% of all Asians, because US immigration laws are designed to keep out the stupid people. It's completely the opposite of what you claim.

If you actually go to an Asian country you'll find that the people there are no smarter than Americans. But from your condescending attitude it's clear that you're happy to claim international expertise without ever having left the USA. Try traveling or even immigrating to another country sometime -- it'll work wonders on your world view.

With blacks and Hispanics, it's a totally different story. African Americans came mostly as slaves, and Hispanics have illegal immigrants to skew the numbers. That's why the selection effects of US immigration law are significant only for Asians and not other races.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36782074)

OK, I am sure you know you are a fucking retard by now. Let me jsut add one point. Let's say that Asians on average have an IQ of 100.001, and white people 100.000, and black people 99.999. If you take one (truly) random Asian and one random black guy, then pick one of them at random. Is he smarter than the other guy? It's going to be 50-50, or so close that it doesn't matter.

And I have to say it again. Your point about language is so fucking moronic. Ever heard of Khmer or Kannada or Kazakh? Most Asian languages have alphabets that form words which are actually pronounced as they are spelled. You are thinking of Chinese, which is far more flexible than English in terms of expression. It just has a limited set of syllables, which in any case are not as rigid as you assume they are. Korean may look like Chinese to you, but it's an alphabet too. Japanese makes the best of both worlds, not that a monolingual git like you would understand.

I am Asian.

Re:The lottery system is a joke (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781346)

Only if they're brown and might vote Democrat.

Makes sense (1)

rivetgeek (977479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781266)

As much as it must suck for those that wont he first time around, this is obviously the only fair choice. A random choice that is limited to a particular subset is NOT random for the entire set. Only those in the subset would have a non-zero chance.

Re:Makes sense (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781354)

frankly, If the sent notice out I think those people should get winners AND the should do another lottery.

Re:Makes sense (1)

rivetgeek (977479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781384)

If you play a slot machine and the machine has a software glitch that tells you that you won, you don't get the money.

Re:Makes sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781428)

They should state that every outcome must be equiprobable.

Re:Makes sense (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#36782046)

A random choice that is limited to a particular subset is NOT random for the entire set.

Yes and no.

In this case, only applicants from the first 2 days of the application time were considered by the random selector. This clearly unfair, because its quite easy to predict and even control whether you are eligible to get picked.

However if the error was something more esoteric, like every 5th applicant was not considered by the random number generator, (and we recognize that this is an online system not a phsyical queue... so there is no way to know if your application is first, second, third, etc...) then there would be no way to know or predict or control whether you were eligible to get picked, and the process is still effectively very fair and random because there is randomness with respect to your precise position within the queue.

That reminds of the early times of spam... (2)

assantisz (881107) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781276)

Anybody else remember the Green Card Lottery Spam [wired.com] all over USENET. Good times. Canter & Siegel...

Well (1)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781278)

Isn't any string of numbers random ? It is just how probable to get that string that is relevant. And whether the output of the generator can be predicted or not.

Re:Well (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781412)

Well, the point was that for a large number of applicants (namely all those who didn't apply during the first two days), the probability of being chosen was exactly zero.

Re:Well (4, Informative)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781492)

The problem was that the buggy algorithm only randomly selected entries that were submitted during the first two days that the submission system was open. The law specifies that entries are to be selected "in a random order," which implies (at least to the judge) that all of the entries must be shuffled in, and given equal probability of being chosen.

Re:Well (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781820)

A string of numbers is never random in and of itself -- it's the method by which they are generated that is random or not. The sequence "9 9 9" is random if and only if it happens to be the output of a random function.

What you perhaps mean is that any string of numbers could have been the output of a random function. That's not strictly true, but it's close enough. You certainly can't tell just by looking at the string of numbers whether it's really the output of a random function -- though you can often make a good guess.

Arbitrary? (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781290)

... without definite aim, direction, rule or method ...

I always thought that's what arbitrary meant. Random (to me, an admitted geek) is always in the mathematical sense.

Re:Arbitrary? (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781404)

As a crypto geek myself, randomness means an extremely specific mathematical definition with probabilities and distributions of data, which would be better described in a dictionary as totally impossible to predict.

Re:Arbitrary? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781444)

Well, "random" is quite often used with the meaning of "arbitrary". You didn't think that "random access memory" is memory where you can't predict which data you access, did you? No, random access means that you can access the data in arbitrary order (as opposed to sequential access where the order is fixed).

Re:Arbitrary? (2)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781554)

Arbitrary does not imply 'chance' so much as 'human discretion'. The sense of random described is in line with the larger use of the word. 'Random' is a cognate of 'run' and its use in probabilities refers to the idea of making a rushed choice. (In which cases, using a badly-cobbled together computer program seems oddly appropriate.)

The problem stated was that "The algorithm that was used only looked at submissions of the first 2 days." I am not sure exactly what they think they mean by "scientific randomness"--obviously, many things in science described as random are not equally weighted. As long as the choice from the first 2 days was itself random, it would still be correct to call it a random choice.

But choosing from the first two days is really the sort of thing that will bias your sample in certain ways--you'll find that people who signed up in the first two days were all avid internet users, for example.

Personally, I do not understand why we would want to admit random people for citizenship in the first case. How about admitting the most educated, or the most hard working? Is the goal of the immigration system to give foreigners a fun casino game they can play, or is it to connect people who will improve our society with the opportunity to participate in it?

Re:Arbitrary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781814)

Personally, I do not understand why we would want to admit random people for citizenship in the first case. How about admitting the most educated, or the most hard working? Is the goal of the immigration system to give foreigners a fun casino game they can play, or is it to connect people who will improve our society with the opportunity to participate in it?

the manpower needed to process all the applications in a useful manner would be so expensive that I would no longer benefit the US: you get better people, but you pay so much for them that it's better to get 15% of "the best people" for 10% the cost. Just think about it: "I have a degree in Econmics from the Univesity of Quito.". Is ther such a school? Does it have an Econ department? Does it issue degrees in Econ? This might be checked in 10-15 min, but when you have a million apps, it would take over 7000 man hours, which is over 3 years of a standard 40 work week.

Mind you, this 10 minutes would be on top of whatever they have to check already.

Applicant POV (2)

digitaltraveller (167469) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781310)

This year they also added a CAPTCHA after you've signed in for the results.
So I had a little OMG moment today before the usual let down.

My wife and I have applied every year for the last 9 or so (since they went to internet based registrations). It's always been the same, nothing has changed until now.
In hindsight, since I never applied in the first two weeks I was probably wasting my time all those years which is a bit of a bummer.

I probably should have just went over on an H1-B. It always seemed a bit like indentured servitude tho..

Re:Applicant POV (-1, Flamebait)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781370)

Are you in a European country? Can you emmigrate to one? You don't want none of this. Those high salary numbers in the USA are not as good as they look on paper. Assuming you've got a white collar job, you do know that in USA we live in overcrowded cities and are forced to commute long distances at very high fuel prices in private automobiles because we consider good public transportation to be immoral. We imprison more people than anywhere else on the globe, so pray you don't have bad luck and look suspicious because a 'jury of your peers' is means squat. Oh, and 2/3 of us are fatasses and if your wife is hot every richer man here will be trying to steal her from you. Don't believe the crap spewed out by hollywood, that stuff is almost as distorted a view of reality as North Korean propoganda in terms of how the average person lives.

(reason salaries are misleading is because our medical system eats 20% of every dollar anyone produces anywhere, and a bigger chunk is taken from the middle class. And our legal system devours another huge chunk, we need more lawyers than any other country in the world yet injustices are the norm. Oh and we have blown a vast amount of treasure fighting wars that earned us nothing)

Re:Applicant POV (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781514)

forced to commute long distances at very high fuel prices

Very high fuel prices? Compared with European fuel prices, your fuel prices are extremely low!

Re:Applicant POV (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781520)

Perhaps I should have said at very high COSTS. Fuel may be cheap, but the opportunity cost of a 1 hour commute to work (each way! every day!) is enormous.

Re:Applicant POV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781566)

Try living in Europe, especially the UK, for a while. Then see what you think of your current "high fuel prices".

Re:Applicant POV (1)

digitaltraveller (167469) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781626)

In Australia. We have a pretty high standard of living here. The reason I would like to move to the U.S. is because I'm an entrepreneur and it's nearly impossible to hire people here for speculative projects. I've did it twice before and anyone decent is 150K+. In a seed funded company that is a huge amount. Also VC exists but they are like the Merchant of Venice here. Also there are a ton of other reasons why even with U.S. litigation madness, the U.S. is still a better place to start companies. Entrepreneurs in SF have it better than anyone else on the planet. U.S. (average) salaries actually look quite low to me. I understand where you are coming from though with the rest of it. Maybe you should move here, it's pretty civilized. #grassisgreener I guess.

Re:Applicant POV (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781864)

Yeah, it's much easier to get into Australia and Australia is just about even to the US for pay equity, and better quality of life. The UK just changed their rules a couple years ago, or that would have been easier to get in than the US and then you could go to any EU country as you wish. But now I'm not sure what their rules are, or where it would be easy for an English speaker to get into the EU.

Re:Applicant POV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781974)

Uhh, if you want to go to somewhere in the EU, why waste your time trying to get in the UK in the first place? Even if you had got in in 2006 (before your so-called rules change), you wouldn't be allowed to move to another EU country until 2012. By which time the reasons for wanting to go to a European country may (or in reality, actually) have changed.

All EU countries enforce their national language as a requirement for permanent residence, although not if you just want to go and work. Most businesses in the EU operate in English anyway, as that's how Dutch and Portuguese companies (for exmaple) communciate with each other.

Programming error to make it not random? (2)

qzjul (944600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781326)

// $gets_green_card = ( rand()/rand_max() < $green_cards_to_give_away / $total_applicants ? true : false); //randomly choose applicant
$gets_green_card = ( in_array($applicant_name, $array_of_my_friends_to_give_green_cards) ? true : false); //choose from an array!


That sort of programming error? what sort of error are we talking about here?

Re:Programming error to make it not random? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781420)

prng != random

Re:Programming error to make it not random? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781966)

You're using a ternary operator to return true or false? o.O

stuck at 4 (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781382)

I just hate it when my random number generator only returns a single value of 4

Even a random selection invalidates the population (1)

h1q (2042122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781410)

1898 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. CXCI. 230 Every artificial or even random selection of a group out of a community changes not only the amount of variation, but the amount of correlation of the organs of its members as compared with those of the primitive group (OED, 2nd ed)

There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

grizdog (1224414) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781424)

At least not as far as anyone knows. This is not a scientific question, it is more of a philosophical or even a theological question. If there are deterministic physical laws governing how objects interact, then it is possible to predict anything. Realistically, no one will have the computational power to make such a prediction, so achieving randomness is really just a matter of achieving something close enough to truly random that no one can predict it.

In the Eudemonic Pie, some young iconoclasts managed to predict the "random" behavior of a roulette wheel. Any randomizing algorithm that you can find in a standard library assumes some environmental condition - often related to the time - is unknown. These are probably pretty good assumptions, but the results are not truly random.

The only way we could have true randomness is if there are some sort of measurable phenomena that cannot be predicted. Quantum mechanics dances around this question, and even if there is a state change that is genuinely random, it would be difficult bordering on heroic to measure it in a practical way so as to create a random number generator.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781456)

measurement of the decay of atoms in a radioactive mass.been around for years. we know it will happen, just not when, and th

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781468)

At least not as far as anyone knows. This is not a scientific question, it is more of a philosophical or even a theological question. If there are deterministic physical laws governing how objects interact, then it is possible to predict anything. Realistically, no one will have the computational power to make such a prediction, so achieving randomness is really just a matter of achieving something close enough to truly random that no one can predict it.

Your entire point is hinging on a big "if"... and it's one that science (not philosophy or theology) is reasonable sure isn't the case. In short, there are NOT deterministic physical laws governing all interactions that can be used to generate perfect predictions, even in theory, even with infinite computing power.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781480)

It's random that a random number can be generated randomly.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781536)

You're a fucking idiot. If you can predict anything then there is no such thing as free will. Read up on chaos.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781562)

Re "nothing is truly random", well perhaps not, but to run a successful lottery or game of chance one only has to make it random enough to defeat any attempt at modelling. This is done every day by state lottery games that rely on falling ping pong balls (note: not computerized RNG which have rather obvious problems when large sums of money are at stake).

The Eudemonic Pie crew relied on the fact that casinos allowed bets to be placed after the wheel had started spinning, so that given a couple time/location data points a computer could predict with better-than-random accuracy what octant it would land on. The physicists didn't really defeat the "randomization algorithm", i.e. the ball, wheel, and person spinning the wheel. Instead, they exploited the casinos' sloppiness in running the game.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781876)

Mod ac above 'informative'

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781808)

The only way we could have true randomness is if there are some sort of measurable phenomena that cannot be predicted. Quantum mechanics dances around this question, and even if there is a state change that is genuinely random, it would be difficult bordering on heroic to measure it in a practical way so as to create a random number generator.

Actually, there are many commercial devices [wikipedia.org] that use quantum effects to generate sequences of numbers that are unpredictable even in theory. Or, if you're careful about it, you can even use a simple Geiger counter [ciphergoth.org] to generate truly random data.

Re:There is no such thing as strictly random (1)

razvan784 (1389375) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781826)

There are commercial devices sold as "true random number generators" which use radioactive decay from either a concentrated source or just the natural background. While the average rate of decay is very predictable, the exact times of individual decay events is theoretically unpredictable, at least within our current understanding. Think Schroedinger's Cat. Common electronic noise is also a pretty good source of randomness if processed correctly. Philosophy is enjoyable until one wonders off into complete nonsense, and I wouldn't go into theology.

Why did they change the algorithm this year? (1)

broknstrngz (1616893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781608)

This is the question that nobody seems to want to ask.

How come the green card lottery worked just fine the
years before? Why did they need the change this year
in the first place?

Re:Why did they change the algorithm this year? (1)

broknstrngz (1616893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781664)

I'm thinking that ALL previous algorithm runs were skewed and they only discovered that this year after the first run.

Re:Why did they change the algorithm this year? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781886)

I'm thinking that ALL previous algorithm runs were skewed and they only discovered that this year after the first run.

No, it was a new program for this year:
From the decision:

The State Department used a new randomizer program for the 2012 DV lottery, which turned out to include an error in the process that âoerendered the Randomizer Program ineffective.â Instead of directing the computer to select the winners as they had been re-ordered and randomized in step two, the computer simply selected the entries in the order in which they were originally numbered.

So basically the first 100,000 people to enter won (not quite because of some complications while entering them, but pretty close). How the plaintiffs thought they could convince a judge that this was legally "random" is beyond me; I guess they figured they had nothing to lose.

Re:Why did they change the algorithm this year? (1)

vampirbg (1092525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781992)

Mathematically speaking, 1-2-3 has the same probability as 10-30-70 when choosing 3 numbers from a pool of 10k... It's just that humans don't perceive it as random if they can find any pattern... Also, isn't int true that the order in which the applicants were filed was completely random? The only factor was the time of application, and there could've been two or more in the same second so the system scheduler decided which request to process first...

Re:Why did they change the algorithm this year? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36782066)

Mathematically speaking, 1-2-3 has the same probability as 10-30-70 when choosing 3 numbers from a pool of 10k...

Not in this case. In this case, 1-2-3-...-100,000 was chosen with probability 1. Human intuition that this sequence was not the result of a random process was correct.

Also, isn't int true that the order in which the applicants were filed was completely random?

No. It was slightly randomized due to some implementation details, but it was certainly not completely random, being well-correlated to time of application.

The Emigration of Money (3, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781730)

If labor is to be restricted from freely leaving one country and coming to another, then so too should capital be restricted. If I cannot walk across the border and sell my labor where it is more highly valued, why should the business tycoon on the other side of the line be allowed to set up a factory in my country and exploit my lower standard of living and lower wages? You cannot have an ethical and just system where only one form of immigration is allowed to be effectively infinite and the other is not. The restrictions on capital moving between borders should be similar to the movement of labor. I'd prefer this to be accomplished by loosening the restrictions on the movement of labor, not by restricting capital flow. Letting capital walk the earth freely while we keep workers chained to their place of birth is one of the primary tools of the capitalist elite ruling class and the Global North countries to maintain their hegemony over all peoples. It is directly opposed to the principles of self-determination and progressive philosophy.

Re:The Emigration of Money (1)

razvan784 (1389375) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781908)

Because it is advantageous for the US to impose immigration restrictions and it is advantageous for the US to export capital. It is similarly advantageous for your government/legislators to accept foreign capital, event if it might be disadvantageous to you the common citizen. I don't like it either, but it's logical. You should be blaming your government at least as much as the US, after all they're solely responsible for accepting the foreign capital.

So what's "random" then? (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781742)

Every computer programmer knows that any random number he generates programmatically is not "mathematically random". The strict definition being that the program to produce the number must be longer than the number, which, of course, is impractical. Pseudorandom is really the best we can do without special hardware.

But even if we could, it is still about unpredictability. Just because you can't predict the output of an RNG, doesn't mean it will always be unpredictable. People find new patterns that may fit your RNG's output and make it non-random. Randomness is not a permanent quality, as you can see, but exists only as long as we are unable to come up with some deterministic explanation for it.

Re:So what's "random" then? (1)

readin (838620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781976)

Unpredictability is the key, or course. The method that was used looked at only the first two days submissions. Suppose you knew that the computer program doing the selection might have a bug, and that even if that bug were found the results would not be invalidated. You might try to take advantage of that bug by submitting in such a way that you get the benefit. You could submit very early, expecting the bug to pick up only early entries, or you might submit very late thinking it will pick up late bugs. You might spend a lot of time analyzing what kinds of errors are more common.

By promising a "random" selection, the government is promising that you don't need to worry about spending time on such things because they won't make any difference.

If the problem had been something less useful - like the program was grabbing every other entry - the applicants wouldn't be able to predict whether they would be picked based on anything they did or anything about their application - the result would be as good as random.

The criteria of predictability I've laid out makes sense, but it does have a weakness. It is open to argument whether a particular defect is predictable.

The judge made the right call in this case, but his criteria is perhaps overly strict - or perhaps not. I can see two different valid decisions.

Re:So what's "random" then? (2)

nobodyknowsimageek (218815) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781982)

Every computer programmer knows that any random number he generates programmatically is not "mathematically random". The strict definition being that the program to produce the number must be longer than the number, which, of course, is impractical. Pseudorandom is really the best we can do without special hardware.

Ah, but you are so wrong. Try a google search on "entropy gathering". There are well known ways to generate truly random sequences without any "special" hardware, using environmental noise collected from device drivers and other sources. There are Linux distros whose /dev/random implementations use these techniques. On other Unixen the EGD (Entropy Gathering Daemon) provides random sequences in a similar way.

See the Wikipedia article on /dev/random for more info.

Kids these days (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781860)

An article on the internet about the green card lottery and not one mention of Cantor & Sielgel? For christ's sake...what short memories we have.

RANDOM.ORG (2)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781996)

http://www.random.org/randomness/ [random.org] has a useful discussion of pseudo-random (program generated) versus "true" (aka physically generated) random numbers.

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